Training camp is just around the corner and the Utah Jazz will be prepping for one of the most promising seasons in team history. Now that we know what the final product will be for this upcoming season, at least until the trade deadline, let’s take a look at what to expect from some of the more prominent players on the Jazz expected to make an impact.
Best Case Scenario: Starter, Most Improved Player
Worst Case Scenario: End of the bench
One of the players with the widest variance of possibilities, Royce O’neale has the potential to have a major impact for the Jazz.
For two seasons O’neale has proven to be an elite level defender. His agility combined with surprising strength is an awesome combination defending some of the best wings in the league. In a league where switching has become vital to being a good defender, O’neale is as good as anyone out there. That strength and switch-ability makes him a very legit candidate to start at the 4 for the Jazz.
On the offensive end is where things can get shaky. But there’s a lot to like!
As a three point shooter, O’neale has shot 37% from three for his career and shot 38% last season. The problem? He only takes around 2 per game.
When you watch O’neale play it’s not surprising. At times he seems reticent to shoot and moves the ball when he doesn’t need to. That’s a problem when the offense works to create an open spot up three and it’s frustrating when O’neale has proven to be such a good shooter.
Luckily, that’s fixable.
If O’neale can take 4-5 threes per game and do it within an offense that will be vastly better next season, the Jazz have a potent weapon on their hands.
When you consider how dominant O’neale is on defense, combined with his shooting, he can be that dynamic stretch four the team has been looking for for years.
Best Case Scenario: Rotation player, Spot starter
Worst Case Scenario: A season of DNP-CDs
Niang brings a huge skill set on the offensive end. He can literally do it all. Whether it’s rebound and go, shoot, pass or post up, Niang can do it. It’s why it’s Jazz fans shouldn’t be surprised if we see around 20 minutes per game from the best personalty on Cameo.
And when I say shoot, I mean it. Niang is a bonafide 40% three point shooter and is willing to let it fly. But last season, in his first year getting real NBA time and minutes, there were times like it looked like it took a toll on Niang.
The good news is all signs point to a great offseason. What if Niang comes into the season in better shape than ever and can carry a full load? His offensive talent makes will make it really hard to keep him off the floor.
To reach his potential he’ll have to prove it on the defensive end. Watching Niang play he looks like he can pass for an average defender. That can be good enough when Rudy Gobert is behind you, but Niang has to prove he can defend opposing fours and still produce on the offensive end.
If he can do that, the “S” in Georges might stand for starter.
Best Case Scenario: Sixth Man of the Year, Most Improved Player
Worst Case Scenario: More health issues and more lack of development
The biggest question mark for the Jazz since his career began, Dante Exum comes into the season with as much promise as ever before.
With his injury history, Exum has missed out on a lot of development. That doesn’t just mean skill development but time playing within an offense. And when you play within a Quin Snyder offense, that’s really tough to overcome.
But with the talent the Jazz have added, things might get easier.
That’s the biggest benefit of adding talent that fits, things get simpler. Now, instead of having a million screens and actions to make up for a lack of shooting, the offense will have simpler actions with more space. Therefore, Exum might be looking at the best spacing and simplest actions of his career. With his speed and athleticism, he has a chance to be a terror for opposing wing defenders.
On the defensive side we know what Exum is capable of. His ceiling as a defender is 1st team all defense. He proven to be one of the only players in the league that can stop James Harden. I’m not exaggerating either. In the playoffs two seasons ago, Exum hounded Harden in a way no one else in the league can. If it weren’t for Chris Paul, Utah would have been facing the Warriors. This offseason he’s added size that makes him, as a switching defender, incredibly valuable.
Exum’s role this season will likely be off the bench as an attacking wing with underrated passing ability. If he can reach his potential, he is going to turn a lot of heads and make the Jazz an elite team.
But as is always the case with Exum, he has to stay healthy. Not much else has to be said about this. Exum continues to have a huge ceiling, let’s hope this is the year we see how close he can get to it.