In a season that most anticipate to be a rebuilding effort for the Jazz, the prime objective seems to be giving the young core as much playing time as reasonably possible. Despite this clear path, Utah’s rotation is, as my high school Geometry teacher Mr. Dolkhani so eloquently put it, “clear as mud.”
Barring injury, the starting lineup seems to be already determined. It’s when you look at the second unit that things start to become muddled, with numerous possibilities to consider. Who’s the first point guard off the bench? How much playing time will the Overpaid Duo (Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson) get? Exactly how good does the Jazz think Ian Clark can be? When he returns, where does Marvin Williams fit in?
In an effort to bring a small modicum of clarity to the situation, I’ve broken down each position for the starting and second units and who will/may inhabit those positions.
Starting Point Guard: Trey Burke
It’s a little ironic that the position of biggest need for Utah is among the surest things, at least in the starting lineup. Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey traded up to nab the former Michigan Wolverine, and then brought in one average-at-best veteran point guard, John Lucas III, for depth. It’s obvious Burke will get and keep the starting point guard gig barring injury, tremendous struggles at the position or a meteoric rise at point by Burks or Clark.
Starting Shooting Guard: Alec Burks
Other Possibilities: Brandon Rush, Gordon Hayward
Get ready, Burks fans. Alec is about to have a bunch of minutes allocated to him, and will get a chance to showcase his talents. I feel less confident about this spot, however, than I do about the point guard position for a few reasons. Newcomer Brandon Rush is by far the most useful of the triumvirate acquired from Golden State. Depending on how he performs and how much Utah’s second unit struggles to score, I could see Jazz head coach Ty Corbin opting to give Rush the starting nod for his perimeter defense and three-point shooting acumen and utilizing Burks’ scoring ability to inject life into a potentially anemic bench squad. No matter if he starts, Burks is in line for the biggest role increase on the team. Gordon Hayward is another possibility at the starting 2-guard spot, but I can’t see him pushing Burks or Rush out of the position due to the lack of depth at small forward.
Starting Small Forward: Gordon Hayward
Everyone’s favorite Starcraft player is now the Jazz’s elder statesman, and will be expected to have a much larger leadership role following the mass exodus of veterans from the Utah ranks this offseason. Hayward is about as sure a thing to start at small forward as possible considering the dearth of true small forwards on the team. Marvin Williams will miss the first portion of the season recovering from an Achilles tendon injury, and it’s already being postulated that Williams could be utilized as a stretch 4 off the bench. Considering Richard Jefferson is the only other pure small forward (Rush can play 3 in a pinch, but seems better suited at 2), and Hayward’s starting position is solidified.
Starting Power Forward: Derrick Favors
Starting Center: Enes Kanter
It’s so inconceivable for a healthy Favors or Kanter not to start, I’ll just say this: I’m all geeked up to see what they can do this season while given starter’s minutes.
Here is where things get messy.
Backup Point Guard: John Lucas III
Other Possibilities: Alec Burks, Ian Clark
I gave the nod to Lucas for the simple fact that he’s the only other pure point guard on the roster. Even if Lucas starts the season as the floor general for the bench unit, it would not at all surprise me to see him supplanted by Alec Burks or even undrafted free agent Ian Clark. Clark especially intrigues me at this position. At 6’3” and 175 lbs, he may be undersized to guard the bigger shooting guards in the league, which may cause Corbin to play him at point if his performance demands significant minutes every game.
Backup Shooting Guard: Brandon Rush
Other Possibilities: Ian Clark, Alec Burks
With Burks penciled in as starting shooting guard, logic dictates that Rush would be the first off-guard off the bench. An established veteran with good defensive and shooting skills, Rush could prove to be a valuable piece for the Utah Jazz beyond this season. Throw in the fact that it’s a contract year for Rush, and he has more than enough incentive to excel in any and every situation in which he’s put.
Backup Small Forward: Marvin Williams
Other Possibilities: Richard Jefferson, Jeremy Evans
Until Marvin Williams returns from injury, it will be interesting (and probably a little ugly) to see what Corbin & Co. can cobble together. Jefferson is coming off a year in which he was barely used, and certainly has seen his best days as a player. Prior to last season, Jefferson had shot a good percentage from three. If he can find his shooting stroke once again, he may be a serviceable replacement. Evans saw a few minutes last year at small forward, and is a possibility, albeit a remote one, to fill in at 3.
Backup Big Men: Andris Biedrins, Rudy Gobert
Other Possibilities: Jeremy Evans, Marvin Williams
For a young and raw player, Rudy Gobert appears to be headed for a significant amount of minutes and a crash course in NBA basketball. With his unbelievable wingspan and high motor, his defensive presence should allow him to remain on the court, despite his fledgling offensive game.
Biedrins and Evans seem to be in competition for the final rotation spot at one of the posts. It seems too offensively detrimental to play Biedrins and Gobert together, but Jeremy Evans is no Adrian Dantley himself. Marvin could certainly be a passable stretch 4, but the aforementioned dearth of depth at 3 could force Corbin’s hand.