Phoenix • Their records, perhaps, might dissuade the comparison, but there are a few key similarities between what the Suns are doing and what the Jazz have done.
Both teams feature a young, dynamic scoring guard who’s unexpectedly had to handle a playmaking role this season. Both teams feature a burgeoning big man who happens to be particularly effective on one end of the court.
Jazz coach Quin Snyder said he recognized some of the steps the Phoenix organization — now run by his longtime friend and assistant Igor Kokoskov — is going through. Though the Suns have just 15 wins on the season, they came into Wednesday’s contest having won five out of seven, including a victory over West-leading Golden State.
“Their team, particularly as they’ve gotten healthy, they’re growing in confidence, and Igor’s done a terrific job of leading that group, being consistent and teaching. You start to see a lot of the habits that it takes a long time for a team to gain. We went through it,” Snyder said. “The fact that they’re playing their best basketball right now says a lot about the job that he’s done. It says a lot about their players — Devin [Booker] in particular.”
Indeed, Booker entered the game averaging 25.1 points per game, and due to the Suns’ decision not to carry an experienced point guard on the roster, the traditional shooting guard has had to take on the primary ball-handling duties, and has averaged 6.7 assists per game.
Kokoskov said he saw definite similarities between what Booker and Utah’s Donovan Mitchell are doing.
“Both of them are very good; at an early age and stage of their career, they became the face of the franchise. Very gifted, very talented offensive players — and true leaders,” he said. “The one thing that’s kind of similar for both of them is the good leadership they have. For such young players, there is so much on their plate.”
Meanwhile, Rudy Gobert and DeAndre Ayton don’t really share similarities in pedigrees — the former was an unheralded, late-first round pick, the latter the No. 1 selection overall; neither do they resemble one another in how they play the game, with Gobert an elite defender, and Ayton in the process of becoming an offensive force.
Still, Snyder sees a shared commitment to improvement, and is impressed with what Ayton has shown of late.
“You’re seeing DeAndre Ayton begin to grow as a player — you can’t expect everything from a rookie from Day 1, and obviously he’s improved and developed and is settling in,” Snyder said.
Back at full strength
With the pregame announcement that Ricky Rubio and Raul Neto would be available, the Jazz at long last had all three of their point guards active for a game, as Dante Exum returned from a long injury Monday vs. OKC.
While Snyder said all three point guards would be on minutes restrictions, he added there was no underestimating the impact that stems from having all the team’s playmakers available.
“Those guys, they play the game in a unique way at that position, and they’re all different. I don’t think we’ve had ’em all together; I don’t know that that’s been the case,” Snyder said. “… It’s good to have ’em back. I think the leadership and the organization is as important as anything — some of the things don’t show up in the box score, which we’ve seen of late, particularly with missing Ricky.”