As it stands, the Utah Jazz have twenty active players on their roster, the maximum an NBA team can carry during the offseason. In 10 days, the Jazz must dwindle that number down to the regular season maximum of 15 slots, with two additional two-way contracts that bounce between the NBA and G-League. Currently, Johnny Juzang stands as Utah’s sole two-way player and given the unpredictability of two-way contracts, we will exclude those two spots from our predictions. Furthermore, We’ll split the predictions into three categories: (1) The Lock-ins, (2) On the bubble, and (3) Just Missed the Cut. I’ll provide my reasoning for each players’ placement.
So, let’s tack a crack at predicting the Utah Jazz’s final roster for October 17th:
This group of players are almost a guarantee to be on Utah’s roster by the time the season starts. Taking into account talent, contract situations, and trade value, these are the player’s I’d consider a lock-in:
- Mike Conley: The market on a potential Mike Conley deal this offseason has long closed. The 34 year old has a perfect opportunity to help build positive team culture and possibly play himself into a trade by the All-Star break. At this point, he’ll likely start at point guard for Utah on day one.
- Collin Sexton: Sexton has a strong argument for standing as the player with the most potential on this Utah roster. At only 23 years old and coming off a knee injury, Sexton has a lot to prove this season. Nonetheless, he’s the closest Utah’s got to a potential star (at least for now).
- Lauri Markkanen: Much like Colin Sexton, this upcoming season stands as a perfect opportunity for Markkanen to prove why he was worth the seventh pick in the 2017 Draft. Markkanen has the potential to be a part of Utah’s next contending core, or at the very least, a part of a future trade.
- Jordan Clarkson: Similarly to Conley, if a trade that included Jordan Clarkson was to happen this offseason, it would have happened already. The 30 year old stands as one of Utah’s most important veterans and will surly be a hot commodity come the trade deadline.
- Malik Beasley: Attempting to trade Malik Beasley at this point would simply be a poor business decision on Utah’s part. Entering his eighth season, Beasley has the chance to remedy a not-so-pretty off the court image and prove to the league that he’s an impactful player. I expect him to play plenty of minutes this season
- Jared Vanderbilt: This season, Vanderbilt has the potential to truly develop into an All-Defensive level player. Through the preseason thus far, Vanderbilt has shown his ability to effect so many different aspects of the game and I believe he can be a part of Utah’s future core.
- Kelly Olynyk: Solely of the fact that the Jazz traded Bojan Bogdanovic (their best asset at the time) for Olynyk, I’d be shocked if he wasn’t on the final roster. Olynyk also provides strong veteran leadership and sorely needed support at the center position.
- Walker Kessler: As one of Utah’s two rookie additions to the organization, it would make little sense to exclude Kessler from the final roster. Additionally, the rookie has shown some promise through the first couple of preseason games.
- Ochai Agbaji: Standing as the sole lottery pick on a Jazz team that isn’t looking to win a whole ton of games, Agbaji should be a staple on the roster. I sure hope he receives more playing time during the regular season.
On The Bubble
After that lengthy list of lock-ins, we only have 6 official roster spots left. All of the players listed below have nearly equal cases for being kept or cut from the team. But, given current roster circumstances, here are the final players I think make the cut:
- Simone Fontecchio: Given Fontecchio’s pretty phenomenal play during FIBA EuroBasket, I think it makes sense for the Jazz to keep him on the roster. Fontecchio will have to prove that he can make the transition to the NBA, but the guy can shoot the lights out and that should help him carve out a roster spot.
- Talen Horton-Tucker: After trading Patrick Beverley to the Los Angeles Lakers for Horton-Tucker, I expect the Jazz to at least take a flyer on him this season. THT has some amazing physical tools and has shown flashes in his three seasons in the league. In my eyes, he’s worth a roster spot.
- Nickeil Alexander-Walker: Much like THT, Alexander-Walker has physical tools that make him an intriguing prospect. In his last season with Utah, NAW didn’t necessarily receive a fair chance to show off his skillset, but should find ample opportunity to prove his worth in the league this season. At the very minimum, he’s worth holding on to until the deadline.
- Rudy Gay: If it were up to me, I would have released Gay to Free Agency before training camp. Given his odd fit on this young roster and unconvincing veteran leadership, I don’t see his value on the team. Nonetheless, like Conley and Clarkson, if Gay was to be bought-out or traded, it would have happened already. I expect Utah to keep him on the roster in the hopes that they can flip him at the trade deadline.
- Leandro Bolmaro: On an uncompetitive team, taking a shot on Bolmaro makes sense. He has size, length, and has shown an incredible ability to break the paint off the dribble. For a player like Bolmaro, the risk of keeping him on the roster is nothing, but the reward could be tremendous if he develops well. Keep an eye on that jump-shot of his.
- Udoka Azubuike: For the last roster spot, Udoka Azubuike barely makes the cut. Entering his third season, Azubuike’s NBA career is on the line. Due to injuries and stacked center rotations, Azubuike has failed to see much NBA action thus far. But given he was infamously Utah’s first-round pick over the likes of Desmond Bane and Jaden McDaniels, I think the Jazz have to give him one last look this season.
Just Missed the Cut
- Jared Butler: Placing Butler outside of the final 15 was a tough (and possibly unpopular) choice. But to be completely frank, Butler hasn’t given us much to get excited about. Over dribbling, turnovers, and poor shooting defined Butler’s lackluster summer league performances. On top of that, at 6’3” and 190 lbs, Butler doesn’t hold many physical tools that could potentially raise his ceiling as a player. If they Jazz found a way to buy-out Rudy Gay, that spot would go to Butler. But for now, he’s an odd man out.
- Saben Lee: Included in the Bojan Bogdanovic trade as a salary filler, Lee has failed to make any headway on Utah’s training camp roster. He couldn’t crack the rotation on a young Detroit roster and I don’t believe he'd do anything different here.
- Stanley Johnson: This one was tough. I actually really enjoy Johnson’s game and I think he’d benefit Utah’s roster as a veteran. But unfortunately, I’m not sure where he fits in. However, I do view him as a potential dark horse for a roster spot.
- Cody Zeller: Like Johnson, Zeller could have potential as a strong veteran presence in the organization. But given that he’s on an Exhibit 9 contract and not fully guaranteed, I have a hard time seeing him take a roster spot from a younger player.
Who do you think misses the final cut on Utah’s roster? Share your predictions in the comments below!