Utah Jazz Should Give Joel Bolomboy a Chance to Prove Himself

December 20, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Utah Jazz forward Joel Bolomboy (21) shoots the basketball against Golden State Warriors center JaVale McGee (1) during the fourth quarter at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Jazz 104-74. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
December 20, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Utah Jazz forward Joel Bolomboy (21) shoots the basketball against Golden State Warriors center JaVale McGee (1) during the fourth quarter at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Jazz 104-74. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

With one of the Utah Jazz’s biggest struggles coming at the power forward position, the team should take a chance and allow Joel Bolomboy an opportunity to prove himself in the final stretch before the postseason.

The Utah Jazz are coming off arguably their biggest win since the New Year after toppling the Houston Rockets last night by a score of 115 to 108. It was a well-balanced performance that saw five Jazzmen score in double figures.

The victory was a nice change of pace given the Jazz’s recent struggles against playoff-caliber teams that had many fans calling for changes to the roster, be it by adding new blood or simply through changes to the standard rotation.

Although, with Utah achieving such success against the third best team in the Western Conference, there’s certainly an argument to be had for the team to stick to the old adage of “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” and refrain from making any such major adjustments. However, while things certainly went right for the Jazz in this latest victory, there’s no questioning that throughout the season, the power forward position has overall been a consistent weak point for the team.

Excluding Joe Johnson who got the start at power forward last night and is starting to be used a lot more frequently (and extremely effectively) as a small-ball four, Utah’s remaining power forwards – Derrick Favors, Boris Diaw and Trey Lyles have been less than satisfactory this year.

It’s been a disheartening trend that is definitely evident both with the eye test and the numbers. Since I’m sure most Jazz fans are already tired of watching those three guys struggle to produce consistently game after game I’ll spare any further eye tests, yet let’s take a look at each player’s stats which are clearly enough to back up my case.

On the season, Favors is averaging 9.6 points and 6.2 rebounds while shooting 48.3 percent from the field. Those figures don’t seem terrible by themselves but when compared to his stat line of 16.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and a 51.5 percent field goal percentage from last year they most certainly do.

Diaw is at just 4.5 points per game while adding 2.0 rebounds per game, both of which are well below his career average and even his output from just a year ago despite logging similar minutes. Yet what’s worse is that his shooting from last season has dropped from 52.7 percent from the field to 43.7 percent and from 36.2 percent from deep to a horrific 23.8 percent.

Lyles is putting up 6.8 points per game which is just 0.7 more than last season and he’s rebounding at a slightly worse rate than in 2015-16 at 3.5 boards per game as compared to 3.7. He’s also shooting a dismal 36.9 percent from the field and 31.6 percent from deep, both of which are nearly seven percentage points lower than last year.

Those numbers of course signify season-long trends, but even as recently as the win over the Rockets, Utah’s power forward issues were in full display. Favors, who has struggled with injuries all year, was once again sidelined with knee soreness. Diaw, meanwhile, wasn’t awful this time around but also wasn’t all that impactful, finishing with just four points on 2-of-4 shooting and a pair of turnovers.

Then there’s Lyles whose recent struggles have been so glaring that he’s essentially played himself out of the rotation and didn’t even see the floor in Wednesday’s victory.

Therefore, with Utah apparently lacking any true answer outside of Joe Johnson at the four, where do they have left to turn to potentially patch it up? The trade deadline has passed and the viable free agent market has essentially dried up, so it may appear as if Utah is simply stuck with what they’ve already been using.

Or maybe, they should look to the end of the bench at the guy who has spent the entirety of his rookie season bouncing between the Utah Jazz and their D-League affiliate, the Salt Lake City Stars.

The guy I’m referring to, of course, is Joel Bolomboy.

Bolomboy was a late second round draft pick for the Jazz who many presumed may have been picked up more than anything because of his Utah ties as a former Weber State Wildcat. However, Bolomboy was solid during Summer League, particularly in Vegas once Trey Lyles was held out to give opportunity to some of the less proven guys.

Once training camp rolled around, the Jazz didn’t hesitate to extend a significant contract to the rookie, locking him in on a three-year deal worth over $1 million. As our very own Ryan Aston put it shortly after the deal was announced, this decision was “a strong indication that the Jazz see Bolomboy as a player with intriguing upside and a legitimate long-term investment.”

And though Bolomboy has logged just 21 total minutes in a Jazz uniform this season (all of which have come in garbage time) and averaged just 0.9 points and 1.1 rebounds in that insignificant chunk of playing time, his intriguing upside has most certainly been on full display in his D-League performances.

In 24 games with the Salt Lake City Stars, Bolomboy is averaging a staunch 16.5 points,13.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per contest while shooting an impressive 54 percent from the field and 46.8 percent from deep. Not to mention, he was recently named a D-League All-Star, albeit as an injury alternate.

And while I’m fully aware that shooting and scoring at that rate as a star in the D-League is a much different task from performing at that level as a bench player in the NBA, the difference between Bolomboy’s shooting percentages and those of Diaw and Lyles is hard to ignore.

In contests with the Stars, Bolomboy is shooting nearly 11 percent better from the field and a mind-blowing 23 percent better from deep than Diaw has with the Jazz this season and about 18 percent better from the field and 15 percent better from deep than Lyles has.

Sure, as a developing and inexperienced rookie (although he is actually about two years older than Lyles), Bolomboy is likely to make some mistakes if inserted into big games for the Jazz, but given the detrimental play that the likes of Diaw, Lyles and even Favors have exhibited at times, I have a hard time believing that allotting Bolomboy some minutes would be any worse.

Not to mention, even if Bolomboy didn’t score a point, his relentless hustle and energy defensively and especially on the boards could very well make him a useful and effective spark plug off the bench for the Jazz. Of course defensively he can’t hold a candle to Favors but you could argue that he’d be more daunting on that end than Lyles or Diaw. Factor in his potentially improved shooting that he’s exhibited in D-League play and you can start to see a case for giving him an opportunity.

Even if Favors does eventually reach full health this season, so much of his time is spent at the backup center position that Utah could still make use of a reliable backup power forward outside of Johnson to fill some crucial minutes in the post.

To be clear, I’m fully aware that Bolomboy is still young and raw and perhaps his inexperience would end up making him more of a liability than the guys Utah is current rolling out at PF (though on some occasions that can seem hard to believe).

Nevertheless with just 17 games left in the regular season to make adjustments and run trials before the high stakes of the playoffs start, the Jazz should consider giving Bolomboy some more run to see how he could fit in at Utah’s weak power forward spot and whether or not he could make an impact for the team moving forward.

Also, while Diaw is averaging 17.7 minutes per game this season, in the last 15 contests he’s played several games where he’s logged anywhere between 4 and 13 minutes. Lyles, meanwhile, is averaging a nearly identical 17.8 minutes per game, but of late has been logging several games with single-figure minutes as well as a handful of DNPs.

Therefore, as a potential filler for either or both of those guys, I’m not talking about a lot of minutes for Bolomboy, especially when Favors is healthy. I’m simply talking about just enough to see whether the young man out of Weber State has what it takes to make an impact, even if it’s only in that 5-10 minute range initially.


Yet, even with some disappointing play from the likes of Favors, Diaw and Lyles, Utah still stands at fourth place in the West with an impressive 41-24 record, so it’s hard to find much to complain about. With that being the case, I could also see Quin Snyder and Co. simply deciding to stick to the mantra I brought up earlier, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Nevertheless, in both wins and losses this season, there’s no denying that there have been multiple instances where Utah could have benefited greatly from a jolt of energy and efficiency at the power forward spot. Thus with the current options all leaving something to be desired, I see no reason why the Jazz shouldn’t allow the high-potential and competitive Bolomboy a chance to show what he’s made of between now and the postseason.

More from The J-Notes

At worst, he struggles in limited minutes and the Jazz simply return to what was working before. But at best, Utah’s diamond in the rough proves he’s just that and provides just enough of an edge to help shore up what has otherwise been a significant area of weakness for the Jazz.

In my mind, that’s a chance that’s absolutely worth taking.

All stats courtesy of NBA.com