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Three lineups that will be a ton of fun in 2019-20

Jared Woodcox , 2019-07-13 03:28:44
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Utah Jazz Mike Conley

MEMPHIS, TN – MARCH 8: Mike Conley #11 of the Memphis Grizzlies and Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz chat after the game on March 8, 2019 at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

The new-look Utah Jazz will have the versatility to roll out several exciting and effective lineups in the 2019-20 season.

With all of the Utah Jazz’s offseason moves, there’s no questioning that they’re going to have a much different squad in 2019-20. While the team indisputably got better by undergoing a massive upgrade at the point guard spot with Mike Conley over Ricky Rubio, by adding sharpshooter Bojan Bogdanovic and a host of reliable bench presences, there were also some heavy losses, particularly defensively.

What I’m referring to is the departure of Derrick Favors and Jae Crowder, both of which were excellent defenders and gave Utah a length and strength that they won’t quite be able to match this upcoming season. Fortunately, the addition of Jeff Green and Ed Davis should help quite substantially to make up for that void.

But the loss of Favors does make Utah’s starting lineup somewhat unclear. Some have postulated that the Jazz could continue to start Joe Ingles at the three and have Bojan Bogdanovic fill the slot as the small-ball stretch-four. Others have hypothesized that Bogey would take over Ingles’ spot in the starting five in his more comfortable small forward position with the veteran Jeff Green starting at the four, even though he’d likely ultimately cede more minutes to Jinglin’ Joe.

There are other hypotheses as well including the likes of Royce O’Neale and Ed Davis, which we’ll touch on a little later, but the fact of the matter is that Quin Snyder has a lot of flexibility in what he can put out on the floor, be it with his starting lineup or other combinations. As such, I wanted to take a look at three in particular that I’m extremely excited about, starting with one that I’ve already mentioned and could be one of Utah’s best.

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Tillman scores career-high 16, Utah beats Hawaii 80-60

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Kings vs. Jazz watch guide: Lineups, injury report, player usage originally appeared on nbcsportsbayarea.com

SACRAMENTO — The Kings return home to face the Utah Jazz on Sunday night, 24 hours after dropping a one-point game to the Warriors at Oracle Arena.

Buddy Hield missed a late jumper, and Marvin Bagley’s tip-in got wedged between the rim and the backboard as the Kings fell to the defending back-to-back NBA champions 117-116.

[RELATED: How to watch Kings vs. Jazz game online on MyTeams]

Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson raved about the young Kings following the game. Hield led the way with 28 points, and Bagley had a career night in the loss.

The Jazz are coming off a loss to the Lakers on Friday night, and they travel to Sacramento short-handed. Budding star Donovan Mitchell will miss the game with a rib issue, leaving Utah without its top scorer.

Kings Pregame Live on NBC Sports Bay California begins at 4:30 p.m., with tip-off scheduled for 5.

Line

Jazz by 3.5

Projected Starting Lineup

Kings
PG De’Aaron Fox
SG Buddy Hield
SF Justin Jackson
PF Nemanja Bjelica
C Willie Cauley-Stein

Jazz
PG Ricky Rubio 
SG Joe Ingles
SF Royce O’Neale
PF Derrick Favors
C Rudy Gobert

Injury Report

Kings 
SF Iman Shumpert (load management), C Kosta Koufos (right calf strain) OUT.

Jazz
SG Donovan Mitchell (ribs) out.

Rotation Outlook

Kings
With the back-to-back looming, coach Dave Joerger went 11 players deep in Sacramento’s loss at Golden State. He’ll have to make an adjustment Sunday with veteran Iman Shumpert sitting. Justin Jackson has been the default player at the position early in the season, but Bogdan Bogdanovic is another option now that he is cleared for full-time duty.

Rookies Marvin Bagley and Harry Giles both put up solid numbers against the Warriors. Bagley posted a 20-point, 17-rebound performance, and Giles added 10 points and four assists in 11 minutes of action.

Jazz
Coach Quinn Snyder has to make a major adjustment to his lineup with Mitchell out. The Jazz have a few options, including Royce O’Neale, Jae Crowder, Thabo Sefalosha and Alec Burks, but finding someone who can match the 35 that Mitchell scored on Sacramento earlier this week likely is out of the question.

Mitchell went down early in the loss to the Lakers, and the Jazz managed to score just 83 points.

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Favors, Jerebko Lead the Way in Jazz’s Rout of Nuggets

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Kings vs. Jazz watch guide: Lineups, injury report, player usage originally appeared on nbcsportsbayarea.com

The battles keep coming for the Sacramento Kings. After surviving the drama of the weekend and taking down a red-hot OKC Thunder team on Monday evening, the Kings head back out on the road. They’ll face off with the Utah Jazz in a pre-Thanksgiving game at Vivint Smart Home Arena.

Head coach Dave Joerger received a huge ovation in pregame against the Thunder and then sent his young group out to run the Thunder off the court. Buddy Hield led the way with 25 points and veteran Iman Shumpert scored all 23 of his points in the first half to help the Kings come away with the 117-113 victory.

Kings Pregame Live on NBC Sports Bay California begins at 5:30 p.m., with tip-off scheduled for 6:00 pm.

The Kings head home following the game, but they’ll travel to Oakland to play the Warriors on Saturday and then back to Sacramento for a back-to-back against this same Jazz team. 

Line: Jazz by 9

Projected Starting Lineup

Kings

PG De’Aaron Fox
SG Buddy Hield
SF Iman Shumpert
PF Nemanja Bjelica
C Willie Cauley-Stein

Jazz

PG Ricky Rubio 
SG Donovan Mitchell
SF Joe Ingles
PF Derrick Favors
C Rudy Gobert

Injury Report

Kings 

C Kosta Koufos (right calf strain) OUT.

Jazz

No Injuries to Report.

Rotation Outlook

Kings

Joerger’s young crew continues to push the tempo and dictate the flow of the game. Against OKC, De’Aaron Fox had a rough shooting night, finishing with just six points on 1-of-10 shooting, but he added 13 assists and a nailed a pair of free throws to ice the game.

Marvin Bagley posted his first career double-double in 25 minutes of action. He was active and earned major fourth quarter minutes for one of the first times this season. 

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December Dates with OKC Will Be Valuable Down the Stretch

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Kings vs. Thunder watch guide: Lineups, injury report, player usage originally appeared on nbcsportsbayarea.com

SACRAMENTO — There’s never a dull moment in Sacramento. After spending the weekend doing damage control, the Kings get back to work playing the game of basketball Monday evening at Golden 1 Center. 

They face a red-hot Oklahoma City Thunder team that has rattled off three straight victories and won 10 of their last 11.

Sacramento is 2-5 over their previous seven games, including back-to-back losses on the road to the Grizzlies and Rockets on Friday and Saturday. 

Pregame show on NBC Sports Bay California begins at 6:30 p.m., with tip-off scheduled for 7:00 pm.

The Kings head back out on the road Wednesday to face the Utah Jazz for a pre-Thanksgiving battle. They’ll travel to Oakland to play the Warriors on Saturday before returning home to face the Jazz on Sunday. 

Line

Thunder by 2.5

Projected Starting Lineup

Kings
PG De’Aaron Fox
SG Buddy Hield
SF Iman Shumpert
PF Nemanja Bjelica
C Willie Cauley-Stein

Thunder
PG Dennis Schroder 
SG Terrance Ferguson
SF Paul George
PF Jerami Grant
C Steven Adams

Injury Report

Kings
C Kosta Koufos (right calf strain) OUT.

Thunder
PG Russell Westbrook (personal) QUESTIONABLE, SG Andre Roberson (knee) OUT.

Rotation Outlook

Kings
After dealing with a barrage of questions over the weekend regarding his future with the team, coach Dave Joerger is back on the sidelines trying to get his club back in the win column. Joerger has yet to make a change in his starting lineup, choosing to go with the same group for the last 11 games. That could change with Bogdan Bogdanovic’s health getting closer to 100 percent. 

Thunder
Billy Donovan has his club rolling, despite the absence of Russell Westbrook. The star point guard has missed six straight games with an ankle issue, and he announced via Instagram the birth of twins on Sunday morning. He was not in Sacramento Monday morning for shootaround. Dennis Schroder has filled in nicely for Westbrook and will start unless the former MVP flies into Sacramento at the last minute.

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Warriors vs. Jazz projected lineups, injury report, player usage

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SALT LAKE CITY — In the four seasons since Steve Kerr was hired as coach, only one team has beaten the Warriors three times in a season. It happened in 2017-18, when the Utah Jazz pulled off the feat.

So the Warriors, who are without sixth man Andre Igoudala, know the danger that lurks Friday night when they set foot into Vivint Smart Home Arena to face the Jazz.

Tipoff for the ESPN telecast is scheduled 7:35 PDT.

The Warriors were 1-3 against Utah last season, losing the final three games by an average of 29.7 points, including a 119-79 rout in the regular-season finale, a game insignificant to the Warriors but of full consequence to the Jazz.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

Warriors:

G – Stephen Curry G – Klay Thompson F – Kevin Durant F – Draymond Green C – Damian Jones

Jazz:

G – Ricky Rubio G – Donovan Mitchell F – Joe Ingles F – Derrick Favors C – Rudy Gobert

INJURY REPORT

Warriors: F Andre Iguodala L calf tightness) and C DeMarcus Cousins (L Achilles rehab) are listed as out.

Jazz: G Raul Neto (R hamstring strain) F Thabo Sefolosha (NBA suspension) are listed as out.

ROTATION OUTLOOK

Warriors: With Iguodala out, the Warriors are deprived of their usual rotation, with him being the first player off the bench. Coach Steve Kerr has said he’s willing to play all healthy players, so expect more minutes from wings Alfonzo McKinnie and/or rookie Jacob Evans III. Kerr will start Jones at center but likely tinker with small lineups, hoping to push Jazz center Rudy Gobert into disadvantages, if not off the floor entirely.

Jazz: Coach Quin Snyder employed a nine-man rotation in the season opener at Sacramento, with Jae Crowder, Dante Exum, Alec Burks and Royce O’Neale coming off the bench. Crowder will get wing minutes, Exum and Burks are combo guards and O’Neale is an undersize (6-foo-6) power forward.

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Kings vs. Pelicans projected lineups, injury report, player usage

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After a tightly contested loss to the Utah Jazz in the opener, the Sacramento Kings venture out on their first road trip of the season beginning Friday in New Orleans. They’ll face a re-loaded Pelicans team anchored by superstar big man, Anthony Davis.

Pregame Live starts on NBC Sports Bay California at 4:30 p.m., with tip-off scheduled for 5:00 pm .

The Kings pushed the tempo in their home opener, dropping 117 points on a Jazz team that ranked second in the league last season in both points allowed and defensive rating. Willie Cauley-Stein led the way with 23 points and De’Aaron Fox chipped in 21 points and seven assists in the loss.

New Orleans is coming off a big 131-112 win over the Houston Rockets in their season debut. They received huge performances by newcomers Elfrid Payton (triple-double) and Julius Randle (25 points, eight rebounds off the bench) and the combo of Davis and Nikola Mirotic combined for 62 points, 26 rebounds and 11 assists. 

Following the game, the Kings travel to OKC where they’ll battle the Thunder on Sunday afternoon. They’ll make a stop in Denver to face the Nuggets on Tuesday before returning home to Golden 1 Center for a clash with the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday. 

Line: Pelicans by 10.5

Projected Starting Lineup

Kings

PG De’Aaron Fox
SG Yogi Ferrell
SF Buddy Hield
PF Nemanja Bjelica
C Willie Cauley-Stein

Pelicans

PG Elfrid Payton
SG Jrue Holiday
SF E’Twaun Moore 
PF Nikola Mirotic
C Anthony Davis

Injury Report

Kings 

SG Bogdan Bogdanovic (left knee) OUT, C Kosta Koufos (hamstring) OUT. 

Jazz 

PF Julius Randle (foot) PROBABLE.

Rotation Outlook

Kings

Coach Dave Joerger turned to 10 players in the opener, but only seven played substantial minutes. His new-look starting lineup played well, with all five players finishing in double-figures and running positives in the plus/minus category.

Justin Jackson played 30 minutes off the bench, seeing time at both forward positions and Iman Shumpert logged 17 minutes after sitting out most of last season. Rookies Marvin Bagley and Harry Giles combined for just 21 minutes in the opener, but with New Orleans’ size, there is a chance they get more of an opportunity in Game 2.

Cauley-Stein (38 minutes) and Fox (37 minutes) led Sacramento in floor time during the opener and should be a solid bet to see substantial minutes moving forward. 

Pelicans

Alvin Gentry used an eight-man rotation in the opener with all five starters seeing 29 minutes or more. He has a veteran squad that compliments Davis well. Gentry uses a three-guard set to start games, using Payton, Holiday and Moore to run the offense. Randle is a physical player that has given Sacramento fits in the past.

The Kings held Davis to 19.3 points and eight rebounds in 30 minutes per game last season. 

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Kings vs. Jazz projected lineups, injury report, player usage

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SACRAMENTO — Welcome to the start of the 2018-19 Kings season.

After a long summer off and a short training camp and preseason, the Kings start the season Wednesday night at Golden 1 Center against the Utah Jazz.

The pregame show on NBC Sports Bay California is a full hour long for opening night and begins at 6 p.m., with tipoff scheduled for 7. You can watch both on TV or by downloading the MyTeams by NBC Sports app.

The Jazz embarrassed the Kings on their home floor less than a week ago, thumping Sacramento by a final of 132-93 during the preseason. Kings coach Dave Joerger and his young group need to have a short memory and put in a better effort against a sure-fire playoff team in their season opener. 

Following the game, the Kings hit the road for a three game trip beginning Friday night in New Orleans. They’ll make stops in OKC and Denver before returning home to face the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday. 

Line

Jazz by 8.5

Projected Starting Lineups

Kings
PG De’Aaron Fox
SG Buddy Hield
SF Justin Jackson
PF Marvin Bagley III
C Willie Cauley-Stein

Jazz
PG Ricky Rubio
SG Donovan Mitchell
SF Joe Ingles
PF Derrick Favors
C Rudy Gobert

Injury Report

Kings
SG Bogdan Bogdanovic (left knee) OUT, C Kosta Koufos (hamstring) OUT. 

Jazz 
PG Raul Neto (hamstring) OUT, SG/SF Thabo Sefolosha (league suspension) OUT.

Rotation Outlook

Kings
According to Joerger, the Kings plan on going with a 10-man rotation to open the season. His starting lineup is in flux, but expect the same group to get a four- or five-game look to open the season. Rookies Harry Giles III and Marvin Bagley III are expected to play 20-plus minutes per game, and that could expand quickly if they develop.

Iman Shumpert played in the Kings’ loss to Utah last week, and he has made it through a week of practice without a setback. He could be a late add to the rotation and play minutes at the small forward position. Veterans Zach Randolph and Ben McLemore likely will be out of the rotation to start the season, and Kosta Koufos is sitting with a hamstring strain. 

Jazz
The Jazz have a set starting five highlighted by young star Donovan Mitchell and NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert. They’ll play a 10- to 11-man rotation. Dante Exum, Alec Burks, Jae Crowder, Royce O’Neale are the core second unit, with Grayson Allen and Georges Niang potentially seeing time as well.

Thabo Sefolosha is out because of a five-game league suspension for violating the substance abuse policy.

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Clint Johnson

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This 98 to 108 loss to the Pelicans is disappointing for a variety of reasons. Losing the first game of a new calendar year is never fun. Losing a home game to the team that currently holds the final playoff spot in the West, only two and a half games ahead of you, is less fun. Losing when you really should have won is least fun.

At halftime, the Jazz had to feel fairly confident that they would come out on top this game despite a three point deficit. The Pelicans had shot the ball extremely well, making 57 percent of their field goals and an even more blistering 10 of 18 (56 percent) from three. At one point they had sniped away at the Jazz to the tune of 10 of 15 from long range. That kind of shooting isn’t sustainable, particularly against a Jazz team that is much better defensively at home than on the road.

Smart money was on the Pelicans regressing to the mean, and that’s exactly what happened. New Orleans shot only 43 percent in the second half, including a predictable four of 12 (33 percent) from long range. Only Utah’s offense plummeted with it, falling from 51 percent shooting in the first half to 38 in the second.

Most damaging of all was the only consistent offensive factor all night: Utah’s impotence from three point land. In the first half this team driven by the three, particularly in the absence of Rudy Gobert, made only four of 16 attempts (25 percent). While odds balanced out New Orleans hot perimeter shooting in the second half, Utah’s sunk even deeper into the freezer. An anemic three of 16 (19 percent) left Utah punchless against an opponent that easily could have been knocked out for the second time in the season.

Instead, New Orleans made 14 bombs to Utah’s seven and increased their lead in the playoff race to three and a half games. Perhaps even more importantly, they pulled even with the Jazz in the case of a playoff tie breaker at one game apiece.

Stars of the Game

Superstars: Donovan Mitchell and Joe Johnson

Mitchell didn’t impact this game to the degree he has most this season, despite scoring 24. Jrue Holiday, an often overlooked defender since his injury problems, played Mitchell well, limiting him to a pair of assists and forcing a number of dribble mishaps. Moreover, the rookie’s long ball wasn’t falling as he ended the night three of 11 and only six of 17 from the field. But that’s why he warrants this position: against a quality defender, on a night when open shots he typically makes weren’t falling, he still managed to score 24. Moreover, he was Utah’s only guard to finish the night with a positive plus-minus with the Jazz outscoring the Pelicans by a single point in his 38 minutes.

For most of the night, Johnson was easily Utah’s best offense. Not just offensive player, but the entire offense. His isolation game propped up the team during its horrid shooting, keeping the contest close until late in the fourth. Moreover, he further shook off the peculiar ineptitude that dogged him from three for much of the season. Take away Johnson’s two made threes (on three attempts), and the Jazz’s three point percentage falls to a bowel-numbing 17 percent.

Secondary Star: Derrick Favors

Favors has a history of playing well against Anthony Davis and continued that tonight, at least when he was involved in the game. While Favors’s numbers don’t pop (11 points, nine rebounds, two rebounds, a steal and a block), his impact is best seen in the night’s plus-minus, as Utah won the 35 minutes he played by two points and lost the 13 with him on the bench by 12.

Secret Star: Joe Ingles

It was a typical solid game for the Aussie: eight points (on seven shots), four rebounds, five assists, a steal, and a plus-minus three on the positive side of the ledger. While his two-of-six accuracy from three is disappointing by his high standard, by the team’s standard tonight he was smoking.

Stats of the Game

7 – More three point shots made by the Pelicans than the Jazz, who had only seven total. A team won’t win many games where the opponent doubles them up from long range.

9 – Second chance points in the fourth quarter alone, all by Anthony Davis and Cousins. Quin Snyder has identified this is a weak point for the team and it killed them tonight.

56 – Jazz points in the paint. If the team shoots even average from long range, this is likely a win.

10 percent – Rodney Hood’s field goal percentage, including missing all six of his three point shots. He’s now taken at least 10 shots and made fewer than 30 percent in a quarter of his games this season.

30 percent – Utah has shot this poorly or worse from three 11 times this year. They lost every one of these games.

Sundries

  • New Orleans entered the night humming at the league’s 6th fastest pace of play while Utah, despite playing faster than previous seasons, ranked 26th. This game had about 100 possessions. Win Pelicans.
  • New Orleans is a unique team with Davis and Cousins sharing the court so often. In the previous Jazz victory between these teams, Utah benefited from Davis leaving the game late with injury as he had been killing Jazz stretch fours in the post, particularly Jonus Jerebko. Tonight was a similar story only amplified in the fourth quarter, when Pelicans’s coach Alvin Gentry moved Cousins outside the arc and made him an entry passer for Davis. By keeping Favors away from the hoop and attacking whoever he wasn’t guarding, not only did Davis and Cousins dominate with their scoring–19 fourth quarter points–but they destroyed Utah on the offensive glass. If the Jazz would ever benefit from playing Gobert and Favors together, it is against this team. They missed having that option tonight.
  • This is turning out to be a rough season for Hood. Tonight his shot was off–and when he’s off he’s really off. Yet he clearly tried to attack the hoop but only served to put on display how shaky his handle is when trying to penetrate against a set defender, turning the ball over four times and losing his balance on almost every drive. After the expectations saddled on him entering the season, these grotesque shooting games are killing his confidence. And to be honest, they’re killing the Jazz. Utah has had 21 players take at least 10 shots in a game where they shot at or below 30 percent from the field. Here are the team’s winning percentage in those games:
      • Hood: .143 in seven games
      • Burks: .250 in four games
      • Mitchell: .500 in four games
      • Rubio: .000 in three games
      • Ingles: .500 in two games
      • Sefolosha: 1.00 in one game
      • Favors: .000 in one game
  • The Jazz have been outscored by 87 with Hood in the game this season. In Alec Burks’s minutes, they’ve outscored opponents by 27. They’ve been outscored by 111 with Rubio on the court. With Mitchell in the game they’ve managed to outscore opponents (by two), despite the hellish December schedule. The guard line needs adjustment: in shot distribution, and minutes, and roles. The team may really be missing Dante Exum.

As much as was written about December’s brutal schedule, January isn’t lining up a series of cream puffs for Utah to gobble down. Eight of their remaining 12 games in the month are on the road, including the next four. They get another shot at a playoff rival in Denver on Friday before heading back East.

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. He teaches writing at Salt Lake Community College. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.

Clint Johnson


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The Jazz continued their downward spiral without Rudy Gobert on Wednesday, going down 101-126 against the Warriors. Rodney Hood contributed 26 points off the bench, but it was not enough to get near the best team in the league.

The loss was their second in a row by over 24 points and was their sixth in seven games. They now sit in tenth place in the Western Conference standings with a record of 15-21.

They will have their work cut out turning things around when they host a Cleveland team coming off two consecutive losses. The most recent of these was a disappointing 95-109 loss to the Kings, in which a triple-double from LeBron James and 23 points from Kevin Love could not get them over the line.

The Cavs are now below the Raptors in the Eastern Conference Standings. They are in third place, with a record of 24-11.

Three keys to the game

Coping without Gobert – Since the big Frenchman went down two weeks ago, the Jazz have won just one of seven games. Derrick Favors has performed admirably in his place, but Utah as a team have simply been unable to put it together without their best defensive player. With Love in excellent form, their lack of height at the center position may be further exposed in this game.

Is LeBron out of form? – Put simply, not really, but he has certainly been a little out of touch compared to his usual high standards of late. After shooting under 50 percent from the floor just two times in his first 26 games, he has done it five times in his past nine outings. This is not a major problem, and he is still averaging 26.4 points in this time, but he will be eager to return to the levels of efficiency he was showing earlier in the season.

Utah at home – Though the Jazz’s struggles of late have been well documented, they have been relatively confined to the road. Utah has an atrocious 3-15 record away from home, but in Salt Lake City they have been solid, winning 12 of 18 games there. Their most recent win was an impressive 11 point victory over the Spurs which proved they can still beat good teams at home even in the absence of Gobert.

Matchup to watch

Kevin Love vs. Derrick Favors – Love has been in great form lately, putting up big numbers and hitting his shots with great consistency. He has scored over 20 points in all but one of his past seven games and is averaging 24.3 points and 9.2 rebounds during that stretch. He has been shooting high volumes of three-point shots, but is hitting them with a lot of regularity, connecting on 27 of 55 attempts (49.1 percent) in his past seven games. Favors is a good defender but lacks size at 6’10”. For the year, he averages 12.4 points and 6.6 rebounds, but in his last four outings he has warmed to his role at center in place of Gobert. He is averaging 15.5 points and 8.3 rebounds in this time and is enjoying playing at the position to which he is best suited.

Utah Jazz predicted starting lineup

PG – Ricky Rubio | SG – Donovan Mitchell | SF – Thabo Sefolosha | PF – Joe Ingles | C – Derrick Favors

Cleveland Cavaliers

PG – Jose Calderon | SG – JR Smith | SF – LeBron James | PF – Jae Crowder | C – Kevin Love

Fantasy tip

Star rookie, Mitchell, has played just once against the Cavs, a game in which he excelled. When the two sides faced each other earlier in December, he had 26 points on 11-16 shooting and connected on three of six three-point attempts. 

In the same game, James had a triple-double with 29 points, 11 rebounds and ten assists. This was reflective of his career against Utah. In 28 games against them he averages a career-high 29.4 points, a career-high 8.4 rebounds, seven assists, 1.9 steals, and a block.

Betting tip

Oddsmakers are giving Utah a chance in this one, giving them just a 3.5 point head start. Despite the Jazz’s good form at home, the Cavs should be far too strong, and will cover this line relatively comfortably.

Prediction

This will be an entertaining game, with several exciting players taking the floor against one another. Mitchell should excel on the offensive end against a team prone to defensive lapses while the battle at center between two in form big men will be one to watch. The class of Cleveland though, led by the best player in the world in James, will simply be too much for a Utah team, despite their good form at home. Cleveland will end up victorious in a fun game, running out 111-104 winners.

TV info

The game will be broadcast locally on ATTSN-RM and FSOHIO. Tip-off is at 8pm ET. 



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Tillman scores career-high 16, Utah beats Hawaii 80-60

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While most of Jazz Nation is wondering if Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors can coexist, the question may actually be better phrased around guard Ricky Rubio.

With Rubio navigating the ship and both bigs anchoring down low, the Jazz are simply unable to keep up with the current. Early in the season, it looked like Rubio’s marriage with the Jazz would be smooth sailing. Rubio initially led the team in points and surprised the NBA world by knocking down 16 threes in his first eight Jazz games. However, the regression soon caught up and left lineups with multiple non-shooters raging and thrusting down a swift current, out of control and unsustainable.

In a rather large sample size — the three have now played over 200 minutes together — the trio gets outscored by the widest margin of any of Utah’s most used three-man combinations. Of the nine common trios that net a positive point differential, Rubio is part of only one, alongside rookie Donovan Mitchell and stretch forward Jonas Jerebko. By contrast, Rubio appears in nine of the 12 common three-man lineups that are negative overall.

SCH’s Dan Clayton recently analyzed the the combination of Rubio, Gobert, and Favors and pointed out that with any combination of the two of three, the Jazz stay afloat, outscoring opponents by 4.6 to 30.3 points per 100 possessions. However, all three just can’t get it done together. “It’s the opposite of synergy,” he notes. Why?

Spacing

One reason that Rubio with the bigs has been ineffective is the spacing issue of putting three non-shooters on the floor. Rubio becomes a dead man beyond the arc, someone that defenses don’t need to respect. Rubio also struggles to create his own shot, like Favors and Gobert, which means the lineups might have two playmakers and two scorers to initiate the offense, and that’s as hard as white river rafting in a hail storm. On top of that, when Rubio runs the Pick-and-Roll with either big, defenders can go under the screen or drop back entirely, focused on cutting off the rolling big.

Since Rubio is a point guard, he should be able to create for himself and score. Since he isn’t a threat to do so, opposing point guards can sag into the paint, double-team where they please or back off to extend their reach elsewhere. The defense doesn’t mind granting Rubio the wiggle room for a jump shot. Let him shoot, they might say. Let him beat us. We’ll live with that. Rubio hasn’t been able to cash in on the space as he is shooting 28% from three when a defender is six feet or more AWAY from him and his percentage on all catch-and-shoot threes hovers at 30%.

Another Problem

While his scoring and shooting are large parts of the problem, Rubio has also regressed hard in many statistical categories, not just from the beginning of the year but in a career-low perspective.

Notice what David points out: assist percentage is the lowest of his career, even though he has a lob partner down low and shooters on the outside. On top of that, PER which measures all his stats combined into one number is currently 13.1, where the baseline, average player PER is set for 15.0. David is also showing that Rubio is shooting more three-pointers than ever before (but at a very low percentage) and controls the ball and offense more than ever before in his Usage Percentage.

Compared to The Other Point Guards

A common sentiment being shared is that perhaps it’s time to bring Rubio off the bench. Many fans are clamoring for Mitchell to run the point, as the Jazz are a +25 with him, Favors, and Gobert playing together. If Mitchell is to become Damian Lillard 2.0, he’ll need to handle the ball and become the offensive leader. In due time, Mitchell will become the floor general.

Another point guard on the roster that could surpass Rubio is Raul Neto.

According to the numbers, an argument can be made. First, take a look at their respective per-36 numbers.

Per 36 Minutes Table
Rk Player Season Age FG% 3P 3PA 3P% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PTS
2 Raul Neto 2017-18 25 .484 1.5 3.4 .450 3.7 5.4 1.0 0.3 2.0 13.3
3 Ricky Rubio 2017-18 27 .386 1.5 5.0 .292 4.7 6.3 2.1 0.2 4.0 14.9

Not only would Neto provide similar assist and point numbers, his turnovers would be less and 3-point percentage, naturally, higher. Defense is Ricky’s specialty so there would be a drop off there (see the steals average above) as Rubio’s defensive rating is 103 and Neto’s is currently 107. However, Neto’s Offensive Rating is off the charts – 111 – while Mitchell is at 101 and Rubio 97.

The advanced stats make a point, too. Notice Rubio is lowest amongst his peers in PER, True Shooting Percentage and Win Shares Per 48 minutes, but highest in Turnover Percentage, which isn’t ideal when combined with his Usage Rate.

Advanced Table
Rk Player Season G MP PER TS% TOV% USG% WS/48
1 Donovan Mitchell 2017-18 25 729 16.0 .528 12.9 28.9 .081
2 Raul Neto 2017-18 15 214 13.9 .570 14.8 17.2 .118
3 Ricky Rubio 2017-18 24 689 13.1 .513 21.5 23.2 .064

Point Guard Revolving Door

Since Deron Williams left in 2010, the Jazz have had the following as starting point guards:

  • Devin Harris
  • Earl Watson
  • Jamaal Tinsley
  • Mo Williams
  • Trey Burke
  • John Lucas III
  • Dante Exum
  • Shelvin Mack
  • Neto
  • George Hill
  • Rubio

That’s 11 names in six years, basically a new starter every half season or so. The Jazz didn’t send a 2018 first-round pick (lottery protected, via OKC) for Rubio just so they could engage in Neto or Rubio debates. They didn’t let Hill walk and trade for Rubio just so that two months into the season Jazz twitter could start up the Trade Machine to entertain swapping the two.  They didn’t trade a valuable asset, a decent draft pick, for another PG to be listed in their revolving door.

Instead, the Jazz envisioned Rubio’s wizardry as a ball-handler and passer to complement Gordon Hayward and take some pressure off his shoulders. The plan changed quickly with Hayward’s departure, but many were still expecting Rubio to thrive as the pass-first point guard the Jazz needed. He could run the offense, set up easy shots for Rodney Hood, throw up lobs to Gobert, and be a stickler and hustler on defense. He was young, fit the Jazz schedule, timeline, and identity, and had a favorable contract that would keep him Utah for awhile to help them compete. It seemed to be a good fit.

Right now, it’s not.

He still has time to figure it out. The Jazz front office is probably concerned, but they are also rational and will give Rubio time to adjust to his new teammates and new role. For Jazz fans, on the other hand, that same patience is running out.

 

Steve studied journalism and English, and now teaches high school in Northern Utah. He started his own website and writes about being a Tortured Jazz fan at: http://www.thetorturedfan.com/. He joined the Salt City Hoops team at the start of the 2017-18 season to connect with more Jazz fans and to continue to apply his passion for writing and for basketball.


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