Utah Jazz: 4 storylines to watch for in training camp

Utah Jazz (Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports)
Utah Jazz (Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Utah Jazz
Utah Jazz center Hassan Whiteside (Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports) /

While the Utah Jazz will benefit from having small-ball 5 options, they clearly entered this offseason with an understanding that such needs wouldn’t absolve them of needing to roster a conventional backup center as well. The front office wasted little time acquiring Hassan Whiteside following the departure of franchise mainstay Derrick Favors.

While many fans of the Utah Jazz may have celebrated this move, one wonders how 22-year-old Udoka Azubuike felt. After all, the massive, hyper athletic 5 is already on the Jazz’s roster, and after a rookie campaign riding the bench, likely felt ready for increased responsibility.

Does he have any chance at surpassing Whiteside in Coach Snyder’s rotation? A side-to-side comparison of the two bigs suggests that he may deserve an opportunity. Whiteside actually dominated Azubuike in his per-36 minute averages, with a line of 19.3 points, 14.2 rebounds and 3.0 blocks compared to 10.1, 8.2 and 2.5. However, some advanced metrics suggest that those numbers could be misleading.

Whiteside, it’s been said, is not afraid to pursue basic counting stats. However, both Defensive Rating and VORP favored Azubuike last season. He posted numbers of 106 and 0.0 in each category last season, compared to 111 and -0.1 for Whiteside last season.

In all likelihood, the Utah Jazz will use Hassan Whiteside as their primary backup 5. His veteran experience is more befitting for a contending club, and Azubuike’s raw skillset may be better used developing in the G-League, or learning directly from Whiteside in practice. Nonetheless, at least two key metrics indicate that Azubuike at least deserves a chance to be the primary backup center for the Utah Jazz.

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He’ll get his first opportunity to make his case in training camp.