SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Dwyane Wade is the newest member of the Utah Jazz ownership group, will he help the team recruit free agents to the team?
The Jazz are on the second half of their last two-day break before the end of the regular season. So, it’s an ideal time to answer your mailbag questions with just three weeks left on the schedule.
You can listen to the entire Jazz Notes podcast where Ben Anderson answered your questions, or read his responses below!
Will Dwyane Wade Help the Jazz Recruit?
Anderson: This question comes from GiladP on Twitter, and it was one of the first questions that crossed most Jazz fans’ minds when Wade bought into the Jazz last week.
First and foremost, Wade isn’t supposed to help the Jazz with any executive decisions so long as he continues his role on Inside the NBA on TNT. The league has anti-tampering rules that prevent Wade from courting other players while he works in the media (see Shaquille O’Neal’s minority stake in the Sacramento Kings and Grant Hill’s minority share in the Atlanta Hawks).
So in that sense, don’t expect Wade to be at the table in free agency meetings while he continues his TV role for the NBA on Tuesday nights.
However, I do think he adds credibility to the Jazz constantly progressing culture that had earned the reputation of being uncool for much of its history. Unlike O’Neal or Hill, today’s players grew up watching and idolizing Wade.
It’s safe to say very few current players remember O’Neal or Hill’s primes, but have distinct memories of either watching Wade or playing against him. That certainly doesn’t hurt as far as relationship building or brand familiarity for the Jazz.
But, it’s important to remember that the things players really seem to be most attracted to is winning an opportunity. Right now, the Jazz are winning, and with Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert locked up long term, that should continue to be the case.
Opportunity will depend on what happens with Mike Conley this offseason and if the Jazz find a way to clear some cap space over the next several seasons. Otherwise, the only recruiting Wade could potentially help with is minimum-salary veterans.
How Does The Play-In Tournament Impact The Jazz?
Anderson: This question comes from Adrienne on Twitter and it’s an important one. Regardless of whether the Jazz finish with the top seed or the second seed (basketball-reference gives the Jazz a 99.8 percent chance to do so) they won’t know who they are playing in the first round of the playoffs until after the play-in tournament is over.
The play-in tournament will feature three games after the conclusion of the regular season to determine who earns the final two seeds in the West. Here’s how it works.
Game One: The seventh seed (currently the Dallas Mavericks) will host the eighth seed (currently the Memphis Grizzlies) in the first game of the play-in tournament. The winner of that game will own the seventh seeth in the postseason, and play whichever team ends up with the second seed.
Game Two: In the second play-in game, the ninth seed (currently the San Antonio Spurs) will host the tenth seed (currently the Golden State Warriors) with the winner getting an opportunity to play the loser of game one.
Game Three: In the third and final play-in game, the loser of game one will host the winner of game two, with the winner earning the eighth seed and the right to face the top overall seed. The loser of game three heads to the NBA draft lottery along with the loser of game one.
So, as of now, regardless of whether the Jazz finish with the first or second seed, they could face any one of the Mavericks, Grizzlies, Spurs, or Warriors in the first round. I should add Portland could also be in the mix if Dallas overtakes them in the regular season.
The Jazz could try to manipulate their playoff positions by looking forward to the second round in hopes of avoiding either the Los Angeles Lakers or Denver Nuggets by falling to the two-seed, but that’s a dangerous game to play.
Because the Jazz need to prove they can get out of the first round before they worry about their second-round opponent, they need to focus on getting healthy before the playoffs which has been a struggle in recent weeks and that might dictate their final seeding more than anything.
Good news for the Jazz, they’d be strong favorites to beat any of the four previous teams in the opening round regardless of if they finish one or two in the West.
Where’s Your Confidence In Jazz Supporting Cast?
Anderson: This question comes from Mr.Monsta13 on Twitter about the Jazz supporting cast. As we saw last year, Donovan Mitchell is nearly good enough to carry the Jazz to a first-round series win by himself. With the excellence of Rudy Gobert and Mike Conley, especially against a lesser team in the opening round, the Jazz should expect to play in the second round.
So how will the supporting cast play then?
Clarkson was almost exactly the same player in last year’s playoffs that he’s been for the Jazz this year. He averaged 16.7 points, shot 46 percent from the floor and 35 percent from three while playing nearly 29 minutes per game.
But, the Jazz were 2-0 when he scored 20 points or more, and just 1-4 when he failed to reach that mark. Personally, I think that has more to do with Bojan Bogdanovic’s absence than Clarkson’s shortcomings, so there should be confidence that he’ll continue to play well in the playoffs.
Additionally, Niang has been a good postseason player for the Jazz throughout his career. The forward averages 6.7 points per game while shooting 47 percent from the floor and 38 percent from three in 12 playoff appearances.
The question with Niang has always been how he matches up defensively, but he’s been significantly better on that end this season and is unlikely to have to play more than 10-15 minutes a night assuming the Jazz enter the playoffs healthy.
Ingles however is worth keeping an eye on. Despite working his way into the Sixth Man of the Year conversation, the guard has struggled for the Jazz in each of the last two postseasons. The Australian guard averages just 8.0 points per game, 4.8 assists, and 4.0 rebounds while shooting 37 percent from the floor and 32 percent from the three-point line.
That’s a significant drop in efficiency from his regular-season numbers, and the Jazz will need to see those bounce back in this year’s playoffs if they want to make a deep run.
What’s The Latest On Azubuike?
Anderson: This final question comes from 45forMVP asking about the latest on Udoka Azubuike, the Jazz first-round pick who suffered a scary ankle injury in February in his debut with the Stars.
As 45forMVP mentioned, the former Kansas star has had limited updates on his health since the injury as the team continues to list him as out with a severe right ankle sprain before every game. The good news is there was no major damage that required surgery and he has been back with the team on the sidelines during games.
Additionally, as his photos have shown on Instagram, he doesn’t appear to be wearing a brace on his right ankle and even shared a photo of himself entering the Jazz practice facility earlier this week.
Whether he’s practicing or not will require further digging, but I would be stunned if he wasn’t able to do some work this offseason to improve his game.
However, regardless of his status, it’s extremely unlikely we see him play again this season. He had already been jumped in the rotation by second-year big man Juwan Morgan, and that was before the Jazz signed Ersan Ilyasova.
If I didn’t answer your questions here, listen to the podcast above, or subscribe in the link here.