As the Utah Jazz’s experimentation continues, can Collin Sexton thrive in a new role?

Originally one of the candidates to be the team’s lead guard and primary initiator, he has now settled in instead as a secondary ball handler whose strength is attacking the rim and drilling spot-up 3s.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz guard Collin Sexton (2) as the Utah Jazz host the Memphis Grizzlies, NBA basketball in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023.

Collin Sexton doesn’t participate in media availabilities at the Utah Jazz’s day-of-game morning shootarounds.

He’s too in the moment, too attuned to the on-court prep work that’s been going on since 7 a.m. (when he first arrives at the gym) to interrupt his process and answer a bunch of outsiders’ questions about his process.

Instead, he’s willing to speak when the team’s locker room opens pregame at 5:45 p.m., when it’s finally the calm before the storm.

Except that applying the word “calm” to Collin Sexton in any basketball-related context is just a blatant misnomer.

He is wired, he is on edge, he is on a hair trigger, his mind envisioning every possible positive outcome — and conjuring every single negative scenario.

Sexton hadn’t played particularly well in the Utah Jazz’s first four games of the season, struggling to find his way in a mixed-and-matched backcourt lacking continuity from one quarter to the next as head coach Will Hardy conducts ongoing chemistry experiments, searching for the right dosages of the various compounds.

And yet, Sexton was undeterred.

“It’s coming. It’s definitely coming. I feel like a good game is just around the corner,” he said before a game last Wednesday.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz guard Collin Sexton (2) as the Utah Jazz host the Memphis Grizzlies, NBA basketball in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023.

A few hours later, the Utah Jazz had rolled to a 133-109 decimation of the undermanned and winless Memphis Grizzlies, and Sexton had played a central role, manifesting a breakout performance in the form of a team-high 23 points on 8-for-10 shooting (including 4 of 6 from deep), to go along with six assists.

Before the game, he spoke of the difficulty of balancing the ongoing experimentation with his perfectionist proclivities.

“It’s just giving yourself some grace. I’ve been telling myself — actually, I’ve been writing it down: ‘Grace,’” he said. “Because I want everything to happen so fast. And sometimes it happens in Game 10: ‘OK, alright, got the rhythm going, got the feeling going.’ For me, it’s tough because I want it in the now, but I also have to remember that there’s 14, 15 other guys who are all trying to find our niche, find that little alleyway that we can be good in.”

After the game, he spoke of trusting the process — or, disregarding that particular cliche, at least being intimately familiar with every nook and cranny of his specific alleyway.

“I put the work in, so I’ve just got to trust my work. That’s been my thing all week — trust the work, trust the time I put in the gym,” Sexton said. “I feel like I put in the most time, the most hours of anybody. So just trust the work and allow it to come.”

Hardy, meanwhile, was a bit more nuanced, a bit more detailed.

No one doubts that Sexton works hard, that Sexton is desperate to succeed, to contribute in a helpful and meaningful way.

Still, the coach acknowledged that finding the right way to funnel those efforts has required some tweaking and re-tweaking. Sexton’s six assists against the Grizzlies notwithstanding, the apparent new key to unleashing his optimal version is taking many of those lead-guard playmaking responsibilities off his plate and just turning him loose.

“Collin’s a very talented player. He wants to do the right thing all the time. And I think during the preseason, I put him in a bunch of different spots and that maybe didn’t help him,” said Hardy. “Sorting out what’s best for Collin is part of the mission, but it’s also, ‘How does Collin fit best with the rest of the team?’

“And I think the last two games we’ve used him more off the ball, we haven’t had him initiate the offense as much, and we’ve sort of tried to use him a little bit more like an off-guard, a two-guard, so to speak,” Hardy continued. “Because he is really dynamic in those situations. … He’s able to really develop a lot of force.”

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz guard Collin Sexton (2) as the Utah Jazz host the LA Clippers, NBA basketball in Salt Lake City on Friday, Oct. 27, 2023.

The 23 he scored were his most in a Jazz uniform. The six 3s he attempted were tied for the most since arriving in Salt Lake City.

He was decisive and efficient.

The simplified approach produced a more dynamic result.

“Having him off the ball and making shots, making plays, puts a lot more pressure on defenses, and he doesn’t have to organize everybody because that’s probably not his strength,” said big man Kelly Olynyk. “His strength is putting pressure on defense, playing with a lot of passion, enthusiasm, energy. When he’s going 100 miles an hour with the ball, it kind of makes it tougher on everybody else to know where to go; so if you have him off the ball going 100 miles an hour, someone else can set the table and let him eat.”

Hardy explained that between OTAs and training camp and preseason and the first handful of regular-season games, the Jazz’s coaching staff had accumulated enough information to approach Sexton about making a change.

It wasn’t about a demotion, it wasn’t about taking away responsibility or opportunities.

It was about finding the optimal role — for him and for the Jazz.

“Our roster has a lot of capable guards in bringing it up the floor, and so we tried to shift Collin’s mindset the last two games in terms of, ‘Let’s get you off the ball,’ because we think that’s best for him, and ultimately that will help the team,” Hardy said. “And he’s responded really, really well.”

Sexton, being the all-in type personality that he is, can’t not respond well, can’t not throw himself in head-first and with total conviction.

Hardy wants him to be an off-ball guard? Sexton will become the off-balliest guard you’ve ever seen.

“Coach Will, he knows I can step into 3s pretty well, and he has a lot of confidence in me. So whenever those times [come] up, I can’t pass anymore going forward,” Sexton said.

Can’t pass anymore in those situations?

“[He’s given me the] green light to shoot any corner 3s. He believes in me,” Sexton elaborated. “The other day, I think I passed up one in Denver and he got on to me a little bit, and he was like, ‘Just shoot it with confidence.’”

It’s a role that suits him, honestly.

Sexton as a lead guard always had something of a square peg/round hole feel. As Olynyk noted, the guard’s strength is stressing defenses by attacking and putting pressure on the rim. And beyond that, he’s a far better spot-up shooter than most seem to appreciate — he’s at only 34.8% from 3 thus far this year (following a combined 2-for-8 performance across three games), but backs that up with his 39.3% mark last season, and a 38.0% conversion rate for his career.

Perhaps better still for Sexton is having clarity and definition.

Even the easygoing Olynyk acknowledged the difficulty of the Jazz’s player deployment plan only now starting to have shape and form emerge from the amorphous fog.

“Yeah, I mean, you can start to see it a little more as the games go on. At the beginning, it was just kind of like a bingo card out there — you didn’t know what you’re gonna get,” he said. “It’s tough when you’ve got a bunch of new guys trying to fit into different pieces, into different spots. But as it goes on, now you can see what is working, what isn’t working, maybe we need more of this, less of this, switch this.”

For the tightly-wound Sexton, such uncertainty is practically unbearable.

He conceded that the early stages of a regular season is a perfectly plausible timeframe for a team with new players and new roles and low expectations to experiment with lineups and rotations and roles … but he couldn’t help but acknowledge some trepidation at the horrifying prospect of variability lingering into the 35- or 40-game mark.

Return to the writings, to the mantras.

Remember … Grace. And trust.

“I’d be crazy if I didn’t want it to happen today, but it’s gonna take it’s time,” Sexton said pregame. “Nothing happens overnight.”

It does apparently, happen, though, sometimes between 5:45 and roughly 9:20 p.m.

“It feels good to see him have the success he’s had tonight,” Hardy said afterward, “because I do think that role for him, moving forward, is going to be good for him.”