With a week and a half remaining in the season for the Utah Jazz, questions have arose as to what the focus of the team should be before they begin one of the most important off-seasons in recent memory.
On Friday, the Jazz ended a five game losing skid by defeating the New Orleans Pelicans in Salt Lake City 100-96. During the game, Coach Ty Corbin decided to deal out more minutes to youngsters Ian Clarke and Jeremy Evans, both of whom had not seen significant game time in weeks.
Clarke had a forgettable outing, finishing 1-for-5 from the floor with two points, two assists and a rebound in 13 minutes of play. Evans made his only shot, a highlight reel worthy alley-oop dunk, and added two rebounds and an assist in 17 minutes on the court.
While Clarke and Evans have seen increased playing time as of late, rookies Rudy Gobert and Malcolm Thomas have hardly taken their sweats off as they’ve watched their teammates play in the waning games of a relatively pointless season for the Jazz.
One of the big items on Ty Corbin’s season “to-do list” was to evaluate the young players filling most of the spots on his roster. Throughout the season, we all saw the capabilities of young contributors Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Diante Garrett and Enes Kanter. Yet even as this forgetful season draws to a close, Jazz fans have yet to really get a decent look at young players like Ian Clarke, Rudy Gobert, Brandon Rush and Malcolm Thomas.
Even though the Jazz have been in full on “tank mode” since late February, many of these younger players haven’t seen the playing time associated with tanking teams. While I understand that Ty Corbin and the Jazz want to compete in all of their games this year, there have been numerous opportunities late in blowout games where these youngsters could have gained valuable game experience and learned the nuances of playing at the highest level of basketball.
Gobert is a 7-foot-1-inch titan in the paint and could be a decent shot blocker in the future, but his inexperience and lack of elite athleticism has been apparent when Corbin lets him out on the floor. Clarke has shown glimpses of great play making ability and one-on-one prowess that made him a star at Belmont, but again, Corbin has hardly loosened the reins on him.
Perhaps most surprising is the inconsistent amount of significant playing time for Jeremy Evans this season. Evans (who became a fan favorite after winning the 2012 dunk contest) showed great improvement in his game from last season by developing a nice midrange jump-shot, improving his rebounding ability, and overall becoming more than just an alley-oop target to his point guards. Yet his games played and minutes per game have been sporadic at best and he has not been able to establish a true role among the Jazz regulars this season.
The Jazz announced Saturday that they had claimed rookie forward Erik Murphy off of waivers from Chicago and released veteran center Andris Biedrins. Murphy was the 49th overall pick by the Chicago in the second round of the 2013 draft and appeared in 24 games for the Bulls. Hopefully this move sends the message to Corbin that he should try to focus less on winning these final six games and more on getting his young prospects out on the floor. He had his chance to focus on winning during his previous two and a half years at the helm for the Jazz.