Depth on Display: Crowder, Allen and Niang Step up in Dallas

October 29th, 2018 | by Dane Coles

Crowder’s shot hasn’t been falling, but he’s still having a nice road trip. (Tim Warner via

And just like that, week two of the NBA is in the books and we have already learned so much. Of course things will continue to progress and change, especially as injuries continue to make a bigger impact throughout the season. But for now, we will analyze (and over-analyze) every little detail because, after all, we love this game!

Early Jazz performances have largely solidified much of our speculations from the off-season: in particularly, that the Jazz are deep! Utah’s 113-104 win over Dallas on Sunday was the perfect example. Yes, Rudy Gobert had another monster double-double with 23 points and 16 rebounds. And yes, Donovan Mitchell had another 20-point performance. But the win — Utah’s third straight overall — was also evidence of Utah’s depth.

In particular, three players stepped into bigger roles out of necessity, and all three stood out and helped the Jazz win.

Jae Crowder

The Jazz front office and coaching staff designed this team to be more resilient to injuries, which have been a major factor in their success (and sometimes lack thereof) in recent years. The additions of so-called positionless players in both the front and backcourt allows the Jazz to have great flexibility in case an injury occurs.

Derrick Favors had appeared a bit sluggish earlier in Utah’s road trip, so to hear he was resting1 was not a huge surprise. In Favors’ absence, Jae Crowder filled in as the starting power forward, and didn’t disappoint. He has typically been the first player off the bench and has been closing out games since he came to Utah in a midseason trade last February. Crowder has found his love for the game again after dealing with trade and tragedy last year.

In Dallas, Crowder added 15 points and six rebounds in his first start of the season, and with his energy and smart movement, it’s safe to expect more nights like this from Crowder throughout the year. His 3-point percentage is still quite low at just 29 percent, but Snyder will continue to encourage spot shooters like Crowder to take shots within the system. 

Grayson Allen

In a group post last week, I stated that Grayson Allen may take some of Royce O’Neale’s minutes as the season progresses. This may still happen, but what we’re seeing in the meantime is a balanced line of minutes for this bench unit as a whole. Every bench player last night played between 13 and 17 minutes.

Some nights this will not always work as some players will have off nights, but this balance in playing time will keep the players fresh while getting young players valuable minutes

Against the Mavs, Allen did not miss a shot when he stepped in to play 13 minutes as Alec Burks rested2. During Allen’s minutes, he made it to the free-throw line twice, and Utah outscored the Mavs by 17 points. Most questioned whether Allen would get this amount of playing time this early, but he has shown he is ready. He’s been aggressive in slashing and shooting and has had success in the pick and roll as well. As he continues to strengthen his transition defense, his minutes will only continue to rise.

Georges Niang

There is only one thing to say about the play of Georges Niang early in this season: WOW! When the Jazz used their final contract spot on Niang this offseason, I assumed it was for someone to play at the end of blowouts or when there were injuries. Jazz coach Quin Snyder clearly had a specific plan for him and knew what he could offer.

So far he’s averaging just eight minutes a game, but his contributions have been phenomenal. In those eight minutes he’s converting 66.7 percent of his 2-point shots and 54.5 percent from three for an effective field goal percentage of .765! Minutes like that off of your bench not only help you win games but highly increases Niang’s chances of additional playing time. He is already starting to look like the stretch four the Jazz have been searching for. If he can solidify himself in this role, it may even alter what the Jazz do in free agency this coming offseason.

On Sunday, Niang saw more action given that more power forward minutes were available in Favors’ absence. Niang made the most of his 13.5 minutes, scoring 13 points on just five field goal attempts. Key plays by him and Allen helped the Jazz extend their lead after Dallas had remained close through much of the game.

This will be the story line all year long. In close games, the Jazz bench will hold or extend leads, taking pressure off the starters at the end of the game. Relieving this pressure allows everyone on the team to play within their role and not feel force. Gobert even acknowledged after the game that the bench provided the spark they needed to win that game. 

This depth is an advantage for Utah, as Snyder can trust his bench and give players who aren’t at 100% a night of rest. The Jazz let Favors and Burks take the evening off, and waited to debut Thabo Sefolosha, who was available to play after a 5-game suspension. 

The Jazz have a carousel of players they can swing through on their bench at any given point to attack the game and the opposing team just the way they need. When the starters and bench are in full swing, this team will be very hard to beat.

Dane Coles

Dane brought his passion for basketball and writing to Salt City Hoops staring with the 2018-19 season. He discovered a love of writing while attending Utah Valley University. Dane is the founder and CEO of his own company, and an avid outdoorsman who loves the beautiful Beehive State. He grew up idolizing John Stockton and playing on the plastic hoop he’d hang on the pantry door. Dane tweets at @_danecoles.

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  1. Pingback: Red Alert: Mah Formula Says the Jazz Have a Tough One Coming | Salt City Hoops

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