The Utah Jazz face off against the Los Angeles Lakers tonight in the first preseason game for both franchises. For both the 2015-2016 campaign is supposed to be a season of growth and to showcase to their fans and haters alike that they are still relevant after being a lotto team the last two seasons. For the Jazz, well, they've been a lotto team for a little longer than that, and in LA you're only worth talking about if you're good. Both teams have an eclectic mix of domestic and foreign players, and seem to be banking on youth. While the Lakers have some championship experience to lean on, their "best" players are closer to the end of their careers than our best players are to their peaks. But before we get too hyped up, this is still the preseason. Teams will play them because they have to. But at this stage expect to see which players and player groups seem to fit with each other more. The score doesn't matter, and both teams will try to keep their best guys out of harm's way.
LA has some big names like Kobe Bryant, Nick Young, Metta World Peace, and Roy Hibbert. All of them were better players five seasons ago. And five seasons ago only three players on the entire Jazz roster were even in the NBA: Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Trevor Booker. I don't expect to see much of those seven guys though, tonight is for other players. Looking at the roster, and looking at if a win is even what Quin Snyder or Byron Scott wants, there are some obstacles.
At point guard lotto pick Trey Burke, surprising soph Bryce Cotton, and Brazilian Raul Neto will go up against lotto pick D'Angelo Russell, surprising soph Jordan Clarkson, and Brazilian Marcelinho Huertas. Huertas is Brazil's #1 point guard, someone keeping Neto as the practice fodder for their nation. That's an interesting match-up because they know each other so well. Burke is supposed to play like how Russell plays, or vice versa. Both had strong college careers, but the jury is still out on if they will dominate the NBA game. Cotton is a fast decision maker who calls his own shot, mostly out of necessity. That's Clarkson, right?
Further muddying up this game will be the fact that LA can flat out go as big as Utah. Both teams have three 7 footers (Rudy Gobert, Tibor Pleiss, and Jeff Withey vs. Roy Hibbert, Robert Sacre, and Robert Upshaw). But the size doesn't stop there. Utah is big with Derrick Favors, Trevor Booker, Trey Lyles, Grant Jerrett, and Jack Cooley. LA can counter with Brandon Bass, Julius Randle, Ryan Kelley, Tarik Black, Jonathan Holmes, and maybe we'll see some 3/4 action with Larry Nance Jr. there as well?
If we put the point guards at a draw, and the bigs at a draw what's left are the wings. I don't really see Nick Young, Lou Williams, or Kobe playing much tonight. I do see the Jazz have two guys champing at the bit to play as much as possible, in Alec Burks and Rodney Hood. That's probably the difference if we are saying PG and PF/C are equal. They obviously aren't, but tonight in a game that doesn't matter, we'll see more sloppy play than we'll see actual starters.
I expect the Jazz to be in position to win, but our doctrine probably states that in the fourth quarter Quin Snyder will throw out Bryce Cotton and four rookies. Training camp may be the only time to check out some of these players. So they'll get the minutes this first week. The guys who have made the team? They're probably checking out more of the Hawaiian beach. They've earned it.
Tonight's starters: PG: D'Angelo Russell SG: Jordan Clarkson SF: Kobe Bryant PF: Julius Randle C: Roy Hibbert— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) October 4, 2015
No Chris Johnson, and no Grant Jerrett.
JAZZ BASKETBALL WILL BE BACK!