Home Jazz A guide to new-look jazz as they start playing in pre-season

A guide to new-look jazz as they start playing in pre-season


Jazz forward Ochai Agbaji talks with CEO Danny Ainge during a Utah Jazz practice at Zions Bank Basketball Campus in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

Estimated reading time: 7-8 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY – You can’t blame Jordan Clarkson for being honest.

When asked what he learned about his new teammates, Clarkson, who is now the oldest jazz player, started strong.

“I really like Kelly Olynyk, Cody (Zeller) also did a great job. Malik (Beasley) shot the ball,” Clarkson said.

It was then that the reality of his new situation hit him.

“I’m still learning everyone’s names,” he said.

We’re sure he’s not the only one. After all, of the 20 players on the Jazz‘s training camp roster, only six were with the Jazz last season.

So here’s a guide to help you navigate new-look jazz as they begin preseason play in Edmonton against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday (4 p.m. MDT, AT&T SportsNet, NBA TV).

So who are these guys?

First, here are the players who are now part of the squad – at least for now.

Ochai Agbaji

Live: Beginner

How did he get to Jazz? Agbaji was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the No. 14 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft from Kansas, and was traded to Utah as part of the Donovan Mitchell deal. Agbaji spent four years with the Jayhawks, becoming one of the best wings in college basketball.

Nickeil Alexander Walker

Live: Entry into the fourth season

About: Alexander-Walker was traded to Utah midway through last season. He played 15 minutes in an extremely limited role for the Jazz.

Udoka Azubuike

Live: Entry into the third season

About: Azubuike dealt with season-ending injuries in his first two seasons. He will start the season recovering from an ankle injury.

Malik Beasley

Live: Entry into the seventh season

How did he get to Utah? Beasley was traded to Utah from Minnesota as part of the Rudy Gobert deal. He’s a career 39 percent 3-point shooter.

Leandro Bolmaro

Live: Entry into the second season

How did he get to Utah? The Argentine winger came from Minnesota in the Gobert trade. The versatile player played 35 games in his rookie year.

Jared Butler

Live: Entry into the second season

About: Butler was taken to the second round of the 2021 NBA Draft by the Jazz. He played 42 games and averaged 3.8 points last season.

Jordan Clarkson

Live: Beginning of the ninth season

About: The former Sixth Man of the Year is one of two returning players who played an important role for the team last year.

Mike Conley

Live: Entering the 16th season

About: Conley is the only returning starter from last year’s team. Conley averaged 13.7 points on 40% 3-point shooting last season.

Simone Fontecchio

Live: Beginner

How did he get to Utah? Fontecchio, a 26-year-old Italian rookie, signed with the Jazz as a free agent this summer. He averaged 11.8 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists while shooting 41% from 3-point range last season with Baskonia in Spain.

Rudy Gay

Live: Entering the 17th season

About: Gay signed with the Jazz ahead of the 2021-22 season but dropped out of rotation midway through the year. He averaged just 8.1 points last season – the first time in his 16-year career he averaged less than 10.0 points.

Talen Horton Tucker

Live: Entry into the fourth season

How did he get to Utah? He was traded to Utah by the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Patrick Beverley. He averaged 10.0 points in over 25 minutes last season.

Stanley Johnson

Live: Entering the eighth season

How did he get to Utah? The former top-10 pick was traded to Utah by the Lakers. He revitalized his career last season with a strong performance off the bench for the Lakers.

Johnny Juzang

Live: Beginner

How did he get to Utah? Juzang signed a two-way contract with the Jazz after the draft

Walker Kesler

Live: Beginner

How did he get to Utah? Kessler was drafted with the No. 22 pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves before being sent to the Jazz as part of the Gobert trade.

Saben Lee

Live: Entry into the third season

How did he get to Utah? Lee was traded to Utah by the Detroit Pistons as part of the deal that sent Bojan Bogdanovic to Detroit.

Lauri Markkanen

Live: Entering the sixth season

How did he get to Utah? Markkanen was traded to Utah from Cleveland as part of the Mitchell deal. Markkanen enters his first season with the Jazz with high expectations after being one of the best players in Eurobasket last month.

Kelly Olynik

Live: Entering the 10th season

How did he get to Utah? Olynyk was traded from Detroit as part of the Bogdanovic deal. The veteran center averaged 9.1 points last season with the Pistons.

Collin Sexton

Live: Entry into the fifth season

How did he get to Utah? Sexton was traded to Utah from Cleveland as part of the deal that sent Mitchell to the Cavs. He missed most of last season with a torn left meniscus, but averaged 24.3 points in his last full season in good health.

Jarred Vanderbilt

Live: Entry into the fifth season

How did he get to Utah? Vanderbilt came to Utah via the deal that sent Gobert to Minnesota. Vanderbilt, a long hitter, plans to be Utah’s top defenseman.

Cody Zeller

Live: Entering the 10th season

How did he get to Utah? The veteran center signed a training camp deal with the Jazz shortly before camp began.

Do we know who will play?

Asked about his rotation after the first day of training camp, Jazz coach Will Hardy said he hasn’t put everything in place yet.

And, honestly, that was more than fair, especially since it’s arguable that most get significant game time.

Conley, Clarkson, Sexton, Markkanen, Vanderbilt, Olynyk, Beasley, Gay and even Johnson and Zeller are all proven players in the league.

This season is probably less about winning and more about development. So does the Jazz give more time to Kessler, Agbaji, Fontecchio and Bolmaro? And what about Alexander-Walker, Butler or Azubuike – will they get a chance to see if they’re NBA players?

That’s a lot of options for Hardy. Sunday in Edmonton will be the first glimpse of what his regular rotation could look like.

Our guess for an initial rotation? Conley, Sexton, Markkanen, Vanderbilt and Olynyk as starters. Beasley, Clarkson, Gay and a mix of Alexander-Walker, Fontecchio, Agbaji and Kessler, depending on the clashes, come off the bench. Don’t hesitate to ridicule us when we are wrong.

What style will Jazz play?

In recent seasons, the Jazz have been a predictable group. They used a lot of pick and rolls to generate a lot of 3s, and used a drop-big scheme to funnel it all into Gobert. That was about it.

With Quin Snyder, Gobert and almost every other party gone, what style will Jazz play?

“I would love to play some tempo, of course, with this group,” Hardy said of the offense. “And I would like us to play in a style where everyone is involved. I don’t think it would be productive for us to have one player dominating the ball with this group.”

At this point, the Jazz have plenty of guys who can score. Sexton and Beasley both average more than 20 points per game over the course of a season. Markkanen is coming off a Eurobasket where he finished second scoring behind only a guy named Giannis. And jazz fans already know what Clarkson and Conley can do.

“I think we’re a skilled offensive team,” Hardy said. “I think we have a lot of guys who can dribble, pass and shoot, which gives us a lot of versatility on that side. We don’t have a lot of guys who are typecast in one position. I think we have a lot of guys who can play in several different places.”

So what about the defensive side?

“I consider our team, again, to have some versatility,” Hardy said. “Because of that youth and some of that athleticism, I think we know we have to try to do a lot of different things. I’m not sure we can be a team that only does one thing at this end of the field.”

Without a dominant defensive center on the roster — assuming, of course, Kessler takes some time to adjust to the NBA — it’s likely the Jazz will follow the recent trend and move to a heavy switching scheme to take advantage of this athleticism.

The battle for a place on the list

One of the most intriguing things about this pre-season will be the fight for the final roster spots. The Jazz have 18 players on guaranteed deals going into Sunday’s game and will need to reduce that number to at least 15 by the start of the regular season.

That’s probably why Azubuike said it’s hard to put into words how important this pre-season is for him. He’s not alone: ​​Barring a trade, Azubuike, Lee, Butler, Alexander-Walker and potentially many more could play for their jobs.

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Ryan Miller has been covering the Utah Jazz for KSL.com since 2018.

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