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Utah Jazz at Los Angeles Clippers: Five Things to Watch

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Some good, some bad, and some unknowns for #UTAatLAC

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Utah Jazz Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

So the Utah Jazz (1-1) are going to get ready to throw down with the Los Angeles Clippers (1-1) in a bit. So what should we all be looking for? Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered:

ONE: The Depth Adventure Continues

Utah Jazz v Denver Nuggets Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

So no Gordon Hayward. No Derrick Favors. No Alec Burks. That’s all three remaining “cores” from those “four” days so many moons ago. We talked a little about this in Game Preview, but I suspect that after how well Gordon played in Games 1 and 2, that he would have been held out of this one as well. He is out. But that means more minutes for everyone else. Gordon is fine, he knows this system and he knows his role. Other players? They need to figure it out still.

Primary beneficiaries will be newcomers and returning players — Joe Johnson and Dante Exum. Both guys need as many minutes as possible right now, and both can play at the wing in this system. On the other end of the spectrum is the loss of Derrick Favors. If this was a regular season game I think he plays. But no Favors means more playing time for Trey Lyles, who appears to be making a Hood-like surge from rookie to soph seasons. Lyles can play all three front court spots for Snyder. And he did at times over his early career. He was a starter at PF last year, found some time at the end of the season at C, and in summer league was playing SF, which is what he started at in the NCAAs. Johnson will fill in for both minutes at the wing and as a stretch big.

The depth is real and not a lie. Joe Ingles is still there and can effectively play SG/SF/PF as well like Hayward and Johnson. And the more I see him play the more I am convinced that he’s better than just the 5th wing in a rotation.

Inside the paint there’s still Gobert, but also Boris Diaw. More Diaw at PF means more time for Jeff Withey at C, which I think we all appreciate. Withey is insurance. And you need insurance when someone breaks. The regular roster rotation is broken with injuries. And With Withey you get a banger who can block shots, make his free throws, finish at the rim, and play traditional basketball. He’s not a game changer, but he doesn’t lose you games either.

Utah is fine, for now. I don’t think any of us want to temp fate by having even more injuries though.

TWO: So Who Really Steps up?

Utah Jazz v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

It’s gotta be Rodney Hood, right? He’s a starter. He has the green light. And he’s going to be the primary ball handler, right? Maybe? We’ll see. But I think the best part of our team is that right now he doesn’t have to step up all the way, or be the only one who does step up. It’s going to be a team effort — but Hoodie really needs to take that first step. Others will follow.

Who will? Trey Lyles. Yes. And plus, Rudy Gobert always seems to go off when Derrick Favors isn’t in the game. Utah should be fine because of their depth. But moreover, they should be fine because they have good, young players who CAN take over games at times.

THREE: Joe Johnson’s first Start

NBA: Preseason-Utah Jazz at Portland Trail Blazers Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

So three games into his preseason career, and one injured Gordon Hayward later, Joe Johnson is getting the call from head coach Quin Snyder. This is kinda a no-brainer. Joe Johnson has started the vast majority of his NBA career, and is someone who has averaged over 3,000 minutes a season. He’s a big time player, and I don’t just mean someone who has been an NBA All-Star 7x times. Last season he was a key member of a Miami Heat team that almost went to the Eastern Conference Finals (couldn’t get over the Toronto Raptors).

Johnson can’t do what Hayward does. But Hayward doesn’t have the resume and respect that Johnson has. I am not expecting 20 ppg from here on out. But I am expecting someone to run their way into this playbook and find out where he fits — making him all the more dangerous for when Gordon does come back. This is the best situation. It’s going to work out. Maybe not tonight, but really . . . Joe Johnson is the boss. We need someone like him on the floor.

He’s not specifically a Clippers - Killer, but he’s close. Check it.

FOUR: Don’t let Austin Rivers look good against you, Jazz

Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Nothing person against Doc Rivers (well, maybe a little), but please don’t let Austin Rivers look good. Rivers is going into his 5th season in the NBA, and has somehow moved into the regular rotation of the NBA team his dad is the head coach of. He averaged nearly 9 / 2 / 2 / 1 last season while improving in all aspects.

He hasn’t torched the Utah Jazz, but he’s had a number of solid games — most of them wins. The last thing I’d want right now is to be put in the media cycle as evidence that “see, Rivers has made strides and is going to have a big year -- he scored 20+ against the hyped up Utah Jazz defense.”

Let’s keep him and his game ugly.

FIVE: Rudy Gobert’s Free Throw Shooting

NBA: Utah Jazz at Philadelphia 76ers John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

Going to the line over 10 times a game in the preseason. He’s making over 80% of his attempts. If this is what we’re going to see going forward, that’s awesome. If it’s just a small sample size, then that’s less awesome. But he has good mechanics. He CAN make his free throws. If he gets six a game for the season, while shooting close to 70% I think most of us will be happy. For his career he’s at 3.3 FTA/Game at .585. Last season he was at 4.6 FTA/Game at .569. So is 6.0 at near .700 out of the question? No.

Is 10.5 at .810 crazy? It’s not crazy. It’s just not what we expect from him.

Enjoy it while it lasts? Maybe. I believe in Rudy, and I know he has put in a lot of work with his free throw practice. If he can shame guys like DeAndre Jordan / Andre Drummond / Dwight Howard with his shooting I say more power to him. Rudy is so important to what this team does on defense. Not being able to play him at the end of games creates a huge problem for the team. IF Rudy can reliably make free throws then expect the Jazz to win a whole lot more games in crunch time.