Staff Scrimmage: Rotation Guesses

September 27th, 2016 | by Salt City Hoops
Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

Our SCH staff is celebrating the return of basketball with a series of roundtable columns answering some of the burning questions in Jazzland. Yesterday we dealt with some broad questions about the excitement and expectations around this young team. Today, we go a little bit deeper.

We asked five SCH writers five questions pertaining to coach Quin Snyder’s rotation. Here’s what they had to say.

1. Which bench big man will play the most minutes behind presumed starters Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert?

Thatcher OlsonThe third big on the depth chart will be Trey Lyles. While his defense needs some work, he has shown an ability to be mobile on his feet. He was an excellent three-point shooter last year, and the Jazz are working on his ability to take the ball up the floor and distribute. He should be a very good player. However, Boris Diaw’s experience and versatility could lead to nights when he gets more minutes than Lyles.

Spencer Wixom: Lyles improved at an alarming rate last year. I think that will carry over into this year. He will be the main big man off the bench that plays next to Favors of Gobert. Joe Johnson will also get some power forward minutes, but in the end Lyles will get about 50% more minutes at the four position than Johnson.

Jarom Moore: Lyles. It’ll be very close between him and Diaw, but I think Lyles will win because of the handful of either big wins or big losses where they will let Lyles play and sit Diaw.

David Smith: By all accounts, Lyles has worked hard over the summer. His unique abilities as a playmaking, stretch four provide a potentially exciting complement to Favors and Gobert. He gets my nod. That said, Diaw’s skill set also seems to fit perfectly in Snyder’s offense. While Lyles will probably get more PT, Diaw could prove to be a big addition to the rotation.

Dan ClaytonThe Jazz definitely want it to be Lyles, but I think there’s a chance it’s Diaw, at least early on. I wasn’t as moved by Lyles’ summer performance as others were, largely because he scored the ball in ways that have very little to do with how he’ll be used in the Jazz’s regular season offense. The Jazz made these offseason moves so they could be competitive now. It’s a shift in team ideology, and I think it favors Diaw, at least until Lyles shows sustained improvement in some key areas.

2. Who wins the third wing role, Joe Johnson or Alec Burks?

Thatcher: I think this will be a very close contest, and I think it could go back and forth. We still don’t know how either will fit in with Quin’s system, on offense or on defense. Both players have shown the propensity to be isolation-heavy, and playing time may rely on their ability to play within the system, hit open shots, and make their teammates better.

Spencer: Johnson.  The last time Johnson played a regular season game that he didn’t start was December 9, 2003 and he played the 19th most minutes in the NBA last year.  Johnson’s skill set fits Quin’s system better than Burks and he will call on his veteran experience down the line.

Jarom: Alec will get more minutes, Joe will get bigger minutes. I would see Alec being first off the bench for any wing minutes including injuries, but Joe will be put in when shots need to be made. For a team that needs to learn how to win they will need a player who can do it. At least for the first half of the season.

David: My guess is they play similar amounts. Their games are different, so it may depend on game flow and match-ups. Johnson’s ability to play three positions, with the forward positions being the most likely, will be exciting to watch. Burks still has to show he can work within Snyder’s offense. But his slashing game, underrated 3-point shooting and ability to get to the line will make him an integral piece of the second unit.

Dan: Many of the things we cite as Burks’ conceptual strong points are things that Joe has been doing better, more consistently and for longer. Actually, JJ is a really good player for someone with Burks’ strengths to look at as a template. The minutes will probably be really close, but there’s no way the Jazz spent $22 million on a player they envisioned playing just 15 clean-up minutes a night.

3. If everybody stays healthy, who’s the guy just outside the rotation that you have the most heartburn about?

Thatcher: Joe Ingles. While I can completely understand Quin playing Burks and Johnson over Ingles, it would be a shame if he didn’t play at all. Joe has positional versatility, with the ability to play from the 1 to 4 at times. He also is a deadeye corner shooter and a guy who knows how to make his teammates better. It wouldn’t surprise me if he finds a way to get some minutes even over the seemingly more talented Burks and Johnson.

Spencer: I laid out my projected rotation recently and I’m most worried about Diaw.  He can, and will play the five, but he is more of a four.  Unfortunately for Diaw, the Jazz have Favors and Lyles at that position, and will also look to play Johnson and Hayward there in small ball lineups.  Lyles is the most susceptible to Diaw, but I believe in his development.  Diaw will need to stay motivated and likely need an injury ahead of him to see big minutes.

Jarom: Ingles. There are a lot of faults in his game, but he can just do anything and everything at a decent pace. It’ll be interesting because he will get minutes at essentially all five positions but still might not crack double-digit minutes per game.

David: Shelvin Mack. After being the third string point guard in Atlanta, Mack was terrific after the February trade brought him to Utah. He was a breath of fresh air. A few months later, he finds himself as the third point guard again. That has to be tough to get an opportunity to start for the first time, only to see it last just 30 games. He will be remarkable insurance as a third stringer, as will Raul Neto and Joe Ingles.

Dan: Mack, Ingles, Raul Neto and Jeff Withey are all appropriately slotted on the depth chart, but they’re also all rotation-quality guys. Ingles in particular has a versatility that will be missed if he, as expected, finds himself buried behind Hayward, Hood, Johnson and Burks.

4. Is there a rotation player who’s better today than most fans realize?

Thatcher: This one is a tie between the two veteran additions: Johnson and Diaw. While they are both near the end of their career, they should still have a huge impact on this Jazz team. They fill a huge leadership and playoff experience void, and should be able to mentor younger players. They will have limited minutes, but their impact on this team will extend far beyond their still valuable on-court skills.

Spencer: Gordon Hayward.  This seems weird, but I still get asked if we really want to sign Hayward to a max contract next offseason.  Sports Illustrated ranked Hayward as the 27th best player in the league, and I personally like Hayward more than 5 players they had above him.  With increased team success, Hayward will get a lot more recognition for his game — maybe even an All-Star selection — when in reality his stats likely won’t change much.

Jarom: Favors. I have said that he is the best afterthought in the league. Jazz fans want to look at everyone else, but he is at worst the second-best player on the team, and often the best without scoring a ton. He is such a good defender and his offense just keeps getting better. I think fans like him, but don’t really appreciate how good he is. As a primarily defensive player, he’s posted back-to-back PER of almost 22, a top-20 figure in the league. If Rudy didn’t grab so many rebounds, that number might even be higher.

David: Diaw may be 34 and is in the twilight of his career, but the Frenchman could turn some heads. He showed during the summer that he has a lot left in the tank. While his passing prowess is well-known, how very good he is at this might be understated. His vision is simply stellar. Beyondt hat, he is an efficient finisher and does well around the basket. He’s methodical, but it works.

Dan: Fav. While it’s true that Hayward is still underappreciated, at least he gets mentioned. Even in the recent wave of optimistic posts and columns about the Jazz, Favors often gets a passing reference (or not). Which is nuts. Not that many guys go 16 & 8 with at least a block and a steal per game, and even fewer do it while simultaneously being an above-average paint protector AND a linchpin to a switching defense.     

5.Is there a rotation player for whom the fan hype has gotten ahead of how good he is as a player?

Thatcher: While Lyles has shown signs of being very good, we have to realize he is only a second year player. He’ll get a boost in playing time this year, but there are bound to be nights that he struggles with shooting or defense, and Quin elects to go with Diaw. I still believe Lyles will be an excellent shooting and passing big, but we can’t expect a finished product this year.

Spencer: Dante Exum.  I’m not saying Exum cannot develop to be a great player, but the last time we saw him in a regular season game, he was not.  Exum played great defense as a rookie but also posted the worst PER (5.70) of all 77 qualifying point guards.  Now he’s 13 months removed from playing organized basketball, yet there are fans arguing about whether Exum should start over George Hill.  I do believe Exum can develop into a great point guard, but fans are letting the vision of who he can be cloud their judgement of who he is today.

Jarom: Rudy. I think it’s either Rudy or Trey at this point, but with Lyles as a backup I think fans have a lowered expectation. Rudy is good; to steal Canadian wrestler Chris Jericho’s line, Rudy is likely “the best in the world at what he does.” However, he is still limited and while he’s a DPOY candidate he has a limited offense and isn’t nearly a complete player… yet.

David: No one player seems to stick out for me. Lyles’ summer league performance has many fans drooling, which is understandable. Are the expectations too high for him? Probably not too high, but maybe a bit high. He has to prove he can consistently contribute on the boards and hold his own against bigger opponents.

Dan: To my view, the player who’s absolutely trying to catch up to his own hype train is Lyles. He was a net negative player in ’15-16 (by RPM, BPM, VORP, etc.), and then he scored on a ton of 1-pass possessions at summer league and people forgot how much work he still has ahead of him. He will probably be pretty dang good one day; right now, I think fans might be expecting too much.

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