The biggest splash of this offseason is Ricky Rubio. In hopes of keeping Gordon Hayward, Dennis Lindsey traded the first-round draft pick (which they received for Enes Kanter) to Minnesota for Rubio to help solidify the point guard position. While it didn’t persuade Hayward to stay, the Jazz are excited about what Rubio brings to the court. His strengths are his passing ability and defense. He is the best passing point guard in the league and the best that the Jazz have had since John Stockton. Defensively, Rubio is blessed with 6-foot-4 height and 7-foot wingspan, which is elite for his position. Two seasons ago, statistically he was ranked as the best defender among point guards. Having Rudy Gobert on his team should help him regain this status.
Rubio’s weakness is his shooting, averaging for his career 31 percent from long range. Despite this weakness, his on/off numbers remain strong (+8.3 last season). Lindsey believes that Rubio can improve his shooting much like future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd did. “We think Ricky Rubio’s going to be a 2017 facsimile of Jason Kidd,” Lindsey said during a press conference. Rubio has spent his entire NBA career with the Minnesota Timberwolves, who haven’t exactly been known for player development. The Jazz hope with the coaching staff Quin Snyder has put together, they can help Rubio’s shooting become respectable.
The Jazz signed three players in the span of a couple days, and it started with Thabo Sefolosha becoming a Jazzman. He is a 12-year pro and has played for the Bulls, Thunder and Hawks. The scouting report on him is that he is a three-and-D specialist, a must in todays’ NBA. For his career, Sefolosha is just a 34 percent 3-point shooter, causing him to lack a little in the three department for a three-and-D specialist. He will bring to the Jazz toughness, experience (having played in 92 playoff games) and defense. He (and Rubio) will help make the Jazz one of the best defensive teams in the league and a team everyone else will hate playing against.
Jonas Jerebko is the second of this summer’s signings. He has been in the NBA since 2009, only the second player to play in the NBA from Sweden. He has spent time with the Pistons and the Celtics. His career got off to a rocky start after he injured his Achilles tendon in a preseason game, causing him to miss his rookie year. His strength is his ability to stretch the floor as a power forward without sacrificing height and strength to do it. He is a career 35 percent 3-point shooter and will provide coach Quin Snyder with extra depth in the frontcourt.
The third signing was Ekpe Udoh. He was originally selected as the sixth pick in the 2010 draft by the Warriors. He flamed out of the NBA after they traded him to the Clippers. He has spent the past two seasons playing overseas for Fenerbahce, a team in the Turkish league. Last year he was named EuroLeague Final Four MVP after leading his team to the EuroLeague Championship. He averaged 12.6 points and 5.1 rebounds a game. Having an athletic rim runner to finish off pick-and-rolls and protect the rim is essential in the modern NBA; having two is even better.
Donovan Mitchell was the first of the Jazz draft picks this past summer. Lindsey and staff fell in love with Mitchell after their draft workout together. The Jazz traded Trey Lyles and the 24th pick to move up to select Mitchell. He hasn’t disappointed yet. He had an excellent summer league, averaging 24 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 3.7 steals per game. His defensive performance was super impressive, locking down the likes of Jason Tatum and other high draft picks. He has emerged as a dark horse for the NBA Rookie of the Year.
Tony Bradley was the second first-round draft pick for the Jazz. He is a 6-foot-10, 249-pound center and was a one-and-done out of North Carolina. In his lone season with the Tar Heels, he helped them win last season’s NCAA championship. He was primarily a key reserve for the Tar Heels, averaging 7.5 points and 5.1 rebounds a game. In a DraftExpress.com evaluation of Bradley, they stated, “Bradley's greatest strength throughout the season was his non-stop motor. He played limited minutes, but his per-40 minute production was exceptional, particularly on the offensive glass at 6.9 per 40, which is the best mark among all players in the 2017 NBA draft.” Bradley is a worker and fits the bill of what the Jazz look for in young talent. Don’t expect to see too much of him this season because of the depth the team has at center. Look for him to spend most of his rookie year in the G-League with the SLC Stars.
The Jazz made a surprising signing this summer by giving Royce O’Neale a multi-year deal with the first season being guaranteed. This was unexpected since the Jazz already had a full roster. O’Neale spent his collegiate career at Baylor and after going undrafted in 2015, he played two seasons overseas. Lindsey hopes to find another three-and-D wing to add to this team, much like he did when he found Danny Green for the Spurs.
In their last CBA, the NBA announced that each team will be able to sign two players using the new two-way contracts. Basically these players play for the NBA teams’ G-League affiliate, but no other NBA team will be allowed to poach them. Eric Griffin and Nate Wolters are the first two-way contract players for the Jazz. Griffin has been playing professionally since 2012, playing overseas for four out of the past five seasons. In 2014-15, he played in the NBA D-League for the Texas Legends, and was named to the Future All-Star Team for the NBA D-League All-Star Game. Griffin was part of the Jazz summer league team and played so well that the Jazz signed him.
Wolters was drafted as the 38th pick by the Wizards in 2013. He was traded shortly after that to the 76ers and traded again to the Bucks. After a fine rookie season, the new Bucks’ head coach, Kidd, cut Wolters. Since then he has bounced around from the D-League to overseas before signing his two-way deal. Lindsey (and fans) hope this new crop of players continue the winning traditions of the Jazz organization.
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