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Revisiting Utah’s complex power forward situation (again)

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It’s an issue we’ve seen come up again and again and again...and again

NBA: Playoffs-Utah Jazz at Houston Rockets Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

The regular readers on this site will be familiar with the amount of time spent analyzing and interpreting the current situation surrounding the power forward position with the Utah Jazz.

Since before free agency the four spot in the starting five has been a pressing issue, dominated by the question of “What should the Jazz do with Derrick Favors?” Once he left the discussion became “Who is going to replace Derrick Favors at the starting power forward spot?”

The answer to the latter question is that the Jazz don’t have a replacement. There’s only one player on the roster to start a game at power forward: Jeff Green. And only one other player anywhere close to the rotation, Georges Niang, is actually listed as a power forward. The rest are wings who may or will get pressed into service.

With Favors in New Orleans and his primary backup, Jae Crowder, no longer on the roster either, there’s quite the cadre that could fill the near 48 minutes of void at PF.

There are plenty of theories and conjectures, some that sound crazy at first — like starting Royce O’Neale at the four or having Dante Exum play a not insignificant amount of his minutes in that role — then there are the more consensus options. Utah may have signed Green on specifically to be a starter, but that would push either Joe Ingles or Bojan Bogdanovic out of a starting spot (though it’s likely that Ingles and Bogdanovic would still close out games).

Right now, the primary consensus seems to be that Ingles and Bogdanovic will start alongside Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert with either or both Ingles and Bogdanovic handling the role of PF. That leaves the Jazz with the interesting probability that they simply won’t field an actual power forward for the first time in years.

Will the lack of a true PF hurt the Jazz?

Unlikely.

Just looking at Utah’s primary competition it becomes clear that not only will this kind of shift not hurt the Jazz, it probably improves Utah’s potential. In the West, the Clippers, Nuggets and Rockets all project to employ a similar lineup with a small-forward-turned-power-forward at the four. The main exception may be the Lakers, who have Anthony Davis insisting he’s a PF and not the center he clearly is.

The ever-present evolution of the NBA has left the old views of power forwards in the dust with the very real possibility that it isn’t even a position anymore. Small lineups are more common than “big” lineups these days and the threat of being bullied in the paint by a traditional PF is often offset or sometimes overcome by the benefits of a small-ball PF on offense and the versatility on defense.

Plus, Ingles, Bogdanovic, Green, O’Neale, Niang and Exum are all good players. They aren’t stars, but with Mitchell, Conley and Gobert they don’t have to be. Being A-level role players will be enough to vault the Jazz into a new era or prosperity in the NBA.