3 reasons the Utah Jazz are built to counter the Los Angeles Lakers

Utah Jazz (Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports)
Utah Jazz (Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports) /
4 of 4
Utah Jazz
Utah Jazz (Russell Isabella-USA TODAY Sports) /

Utah Jazz roster construction

This is a quality that is intrinsically linked to the two listed above, but it is significant enough to merit its own consideration. The Utah Jazz have a more logically constructed roster than the Los Angeles Lakers.

As previously mentioned, Donovan Mitchell and Jordan Clarkson led last season’s Jazzmen in usage rate, at 39.1 and 33.8 respectively. Meanwhile, the Lakers roster Westbrook (38.7) and Lebron James (38.6). Undeniably, these are four high usage players, but the differences effectively end there.

If necessary, Mitchell and Clarkson can share the floor, as evidenced by Mitchell’s 38.6% three-point shooting. Furthermore, they won’t even need to, as Utah will prefer to close out games with a backcourt of Mitchell and Mike Conley Jr. Clarkson, having recently won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award, is aware that he may not close games.

Russell Westbrook, on the other hand, will probably expect to. His 31.5% shooting from deep last season was a tick higher than his 30.5% career rate. A quick glance at his career marks looks an awful lot like a graduate school classroom: a lot of mid-to-late 20s. He is not the type of floor spacer who is traditionally paired with LeBron James. It poses the Lakers a serious dilemma: they’d prefer the ball in LeBron’s hands, but at the same time, Westbrook offers little-to-nothing without it.

Otherwise, the Utah Jazz round their regular rotation out nicely with the best rim protector in the NBA in Rudy Gobert, a group of low-usage, high-efficiency, defensively sound wings in Joe Ingles, Bojan Bogdanovic and Royce O’Neale, as well as new additions Rudy Gay, Hassan Whiteside and Eric Paschall.

There is a common thread between all of these players: they know their roles, and they play them effectively. It is clear that the primary playmakers/shot creators are Mitchell, Conley Jr. and Bogdanovic. Royce O’Neale is one of the purest three-and-D wings in the league. Joe Ingles is a consummate jack-of-all-trades. He’s beloved in Salt Lake City for taking smart shots, making smart passes and defending with grit. Hassan Whiteside, having accepted a veteran’s minimum on a team with Rudy Gobert on it, clearly has accepted his place as a backup 5.

Meanwhile, the Lakers’ roster has the makings of a beautiful mess. Carmelo Anthony did a fine job of adjusting to life as a secondary scorer in Portland, but he’s still not as malleable as Bogdanovic, O’Neale or Ingles. Malik Monk shot a blistering 40.1% from three-point range last season, but only after shooting a combined 31.8% over his first three seasons. Can the Lakers be sure that last season wasn’t an aberration?

I think we’ve dedicated enough words to Russell Westbrook, but for the sake of final confirmation: he’s kind of hard to fit into your average NBA offense. The Lakers need four-out spacing as long as he mans the point: Coach Vogel will have to stagger his minutes with Dwight Howard’s, which, depending on Gasol’s availability, could prove difficult. Can he play more than a handful of minutes a night? If not, will Anthony Davis commit to a full-time role as a center, and how will that impact his health, and who will play the 4?

Next. 'LeDonovan' transforming Salt Lake City into East LA. dark

Few could argue that the Los Angeles Lakers are not more talented than the Utah Jazz, with two former MVP winners and a third perennial candidate. Nonetheless, fans in Salt Lake City have ample reason to like their chances against the Lakers. Specifically, those reasons are continuity, spacing and roster construction.