Whittling Down the Utah Jazz Roster

October 23rd, 2013 | by David J Smith

5:00 pm. EST on October 28th signifies the deadline for final Opening Day rosters for the 30 NBA franchises. Each passing day, teams are trimming their ranks. Some teams may have already whittled their rosters down and are focusing on rotations, offensive and defensive schemes, and so forth. While veterans are using this time to prepare for the upcoming season, the training camp hopefuls are on pins and needles, waiting to discover their fates. You can only imagine what they might be experiencing as they pursue either one more year in the NBA or their first crack at their dreams

The Utah Jazz still have 19 players suiting up and a lot of questions linger. How are the camp free agents faring? Who has the best chances of sticking? Will the Jazz look elsewhere to fill out the roster? With injuries, will Utah open the year with the maximum 15 players? With just two preseason games remaining, these decisions could come any minute.

First, let’s take a quick look at how each bubble guy is doing.

Ian Clark, guard: 4.6 ppg, 45.5% FGs, 16.7% 3s (1-6), 0.8 rpg, 0.4 apg, 0.8 spg in 11.8 mpg

The rookie guard out of Belmont has been solid, but unspectacular. He has had his moments offensively (did well in the fourth quarter of the tilt with the Lakers) and gives a good effort on defense. Many wanted to know if he could handle spot minutes at point guard, and while it’s preseason, it doesn’t appear that he’s capable yet. He’s had some difficulties getting his shots off, but when he has, he’s connecting a decent clip. He is guaranteed $200,000, so that may give him the edge over others. That said, his job may not be 100% secure just yet.

Brian Cook, forward: 7.8 ppg, 47.8% FGs, 42.9% 3s (6-14), 100% FTs, 1.8 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.5 bpg, 2.8 PF in 11.5 mpg

The nine-year veteran displayed his best skill–shooting–against the Los Angeles Lakers, finishing with a team-high 18 points. Cook is a gun-slinger and does not hesitate to shoot. He is averaging a shot for every two minutes he’s on the court. His abilities as a stretch four could be appealing to a team that needs that nuance. Other than that, he has offered very little. 1.8 rpg in 11.5 mpg is underwhelming. Cook is also second on the team in fouls, even though he is 13th in minutes played. He’s averaging 8.6 fouls/36 minutes. He is, though, outscoring Derrick Favors, Richard Jefferson, and Jeremy Evans in much less playing time.

Mike Harris, forward: 4.0 ppg, 41.2% FGs, 66.7% 3s (2-3), 66.7% FTs, 3.0 rpg, 0.4 apg in 9.8 mpg

The undersized power forward has hustled, but he inevitably appears to be one of the next cuts. Harris started out the preseason with some fairly good stints, but appears to be pressing the past few games–trying to do too much rather than letting the game come to him.

Justin Holiday, swingman: 2.3 ppg, 26.7% FGs, 40% 3s (2-5), 50% FTs, 1.0 rpg, 0.8 apg in 9.8 mpg

Holiday has good athleticism, but his shooting has been cold all preseason. He has a nice looking release, yet the shots simply are not falling. He has only hit 2 of 10 two-point field goals. Furthermore, he plays a position that may be overshadowed by greater roster needs.

Lester Hudson, guard: 4.5 ppg, 31.3% FGs, 50% 3s (4-8), 57.1% FTs, 2.3 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.3 spg in 14.3 mpg 

The three-year veteran played very little the first three games, as it appears fellow guard Scott Machado might have enjoyed the early edge. Then, off the heels of Trey Burke’s injury, he was given the opportunity versus and showed a lot of heart. The brightest spot has been his gritty defense. He plays the passing lanes well (gambles a bit) and gets up on his man. Beyond the arc, he’s been solid; inside it, not so much (1-8).  Hudson does crash the boards from the back court. He has a chance.

Scott Machado, guard, 0.8 ppg, 8.3% FGs, 0% 3s (0-7), 33.3% FTs, 2.8 apg, 1.0 rpg, 0.8 spg in 11.0 mpg

Machado is a pass-first point guard, which is really good since his shooting has been abysmal. That 8.3% FG mark is not a typo. He has fired blanks on all seven three-point attempts. In his favor, Machado does a fine job running the offense and setting teammates up. He is good both in half court sets and when the team runs. He seemed to be the early candidate to assume back-up point guard minutes behind John Lucas III and from Tyrone Corbin’s comments post-Burke’s injury, he was going to be given a long hard look. He has not taken advantage of the opportunity.

Dominic McGuire, forward: 3.0 ppg, 50% FGs, 50% FTs, 1.5 rpg, 0.8 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.8 bpg in 11.8 mpg

McGuire is the classic utility guy who may not excel at anything, but does a lot of things that contributes to a team’s success. His stats do not jump off the board, but he has impressed with his defense and effort to make things happen. McGuire’s experience shows as he doesn’t press much. He is limited offensively. He is a good passer for a big man, having played some point forward in the past. He seems to be the type of guy coaches love. While he played a lot the first three games, he has seen little since–including two DNP-CDs.

All seven guys have had occasions of very good play, but no one has come out to set themselves apart from the competition. In past years, when fringe guys have stuck, they made the overwhelming case to stay (think Wesley Matthews). Given the injuries to Burke, Brandon Rush and Marvin Williams, there seems to be a need for another point guard, a swingman, and a big. Harris and Holiday will most likely be given their walking papers soon. Chances are Clark will nab that swingman spot. So that leaves McGuire and Cook dueling for the big vacancy and Hudson and Machado for the third PG role. If Utah was to go solely off who is here, the case could be made for each of them.

Another avenue could be to watch the waiver wire to see who becomes available. There are some intriguing names that have been jettisoned: center Fab Melo; forwards Brandon Davies, Renaldo Balkman, Devin Ebanks, James Johnson, Corey Maggette, Jarvis Varnado, and Marcus Cousin; and guards Myck Kabongo and Darius Johnson-Odom. Others will be turned loose soon. Perhaps some of these guys may be better fits for Utah. Davies, a former Brigham Young University forward, was someone the Jazz liked during Draft workouts. Johnson is a former first-rounder who was linked to Utah in some September rumors. Kabongo was rated very high a year ago, but ended up going undrafted. He has potential as a nice back-up PG in the NBA.

The Jazz have also been connected to Chicago Bulls guard Marquis Teague and last year’s 32-game starter Jamaal Tinsley.

David J Smith

David J Smith

Besides writing for Salt City Hoops, David contributes to the Utah Jazz coverage for the Deseret News and has written for the Utah Jazz website and Hoopsworld.com (now Basketball Insiders). He graduated from BYU and works for LDS Philanthropies. He and his incredibly patient wife, Elizabeth, have some amazing children--four girls and two boys. Voted "Most Likely to Replace Jerry Sloan" in high school.
David J Smith

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