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Utah Jazz with a new bench host the Portland Trail Blazers

Where there’s Melo, there’s hope.

Portland Trail Blazers v Utah Jazz Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

“Twas the day after Christmas, the Jazz’s trades had been made.

With two days with a holiday, Jazz FB groups shot off their shade.

Jeff Green was left in Miami and Exum sent packing to The Land.

Now the new Jazz bench gets ready before facing Port-land.

Jordan Clarkson can shoot, that we already know,

But was he a high volume shooter on a bad team, will his defense even show?

Rayjon Tucker, the high G-League flyer, known for scoring and dunking,

But is he ready for bigger games? Or will he be found lacking?

Georges Niang and Jarrell Brantley are now asked to improve the Jazz bench flaws,

Will they be able to step up to the challenge or get their doors blown off?

We’ll soon see as the Utah Jazz face Damian, CJ, and Melo,

If there was a silver lining, Anthony’s defense is as soft as marshmallow.”

After Utah Jazz GM Justin Zanik arose such a clatter two days before Christmas by shaking up the Utah Jazz squad three days ago, the Jazz gotta pick up the pieces and play a game whether they’re ready or not. The Jazz jettisoned not one, but two bench players. One who was seeing little to no playing time in Exum and the other who should have been seeing little to no playing time in Jeff Green. In their places arrived Jordan Clarkson and Rayjon Tucker. The latter probably won’t see time until he’s got up to speed in the G-League which leaves Jarrell Brantley and Georges Niang to fill in at forward.

Jarrell Brantley has been one of the catalysts for the Salt Lake City Stars 13 game winning streak, but the question remains if he can be a net positive when he steps onto the court. Georges Niang most likely will be forced to step up into those minutes. When Niang has been on the court the Jazz’s defense has been outscored by 19.6 points per 100 possessions. Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but the hope is he can’t possibly be worse than what Jeff Green was bringing to the table. If he his, the hope is Brantley can’t possibly be worse than what those two were bringing to the table.

That’s the reality without Mike Conley who is set to miss another game with a hamstring injury. The bench is shallow, there’s not a lot of options for Utah beyond Brantley, Niang, and—possibly—Juwan Morgan. Starters are going to play a lot of minutes for Utah, and the Jazz have to hope and pray that doesn’t turn into injury concerns later.

The Portland Trail Blazers come into this game on a hot streak. Despite starting the season 5-12, they are now 10-5 in their last 15 games. According to Cleaning the Glass, over the past two weeks they have the league’s 15th best offense and 9th rated defense. Like the Utah Jazz, their starting lineup is a force and their defense is a wreck. Their starting lineup is not as offensively potent as it once was, but—despite all odds—Hassan Whiteside is helping them on the defensive end where their starting lineup has a defensive rating of 98.3. I’m as surprised as you are.

Game Info

When: Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019 • 8:30 PM MT

Where: AmericanAirlines Arena • Miami, FL

TV: AT&T Sports Net Rocky Mountain, TNT

Radio: 97.5 FM | 1280 AM The Zone | ESPN Radio

What to watch for

Utah Jazz v Miami Heat Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

Battle of Dumpster Fire Benches

Portland and Utah both have terrible benches. While Portland hasn’t made any additional moves to bolster their reserve unit, Utah employed the Magic 8-Ball strategy. Shake it up enough and maybe you’ll get the result you wanted. With Jordan Clarkson in tow and Jeff Green away, the Jazz hope that they’ll be able to improve by addition and subtraction. If Utah’s bench gives them even a fraction more than they did in the past, Utah has a winning formula for beating middle of the pack playoff teams. That’s a big improvement from just three games ago. If the new result is “Ask Again Later” expect Justin Zanik to shake the 8-Ball again at the trade deadline to see if he can get a better result.

Memphis Grizzlies v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

The debuts of Jordan Clarkson and * insert power forward here *

I know there’s a lot of talk that Georges Niang is going to be the main guy to fill in the four spot from off the bench, but Jeff Green was supposed to be killer deal for a quality bench player. How’d that go? So far Georges Niang hasn’t produced well in small batches. Maybe the longer run time off the bench allows him to really reach his potential. But this backup forward spot is WIDE open. It could go to Brantley who has shown defensive prowess and the ability (not as great as Niang) to light it up from three. Hell, it could be Juwan Morgan who just led the SLC Stars on a tourney run. He can play defense, small ball five, playmake, rebound, AND shoot it from three. What I’m saying is, no one should feel like their bench minutes are an endowment, they are a scholarship with a hell of a lot of strings attached.

Mandatory Highlight

Game Thread Ground Rules

Welcome to the SLC Dunk Game Thread.

Dunkers know how this thing works, but for you lurkers ready to make the jump to Dunker, we have a few guidelines. Remember to follow our community guidelines (no swearing, trolling, excessive use of Jerry Sloan’s name in vain, no personal attacks, no debates about Utah liquor laws, etc.). Remember to have fun. Anyone who dare blasphemes that Tim Duncan was a Power Forward (this means you, Pounding the Rock), Ben Simmons can hit threes, Gordon Hayward should not be booed, Donovan Mitchell is Monta Ellis 2.0, men should never cry, or John Stockton is not the best point guard of all-time will receive an automatic ban. Just kidding. But seriously.

R.I.P. Exum Island is not a 5 Star Resort