Barring a trade, the Jazz's roster for the 2017-18 season is pretty much set. And what general manager Dennis Lindsey has given coach Quin Snyder is a deep team full of intriguing lineup possibilities.
It's also a team with multiple question marks.
Here's what we know: On paper, the Jazz project as one of the top three defensive teams in the NBA. Centered around Rudy Gobert, the Jazz are a roster full of defensive playmakers, rim protectors, team defenders and guys who can defend on the wing. It's also a team full of height and length, a team that will fit Snyder's defensive switching schemes without much issue.
But who scores? Who scores in the fourth quarter? And what will the lineups be? Training camp starts in a little over two months, so Snyder and his staff will have plenty of time to pore over film and tinker. And then even more time after that to see this new roster on the floor.
"These are some of the questions we need to find out," Lindsey told The Salt Lake Tribune this week. "What we do schematically may shift. We need to know if we can go forward with Rodney [Hood] night in and night out. We need to know whether he can handle six of those possessions in the last three minutes. We need to know whether someone like Dante [Exum] can lift his offense. We're anxious to get out and compete and put some of these questions to bed."
Being a deep team isn't always the best thing. There are 13 players on the roster who are capable of — and used to — playing consistent rotation minutes. NBA rosters typically go nine deep during a game, maybe 10 deep. So, Snyder will have to manage this roster as much as he'll have to coach it. How does it all play out? Here are some possible answers:
This seems pretty straightforward — at least to start the season. Ricky Rubio takes the reins at point guard. Hood and Joe Ingles start at shooting guard and small forward, respectively. Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert start at power forward and center.
Defensively, this lineup is a monster. The Jazz have superior size at every position, which shrinks the court defensively for opponents. They have two of the best rim protectors in the league, and they have one of the very best defensive point guards in the NBA in Rubio.
"We want teams to have to account for our size," Lindsey said.
A lot of this hinges on Favors and his health. Two years ago, he was great on the defensive end, able to deter shots at the rim, but also able to switch and guard smaller players on the perimeter. As good as Gobert is and has become defensively, it was Favors' ability to defend on the interior and near the 3-point line that made the Jazz scary up front. Last year, Utah was still very good defensively. But the Jazz weren't special, and a lot of that had to do with Favors and his health issues. If he's back to where he was two years ago, Utah could be awfully difficult to score on.
On offense, there are question marks. Last year, Hood was the third option on the perimeter, and Ingles was the fourth option. The first two options were Gordon Hayward and George Hill, whenever he was healthy. Obviously, those two have moved on. And now, at least to start the season, Hood and Ingles ascend to numbers one and two on the perimeter. So they'll both have to step up. Sources say Hood's been having a good summer of workouts, and he's spent much of his time in Salt Lake City working with the Jazz coaching staff. He's another who will have to stay healthy.
Much of Utah's offense will generate from Rubio and Gobert working pick and rolls. Rubio may not be a great shooter, but he has evolved into a terrific pick-and-roll creator. He's a wizard of a passer, and he'll open up angles and looks for Hood and Ingles that past point guards haven't been able to. Lindsey compared Rubio's creating ability to Jason Kidd in a recent interview. Jazz fans should hope that he's correct.
Hood and Ingles will still handle the ball a lot on the wings. Also, look for the Jazz to speed up their pace of play. Rubio's best in the open floor, and Utah knows it has to take advantage of that strength.
Projected second unit
Exum and rookie Donovan Mitchell are expected to come off the bench at point guard and shooting guard. Thabo Sefolosha and Joe Johnson are the second-unit forwards, while Ekpe Udoh becomes Gobert's primary backup.
The Jazz, sources say, are tinkering with Johnson's role a bit. He's a good bet to be on the floor in fourth quarters, and handling closing duties with Hood. But last year, Utah played him a lot at power forward. The Jazz may move him back to small forward more this coming season. Wherever he plays, he will once again be an integral part of what Utah does.
Exum and Mitchell will receive significant minutes, and both could even see closing minutes in smaller lineups. Like Jazz fans, the Jazz are all in on Mitchell. They think he has a chance to be a star, and want to throw him into the deep end right away in order to accelerate his development. The front office saw all it needed in Mitchell's 37-point summer league outburst against the Memphis Grizzlies. That's why they shut him down for the rest of the week.
"We want to get the ball into Donovan's hands," Lindsey said. "Will he be better with the ball in year three than in year one? Absolutely. But we think he can handle some possessions."
In the second unit, the Jazz envision an even faster pace than the starters. And in the regular season, they hope to win some games primarily because of bench superiority.
The Jazz will want to scratch out rotation minutes for Jonas Jerebko and Alec Burks, both of whom are rotation level players for almost any team in the league. Last year, Utah was one of the most injury-ravaged teams in the league. This season, with the exception of Gobert, Utah can survive almost any injury to a single player.
How does it all work out? We'll find out in October.
"We want to compete and see where our level is," Lindsey said.