Training camp is still more than six weeks away and the start of the 2023-24 NBA season is 10 weeks away, but that certainly doesn’t stop the NBA wheel from spinning. Players are locking in on their training regimens, coaches are watching film and readying their staffs, front offices are never off the clock, and fans are speculating and wondering what the upcoming season will hold.
For those following the comings and goings of the Utah Jazz, the upcoming season promises a lot of opportunity, but also a lot of mystery.
So, with that in mind, today we’re tackling some of the biggest questions those on the outside still have about the team for the 2023-24 season, and when we might get some answers to these questions.
Who will play point guard?
The Jazz certainly aren’t lacking optionality.
You could go with Kris Dunn, or you could play Collin Sexton, you could keep experimenting with Talen Horton-Tucker, you could throw Keyonte George to the NBA wolves and see what the rookie can do, you could mix in Jordan Clarkson and Ochai Agbaji.
Realistically, I think what’s going to happen is that there is going to be a mix of experimenting with Dunn, Horton-Tucker, Sexton and George.
Part of who starts and who comes off the bench could be determined by the trade deadline, and those in positions of power to make trade-deadline decisions. So, there’s a chance that the Jazz might flirt with trying to push up value on a couple of players, which would mean we don’t get to know who the true point guards of the future on this roster are until after deals are made. At the same time, I don’t think that the value of, say, Horton-Tucker or Sexton would change much at this point. The league knows what they’re capable of.
I suspect that Dunn is high on the keeper list because of his experience, his contract and because of how he’s revamped his game. If he can replicate his numbers from last season, the job might be his to lose. Though, with that being said, George is waiting in the wings and will probably have some opportunity to prove himself this season. There will definitely be times when Clarkson is initiating the offense or even Agbaji, but those are not players that will be seeing heavy minutes as the primary ballhandler.
I don’t think Will Hardy is going to just hand over the keys to the starting job to George without him earning it. And, I can guarantee that neither Hardy or anyone in the front office will outright say what the plan is, but after the first few games of the season, a blueprint will certainly emerge.
What will the rotations look like?
Last season there was a lot of turnover on the Jazz roster, and movement at the trade deadline meant even more turnover in the middle of the season. Add that to the fact that the Jazz front office was extra, extra cautious with anything that even resembled an injury and what we ended up with was a lot of room for rookies Walker Kessler and Agbaji to make a bit of a name for themselves, albeit along different paths, and for Lauri Markkanen to make his mark as the leader of this team.
In the 2023-24 season, again there is a lot of turnover and a lot of new faces on the Jazz roster, especially young faces. With the Jazz keeping all three of their draft picks — George, Taylor Hendricks and Brice Sensabaugh — as well as adding John Collins and Ömer Yurtseven to the roster, I would expect there to be quite a few growing pains.
Like I said in the previous answer, the trade deadline might also play a factor in this. I think we can pretty obviously say that Markkanen, Clarkson, and Kessler will be starters.
I think it’s also easy to expect Agbaji, Collins, Sexton, Dunn, and Kelly Olynyk to play pretty heavy rotational minutes, whether as starters or off the bench. That’s already eight guys, though.
I would be surprised if Simone Fontecchio, Yurtseven or Sensabaugh get much playing time, so that leaves George, Hendricks, Luka Samanic and Horton-Tucker rounding out the top 12 of the roster.
Usually teams play with a rotation of nine to 11 players (and 11 is being generous). That makes things really tough for Horton-Tucker and Samanic. They will be battling tough competition to get minutes.
We’ll learn some about the rotations during training camp, in the preseason and then the first few games of the regular season schedule, but don’t be surprised if there is some experimentation and quite a few lineup changes as the season progresses.
Where does Collin Sexton fit in?
I already mentioned Sexton in the first section here, but his place on this team is really interesting. Part of this is because we don’t have a clear answer on the position Sexton will play or what will be expected of him.
If the Jazz have plans of playing Sexton as a point guard, we still need to see some improvement from him as a decision-maker and distributor. If the plan is to play him as a shooting guard, does that mean he is going to come off the bench? While his efficiency as a shooter last season was great (39.3% from 3-point range) it was only on 2.5 attempts per game. Does he need to be more impactful from the perimeter in order to work on this team? Or, is his powerful first step and ability as a finisher at the rim enough to carry him?
Outside of what he does on the court, there is also some question as to his future with the Jazz. If the Jazz are looking to make a move for a higher tier player, they would need to at least include a player like Sexton or Clarkson in order to make salaries work in a deal.
It might end up being that we can’t answer these questions about Sexton until the trade deadline. Even if he really comes out of the gate hot and is having an excellent season, that could be the leverage that the team would need to move him. But, it could also be all the reason they need to keep him.
Are there more moves to be made?
I think it’s pretty clear from my answers to some of the other questions that I don’t think the Jazz are done making moves for this season. But, I believe the Jazz are going to take their time and practice patience as far as trades are concerned.
They still have a boatload of assets and they have some extreme flexibility on the roster with contract lengths and sizes, so there’s no pressure to rush anything.
Instead, the Jazz are likely to play out the first part of the season and see how well this team meshes on the court.
Is this team ready for the playoffs?
Jazz owner Ryan Smith was very happy to be in the NBA draft lottery drawing room in May and was excited by the prospect of having three first-round draft picks, but he made it pretty clear that he doesn’t want to go back to the lottery.
The Jazz are a rebuilding team, but they are at the bottom of a hill looking upward. Now is the time to play, play hard, try to rack up wins, and really see how far the Jazz are from being a contending team. Where are the gaps on the roster? Where do they need to find more firepower? What could complement the best parts of this team?
As the team attempts to answer those questions, they might prove they are good enough to be a playoff team. I wouldn’t expect for them to go far in the postseason if they make the playoffs. But, it wouldn’t surprise me if they ended up being a play-in tournament team that starts to perk up ears around the league.
The future is bright.