September 25, 2023

1 player in danger of losing starting job in 2023-24 NBA training camp


The Utah Jazz will enter the 2023-24 NBA season feeling optimistic. The franchise is coming off a surprising season in which it nearly earned a playoff spot despite trading away cornerstones Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert.

Forward Lauri Markkanen earned the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award while averaging 25.6 points per game. Meanwhile, Jordan Clarkson averaged a career-high 20.8 points per game. With a young core of exciting players, Utah will be a dangerous team this upcoming season.

With training camp approaching, the Jazz will solidify their starting lineup and will tinker with their final roster as they look to construct a playoff team. While much of the focus is on which additions the team will make, of equal importance is which players could face an unpleasant demotion. Here is one Jazz starter in danger of losing his spot in the lineup.

While the Utah Jazz will be centered around the play of their big men in 2023, a large chunk of their scoring will come from the backcourt. Jordan Clarkson and Collin Sexton were the second and third-leading scorers on the team last season, combining for more than 35 PPG. Unfortunately, neither is a true point guard. Sexton and Clarkson both function as scorers first rather than passers and have weak assist-to-turnover ratios. Putting Clarkson at shooting guard works, but Collin Sexton only averaged 2.9 APG last season in 48 games at point guard for Utah.

With so many scorers, the Jazz need a facilitator for others. The Jazz have a pair of 20 PPG scorers in Markkanen and Jordan Clarkson, plus another high-usage player in Collin Sexton. Clarkson and Sexton were also liabilities defensively. Both had Defensive Ratings of 120, putting them in the bottom 10 percent among all NBA players. The Jazz ranked 23rd out of 30 NBA teams in 2022-23 in defensive rating. Utah needs a point guard who can distribute on offense and contribute defensively. Sexton can still be an important player for the Jazz, but his biggest impact in 23-24 might come off the bench.

As for his replacement in the starting lineup, the in-house option is Kris Dunn. In 23 games with the Jazz last year, Dunn averaged 13.2 PPG and had 5.6 assists per contest versus just 1.6 turnovers. His assist-to-turnover ratio leads all returning Jazz players. Dunn also paced the team with a defensive box plus-minus of 1.7 — better than rookie Walker Kessler who averaged 2.3 blocks/game. The 29-year-old spent the last few seasons dealing with injuries and toiling in the G-League before his breakthrough with the Jazz.

Dunn might not be the guy to lead the Jazz on a deep playoff run, but he is a better fit in this Utah starting lineup and a good placeholder until the team finds a more permanent option. As for trade candidates, Kyle Lowry, D’Angelo Russell, Dejounte Murray, and Damian Lillard have all been mentioned as veteran options. The Jazz have nine first-round picks over the next three years, plenty of team-friendly contracts, and a decent amount of cap space — setting up the ideal environment for the franchise to make a big trade happen.

Collin Sexton is a young, talented player still looking for his best fit in the NBA. That role might not be as a starter in Salt Lake City. Still, Sexton can still be an effective scorer off the bench and a key player in Utah’s push for a playoff spot.

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