With the Utah Jazz winding down the somewhat drawn out preseason shortly, things are starting to get settled. Jazz fans are getting familiar with head coach Quin Snyder’s style on both ends of the court. Likewise, as Tuesday’s bout with the Oklahoma City Thunder indicated, lineups and rotations are taking shape. The starters received the lion’s share of the playing time, with the reserves contributing in the time they were given.
So what is happening at the end of the bench? Who succeeds in making the opening night roster? Here’s a rundown of each of the deep reserves.
Ian Clark: Clark was a summer league revelation in 2013, impressing so much that several teams were clamoring for his services. Utah won the bid, but Clark received minimal playing time. After a summer league where his main skill–shooting–was only so-so1. Even so, the Jazz picked up his 2o14-15 season at $816K and he has done well in the preseason. In fact, he’s been a pleasant surprise. The first few games were okay, but the last few have brought about a new and improved Ian Clark. He has played a lot, spending time at both back court positions. Against the Lakers, he ran the offense well behind Dante Exum. He struggled versus the Thunder, but overall has been able to help keep defenses en guard. Clark may carve out a more regular role this season.
Jeremy Evans: It would appear that Evans is the odd man out in the front court rotations. After earning his first consistent playing time in 2013-14, and chipping in 6.1 PPG (0n 52.7% shooting) and 4.7 RPG, Evans has been supplanted by newcomers Trevor Booker and Steve Novak. Booker was clearly brought on to be a major role player for the Jazz and he’s shown what he can do and bring 2. Novak will help bring a stretch four element off the pine, which seems crucial to a Snyder offense. With all that, Evans seemingly returns to a deep reserve role–one he will most likely play sparingly. He has only played 26 minutes in six outings. Longtime an advanced stats darling, Evans will still manage to do good things when given the chance. He’ll need to start ready, as he has done his entire NBA career.
Carrick Felix: He remains a mystery. Due to injuries and inexperience, Felix saw very little on-court action his rookie campaign. He did enough, though, to earn Utah’s attention. They would not have acquired him in the Cleveland trade had there not been some things it liked. An injury during the first practice of the year set him back. He worked hard to make it back earlier than forecasted, but he has done very little in the sparse playing time he’s seen (5.8 MPG in four games). He’s not yet scored. Felix has good size and is a willing defender. But even with a guaranteed contract, he might be on the bubble due to his inexpensive deal.
Dahntay Jones: As we’ve mentioned before, Jones was the early favorite to nab a final roster spot. He was receiving solid back-up time, but his minutes have decreased as the preseason has progressed. Jones had a very poor showing versus the Los Angeles Clippers and then did not play Tuesday. He has had his moments, particularly defensively and would be a veteran help. But can he still play, especially after sitting out last season?
Toure’ Murry: Murry had a nice game against the Portland Trailblazers, notching seven points in 11 minutes. He’s only played one more game and six minutes since then. He was brought to Utah’s camp as insurance, a combo guard with good size and defensive potential. It is mildly surprising that he has not gotten onto the court, as the Jazz seem high on him. He had a fair share of suitors, but chose to come play for Snyder. Again, he has a $250K guarantee–something to consider, but yet still a pittance on NBA standards.
It seems unlikely that more than two of this trio of Felix, Jones and Murry makes the regular season squad. While Jones is the vet, the other two have youth and upside and could hone their abilities with the Idaho Stampede. The latter duo also have more guaranteed money.
Brock Motum: After a really nice summer league effort and a nice performance for Australia’s national team, Motum was a no-brainer for Jazz camp. Yet he has only appeared in one game (scoring seven points in 10 minutes). Utah’s deep front court has been a big reason. Still, it was surprising that neither he nor Jack Cooley saw time against the Lakers in a game where Snyder was playing around with lineups and resting main core guys. Motum is a nice shooter–a stretch four prospect. He also can rebound and seemingly takes pride in doing the little things.
Jack Cooley: He too has been affected by Utah’s depth up front. Cooley has rebounded well–clearly his forte. He is a big body who enjoys physicality. The Jazz expressed interest in him last year as an undrafted rookie and liked him enough to give him a small guarantee. Like the recently waived Dee Bost and Kevin Murphy, he could have been brought to camp with the understanding that he’d spend time in Boise.
If Utah looks to have a full 15-man roster, it might be between these two bigs. If so, it might be based mostly on their showings in practice. Motum seems to have more upside and versatility. He also is more of a known commodity, given his summer league time.
While the final roster make-up is probably not keeping Utah Jazz fans awake at night, this will be something to watch over the next few days. One never knows when a 14th or 15th guy emerges to be a solid contributor, especially should injury or trades arise.