Fans and prognosticators may have their first five set for the Utah Jazz, but head coach Quin Snyder is still figuring his starting lineup out.
When he joined GM Dennis Lindsey at the podium during Utah Jazz Media Day, head coach Quin Snyder was asked who would comprise the team’s starting five. As one might expect, he was non-committal about which players would get the nod, with one exception —
“I have a pretty good idea that Rudy [Gobert] is going to start.”
It wasn’t exactly a “Stop the presses!” moment, but I don’t think Snyder’s sentiment was strictly coach-speak either. Just who will be on the floor when the Jazz tip-off their season opener against the Denver Nuggets may be as much of a mystery to Snyder as it is to the rest of us.
The smart money is on the Jazz rolling out the five you would expect. That would mean Ricky Rubio and Rodney Hood on the guard line, Joe Ingles on the wings and Derrick Favors joining Gobert in the frontcourt. That said, nothing is set in stone at this juncture.
Speaking with Jazz radio man David Locke about lineups in general, Snyder intimated that there are a myriad of possibilities —
“I think part of the both exciting and kind of the other thing that causes me some anxiety is all the different possibilities that exist. I think it’s going to be a process of figuring out not just what fits in a certain game; certain players that play well together and other combinations and things like that.”
Despite 2016-17 starters Gordon Hayward and George Hill heading elsewhere, the team has options across the board.
It’s probably safe to assume that Hood will start at the two. In a post-Hayward world, he’s the closest thing the team has to a go-to scorer. Rubio is likely locked in as well, although Dante Exum has named cracking the first five as a goal of his this season.
Then there’s rookie Donovan Mitchell, who probably has the highest potential ceiling of any of the team’s youth contingent. The point guard spot may be his best position as a professional. He could also join Rubio in the backcourt and bump Hood to the small forward position.
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That may be an unlikely scenario — particularly to start the season — but I can’t discount the possibility.
Speaking of small forward, if Ingles doesn’t start at the three, the team could look to Thabo Sefolosha to fill the role. Despite entering his 12th year in the league, Sefolosha remains one of the game’s elite wing defenders.
As for Favors and the power forward job, intrigue abounds. During his injury-plagued ’16-17 campaign, few would have envisioned that he could keep his spot as a starter. However, Favors has rocked OTAs and open gym recently.
During media day interviews, he even said he’s the healthiest he’s been in a year and a half. If he can get back to being the player that averaged 16 points, eight rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game at that time, he’ll undoubtedly start and the Jazz will surprise some people.
On the other hand, Jonas Jerebko is a talented playmaking big who could really complement Gobert. His 3-point percentage has hovered around 40 percent for much of his career; a mark that inspires confidence in their inside-out pairing.
In the end, though, I expect we’ll see the “obvious” choices on opening night. Nevertheless, this is one instance where a coach says he’s still working things out and I actually believe what he’s saying.