Today wraps up a week’s worth of Staff Scrimmage posts, where the various Salt City Hoops writers delved into several topics of varying weightiness. Consider it our way of firing up the SCH analysis machine as training camp gets underway.
In this edition, we asked five of our esteemed contributors five questions about the Jazz’s upcoming preseason games, the first of which is this Monday night.
Don’t miss the previous four posts in the series while you’re at it:
Jarom Moore: Yes. Using a formula that I call “random hunch and blindfolded dart throws,” I’ve decided that Portland regresses a touch this season. A slight regression means 42 wins, and even if the Jazz just live up to their point differential win total of last year, they will win 45+.
Julia Mecham: Both teams fared well during the offseason, balancing new acquisitions with continued faith in their young cores. Ultimately though, the additional of heady veterans and better health will push the Jazz past the Blazers this season. The experience of Joe Johnson, George Hill and Boris Diaw will give the Jazz the fire power and smarts to close out the kind of tight games that slipped away last season, while veteran leadership remains a missing piece of the Portland puzzle.
Jimbo Rudding: Yes and here’s why… I want them to. That’s all it takes. We’ve all been in sports long enough to know that you have to want it more than the other team. And I want it. Last season I didn’t know for sure if I wanted it, but now I know for SURE that I want it. Sorry, everyone. Lesson learned. Damian Lillard and CJ MackGollum can’t carry this team all season, they’re too little. If one of those guys goes down for an extended amount of time, who’s going to score? Ed Davis? Hahahahaha… but yeah, I guess he could. At any rate, I like our roster a lot better.
Laura Thompson: Yes. The Blazers were the underdog story last year, and deservedly so. But they’ve tied up far too much money in players who won’t move the needle. Utah can outperform the Blazers defensively, and that levels the playing field significantly. Beyond that, Utah has more offensive firepower with their additions. The veterans’ shooting, passing and leadership will help Utah more than people expect. With better health this year, the Jazz should land in the 4th spot in the West, ahead of the Blazers.
David Smith: Yes. Portland was certainly one of the nice stories last season, a team that lost several starters and didn’t appear all that formidable on paper. But they were a hungry team that exceeded expectations in a big way. This year, they will not take anybody by surprise. Their offseason was interesting, too. They doled out a lot of money to retain and acquire players, perhaps overspending for some. Will that take away some of their hunger? Also, Evan Turner doesn’t move the dial much, in my opinion. Both Utah and Portland should be solid playoff teams.
Jarom: Offensive pace. Defense and three-point shooting will be interesting indicators too, but whether or not the Jazz are comfortable playing fast will be an intriguing preseason plot.
Julia: Definitely Dante Exum. Before his knee injury, we got a taste of his speed, smart defense and bursts of offensive potential. But he remains largely unproven. He’ll probably back up Hill, whose game is pretty consistent. If post-injury Dante can bring that same consistency off the bench along with his new and improved jumper, the Jazz will have shored up their weakest position in recent history and then some.
Jimbo: Diaw. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: he loves his coffee! His passing as a big man can be integral to the team’s success this year. Plus, did you hear that he loves coffee? Isn’t that crazy?! Just imagine, a grown man this day and age loving coffee! He drinks so much coffee that his Coffee PER is a staggering .687%, which is almost .227% higher than the next NBA player, Boban Fett Marjanovic.
Laura: Hill, though I’ll also be watching Exum closely with future seasons in mind. The Jazz have struggled from the point guard position ever since Deron Williams was sent packing, and that was made even more apparent when Shelvin Mack — a third-string Hawks point guard — came into town and markedly improved the team. With a legitimate starting point guard like Hill, one who can also shoot and defend, this team could be transformed. With less burden falling on Gordon Hayward to handle the ball and an additional floor-spacer and defender, we’ll get more glimpses of what Quin Snyder’s offense — and these players — can really do.
David: Trey Lyles. Preseason is the time to get new guys acclimated and to give young guys a heavy dose of minutes. Lyles will undoubtedly get a solid share of both playing time and touches. I am eager to see how he performs on the pick & roll with second-unit teammates he’s never hasn’t played with: Johnson, Diaw and Exum.
Jarom: The first Exum drive and dunk. Hopefully this is off a dribble, but Dante attacking the rim and finishing strong will make me giggle.
Julia: A beautiful Diaw pass from the post would be more than welcome, and a behind-the-back pass would have me through the roof. I’ve admired his versatility from afar and I can hardly believe he’s all ours now. This preseason I’m looking forward to the moment that reality settles in and fans see his court vision. I won’t be mad if that moment comes in the form of a no-look dish to Rudy Gobert for a reverse dunk, either. Just saying.
Jimbo: Probably Exum defensively shutting down an elite point guard. Then, and ONLY then, will I go over to friend Josh’s house and tell him, “I told you so,” and burn EXUM RULES into his front lawn. Then I will unhook his garden hose because he owes me $20 and I’m sick of him dodging me at HOA meetings all the time. Then, if he still won’t admit that Exum is back, I’ll tell his wife that his Garbage Pail Kids cards are at my house and he didn’t really throw them away like she had asked him to.
Josh, if you’re reading this, don’t worry, your garden hose is safe. Just leave $20 and a Baconator in my mailbox and all will be forgotten.
Laura: Exum blowing by his defender for a layup. What we were so excited about in the one single Summer League game a year ago was Dante’s aggressiveness after appearing allergic to the paint during his rookie season. Seeing him aggressively attack the paint after being sideline during year-long ACL rehab will be music to my ears. If he can add the ability to finish in traffic, that might be a full-on symphony.
David: Anything Exum does. While his rookie campaign was rough at times, he showed the occasional flash that understandably got everyone excited. Missing last season was beyond disappointing, both for his personal growth and his connectivity with other core players, and his return is highly anticipated. A corner three or a nice defensive stop will be nice, but the first time he drives to the hoop will incite the most excitement.
Jarom: The All-6’8″ lineup. Joe Ingles, Rodney Hood, Hayward, Diaw and Johnson1. Switching in Alec Burks or Exum for literally any of these players would be cool as well. Positionless ball is so hot right now.
Julia: I’d like to see Hill, Hood, Hayward, Lyles and Derrick Favors. Hill, Hood and Hayward are three-point threats, and it would be especially fun to see Lyles play the stretch four after a pretty successful Summer League, shooting 47% from long range. I’d love to see if he can continue to hit from distance. If so, his ability to draw the defense could open up the post for a back-to-the-basket Favors or a slashing Hayward or Hill.
Jimbo: If something goes wrong and the Jazz end up signing former players, I’d really like to see what a lineup of John Lucas III and a bunch of his buddies from high school could do. You know, just to see. You never know.
I would love to see how going small would work. Maybe Hill-Hood-Hayward-Johnson-Lyles together. Think about it: you HAVE to guard every one of those guys. They can all hit open shots, which is what they should do. They’re professional ball shooters for crying out loud.
Laura: Exum-Hood-Hayward-Johnson-Lyles. Favors and Rudy Gobert make sense here, too, but I’d love to see what they could do with five guys over 6’6″ who can all pass and shoot2. There’s a lot of length, shooting and feel for the game with this group, with Lyles being the only question mark on the defensive end. That versatility would be fun to watch, and a matchup nightmare for opponents.
David: Hill-Hood-Johnson-Hayward-Lyles. Long and versatile on both ends of the court. Each can shoot and pass. It would be fun for Coach Snyder to experiment with this small-ball lineup, just to see what he has there. The fun aspect of this Jazz squad is that you could interchange several others and keep the excitement level high: Exum, Burks, Diaw, etc.
Jarom: This might be the most cliché answer ever, but deal with it: no injuries. I have enough faith in the team that even a near-winless preseason won’t hurt the team as much as an injury to a key player. Yes, the depth is better, but let’s get a few games in before before we have to test that theory to fill an injury hole.
Julia: If guard production and rotation allow the Jazz to remain efficient on both ends of the floor, the preseason will be a success in my eyes. Hopefully Hill will adjust well to the Jazz system having spent time in San Antonio, where he worked with Quin Snyder and Dennis Lindsey. Exum will have newly acquired wisdom from sitting by the coaches last season while rehabbing his knee. The Hood-Johnson-Burks rotation needs to be worked out. Hood and Johnson will get a lot of those minutes, but I hope Snyder can harness Burks’ scoring ability even with limited minutes and Burks can accept a role as an energy guy off the bench.
Jimbo: 0-6: we all know it’s bad luck to win all your preseason games. Also, I would love to see Henry Sims, Quincy Ford, Fronxy Sams and Quanchy Fronch get a TON of time on the court. I’m super nervous about player health this year after the injury bug took a bite out of the Jazz’s backside buns last year. The less time our main guys play, the better. (But if they HAVE to play, then I guess I’d be fine with good pick & roll chemistry between Hill and Favors.)
Laura: Defense, passing and shooting. While that may seem like the entire game of basketball, I just want to see glimpses of this team coming together, specifically in those areas. This team is going to be integrating several new players — each of whom have the talent level to play significant minutes — and seeing them start to gel, find each other in the open court or for corner threes, will be a lot of fun. Add in increased three-point percentage and defensive fundamentals and intensity, and I’ll be thrilled.
David: Count me as one who won’t pay too much attention to the record. A successful preseason includes the vets getting comfortable and the rotation taking shape. A big sign of success would be the Jazz setting a defensive tone early, one that will carry through to the regular season.