Utah Jazz Need to Shake Up the Starting Lineup & Minute Distribution
The Utah Jazz visited the Windy City and were defeated by the Chicago Bulls, 126-118. The Jazz displayed great effort and were competitive throughout but could not overcome the Bulls’ fourth-quarter momentum.
Five Jazzmen reached double-figures in scoring, led by Lauri Markkanen’s 28 points. Jarred Vanderbilt landed a double-double with 15 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, and a steal, while rookie Ochai Agbaji scored 19 points and did not miss a shot the entire game. He was 7-for-7 from the field and 4-for-4 from the three-point line and sank his only foul shot.
The Bulls unleashed a massive scoring frenzy with All-Stars Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan. They scored 36 and 35 points, respectively, and their intensity increased each quarter of the contest. Center Nikola Vučević recorded a double-double with 15 points and 16 rebounds.
The Jazz fell to 20-22 on the season, sitting at No. 10 in the Western Conference, while the Bulls team record is 19-21 and ranked No. 9 in the Eastern Conference. Both teams are currently angling for the playoffs.
Who were the game’s biggest winners and losers? Let’s break it down.
Winner: Lauri Markkanen
Markkanen returned to the organization that maneuvered to land him on his original NBA draft night. The Bulls later traded him to Cleveland.
In addition to his 28 points, Markkanen added four boards, three assists, and three steals. But the sweet revenge occurred when he reached back and absolutely flushed on Vučević. This dunk will most certainly be considered for play of the year in the entire NBA. Vucevic is still having Markkanen nightmares.
Markkanen continues punching his ticket to the NBA All-Star game.
Loser: Coach Will Hardy
Coach Hardy seems entrenched with his current player rotation. He has adjusted the past several games with minute allotment to Agbaji and Talen Horton-Tucker.
The issue is the starting line-up and how total minutes are being distributed.
Walker Kessler should be a full-time starter in the Jazz rotation, and Jordan Clarkson should return to his natural role of being the sixth man. The Jazz really struggled with interior rebounding and rim protection, and Kessler would assist with these issues.
Clarkson is too intrusive with the natural flow of a starting unit. He over-dribbles for an off-guard and decreases the value of Mike Conley and team assist distribution.
Malik Beasley is a better fit than the starting off-guard or start-and-develop Agbaji. Either way, Clarkson should be the sixth man.
There is also the issue with minute distribution in favor of Kelly Olynyk and Rudy Gay, which is beginning to deteriorate the Jazz as a whole. Gay should simply be removed from all rotations, and Olynyk should be sent back to the Detroit Pistons.
These two veterans are clearly capping the upside of what could be for the Jazz, and if Coach Hardy does not adjust away from the wasted minutes mentality, the losses will continue to pile up.
Start Kessler, move Clarkson to the sixth man, insert Beasley or Agbaji as the off-guard, and limit Olynyk if he’s in the rotation.
Sometimes a coach must re-evaluate his plans when losses outweigh victories, as is the case for the Jazz. With some minor roster tweaking, the Jazz could move up the conference standings with their depth and versatility.
Wasted minute distribution cannot be reversed and will eventually send the team in a downward spiral. The Jazz have the tools and sum of parts to move positively towards not only the playoffs, but to keep their long history of consistent winning intact.
On Sunday night, the Jazz will face the Memphis Grizzlies on the road.
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