Reviewing the FIBA performances of current Jazzmen + Rubio

Jared Woodcox , 2019-09-15 23:46:06
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BEIJING, CHINA – SEPTEMBER 15: Rudy Gobert #27 of Team France and Paul Lacombe #90 of Team France celebrate after the games against the Australian Boomers during the Third Place Game of the 2019 FIBA World Cup at the Cadillac Arena on September 15, 2019 in Beijing, China. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

With the 2019 FIBA World Cup concluded, let’s take a look at how Utah Jazz players Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Joe Ingles fared, as well as former Jazzman Ricky Rubio.

The FIBA World Cup came to a conclusion on Sunday with both the bronze medal and championship games taking place. While the most unfortunate aspect of the tournament was that Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell and his Team USA squad weren’t in action on the final day of play, there was still a lot for Jazz fans to enjoy in the last two contests.

The reason for that was that two current and one former Jazzman hit the court on Sunday. Rudy Gobert and France suited up to take on Joe Ingles and Australia in a battle for third place whereas recent Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio and his Spain squad took on Argentina in the championship.

When all was said and done, France managed to avenge an earlier tournament loss to the Aussies by winning in a low-scoring affair 67-59 to claim the bronze medal. The Australian squad got off to a fast start with a 30-21 lead at the half, but France battled back and managed a 25-13 advantage in the fourth quarter to arise victorious.

Having played a physically and emotionally draining semi-final game against Spain in the previous round, it’s entirely possible that Australia simply ran out of steam, which is exactly what it looked like on the court. Joe Ingles had a good final game with 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting, but ultimately Australia still finished in fourth place.

Meanwhile, Ricky Rubio was prolific against Argentina as he led Spain to an easy championship win by a score of 95-75. Rubio exploded for a team-high 20 points while shooting 6-of-11 from the field and adding seven rebounds and three assists. Rubio’s prolific play throughout the tournament earned him the prestigious FIBA World Cup Tournament MVP Award.

The game was really never in question as Spain outscored Argentina in every quarter, taking the lead 23-14 after one, extending it to a 12-point lead at half, then running away with it in the second half.  Despite having upset both Serbia and France, Argentina’s luck ran out in a big, bad way at the worst possible time in the championship contest.

Now, with the FIBA World Cup concluded and the start of NBA training camps less than two weeks away, it’s time to finally turn our attention towards the long-awaited 2019-20 season. The Utah Jazz have massive expectations, and although the games are quite different, we gained some valuable insight about some of their players based on their FIBA performances.

As such, let’s recap what we’ve seen out of them throughout the last few weeks of FIBA play and what we can expect for them in the 2019-20 season.

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FIBA roundup – Jazzmen stay perfect, Team USA beats Greece

Jared Woodcox , 2019-09-07 20:23:10
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All three Utah Jazz players participating in FIBA remained unbeaten yet again on Saturday with only one game now remaining before the elimination round.

It was an exciting day of FIBA Basketball action across the board for Utah Jazz fans on Saturday as each of the three Jazzmen representing their respective countries remained undefeated. Donovan Mitchell and Team USA had a great second quarter, outscoring Greece 19-8, and held steady in the second half to take down Giannis Antetokounmpo and Greece by a score of 69-53.

It was a relatively low-scoring affair, but with the Americans so heavily focused on defense, that’s likely the way they want the games to be. In all, it was a great victory because Greece was supposed to be the biggest challenge they’d faced yet but they stayed tough and took care of business.

Meanwhile, Rudy Gobert‘s France and Joe Ingles‘ Australia faced much tighter contests. The French escaped with a narrow victory over Lithuania 78-75 that came down to the final seconds. The Stifle Tower had a good game with nine points, eight rebounds, an assist and a block while shooting 3-of-4 from the field. The only downside was that he did go just 3-of-6 from the foul line.

The Australians did battle with the Dominican Republic, who has proven throughout FIBA play to be much more competitive than many presumed. The Aussies held just a two-point halftime lead and the Dominicans kept it close throughout the second half. However, the Boomers ultimately managed to pull away for a six-point victory of 82-76 when all was said and done.

For the second straight game, Ingles didn’t carry much of a scoring load as he finished with just two points on 1-of-4 shooting from the field which included a disappointing 0-of-2 mark from deep. He was still impactful, though, as he added seven rebounds, three assists and three steals.

Next up, the Aussies will take on France in a game that will result in the first Jazz player loss of the tournament. If how close both teams played against Lithuania is any indication, that contest is shaping up to be a great one as both Ingles’ and Gobert’s squads look sharp and evenly matched. Assuming Team USA remains undefeated after they face Brazil in their next contest, the loser of Australia and France will go on to face Donovan Mitchell and Co. in the quarterfinal round where things really get serious.

Speaking of Mitchell, for the most part he had a solid outing against Greece. His typical energy and hustle on both ends of the floor were present. He was the team’s second-leading scorer with 10 points, trailing only Kemba Walker‘s 15. Mitchell also pulled down five rebounds and what stood out most about this contest were his three assists.

Donovan has looked far more prolific as a passer and at setting up his teammates in FIBA play than we’ve seen him in his first two seasons in the NBA. If that carries over, considering that he will have far more capable offensive teammates surrounding him than he’s used to, it should work wonders for his game when returns to action for the Utah Jazz.

The downside of Mitchell’s performance against Greece was yet again his most common shortcoming – shot selection and efficiency. Mitchell was perfect from two-point range – he made both shots within the arc – but an appalling 2-of-8 from deep. Poor efficiency aside, eight three-point attempts is far too many, especially when considering that his perimeter shooting isn’t his strength, he’s surrounded by better shooters, and he’s playing the shortened minutes of a FIBA game.

Mitchell’s strength is his athleticism and ability to attack the rim, but he remains hesitant to do so up to this point. Sure, some of that could be reluctance to deal with heightened contact in FIBA play, but it still feels like Donovan is settling far too much. I’d rather see him look to make a better play for one of his teammates at the sacrifice of some points than continue to let ill-advised shots fly.

His lack of attacking the rim has resulted in him not logging a single free throw attempt during any of the four FIBA games thus far despite hoisting 41 field goal attempts. If this were NBA play, that would be a major reason for concern that ideally we’ll see get cleaned up once the more meaningful action of the regular season picks up in October.

For the most part, though, Mitchell continues to be a solid contributor, and the win over Greece was a reassuring sign. Antetokounmpo and his Greece teammates were supposed to present a challenge for a vulnerable Team USA, but the Americans rose to the occasion and prevailed just fine.

Next they’ll take on a dangerous Brazil team that also toppled Greece in the first round of group play. Oddly enough, though, Brazil was also defeated on Saturday by the Czech Republic, who Team USA won against quite handily in their first game of FIBA action. That may very well bode well for the Americans’ chances as they look to get through all of group play undefeated.

Regardless of which version of Brazil shows up, this contest will be a great final audition before the competition level rises even higher to when Team USA will take on one of either Australia or France, and will very likely at some point have to go up against Serbia who’s been dominant thus far.

Next: Utah Jazz: Are Donovan Mitchell, Team USA still FIBA favorites?

Up to this point, the Utah Jazz players participating in FIBA action have stayed undefeated, but that is soon to change. One of France or Australia will lose on Monday, then in the subsequent round, one of them is most likely set to face Team USA, meaning one of Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert or Joe Ingles could be eliminated come Wednesday.

In other words, a solid run from all three players’ teams is about to come to an end. Jazz fan loyalties will be tested to the brink as we await the results of the thrilling upcoming contests.

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FIBA roundup – Jazzmen undefeated so far, but not for long

Jared Woodcox , 2019-09-06 00:06:10
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All three Utah Jazz players participating in the FIBA World Cup are undefeated with their respective teams. But the next round will be a much tougher challenge for all.

After a narrow escape against Turkey in Team USA’s second game of FIBA Basketball World Cup play, Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell and his teammates bounced back nicely in their following contest against Japan. The game never got closer than 0-0 as the American squad came out of the gates firing on all cylinders and never looked back. They would ultimately win the game by a count of 98-45.

It wasn’t an otherworldly performance from Mitchell, but it was a solid outing and certainly a good turnaround from his mistake-riddled performance versus Turkey. He finished the contest with 10 points on 50 percent shooting from the field while adding six assists. For what it’s worth, he was also an incredible, team-high plus-51 on the evening. Now how’s that for a positive impact?

In the three FIBA games for Team USA thus far, Mitchell has shown some very distinct things. In the first, he gave Jazz fans a look at an efficient performance, something they’ve been pining for. In the third, he showed that he can make plays for others effectively, another trait that many have hoped he could improve heading into his third season.

And in the second game? Well, he proved that he’s still young and still human. Mitchell has had such a rapid rise to acclaim that it’s easy to forget that he’s just 22 years old and yet has much to learn to enhance his craft. There will undoubtedly be bumps along the way as he continues his upwards trajectory, and it’s important to remember how far ahead he is of any expectations placed upon him when he was drafted.

All in all, Donovan has looked solid in FIBA play, so much so that Jazz fans should be highly encouraged and excited about what lies ahead for him in the 2019-20 season.

So despite a narrow victory over Turkey, Team USA remains undefeated in FIBA play at 3-0. The same can be said about the other Jazzmen – Joe Ingles and Rudy Gobert – and their respective squads.

Ingles’ Australia defeated, Canada, Senegal, then a tough Lithuania team in a hard-fought battle. Gobert’s France, meanwhile, triumphed over Germany, Jordan and the Dominican Republic. After struggling versus Germany, the Frenchman put up two dominating performances that has them looking like one of the more formidable squads in the mix this summer.

But as good as the collective Jazzman record of 9-0 looks as of right now, it’s about to get tested in a big way beginning on Saturday as we advance to the next round of FIBA action. The USA’s next battle will come against none other than reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and his Greek squad. Giannis will undoubtedly be a man on a mission as he looks to lead his national team to a victory over his fellow NBA peers on a vulnerable American squad.

From there, the daunting tasks will be far from over for Team USA as they’ll face Brazil, who is undefeated thus far in the tournament with impressive wins over the likes of New Zealand, Montenegro and, perhaps most surprisingly, Antetokounmpo’s Greece squad. They boast former NBA players Leandro Barbosa and Anderson Varejao, who turned back the clock in a big way in their win over Greece, as well as current Chicago Bull Cristiano Felicio.

Meanwhile, France and Australia find themselves in for tough challenges ahead as well. Gobert and Co. will pick up action on Saturday against Lithuania who nearly knocked off Australia on Thursday. Rudy has been impressive thus far in FIBA World Cup play, but he’ll have his hands full in a showdown against the likes of NBA bigs Jonas Valanciunas and Domantas Sabonis.

Australia, meanwhile, will probably have the easiest next game of any of the teams with Jazz players on them as they’ll take on the Dominican Republic. The Dominicans aren’t a bad team by any means, but they were fortunate to sneak past Germany and barely beat Jordan who was easily the most inferior team of their group.

From there, though, we’ll get our first battle of two Jazzmen going head to head in meaningful play as Joe Ingles and Rudy Gobert will face off when Australia plays France on Monday at 6:00 AM MT. This one will likely be a battle to remember as both teams are on a hot streak, both have significant NBA talent and both are among the elite forces in the tournament.

Of course, since the two are facing one another, it will be impossible for the Jazz-represented teams to emerge undefeated after the next round, though all three could still very well advance. It’s entirely possible that the inevitable loss of either France or Australia won’t be the only loss either. Lithuania will present a challenge to France and Team USA will have its hands full with both Greece and Brazil, especially if they play as they did against Turkey.

After that, assuming all three teams advance, they’ll find themselves in the elimination round which is where things really heat up. And there’s a great chance that Donovan Mitchell and Team USA will then find themselves playing either Rudy Gobert and France or Joe Ingles and Australia. The top team from Group K (USA’s group) will play the second team in Group L, which could very likely be France or Australia. If USA slips to the second spot, they’ll play the top team in Group L, which again will probably be one of those two aforementioned teams.

In other words, Jazz loyalties are soon to be tested to the brink. We know we’ll see Ingles vs. Gobert, will we see Mitchell vs. Ingles like we did in exhibition play? Or perhaps Mitchell vs. Gobert in a battle of the two biggest Jazz stars?

Time will tell, but one thing is certain, if Team USA – the favorite entering the tournament – is going to live up to their reputation and prove the doubters proclaiming their vulnerability wrong, they’ll have to play much more like they did against Japan and far less like they did against Turkey.

Sure, Japan’s mediocre talent level played an enormous role in Team USA shining so bright, but there’s also no question that they simply executed their best in that contest and made the wisest decisions. That execution will have to carry over and be combined with focus, confidence and perhaps some luck when they play the trio of Greece, Brazil and most likely either France or Australia in their next three games.

Next: Utah Jazz: Michael Bennett latest NFL star to rock Donovan Mitchell jersey

All three Jazzmen are 9-0 at the moment. And while that figure is inevitably about to change by Monday at the latest, ideally all three Utah Jazz studs will continue to light it up for their respective squads as the excitement of FIBA play continues.

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Are former Jazzmen Clark, Wallace free agent options?

Ryan Aston , 2019-07-08 13:00:22
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The Utah Jazz still have spots to fill on their roster despite a busy opening week of free agency. Former Jazzmen Ian Clark and Tyrone Wallace may fit the bill.

I don’t know whether it’s simply due to familiarity or if there’s a nostalgia factor in play, but it seems as though whenever the Utah Jazz have spots to fill or tinkering to do to their roster, we all rush to conjure names of former Jazzmen as potential acquisitions. Honestly — can we just remind ourselves that there’s a whole world of players out there?

Now, with that said, allow me regale you with tales of two former Jazz players who would be excellent candidates for one of the team’s back-end roster spots. Namely, guards Ian Clark and Tyrone Wallace.

As it stands, the Jazz have 12 players locked up for next season (counting the partially guaranteed contracts of Royce O’Neale and Georges Niang). And while the they have done well to compile a deep, well-rounded roster, more able bodies on the wing is something that could definitely help the push for the title.

Both players check boxes there and, as it happens, they’re both available.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the LA Clippers made the decision to waive Wallace in the wake of their big move to bring both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to La-La Land. He’s largely a victim of circumstance, though; after a ho-hum year in the Jazz developmental system, he really found life with the Clips.

All told, the former second-round pick played in 92 games for Los Angeles over the last two seasons, averaging 5.5 points and 2.2 rebounds per game. As a rookie, he started 19 games and logged an 11-4-3 line in those contests.

He may never be a floor-spacer, having connected on just 24 percent of his triples during his NBA career. However, he has shown an ability to do some things going to the basket and in the mid-range. Wallace also has great potential as a defender thanks to his athleticism, size and length (6-6, 200 pounds, 6-10 wingspan).

Last year, the Clips conceded 104.2 points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor, the best number on the team for players registering 500-plus minutes. Also — opposing players were 3.2 percent less accurate from the field compared to the norm when Wallace was the nearest defender.

At 25, he may still have room to grow and he’s familiar with the Jazz system.

Meanwhile, Clark’s rights were renounced by the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday, per Yahoo Sports’ Keith Smith. The move came as the Pels’ trade for Jazz big Derrick Favors was finalized.

Clark has averaged seven points and just under two boards per game over the last three seasons with NOLA and the Golden State Warriors. He was a 37-percent 3-point shooter during the 2016-17 campaign, but has largely failed to rip the nets like he did during the 2013 NBA Summer League when he earned a deal with the Jazz.

Nevertheless, he’s probably proven himself as a guy who can get buckets off the bench at the NBA level. Throughout his career, he’s been a solid mid-range shooter, connecting on over 47 percent of his shots from 10 feet out to the 3-point line. And with the Jazz offense generating more open looks than anyone last season, perhaps he could become a more consistent floor-spacer in a return to Utah.

Also — while he left the Jazz in 2015 as a young player fighting for his professional life, the 28-year-old is now a bona fide NBA vet, with 40-plus games of playoff experience, during which he averaged 16 points per 36 minutes on an effective field goal percentage of 56.

Next: Utah Jazz: LA Clippers’ blockbuster moves have transformed the West

Let me be clear: neither Wallace nor Clark would come in and command a ton of minutes in the 801. But if you can get players of their ilk into your 12th, 13th or 14th roster spots, it does wonders for your depth. Particularly with regards to load management for your big guns.

Given all the big moves being made in the West outside of Salt Lake City, the Jazz could use all the help they can get if they’re to take full advantage of a wide-open NBA title picture next season.

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Predicting where ex Jazzmen end up in free agency

Josh Padmore , 2019-06-29 15:17:04
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HOUSTON, TX – APRIL 24: Ricky Rubio #3 of the Utah Jazz reacts in the second half during Game Five of the first round of the 2019 NBA Western Conference Playoffs between the Houston Rockets and the Utah Jazz at Toyota Center on April 24, 2019 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

With the 2019 NBA free agency officially starting on Sunday, I figured it’d be fun to predict where some former Utah Jazz players could end up playing next season.

Some fans may disregard former players of their favorite team once they part ways. I, for one, enjoy supporting and rooting for said players, even when they’re on different teams. Unless, of course, the partnership ended on a sour note. Yes, like Gordon Hayward‘s did with the Utah Jazz.

There’s plenty of former Jazzmen that are ready to hit the open market. Follow along as I predict where some of them will be playing next year, beginning with one who most recently started at point guard for the Utah Jazz!

Ricky Rubio Utah Jazz (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

Ricky Rubio

We all know that Ricky Rubio‘s time in Utah has come to an end, after the addition of Mike Conley. Despite an up-and-down two years with the Jazz, Rubio will have many suitors as he explores free agency for the first time in his NBA career.

Teams like the Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers and Phoenix Suns have all reportedly expressed interest in the Spaniard.

A report recently came out that Rubio was ‘envious’ of his good friend Marc Gasol, who won a championship with the Toronto Raptors. Rubio wants to win big. For that reason alone, of the three teams listed, I predict Rubio will sign with the…

Prediction: Indiana Pacers

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Dan Clayton

Dan Clayton , 2019-04-30 19:27:56
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There were way too many questions submitted for this first installment of the offseason Q&A to handle them all at once. So let’s make like a magician with a saw and split this thing in two.

This first round of questions is mostly focused on current Jazz players. Readers were extremely curious about Derrick Favors’ future, the implications if Kyle Korver were to retire, and Ricky Rubio’s future. So we’ll start there, and then we’ll drop wave two first thing on Wednesday.

The next round of questions will include talk of specific offseason targets, plus answers about how different cap mechanisms and exceptions could work to help Utah shape its roster. 

But for now, let’s start with current Jazz big man Favors and his Utah teammates.

Current Jazz players

Favors’ option has to be picked up 7/7. Free agency starts 7/7. Could the Jazz sign a max guy early on that day and then go into the luxury tax by picking up Favors’ option or using his Bird rights? -@cphilits

Are we allowed to rescind Favors and then use Bird exception for a longer deal after we sign other FA? -@ultimatejazzfan

Lots of people are saying to get a good FA we will have to lose Favors. What if we pay the luxury tax? Could we keep him and sign a big FA? If that is possible, Could you see the Jazz doing that? -@Deige22

There were a lot of questions around the available mechanisms to keep Favors, so let’s start there.

First, it helps to understand structurally what Favors’ contract is. People (including Favors himself) have referred to his deal as a “team option” as a sort of shorthand, but that’s not technically what it is. It is a non-guaranteed contract, with a salary protection date of July 7. This is an important structural difference, because it means that the only way Utah clears his $16.9M off their books is by waiving him. And when you waive a guy, you lose Bird rights to the player. So if the Jazz try to pull a cap maneuver with Favors, they’d first have to waive him, and then their only option to re-sign him would be using remaining cap space or a tiny exception that likely wouldn’t come near his asking price (more on that). There’s no option to sign someone else first and then deal with Favors — he’s under contract until/unless the Jazz cut him, and once they cut him, they no longer have Bird rights.

There’s not even a guarantee that Favors would clear waivers. For 48 hours after a player is waived, any team with enough cap space or a sufficiently large exception can claim him off waivers and assume his remaining contract. You rarely see waiver claims in Favors’ salary range, but this year is different; roughly half of the league will have the option to create cap space, and some teams are going to miss out on the available free agents. For a team that missed on other options, a 1-year, $16.9M commitment to a player as good as Favors would be a decent backup plan, and a way to kick their cap flexibility to the 2020 offseason.

So bottom line, if the Jazz want to keep Favors, that $16.9M will be on their books throughout free agency.

That doesn’t necessarily prohibit them from signing a good player, but it makes it tougher. Even with Favors’ $16.9M on the books, they could create a max slot, but it would require them to rescind all free agents, possibly waive Raul Neto, and trade one or more current roster players without taking salary back. You can mess around with the cap calculator to find ways to keep Favors and still create a $27-32M max slot.

Also can Favors be used as a trade and then released by another team if it takes place before his guarantee date? Like a draft night trade? -@GaretDuckworth

Yes, Favors can be traded, but it’s not very likely. Teams used to trade players with non-guaranteed (or partially guaranteed) contracts almost as a cap-clearing asset, but the NBA closed that loophole by changing the way that those players count in trades. If Favors is traded, the team that acquires him has send enough salary (or be far enough under the cap) to absorb his entire $16.9M salary, but for outgoing trade purposes, Utah has to count him at his guaranteed amount — which is $0. That makes it hard to work a deal out, and removes any cap advantages of acquiring and cutting a player.

So anybody who contacts the Jazz about acquiring Favors is likely doing so because they’re interested in employing Favors. Which is possible. He’s really freaking good.

Is it possible to use up all of our cap space, and then sign Ricky Rubio with the mid-level exception (MLE). Or is there anyway to go about that? -@utahjazzman47

In order for a team to utilize its cap space, it first has to renounce exceptions like the MLE. Salary cap exceptions are just that — exceptions for a team that doesn’t have cap room. So you don’t get both. 

The league and players did agree to create a new exception called the “Room MLE” for teams that give up their full MLE to go under the cap but then spend all of their cap space. But it’s tiny compared to the MLE, and likely not enough to meet Rubio’s salary demands. The Room MLE will be about $4.7M this summer, whereas the non-taxpayer MLE will be $9.2M. 

If the Jazz choose to operate as a cap space team, then their only exceptions after using said space will be the Room MLE and minimum contracts.

If Kyle Korver does decide to retire, would his entire contract be removed from the cap sheet? -@KantsImperative

If Korver ends up retiring, are the Jazz able to include his contract in trades? -@D_HUG

No, his contract would not be removed from the cap sheet. Utah would still be on the hook for the remaining guaranteed portion of his contract: $3.44M. They could use the stretch provision to spread the cap hit on that figure over three seasons, but they don’t get to exclude his salary from their cap sheet altogether. Only in rare medical cases do teams get complete cap relief when a player retires, and even then they only get said relief after the player has missed a year due to a career-ending injury. That wouldn’t apply here.

And to D_Hug’s question, yes, Utah could include him in trades, but the same thing applies here as with the Favors trade question. For outgoing trade purposes, Utah has the calculate the trade on their end as though they’re trading a $3.44M player, but the receiving team has to be able to receive his full $7.8M. That’s obviously more workable than in Favors’ case, and it’s not crazy to think the Jazz may send some team cash to pay Korver’s remaining salary along with a second-rounder for taking on the cap hit. But they’d probably only do that if they absolutely needed the room, meaning they have a free agent on the line who’s ready to sign and they need a tiny bit more room to accommodate.

Do you anticipate Rubio being back? Do you anticipate Favors being back? In what scenarios do you see Ekpe Udoh and/or Thabo Sefolosha back? How high is the likelihood we see all of Georges Niang, Royce O’Neale, and Neto back? -@AustinJazzHoops

We’ve talked a bit about Rubio and Favors — it’s probably one or the other, to be honest. Utah can’t add an impact player without letting one or both of those guys go, so it probably comes down to the positional profile of any players they’re able to acquire. If they can swing a deal with free agent, Tobias Harris, for example, then they may keep Rubio but let Favors walk. If they acquire someone like Kyle Lowry (who some believe will be available if Toronto underwhelms and Kawhi Leonard walks), then Rubio is redundant but they could keep Favors. In a vacuum, it’s more likely that Favors stays, just because of the way his contract is set up and the fact that the Jazz can unilaterally control that decision.

The Jazz will surely remove Udoh’s and Sefolosha’s free agent rights, meaning the only way I really can see them sticking around is if they’re willing to re-sign at the minimum. Which isn’t crazy, given where they’re at in their careers.

O’Neale and Niang will be back, for sure. Royce is a high-level rotation player who will make $1.6M next season. That’s a total no-brainer, because you’re not replacing his skills or impact for anything close to that low. Niang isn’t quite as good, but is just as cheap, and Utah really believes he can become a Joe Ingles Lite type of player: a big forward with shooting and playmaking skills. Neto’s $2.15M non-guaranteed salary makes him a candidate for a cap-motivated cut if they’re close to meeting some free agent’s asking price, but I’m sure they’d rather keep him. He’s close to Rudy Gobert, and he is a solid third point guard who has acquitted himself well when circumstances have demanded that he play a rotation role for stretches.

Will Tony Bradley be given a shot next year if Favors isn’t retained or do they go after a proven backup 5? -@Ballislife_Cy

I’m just still not sure we’ve seen evidence that Bradley is an NBA dude just yet. He played just 36 minutes this season, all in garbage time. If he were remotely close to being someone on whom Quin Snyder would rely for actual meaningful minutes, I think we would have seen him for more than 36 minutes. There were times when the Jazz kept a two-way player active over Bradley despite being shorthanded up front. The signs just don’t point to him being anything more than a deep bench piece in the short term.

More coming soon in volume 2 of this Q&A. I’ll tackle questions about cap room, exceptions and we’ll start to talk specific names in terms of potential Jazz targets.

So to @blainefarr, @KantsImperative, @Dialed_in4, @jstuart_, @LilBax, @AustinJazzHoops, @tomcat340, @joel_hiller, @newbymiles89, @GaretDuckworth, @Jeffersoniandoc, @gubihero and @Camber… don’t worry, answers to your remaining questions are coming!

Dan Clayton

Dan covered Utah Jazz basketball for more than 10 years, including as a radio analyst for the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts from 2010 to 2014. He now lives and works in New York City, but contributes regularly to Salt City Hoops, FanRag and BBALLBreakdown.

Dan Clayton

Dan Clayton

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Will the curse of former Jazzmen continue?

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If the trend of former Utah Jazz players beating up on their old team continues, the Jazz better watch out for Paul Millsap and Trey Lyles of the Denver Nuggets.

To say the Utah Jazz have gotten off to an odd start so far this season would be a major understatement. One glance at their early schedule was enough to tell you that the beginning part of the year could result in a rough initial record. Therefore, while a 4-4 mark after eight games is disappointing, it isn’t actually all that surprising.

What is surprising, though, is the way that Utah has arrived to that record. They’ve suffered a loss in each of their home games, including two to the Memphis Grizzlies. While the Grizzlies figured to be much-improved thanks to the healthy return of Mike Conley, I don’t know that anyone expected Utah to struggle with them like they have.

Utah’s four wins have thus all come on the road, and some of them against impressive teams such as the Houston Rockets and New Orleans Pelicans. Of course, the Rockets are off to a slow start, and both teams were missing key stars when the Jazz faced them as well, meaning that even those victories were less than convincing.

What’s been perhaps the weirdest is how the Utah Jazz have been punched in the mouth by former teammates. In the home opener, it was Jonas Jerebko, the lone rotation player from a year ago who didn’t return to Salt Lake City. He finished the game with 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting, but more than that, he tipped in the game-winner to sink the Jazz in a thriller.

In the recent contest against Minnesota, Derrick Rose, who though he never suited up for the Jazz, was briefly acquired in the trade that sent Rodney Hood to Cleveland and brought in Jae Crowder, went off for a career-high 50 points. It was a stirring performance from Rose, but a disappointing evening in which Utah couldn’t get the stops necessary to win. With Jimmy Butler sitting out the contest, it was one the Jazz definitely should have won.

Last of all, in two contests against the Grizzlies, but especially the most recent one, former beleaguered Jazzman Shelvin Mack went off in a big way. His 4-of-7 night for 12 points in the prior contest was solid, but on Friday night, he put in 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field and 2-of-3 from deep. Utah had no answer for him as he dialed in big shot after big shot to effectively sink the Jazz.

And that all leads us to today, Saturday, November 3rd, in which the Jazz are facing a few daunting circumstances. First off, they’ll be playing on the second night of a back-to-back, which is always bad in and of itself. But wait, it gets worse. That second consecutive game is forcing them to travel to Denver, where Utah typically struggles and has lost four straight bouts.

Not only that, but while the Jazz have struggled against the Denver Nuggets even when Denver has been so-so, this year, the Nuggets are off to an incredible start of 7-1, the second best record in the Western Conference. The Nuggets look like the real deal this year, and the Jazz will have to face them on the road in a place they struggle, on a back-to-back, and, oh yeah, it’s entirely possible that Donovan Mitchell will be out a second straight night.

His absence was notably missed against Memphis on Friday, and while the injury doesn’t appear too serious, until we get a final word on his status for Saturday, we’ll have to assume that he may sit yet another game out to continue to heal.

As bad as all that sounds, if recent trends are any indication, there may be another element entirely of the upcoming contest that should have Jazz fans worried. I’m speaking of the fact that they’ll be facing two former Jazzmen in the contest. Recently, former teammates have been out for blood. Jerebko, Rose and Mack all have gone ham on the Jazz. Should we be worried about Paul Millsap and Trey Lyles doing the same?

So far this year, Millsap isn’t off to an outrageous start in terms of statistics by his standards, but his 13 points on 46.8 percent shooting and 7.8 rebounds isn’t shabby at all. Not only that, but he’s fit in quite well with Nikola Jokic and has been a big reason why this red hot Denver team has been so dangerous. But the way things are going, who wouldn’t be surprised to see him bust out against his former team?

Then there’s Trey Lyles, who just so happens to be the Nuggets’ leading bench scorer with 9.9 points per contest. Those points aren’t coming on great efficiency, though, as Lyles is shooting just 38.5 percent from the field and 12.5 percent from deep. If he were to pick a game to break out of his slump, though, I wouldn’t be shocked to see it take place against the Utah Jazz.

There’s certainly some bad blood between the two parties considering how Lyles’ time in Utah played out and some comments he’s made since leaving, so I could definitely see him wanting to come out and beat up on his former team. I can guarantee that if Jazz fans had to choose a former player to go off on them in this upcoming bout, they’d go with Millsap ten times to one over Lyles. Lyles is one of the most unpopular former Jazzmen in the league, whereas Millsap is one of the most beloved.

Hopefully the Jazz can escape their recent trend of being bowled over by former members of the team, though it’s quite possible that either Millsap or Lyles could be due for a big game. However, the Jazz probably should be more concerned with the likes of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Gary Harris, who have all been spectacular thus far for the Nuggets. That trio forms a daunting group that has Denver rolling so far this year.

What’s been perhaps most surprising about the Denver Nuggets up to this point is their stellar D. Defense has long been an afterthought for the Nuggets, but early indications are such that they’ve put a renewed focus on it this year. They’re currently third in the league in defensive rating at 102.0, trailing just the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics. They’re also fourth in the league in opponent points per game at just 103.6.

That’s bad news for a Jazz offense that has looked clunky for much of the season, especially if Donovan Mitchell is indeed unable to go. Not to mention, Denver’s defense has looked significantly stronger than Utah’s, as the Jazz are just 14th in defensive rating (107.9) and seventh in opponent points per game (109.4). Those aren’t necessarily horrible marks, but they’re a far cry from what we expect out of a typically daunting Jazz defense.

In truth, I had this game as a loss even before seeing what happened Friday night against Memphis, and before the Donovan Mitchell injury. If Mitchell plays, Utah’s chances obviously go up, but I still feel less than optimistic that they’ll win. If he sits out a second straight game, I don’t see any way that this struggling Jazz team gets past a daunting Nuggets team that is typically lights out on their home court.

Therefore, as much as it pains me to say it, I believe we’ll see the Utah Jazz slide below .500 for the first time on the season as they’ll go head-to-head with a Denver Nuggets team that is on the rise, playing surprisingly tough defense and has looked like one of the top teams in the West during the season’s early-going.

Prediction: Nuggets – 117, Jazz 108

Next: Utah Jazz vs. Memphis Grizzlies recap: Jazz remain winless at home

This contest between the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets tips off at 7:00 PM MT from the Pepsi Center.

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Three Jazzmen appear in initial release of ESPN's Top 100

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50 players into ESPN’s list of the Top 100 NBA Players, the Utah Jazz have been well represented so far, save for a low ranking for Derrick Favors.

Just last week, Sports Illustrated released its list of the Top 100 NBA Players heading into 2018-19. The Utah Jazz were pretty well represented on the list with each member of their starting lineup earning a spot in the Top 60. Donovan Mitchell climbed as high as No. 34, while defensive ace Rudy Gobert came in at No. 15.

Those are high marks, to be sure, and impressive praise for a Jazz team that figures to be a mighty force this upcoming season, especially if these top-ranked players, and some who didn’t make the list, can reach their ceilings.

Beginning this week, ESPN has started releasing its own version of that same list with players ranked 51-100 coming out on Monday. So far, the Jazz have three players that have been mentioned in that group, but unlike SI’s list, not all three of them were within the top 60. Oddly enough, while ESPN gave slightly higher praise to Joe Ingles and Ricky Rubio, Derrick Favors found himself way down on that latest release.

Rubio was 57th on the SI list, compared to 52nd on the ESPN list, while Ingles was 56th on the SI list, compared to 53rd on the ESPN list. Pretty interesting that they were back-to-back on both lists with each one finishing ahead of the other depending which one you reference.

Meanwhile, Derrick Favors was all the way up to No. 51 on the SI list, but was a measly 83rd according to ESPN. That’s quite a discrepancy, to be sure.

Honestly, I know I’m somewhat biased as both a Jazz fan and a staunch supporter of Derrick Favors, but I definitely think he was robbed by ESPN. Sure, his stats from last season weren’t overwhelming when simply glanced at, but considering the role he adopted to best suit the team while playing alongside Rudy Gobert and a new point guard in Ricky Rubio, he absolutely excelled.

And if these rankings are strictly meant to list out the Top 100 best players, I certainly believe Favors deserved more credit from ESPN. Not only was he superb in the role the Jazz asked him to play, but I’m confident that if he were in a position that required more of him, his numbers would match said role. Although he makes sacrifices to best fit the Jazz, he’s an essential part of the team and his crucial talent is on full display every time he hits the floor.

The SI piece certainly made mention of this, noting that Favors is better than his numbers and “could anchor a defense all his own with even greater optionality” if “transported to another team.”

In other words, perhaps ESPN would have done well to look beyond the basic box score when ranking the players, as Sports Illustrated obviously did. Context is far more important than basic stats, and I feel confident saying that Favors is much closer to a Top 50 player than he is a mere Top 90 player as ESPN pinned him.

Next: Utah Jazz alums: D-Will was offered the chance to do WHAT?!

And look for him to prove as much this upcoming season. After securing a lucrative contract with the Utah Jazz this summer and having one of his healthiest seasons in years, Favors will look to come out strong and take yet another leap for Utah in 2018-19. He has a goal to bring a championship to Salt Lake City, and fans should prepare for him to play with an unmatched passion and energy this upcoming season as he aims to do just that.

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Five Jazzmen that left fans wanting more

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SALT LAKE CITY, UT – APRIL 5: Paul Millsap #24 and Alec Burks #10 of the Utah Jazz go up for a rebound against Xavier Henry #4 of the New Orleans Hornets at Energy Solutions Arena on April 5, 2013 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Utah Jazz have had more than their fair share of great players over the years, but a handful of Jazz careers came to a close with fans wanting more.

Since the team made the move to Salt Lake City all the way back in 1979, a lot of memorable players have plied their trade for the Utah Jazz. Obviously, none made a mark quite like The Statues — Karl Malone and John Stockton — however, a litany of other players made names for themselves in Jazzland.

Adrian Dantley was a scoring champion and a Hall of Fame caliber guy. Rickey Green, Mark Eaton, Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur and Gordon Hayward all ascended to All-Star status. Big Fes did Big Fes things.

For all the great players that have come through town, though, there have also been several who left fans wanting just a little bit more. Players who either weren’t quite able to reach their heights with the Jazz or were seemingly out the door just as things were getting good.

Sometimes injuries, circumstance, timing and/or fit just conspire to keep things from happening despite the best intentions of everyone involved.

Here are five Jazz players that fit that bill…

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Four Jazzmen who could contend for MIP Award in '18-19

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Utah Jazz Dante Exum Donovan Mitchell

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – OCTOBER 2: Dante Exum #11 and Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz are seen during a preseason game. (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

Based on the development track record of the Utah Jazz, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the organization produce a Most Improved Player award winner in 2018-19.

Although the Utah Jazz still have a few days remaining to decide on the contracts of Jonas Jerebko and Ekpe Udoh, it’s looking more and more like Dennis Lindsey and Co. will be bringing back a nearly identical roster to last season. They’ve already re-signed Derrick Favors, Dante Exum and Raul Neto, and while some speculated that Utah would pursue and add free agent Nemanja Bjelica, he has reportedly been snatched up by the Philadelphia 76ers.

Things could certainly change between now and July 8th (Udoh’s guarantee date) and 9th (Jerebko’s guarantee date), but indications seem to be pointing now to both of them staying. This would mean that newly drafted Grayson Allen would be the only new addition to Utah’s 15-man roster, essentially taking the spot formerly held by David Stockton.

Meanwhile, guys like Georges Niang and Naz Mitrou-Long continue to impress in Summer League, thus they could very well make a case for earning a spot, though it would seem that unless they prove themselves immensely, they may remain solely on two-way contracts barring some other change with the Jazz roster.

With Utah returning almost the same roster, it’s a clear signal that Jazz brass is banking on continuity being their key to success. And while some may not see that as the most exciting approach, it’s certainly not a bad approach by any means either. In fact, it’s a testament to just how confident the Jazz are in their own ability to grow and build off what began to blossom last season.

It’s no secret that the Jazz hang their hats on internal development which has become one of the best such programs in the league. If they can cultivate several of the guys on their roster and help them make major strides this offseason, we could see a Utah Jazz team that’s significantly better than last year simply due to organic growth.

And if I had to put money on it, I’d say that’s precisely what is about to happen. Several Jazzmen seem poised for breakout seasons that could propel the team to unforeseen heights.

One of my favorite end of season NBA Awards is the Most Improved Player Award. Recognizing a player that upped his game to a whole new level is always exciting to behold. We’re a long ways away from the start of the upcoming season, and even further from the conclusion of it, but based on Utah’s development track record and the situations of some of their current guys, there are four Jazzmen who I think could legitimately contend for the award.

Let’s dive in and take a closer look at each one of them that I believe could be MIP candidates for the 2018-19 season–

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