Who will start at point guard for the Jazz?

The Utah Jazz roster may be essentially set for 2023-24. Unless the Jazz made further moves in free agency after getting their offer sheet for Paul Reed matched, we know who will be part of next year’s team. Lauri Markkanen, John Collins and Walker Kessler start in the frontcourt, with Kelly Olynyk and Taylor Hendricks penciled in as primary backups and a sprinkling of Simone Fontecchio and Luka Samanic. Rising sophomore Ochai Agbaji could also slide to the three, but he and Jordan Clarkson will mostly man the shooting guard spot.

That leaves point guard, the rotation argument that gives the fan base the most fight. Who deserves to be the starting point guard for the Utah Jazz?

Utah has a lot of talented guards, each of whom has a solid case for needing playing time. Collin Sexton, Talen-Horton Tucker, Kris Dunn and now Keyonte George are the prime suspects, and even Clarkson showed an increased ability to be a facilitator last season.

Let’s assume JC will continue to play shooting guard as he has historically. Dunn could see time as a backup, but the 29-year-old vet started just three of his 22 Jazz games, though Utah’s late-season rest strategies opened the door for others. So it feels unlikely that Dunn will start at point guard.

That leaves us with three intriguing options for Utah’s starting point guard role.

Collin Sexton

The most obvious option is probably Sexton, a top-10 pick in the 2018 draft who is still just 24 years old. In his career, he has scored an average of 19 points per game. game, and just two seasons ago with the Cleveland Cavaliers, he averaged 24.3 points per game. match. His next season was cut short by injury and he appeared in only the first 11 games. He was then traded to the Jazz last season in the deal that also brought Markkanen. Sexton’s first season with the Jazz was a strange one. In his career, he had started in 208 out of a possible 218 games. With the Jazz, he started just 15 of the 48 games he suited up in. He primarily served as a change-of-pace guard behind Mike Conley Jr. until the latter was included at a trade deadline.

Sexton started a nine-game stretch in November while Conley was out with an injury, then started five more games after Conley was traded. After that, he appeared in just one game as he dealt with his own injuries and as Utah played it safe with a surgically repaired knee.

Sexton has clearly shown that he can be a high-level scorer in this league, and at the guard positions, the Jazz can certainly use all the scoring they can get. Averaging 19 points per game in his career and having two full seasons averaging over 20 points per game is nothing to sleep on.

However, there are two big questions for Sexton going forward. First, for as great a scorer as he can be, can he orchestrate a productive offense? Sexton has a career assists average of 3.2 per game, compared to his career average of 2.4. Per Cleaning the Glass, his career assist to usage percentage has been in the bottom 30 percent for his position since entering the NBA. That’s not good for a leading point guard. In the two seasons in which Sexton averaged over 20 points per game. game for the Cavs, their offensive ratings ranked 26th and 28th in the NBA, and they finished a combined 41-96. In the year he missed most due to injury, Cleveland’s offense was better when he sat. It’s worth monitoring how he affects Utah’s overall efficiency.

Second, if Sexton is a great scorer but not a great facilitator, he may simply be better suited to a sixth-man role like Clarkson was in the previous iteration of the team. Will Hardy could give him the ultimate go-ahead, and he could become the Jazz’s go-to scorer off the bench. In the 15 games he started last season, Sexton averaged 16.5 points and 4.8 assists, and the Jazz went 6-9. In seven minutes less off the bench, he still averaged 13.2 points and the Jazz went 24-24.

Sexton brings a lot to the table for the Jazz. They need his scoring and they need the pure unmatched energy that he brings every single second he is on the floor. It won’t shock me if he’s the starting point guard on day one, but he’d have to have a strong focus on being a table setter to survive Hardy’s offense.

The Horton-Tucker speech

It’s shocking to me that more people aren’t on the Talen Horton-Tucker train. Really, when you talk about THT, the question is whether you believe his performance as a starter to close out the season. With Conley gone and Sexton ill, THT was thrust into a more prominent role to finish the season. In the final 24 games of the season (19 starts), he averaged 17.3 points, 6.2 assists and 4.8 rebounds. The Jazz just had a 7-12 record in his 19 starts, but you have to remember that this was the last stretch of the season and the Jazz played their main players sparingly.

That stretch included this wild game:

People seem to forget that THT is still only 22 years old! There were four rookies drafted in the first round of this most recent draft who are older than him. While he certainly has some flaws and opportunities, he is young enough for optimism that he has a real chance to improve in those areas.

The most interesting thing for me on THT is how he performed depending on his role last season. In games that he played more than 30 minutes, he averaged 21 points, 6.5 assists and 6 rebounds. In 20-29 minutes, he averaged 13.5 points, 5 assists and 4.1 rebounds. In games where he played less than 20 minutes, his averages dropped to 6 points, 2.4 assists and 1.1 rebounds. In short, THT is not one of those players who can fit into every role. He seems to need bigger minutes and need to impact games. Over the last 24 games of the season, he had a usage rate of 29.9 percent! In the same period, Markkanen had a consumption rate of 30.5 percent. Markkanen also averaged 28.2 points with THT that had such high usage and production that his usage didn’t take away from the All-Star.

As with Sexton, there are legitimate concerns, starting with the fact that Utah might not be the best version of itself with THT as the second-highest usage rate. It was mostly an anomaly because Clarkson and Sexton were out with injuries, and if the current Jazz team is healthy, he will have to provide some touches to the other guards as well as now Collins. Because he’s not a consistent threat from three, he doesn’t always draw a lot of attention unless he has the high. THT is a career 28 percent three-point shooter, but he was able to increase that to 32 percent on four attempts per game. match with Jazz. His ability to be productive as a spot-up shooter and not just a primary ball handler could be the difference between his ability to earn the starting role or not. But again, just 22 years old and in a contract year, THT could put together a productive season if given the opportunity.

Keyonte George

Jazz fans are super hyped about Utah’s second 2023 draft pick. George absolutely has the beer during the Summer League. After a slow start in the SLC portion, he found his way to averages of 16.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists. So in the first two games in Vegas, he put up 29.5 points and 8.5 assists while shooting 53.8 percent from the field and 44 percent from three before an ankle injury Wednesday night.

Key was the seventh-ranked prospect coming out of high school, but when he got to Baylor, he was asked to play small forward because of the other guards on the roster. In response, he increased his weight by 15 pounds to better fit the position, but that seems to slow him down and cost him some explosiveness, and then he didn’t look the same after a midseason ankle injury. Concerns about how he looked while playing out of position and hurting Baylor are what caused him to fall to the Jazz at No. 16. But now he’s trimmed back to his preferred weight and moved back to guard – and boy, does he look. explosive.

“I was a little heavier. It’s no excuse at the end of the day, but you see the change and now I feel great,” George said. “I definitely like it. I feel lighter, I’ll be able to cut faster, be faster downhill. Those are the biggest differences I see, but also being able to play above the rim is getting higher now. The change in weight has been good for me.”

There is still some uncertainty about his best NBA position. The Jazz clearly want to turn him into a lead guard type at his size, which is why I’ve really been watching his Summer League play to gauge his ability to be more than a scorer. To start at point guard, he would have to show the Jazz that he can run an offense as a facilitator and creator for others, rather than just for himself. We know he’ll be able to score, but in college he had a negative assist-to-turnover ratio: 95 turnovers to just 91 assists. So far in this summer league, he has answered that question loud and clear. In five games, he has collected 30 assists to just 10 turnovers, including his incredible 33-point game against the Clippers, where he also had 10 dimes. (He had two assists and a turnover before leaving Wednesday’s game.)

But at the end of the day, very few 19-year-old rookies are capable of making an immediate and positive impact on a team hoping to make the playoffs. Key appears to have a bright future ahead of him, but it’s rare for a rookie point guard to make a positive impact in winning right away. A real concern would be how he will hold up on the defensive end. Already in the Summer League we have seen him struggle with attention and getting through and around screens. These aren’t things that are surprising to any rookie, but if you want him to be the starter from day one, you might also have to be okay with the Jazz having some growing pains that will affect their win-loss record.

So who is it?

What I suspect the Jazz will do with their starting PG spot and what I hope they will do are two separate questions.

At the end of the day, I expect Sexton to be the starter heading into next season. Rumors around draft time suggested the Jazz could be open to trades involving Sexton, but if nothing materializes, he has the lead to be the first starter. As a starter last season, he increased his assists to 4.8 per game compared to his career average of 3.2. If he can be more of a facilitator while continuing to be a scoring threat, he’s a good option.

Personally, I’d love to see the Jazz hand the reins to Horton-Tucker and see how much of his late-season push is sustainable. He is only 22 years old and showed real flashes of sustained success during the last quarter of the season. He’s a better passer than people realize, he’s a great rebounder for the point guard position, and he has the length and strength to be a plus defender who guards multiple positions.

The Jazz may not have a star point guard on the roster. (Not yet anyway, check back on George in 2-3 years.) What they do have plenty of solid options available to them. It will be interesting to see which of the many options will step up during training camp and the preseason to grab the reins.

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