Should Simone Fontecchio remain in the starting lineup when Lauri Markkanen returns?

The Utah Jazz may have a good problem to figure out when it comes to Simone Fontecchio.
Phoenix Suns v Utah Jazz
Phoenix Suns v Utah Jazz / Alex Goodlett/GettyImages

The Utah Jazz have been forced to lean on Italian superstar Simone Fontecchio during its most recent stretch of games. The Jazz have been without Lauri Markkanen and Jordan Clarkson for the last few games, whereas the Jazz have gone 3-2 without Markkanen, and 2-1 without Clarkson. The Jazz's offense has taken a hit with Markkanen out of the lineup, going from 112.1 points per game to just 103.6 over the five games Markkanen has been out.

The Jazz are even worse with Clarkson in the lineup and Markkanen out, as in the two games that Clarkson played, the team averaged just 102.5 points per game. What's even more damning is that, while the offense has been consistently bad, the defense is worse with Clarkson on the court. Clarkson-led defenses gave up 108.5 points per game, while Clarkson-less defenses gave up just 104.7 points per game.

Part of the improvement is due to Fontecchios' defense, which is now in the Top 7 of the Jazz's best defensive players according to their defensive box plus-minus scores. And this while he's being asked to cover the best wing player of the last five games. That means he's gone toe to toe with the likes of Brandon Ingram, Desmond Bane, Anthony Edwards, and Jerami Grant.

Now, he clearly hasn't been a lockdown guy, but he's done more than most have this season. And while his defense is enough of a reason to give him more minutes, it's important to note that he's not shot well over the totality of the last five games. He's shooting under 40% from the floor, with a dreadful 3-12 outing against the Portland Trail Blazers being the game that dropped him under that barrier.

He's also just shooting 25% from three during that same stretch. So while he's impacting the defense for the better, he's worsening the offense, at least for the bulk of the last five games. It's a small sample size but it does give us an idea of what fans should expect from Fontecchio going forward.

Obviously, you're not sitting Markkanen for Fontecchio, but does that mean Fontecchio doesn't deserve to keep playing? We think so, and while he's a natural small forward, he could play a two-guard in the right lineups, and that means maybe replacing Clarkson with him.

Admittedly, if it was between Fontecchio or Clarkson, it'd be fair to pick Fontecchio. The team needs to be better on defense and he helps that goal.