Utah Jazz: One area of improvement for every player on the roster

Utah Jazz (Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports)
Utah Jazz (Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Utah Jazz
Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley (Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports) /

Jared Butler: Turnovers 

A theme is emerging among Utah Jazz players under 25: they’re not likely to receive a lot of playing time. However, Butler may be an exception: the Jazz’s guard rotation gets pretty thin after the talented trio of Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley Jr. and Jordan Clarkson. Barring any significant roster changes between now and opening night, Butler could find an unexpected opportunity as the fourth guard in a championship contender’s rotation.

Cutting down on the costly turnovers he was prone toward committing during his tenure at Baylor could help Butler entrench himself in that position. His 2.4 turnovers a night during the 2020-21 NCAA season do not pair nicely with the 4.8 assists he handed out per game. Given the caliber of offensive production and defensive energy Butler otherwise brings to the table, reducing his turnovers at the professional level could greatly benefit his standing in Quin Snyder’s rotation.

Jordan Clarkson: Efficiency

Call us a broken record, but unlike Clarkson’s shooting efficiency, at least we’re consistent.

Jordan Clarkson is the NBA’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year, but keeping his efficiency in check could do wonders for the Utah Jazz and their championship odds. Last season, Clarkson headed into the All-Star break with a solid 58% effective Field Goal percentage (eFG%). Unfortunately, that number plummeted to 49% from the break to the playoffs, where it remained woefully low at 50.9%.

Shooting inefficiency is typical of undersized scoring guards of Clarkson’s ilk, and frankly, that’s acceptable. Here’s the rub: 58% is not a wildly efficient eFG%, either. It is, on the other hand, solid.

Clarkson should aim to shoot around that level of accuracy again, and more critically, maintain that efficiency all throughout the year into the playoffs.

Mike Conley Jr.: Durability 

It always feels a little dirty to hold a player’s health against them. These are professional basketball players: they’d all play 82 games a season in perfect health if they were in control of their fates.

Nonetheless, it is otherwise difficult to pick nits with Conley Jr.’s game. When he does see the floor, he is the picture of reliability: a near-flawless decision-maker with a consistent jump shot who gives a high level of effort on defense.

Unfortunately, his body is prone to failing him. Last season, Conley Jr. was available for 51 out of a possible 72 games, and injuries have been a trend throughout the floor general’s career. That trend carried over into the 2020-21 playoffs as well, much to the dismay of the Utah Jazz.

Conley Jr. may not have any recourse to improve his health outside of prayer, meditation or visualization. Nonetheless, durability is the area in which he is in most dire need of improvement.

Trent Forrest: Three-point shooting

Trent Forrest went on an absolute tear in this year’s Summer League, and he may have earned himself a spot in the Utah Jazz’s rotation to show for it. A high level playmaker and explosive athlete, Forrest’s potential as a bonafide NBA-level guard is unassailable. His three-point shot, on the other hand, is not.

During his rookie campaign with the Utah Jazz, Forrest shot a ghastly 19.2% from three-point range on 0.9 attempts per game. By contrast, his 33% three-point accuracy in Summer League play inspires hope. Still, he’ll need to prove he can hit somewhere close to that mark on the professional level to reach mainstay status in Utah’s rotation.

Like many prospects in today’s NBA, three-point shooting is Forrest’s swing skill. If he can make strides in that area, his potential is as high as his vertical leap.

Rudy Gay: Rebounding

As a 15-year NBA pro, Rudy Gay might not be a prime candidate to diversify his already well-rounded game. Still, leveraging his stout 250 pound frame to grab more rebounds every night could provide a great benefit to the Utah Jazz.

Last season, Gay grabbed 8 per 36 minutes. That’s a solid figure, but it’s a little underwhelming. Gay figures to spend time as a small-ball 5 in Quin Snyder’s rotation next season, and minimizing the rebounding disadvantage that’s often associated with smaller lineups could pay dividends for the Jazz’s positional versatility.

It’s hard to identify areas of improvement for such long-standing veterans: in reality, if Gay can manage not to regress in his 16th NBA season, that will be a victory. Still, a stronger presence on the glass would benefit both Gay and his team.