Thanks to an exciting young core of players such as Gordon Hayward, Trey Burke and Dante Exum, the Utah Jazz franchise has been reborn.
Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Rudy Gobert head a promising and physical frontcourt. But it is the Hayward-Burke-Exum trio that has everyone talking.
Hayward, a fifth-year player out of Butler, Burke, who is currently entering his second NBA season from the University of Michigan and Exum, an intriguing Australian shooting guard prospect and the team’s 2014 first-round draft pick, have Jazz fans tingling with excitement.
The trio is certainly a mystery going into the 2014-15 season. Exum hasn’t played in the NBA, while Burke and Hayward have not had a full season together because of an injury during Burke’s rookie year.
The question is how will the three perform when they are on the court together?
The first thing to note is what position each will play. It is expected that Burke will be the point guard, Exum will be the shooting guard and Hayward will be the small forward.
The main ball-handling duties will likely be held by Burke, as last season he averaged a team leading 81.6 touches per game.
If Burke continues to see most of the team’s touches, he will need to turn into more a distributor, as he only averaged 5.9 assists per game last season.
While it is unclear how much of a factor Exum will be during his rookie season, he will likely receive some time at the point guard position. This is due to the Australian’s incredible play-making abilities, and his ability to score off the dribble.
We do know Hayward is more than capable of bringing the ball up-court.
While Burke was out with his injury last season, the team ran a lot of sets with Hayward as the team’s point guard. He averaged a career high 5.2 assists per game.
However. with Burke on the court, his time at point guard will be limited.
The biggest issue that the trio needs to tackle is that Exum and Hayward have to become more effective shooters.
Playing at small forward, Hayward must develop his catch-and-shoot technique, as he won’t have as many opportunities to create shots for himself. To accomplish this, Hayward is going to have to shoot well above his current average. His 34.7 shooting percentage is one of the lowest marks in the NBA for a starting small forward.
He needs to put up similar numbers to Paul George (43.4 percent) and Chandler Parsons (41.3 percent) to be considered elite at his position.
Exum will likely spend most of his time at shooting guard. Scouts have said that he is agile and can cut through screens. They also think that he will able to score in the NBA. He will need these skills when he tries to compete with players like Klay Thompson and Kyle Korver, as both are two of the most effective shooters in the NBA at this position.
Exum will have his hands full trying to match their numbers at first. If he can develop and remain consistent with his shot, he should mature into a very efficient scorer.
The final piece of the equation is the trio’s defense. Despite Burke and Hayward not being ranked in the top 100 of the defensive rating metric, the team ranks 16th and 19th in defense against opposing team’s point guards and shooting guards, which puts them just below the league average.
However, the overall team defense needs to improve, as Utah ranked last in the NBA, allowing a whopping .473 of opposing shots to fall. (This number also includes the shooting percentage against the front-court.)
With team defense being such an issue, it is not clear how new head coach Quinn Snyder will rotate his players. Snyder could decide to have Exum come off the bench. It would give him time to get acclimated to the pace and style of the NBA. The experience would be useful when he eventually becomes the starter at shooting guard.
In the event that Exum doesn’t get the job, the likely starter will be Alec Burks. Burks was effective last year, primarily as the team’s sixth man. Burks averaged 14 points per game for the Jazz, and will fill the void until Exum is ready.
It seems that Utah’s version of “The Big Three” might be able to work.
Does it need time to grow? Yes, like everything in life, things need time to develop, and basketball is no exception. While the rotation hasn’t been set in stone, these three players will be on the court together.
Watch out, because it’s going to be a wild ride.
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