1. What was your biggest takeaway from Jazz media day?
Aaron Hefner: To me, the biggest takeaway was that while the front office is optimistic about the point guard situation, they are being pragmatic about the possibility of needing to address it mid-season. Fortunately the Jazz have put themselves in a situation where they have the assets to do so, if need be.
Clint Johnson: Cohesion. It may have been the defining characteristic of the franchise at the end of last season, and it’s clearly both a focus and dominant characteristic of the team to begin this season. Whether it be chemistry or adherence to prime organizational principles, every level, from players to ownership, seems authentically on the same page.
Dakota Schmidt: Undoubtedly my biggest takeaway is learning about how Alec Burks’s recovery process played out. It’s reassuring to know that he seems to be fully recovered and that he seems to be on his way to being ready to suit up for opening night.
Clark Schmutz: The tone of the team was spot on. They have big plans (the playoffs), but are also staying grounded and realistic. One game at a time. We will see if that focused attitude remains during the season.
David J. Smith: First, it is evident that Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors are filling their leadership roles admirably. While they stepped up last season, it feels like they are poised to do that even further. Second, Randy Rigby, Dennis Lindsey and Quin Snyder were unified in their responses. All tried to temper expectations a bit, but also expressed optimism that the Jazz can build upon last year’s second half success.
2. Which players do you think will be the biggest surprise in pre-season?
Aaron Hefner: Tibor Pleiss and Trey Burke. Most folks know that I am an outspoken doubter of Trey Burke, but I think he is going to perform at a much higher level this pre-season than he did in the regular season last year. As for Tibor Pleiss, I think much of his game will translate well, and he won’t struggle with nerves as much as the other rookies.
Clint Johnson: Trey Burke, Alec Burks, and Tibor Pleiss. Both Burk Brothers are sure to surprise for either good or ill: playing too much or too little, opening eyes with unanticipated good early play given recent history or struggling far too much for presumptive starters. Meanwhile, Pleiss will surprise like a burst piñata: something’s gonna come out, but who knows what!
Dakota Schmidt: Definitely think that it could be Raul Neto. While he may not be fully entrenched in the offense, I think he could look good using his skills as a facilitator in an offense that features some talented weapons. Other players include Rodney Hood, Bryce Cotton and Tibor Pleiss.
Clark Schmutz: Surprise? I expect the usual suspects to be great, so for a surprise, I have to go with Trey Burke. I think he will play really really well in preseason. I think Neto will have a nice preseason as well.
David J. Smith: Rodney Hood and Alec Burks, and not just because there is a dose of competition regarding their roles. First, Hood has worked tremendously hard this off-season (by several accounts) and seems ready to take a solid sophomore jump. Second, he may have some initial rust, but look for a healthy and motivated Burks to revert to his 2013-14 breakout self.
3. Of the players you listed in the previous answer, which ones will sustain that performance in the regular season?
Aaron Hefner: As you might have guessed, I don’t expect Trey Burke will sustain his improved play into the regular season (similar to what happened last year). However, I do think he will be better than he was last season. On the other hand, I do think Tibor will continue his strong play and prove to be a strong backup center.
Clint Johnson: Dennis Lindsey wasn’t blowing smoke when he said Alec Burks will be the team’s biggest offseason addition. Two seasons ago he finished at a 56.1 percent clip at the rim and earned a .449 free throw rate, numbers at least as good as Gordon Hayward’s last year. If that healthy rim attacker adds last year’s 38 percent from deep, wow!
Dakota Schmidt: It’s probably Rodney Hood. While it may not be the smartest thing to factor in momentum in a game where the team hasn’t played for six months, I think Hood has showcased that he has what it takes to be solid part of the team’s core.
Clark Schmutz: I think Burke will have a bounce-back season of sorts and that Neto will have really great moments, but struggle overall. In the long run, I think the Jazz will have a lot of sets without a traditional point guard this year.
David J. Smith: It may come across as a cop-out response, but I feel both will. Regardless who is the starter and who comes off the bench, Hood and Burks will play prominent roles this season. Hood will continue his smooth play and stealthy perimeter shooting and Burks will add another creator on offense. Jazz fans should be excited.
4. Which players should play the most minutes in preseason? Why?
Aaron Hefner: Any player that will make the final roster but that is lacking NBA experience or who hasn’t proven that they belong in the NBA. This list would include Raul Neto, Trey Lyles, Tibor Pleiss, Bryce Cotton, and even Trey Burke.
Clint Johnson: Trey Lyles and Tibor Pleiss by process of elimination. Hayward, Favors, and Gobert should get enough rest to be ready for the regular season. Burks and Hood should be handled cautiously due to injury concerns. Veterans don’t need the run, the point guards should split roughly equal time, and end-of-bench guys only need spot minutes. Get the rooks in shape!
Dakota Schmidt: Probably Trey Burke. Would like to see him spend lots of time on the floor in the preseason to see if he’s made as a progression as an offensive weapon, and more importantly as a facilitator.
Clark Schmutz: The guys who should play the most are the ones who still need to grab their role on the team, so in short, any player not named Hayward, Gobert or Favors. Expect big minutes from Millsap, Johnson, Neto and Pleiss in particular.
David J. Smith: The trio of rookies, mostly so they can gain some much needed in-NBA game experience. Raul Neto and Tibor Pleiss will hopefully use the time to adapt further to NBA rules, while Trey Lyles will get a chance to show what made him a lottery pick. It will also be interesting to watch the battle for the end-of-the-bench spots.
5. How many minutes should Favors, Gobert, and Hayward, average in the preseason?
Aaron Hefner: Honestly, I don’t think they need much run time at all. We know Snyder is working them during practice, so I would rather bench them than put them in danger of getting injured while playing against inexperienced (and more reckless) players trying to make a squad. So 10, maybe 15 minutes max.
Clint Johnson: About 24. Enough for the starting lineup to gel plus some minutes in tactical configurations such as a three-wing array of Hayward, Hood, and Burks with no point guard. Keeping their best three players fresh is a priority, however. Hayward and Favors wore down at the end of last season, and Gobert’s been playing through much of the summer.
Dakota Schmidt: Around 15-20 minutes per game. It’s not enough to risk of them getting injured, but it should also allow them to get their wheels back in motion for the upcoming season.
Clark Schmutz: 20 to 25 minutes a night will be plenty for those three.
David J. Smith: 22-26 MPG would be sufficient. It is enough for them to get some solid time together and with other core players, without burning them out before the marathon of a regular season commences.