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The Downbeat #1976 - The Utah Jazz with home court advantage in the 1st round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs? Maybe?

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The pre-season hype training is filling up, now with ESPN on board.

Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Guess who else likes the Utah Jazz? It’s ESPN. Read below to see how much! Also, new NBA Signings may make you scratch your head — from retreads and castaways from former Jazz teams, to one of our rookies. In fact, that rookie’s contract make mean the end of a few Jazz players. But time will tell what’s going to happen in training camp. We all have our favorites, but cannot deny that with great depth comes great logjams. Also, Jeff Withey would probably be unfair to play ping-pong against because dude has an unfair wingspan and reach.

Beat 1

The Utah Jazz are primed for an exciting season. Guys are healthy (again), like Dante Exum and Alec Burks. New guys are one year older, like Trey Lyles, Rodney Hood, and so on. Guys who were traded for will have a training camp under their belts, like Shelvin Mack. Oh, and the team loaded up on actual experience, with Joe Johnson, Boris Diaw, and George Hill all coming to Utah. All of this plus the added ascention of our “Big Three”, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Rudy Gobert, should add up to a very good season at the Aunt Viv. Right?

Well, while we’ve been dreaming of big wins, smarter people have been crunching the numbers. One such guy is ESPN’s Kevin Pelton:

It’s an In$ider article, so I’ll save you a click. The Utah Jazz are supposed to be the #3 team in the Western Conference, behind the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs. But ahead of 12 other groups. Pelton writes:

This might seem like a crazy leap for a team that didn't make the playoffs last year, but remember: The Jazz actually had the fifth-best point differential in the West (plus-1.8 PPG). Ordinarily, that would translate into 46 wins, and that was despite injuries (including Dante Exum missing the entire season) and before Utah loaded up with veterans this offseason. The Jazz should be considered the favorites to win the Northwest Division.

Kevin Pelton, ESPN, 2016

Of course, all of this is contingent upon the team remaining healthy, and guys not fighting. The Jazz have never ever had this much depth. And in related news, the team has never ever really had problems with guys staying in the roles the head coach placed for them. Trey Burke never complained about being the 3rd stringer. He’s gone. Some hotter heads remain. It’s going to be interesting to see just how high the Jazz will climb this year.

But lots of people have high hopes — not just fans. And as a result, exceptions come as well.

Beat 2

Of course, the love isn’t unanimous. We see Kobe Bryant here in this video (LAL #8), but we still don’t see the Utah Jazz. Thanks NBA 2k!

But Dallas Mavericks great Harrison Barnes, tho! I guess the NBA will be in real trouble when the Jazz become marketable again. Video games may not be interesting to all of you, but whatever man. This is what I grew up playing back in school in the pre-NBA Live days.

Yeah. Entertainment has evolved over time.

Beat 3

Seems like we’re getting daily Joel Bolomboy news. Which is good and awesome and never bad.

Joel has $600k guaranteed this year, and $453k guaranteed next season, according to Basketball Insiders.com . Of course, he still has to make the team and earn that in some way, even if his multi-year deal is partially guaranteed. Den Feldman of NBA Sports writes:

Bolomboy successfully leveraged a salary-cap environment relatively more favorable to second-rounders than first-rounders. If Utah didn’t make him such a favorable offer, he could’ve accepted the required tender and become a free agent within a year – with numerous potentially offering him a contract. The Jazz, with more cap space than they know what do with, probably didn’t mind paying Bolomboy a little more to secure him at what’s still a low rate for the next three years.

This likely wraps up any preseason competition in Utah for a regular-season roster spot. Bolomboy becomes the 15th Jazz player with a guaranteed 2016-17 salary, so he’ll almost certainly stick beyond the preseason – another plus of this contract.

This gives him security as he tries to develop into a player worthy of a second – presumably higher-paying – NBA contract.

Dan Feldman, NBA Sports, 2016

I disagree with Dan here for two reasons. The first is that the Jazz currently have mucho-mucho space under the cap. They can easily eat a contract if someone who isn’t on one outworks the competition. Second, we’ve seen Jazz GM, and wizard, Dennis Lindsey pull off late summer / early fall moves before. Guys like Diante Garrett, Steve Novak, John Lucas III, Carrick Felix, and others have been involved in said moves over the last few seasons. We may yet see one from the Jazz Brass.

After all, there are now log-jams.

Utah Jazz v Miami Heat Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Point Guard (4): George Hill, Dante Exum, Shelvin Mack, Raul Neto — all under contract. I don’t see a happy resolution to Mack v Neto unless one of them is moved. Neto is an Olympic level PG who as an NBA rookie outplayed Derrick Rose when given the opportunity. Mack went from unwanted player in Atlanta to the starting guard in Utah in the span of two games. Both are looking at table scraps at best if Hill and Exum both swallow up at least 18 mpg each. (Leaving 12 between the two.) I love the idea of four point guards if the roster was 20 players. It’s only 15, so four is harder to carry. [EDIT. Crap. I forgot about Marcus Paige, another point guard. I can imagine his deal isn’t the same as Joel’s, though.]

NBA: Utah Jazz at Brooklyn Nets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Wings (6): Gordon Hayward, Rodney Hood, Joe Johnson, Alec Burks, Joe Ingles — all under contract, with Chris Johnson non-guaranteed. Losing Chris Johnson isn’t the end of the world when you realize that you add Joe Johnson that same off-season. Johnson should get a look to start (objectively), even if he doesn’t, he didn’t sign on with the Jazz because he wanted to breathe in that inversion. I think Ingles is better as a 5th string wing than a starting one, what he did as a rookie. I don’t ever see Alec ever making up all the minutes he’s behind at this rate.

Basketball - Olympics: Day 9 Photo by Jim Young - Pool/Getty Images

Bigs (7): Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert, Boris Diaw, Trey Lyles, Tibor Pleiss, Joel Bolomboy -- all under contract, with Jeff Withey non-guaranteed. I think Bolomboy best immediately replaced Trevor Booker, as an athletic energy player with a developing outside shot. Adding Diaw to the mix means everyone is still pushed down the totem pole. Which is probably hardest for Lyles, who showed his versatility in the NBA Summer League. You want a 2nd year Lottery pick to do what he did. And he did. But now I don’t know how much time there will be for Lyles, as a 4/3/5 in this league. We’ll see. As for Withey over Pleiss? Withey helps with the redundancy if there are injuries. If, for example, Gobert has to miss some time with a minor injury -- Withey is best able to fill in as a rim protector than the sharpshooting German big. If you are looking for diversity, you can’t get much more crazy than Tibor. Still, both 7’ footers aren’t likely to challenge for anything greater than 5th big in the rotation.

Beat 4

Via Basketball John:

That’s probably the smartest take on this subject that I’ve seen. John Lucas III is there to hustle and use vet tricks in training camp against their younger core of ball handlers (Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine) while making sure Ricky Rubio can coast. Toure Murry is a combo guard who has played all over. He hasn’t displayed the ability to be an NBA player, but he did play for the New York Knicks. That may mean something?

If we’re going to continue to look at strange NBA news there’s always this:

That’s right. Michael Jordan’s first ever pick is having trouble finding a taker for his services. At $300k. I’m certain some of our readers make more than that.

Beat 5

Speaking of Jeff Withey, he’s schooling people at table tennis while on vacation right now.

Ping pong champ! @samsaraphuket @theasia.collective #samsaraphuket #theasiacollective

A photo posted by Jeffree Withey (@jeffwithey) on

If you follow his fiancee’s social media posts, it may become apparent that Jeff isn’t exactly playing against other professional athletes with huge wingspans though. But a win is a win. I hope he comes to training camp in basketball shape. I do think he’s a player in this league and would greatly contribute to the 2016-2017 Utah Jazz’s phenomenal depth.