Utah Jazz: Depth is likely to leave a few players out in the cold

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - JANUARY 30: Alec Burks #10 of the Utah Jazz runs up court during a game against the Golden State Warriors at Vivint Smart Home Arena on January 30, 2018 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - JANUARY 30: Alec Burks #10 of the Utah Jazz runs up court during a game against the Golden State Warriors at Vivint Smart Home Arena on January 30, 2018 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images) /

The Utah Jazz have one of the deepest teams in the league, and while that can be a benefit, it could also leave a few good players out of the rotation.

Over the last few season, the Utah Jazz have been able to do a terrific job of constructing a roster that is built to withstand the bruises of an 82-game season.

Two years ago, CBS Sports released their rankings of the top benches in the NBA, and Utah was listed at number one. Since that time, not much has changed in terms of depth for the Jazz. They have continued to boast an impressive starting five, and a deep, talented bench to go with it.

This has been crucial over the past few years, as injuries have been a consistent issue for the team. Over the last two seasons, the Jazz have led the league in wins lost due to injury, per mangameslost.com.

Without the serviceable talent of the bench, the Utah Jazz would likely not have been a playoff team over the past two seasons. Even when getting to the third player at each position, guys like Raul Neto and Ekpe Udoh played significant roles when dealing with injuries to Rudy Gobert and Dante Exum.

The depth that the Jazz boast is obviously a benefit…but there is a clear detriment: You simply can not play everyone.

Heading into this next season, that is especially going to be the case for the guard and wing rotations. Some players are simply going to be left out in the cold, and will not have a clear path towards minutes unless there is an injury ahead of them.

With many teams, that may be a worry. When talented players are not given playing time, they tend to complain, and that can disrupt the chemistry of the team. I can’t envision that happening with this team. If you have been following the team on social media, you know that they seem incredibly close.

So of the guards and wings, who do we expect to get the majority of the starter minutes, who will get the primary backup minutes and who may only get the leftover scraps?

These are just my projections, but I do think they will be fairly close. Especially early on in the year.

The starters are fairly obvious, and the minutes I assigned to them were based off of last seasons averages. Donovan Mitchell led the Jazz at just over 33 minutes per game, and going into next season, I expect that to raise just a bit. As far as Ricky Rubio and Joe Ingles go, I just left them the same.

The bench is where it gets a bit more subjective, but I do believe it is pretty accurate.

Starting with Dante Exum, I can’t imagine the Jazz gave him that three-year, $33 million contract to sit on the bench. He should be the first player off the bench next season, and due to his ability to play any of the wing positions, Quin Snyder should be able to find him plenty of playing time.

Royce O’Neale exploded onto the scene over the second half of last season, and took on an even larger work load during the playoffs. With injuries to Rubio, he was even called upon to start against the Rockets. He started every game that series and averaged 10.4 points and four rebounds.

I don’t expect the Jazz to move on from him this next season. In fact, I expect his role to increase.

Thabo Sefolosha is likely the wildcard here. Many Jazz fans haven’t forgotten his role early in the season, but he was everything they could have hoped for when he signed during the 2017 offseason. Zachary Podmore of The J-Notes recently wrote all about it. He was a leader on the defensive side of the court, and could be thrown at the best opposing wing player.

On offense, he averaged a career-high in points, and shot a solid 38 percent from three.

This happened all before Jae Crowder was brought on board, though. With both players in tow, one will either have to take a minimized role, or shift to a new position. Last season, Crowder was extremely effect as the stretch four, and now that Jonas Jerebko is not on the roster, I expect Crowder to essentially move full-time to the power forward position. With him full-time at the four, that could open up plenty of time for Sefolosha in the small forward spot.

Here’s where we get to the leftovers. The Jazz have three capable wing players who are likely not going to get too much of a run: Raul Neto, Alec Burks, and unfortunately, Grayson Allen.

Neto is likely going to be in the exact same role that he has in the last few years. Which is fantastic, in my opinion. Neto is the perfect third point guard on a roster. He is comfortable not playing a ton of minutes, or even not at all if that is what is best for the team. When called upon though, he is always ready.

Neto played in 41 games last season, and once Exum returned from injury, he rarely saw the court. When he did play though, he kept the offense going, he never lost leads, and he played his heart out. Neto is the consummate pro, and is always ready to contribute when called upon.

It was incredible to see a healthy Alec Burks back on the court for the Jazz. He has had to deal with so many injuries, and it really is a joy just to see him playing again. That said, I think he has about run his course with the team.

Don’t get me wrong, everyone within the Jazz organization loves him, but due to all of his injuries, he has somewhat been replaced in the lineup. O’Neale has largely taken those minutes. There are also concerns with his playing style and his ability to fit within the Quin Snyder offense.

There are times when I expect Burks to play this season, and even games where he may get good minutes depending on the offense. As we saw in the Houston Rockets season, there are still moments when he can be extremely effective due to his ability to score in isolation.

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It’s not just O’Neale who is taking over those minutes, but with the Jazz selecting Allen with the 20th pick in the draft, there are a few prioritized options ahead of him.

Allen is the one I am the most disappointed in. I think we are all excited about the rookie out of Duke, but with such an established roster, it may be hard to break into the rotation. Don’t get me wrong, he is going to receive playing time, but this isn’t going to be Donovan Mitchell 2.0. Don’t expect more than 10-12 minutes a game, and he may even receive a few DNP-CD’s.

The caveat to this is largely based on Allen’s shooting and defense. Utah is lacking in shooters, and if Allen gets hot during the year and shows the ability to shoot over 40 percent from three, he will effectively force his way on to the floor.

The Jazz have a problem that every franchise would kill to have. I do not envy Snyder and the coaching staff, as they are going to be faced with many difficult decisions this upcoming season regarding this Jazz team and the rotation.

Comment below or hit me up on twitter at @john_keeffer with your thoughts on why another player should get more or less minutes!