The Jazz are slowly getting healthier with Derrick Favors returning to game action against the Thunder on Wednesday. He only played 13 minutes recording four points on 1-3 shooting, but it’s a start. Even with Favors’ return though, the Jazz will still be without George Hill and Alec Burks.
Dallas is also a bit shorthanded. Though they don’t have the same depth that Utah has to deal with it.
Alec Burks - Out (Ankle) Is he still on the team?
George Hill - Out (Toe) The timetable for Hill’s return is sometime between now and April 12, 2017
J.J. Barea - Out (Calf)
Andrew Bogut - Out (Knee)
Salah Mejri - Questionable (Ankle)
Dirk Nowitzki - Out (Achilles)
Projected Starting Lineups:
PG: Dante Exum vs Deron Williams
SG: Rodney Hood vs Salah Mejri
SF: Gordon Hayward vs Wesley Matthews
PF: Boris Diaw vs Harrison Barnes
C: Rudy Gobert vs Dorian Finney-Smith
While it’s uncertain if Salah Mejri will play in Friday’s contest, there aren’t a whole lot of options available on the bench. Seth Curry is an option but he’s primarily a PG. It’ll be interesting to see what happens if Mejri is unable to go.
Wing players aren’t the only thing the Mavericks are lacking. For the past five games Dallas has been forced to start the 6-8 220 pound Dorian FInney-Smith at center. For reference, almost the entire Jazz starting lineup is as long and big as that.
Marquee Matchup: Gordon Hayward vs Harrison Barnes
I know these guys aren’t paired up on the projected starting lineups but I feel like they’ll be seeing a lot of each-other as they are the primary wings for both squads.
Before Barnes got dumped by the Golden State Warriors in favor of the more sexy Kevin Durant, he was living in the shadows of basically everyone on the team. Barnes was sometimes even called a “weak link”. Now, in Dallas, he’s getting his time to shine.
Both Hayward and Barnes are currently putting up 20 PPG for their respective teams And both are vying for respect in a western conference that has been rewarding attention (and All-Star bids) to the same wings for as long as I care to look back. This will be an opportunity for each to strut their stuff against a quality player.
X-Factor: Jazz Bigs
Dallas is missing their starting power forward (Nowitzki) and center (Bogut) and, as I mentioned, are starting a small forward at center. So this is the time for the Jazz to show off their interior dominance. Derrick Favors is still going to be on heavy minutes restriction but Rudy Gobert should go into this game expecting to dominate. He’s averaging 14.0 points, 13.1 rebounds, and 3.4 blocks in December thus far. Gobert needs to set that as his low mark.
Prediction: Jazz Win
See the first sentence of this preview.