5 October 2019
Welcome Back Utah
To tip off the 2019 NBA preseason the Utah Jazz defeated the Australian National Basketball League’s Adelaide 36ers 133-81. The night began with a tinge of disappointment for Jazz fans who were eager to see all of the teams stars on the court together for the first time. Many of the team’s biggest names sat out for rest providing Utah fans with their first taste of ‘load management’, a practice that figures to play a part in the 2019-20 season due to the team’s immense depth. Still, it was only logical to give players such as Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell some time off following their active summer participation in the FIBA World Cup.
Regardless of the load management disappointment, Jazz fans were given the opportunity to see a lot of promise in new players, veteran players, and the three rookies signed in the offseason.
The Jazz started the night rather slowly. After taking note of the starting lineup, the slow start seems understandable if not unavoidable. Out of the gates the Jazz proffered a group of Nigel Williams-Goss, Joe Ingles, Bojan Bogdanovic, Jeff Green and Ed Davis. With four new faces on the floor being asked to run a new offense against a well coached, experienced and disciplined 36ers team, there were bound to be some mistakes.
Much of the early offense seemed to devolve to one-on-one drives and missed reads. The newbies struggled to get much going as the game got underway. That is not, however, to say that there were no good signs. Green figured things out as the game went on and shot a highly efficient six of eight from the field en route to 16 points in 18 minutes. Not too shabby for the newcomer. Bogdanovic added 10 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists for his own part, including two nice three pointers that are sure to have fans salivating over whats to come. The two players also hooked up with one another for what may have been the play of night, a reverse alley-oop from Bogey to Green in the first quarter.
Nonetheless, while the newbies showed some strong signs of the potential they have to offer the Utah Jazz this season, it was clear that they could use a bit of time to continue to work with each other and get a better handle on the Jazz system. As Green said in his postgame interview, it’s all about repetitions. That’s what preseason is for, and if the progression shown as the night went on is any sign, the Jazz should be in decent shape come time for the regular season.
Notably missing from the starting lineup (many believed he would be the starting PF this season), Royce O’Neale was the star of the night for the Jazz. It remains to be seen if his bench role was due to the number of players resting or whether that will be his permanent role this year, but O’Neale’s presence was undeniably felt tonight. He finished with the highest plus-minus on the team — a plus 34 — and immediately righted the ship upon checking into the game. He finished with 12 points and a team high six assists. O’Neale consistently made the right reads and brought the same tenacious attitude that has endeared him to Jazz fans in past seasons.
Joe Ingles was the sole starter from last season’s squad to play tonight, determined to play against his country’s team despite his eventful FIBA filled summer. While it wasn’t the most efficient game of the season, he played well and his veteran presence appeared to be a calming force for all of the newcomers. He hit two threes, a stepback after his defender went under a screen and a pull up transition three from the elbow. He too contributed six assists along with three rebounds and 10 points in just 22 minutes. He generally looked quite comfortable and had a few quick touch passes while diving to the rim that were rather exciting.
All things considered, the vets stole the show tonight, as well they should have. They put the game out of reach for the 36ers and were able to sit out for most of the second half.
I want to make a prediction. At least one of the Jazz’s three second round picks in the offseason is going to end up being a solid rotation player in the NBA. To be frank, Miye Oni and Jarrell Brantley have been rather impressive in both their summer league stints and their preseason openers.
Brantley played a significant portion of his minutes tonight bringing the ball up the court and finished with five rebounds and four assists in just 10 minutes of court time. He has the strength and athleticism to battle for boards down low and displayed an impressive vision on the offensive end tonight. He needs to shoot the three more consistently, but there is a lot to like about Brantley’s game.
Oni played well defensively and was also able to get involved on the rebounding front, securing five rebounds in his stints on the floor. The rebounds coming from these two wing players are significant. For a team that whose rebounding was a bit of an asterisk coming into the season, especially after losing Ricky Rubio, an excellent rebounding guard, and Derrick Favors, they are going to need the wing players to step up and battle for the boards. Both Brantley and Oni showed that they are willing and capable of competing for the boards down low.
Finally, Justin Wright-Foreman didn’t look bad. The issue is that he hasn’t had a whole lot of eye openign stints in his time with the team either. The nation’s second leading NCAA scorer last year has not shown an ability to transfer that scoring prowess to the NBA level just yet. His size is a bit of an issue, even if he is able to jump out of the gym. While I love watching him play and want to see him succeed at this level, he certainly has a lot more work to do if he is going to be able to stick in the league.