On a night when everyone was watching Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson, the Utah Jazz had a decisive preseason win against the Portland Trail Blazers.
It was the second preseason game, and we already saw a new starting lineup compared to the last game. Tonight we saw the Jazz start Jordan Clarkson take on the starting shooting guard spot in place of Malik Beasley, who came off the bench. For the game, Clarkson scored 19 points in the Jazz’s 118 - 101 victory.
It’s just a preseason game, and the Blazers didn’t play their best guys all night, but there were some promising things from this game. The first being the Jazz look like a team that is already understanding Coach Hardy’s schemes. There is an obvious emphasis on driving to the rim, and when the shot isn’t there, they kick it out to the corner three shooters. Since this Jazz team has so many shooters, it’s a solid game plan every night. The Jazz’s offense also looks very open and allows players to use their skill sets within it. It’s going to be a fun year to see how the team evolves and if that offense becomes more complicated or if it will stay more open as it has. It definitely is reminiscent of the offense that we saw in Boston last year.
Some of the notable performances tonight came from Mike Conley, who put in another solid performance scoring 6/9 from the field and 3/5 from three with 2 assists. Conley is providing this team great minutes at the point guard position and will likely become a sought-after trade piece this season as the Jazz are likely interested in getting a better shot at Wembanyama or Scoot. If they don't trade him, it’ll be because they’re interested in providing a solid structure for the prospects they’re hoping to develop.
It was an interesting night for Stanley Johnson who got minutes tonight after a DNP last game. Johnson has a big body at the three and made a lot of winning plays on defense and rebounding the ball. He also shot 2/4 from the field. He’s a little reminiscent of Jae Crowder with his size and strength and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get more and more minutes this year.
We saw some more impressive minutes from Walker Kessler who is looking pretty comfortable already as a backup NBA center. There were a handful of rookie moments for Kessler tonight, but the foundation is there for a nice NBA player who can help this Jazz team for years to come.
Finally, Collin Sexton had another efficient scoring night. He was 5/9 from the field and 2⁄3 from three. He had 1 assist and was a -1 in a nearly 20-point victory for the Jazz. That’s going to be the question for Sexton all season is whether he can be a player that contributes to winning. We’ll find out with each game that goes by.