Tony Jones, one of the Tribune’s Utah Jazz beat reporters, will answer questions submitted on Twitter each week in his Jazz mailbag. Here are this week’s questions and answers.
Dante Exum is scheduled to return to action in mid March. His impact depends on his ability to re-acclimate to the system. I think he would have made a significant impact on this team had he not gotten hurt. He was a confident player at the end of last season, and he clearly had improved entering this season. He had worked hard and dominated the Jazz summer league. He looked ready to make a leap. If he can approach the level he was playing at before he got hurt — and that’s a big if considering how much time he’s missed — he offers a versatile and athletic piece to Utah’s second unit. He’s a very good defender, can get out in transition and has the ability to play and defend multiple positions. He’s a very good fit with the current roster. If he can’t acclimate quickly, he may not see much time because the Jazz are in the thick of a playoff race. I think it’s kind of an all-or-nothing type thing. He either makes a nice impact or he could be a bit player in Quin Snyder’s rotation.
If Derrick Favors leaves this summer, and it’s a good bet he does, the Jazz have several options. They can fill the power forward role from within — both Thabo Sefolosha and Jae Crowder could become stretch options at that spot. They can draft a power forward or they could try to get one in free agency. It’s impossible to peg a specific name in February. The Jazz do want a playmaking power forward in their rotation. Crowder is a good candidate for that role, but going that direction would leave the Jazz vulnerable to teams with size. I almost can guarantee it won’t be Dewayne Dedmon. He’s a center, not a power forward, which wouldn’t make him a good fit for the Jazz.
I won’t make a specific prediction. If the Jazz maintain this level of play, particularly defensively, they will give themselves a chance to win a lot of games down the stretch. They need to continue to play well defensively, and Ricky Rubio needs to continue to play relatively close to the level he’s played at over the last month.
If the Jazz maintain their current level, I think they will give themselves a shot at winning a lot of games. If they get into the postseason and are anywhere above a No. 7 seed — meaning they avoid Houston or Golden State in the first round — they will have a chance to win. But as soon as they run into the Rockets or Warriors, whether it’s the first or second round, that likely will end their season. That means their ceiling this season would be making the second round. That would make for a successful season considering what happened last offseason.
As soon as Ricky Rubio is ready to return, he will be in the starting lineup and Royce O’Neale will go back to his role off the bench. O’Neale is the first wing off the bench with Rodney Hood now in Cleveland. O’Neale has earned that promotion, but he’s not going to be a regular starter.
This is strictly a developmental season for Tony Bradley, the rookie center from North Carolina. He’s averaging 15.4 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.3 blocked shots per game with the Salt Lake City Stars. He’s scoring and rebounding well and one of the best players on their roster, which is exactly what the Jazz want to see. Whether he makes an impact next season with the Jazz depends on what they do this offseason.