I reached out to Mychal Lowman, Editor in Chief at SLC Dunk, to get an inside look at the Grizzlies’ Monday night opponent.
Are there any signs that Donovan Mitchell will go through a Sophomore slump or does everyone expect him to continue to excel at the same rate as last year?
If Donovan Mitchell goes through a sophomore slump it won’t be because he’s necessarily struggling, it’ll be the result of defenses putting additional pressure on the second year superstar in the making. We’ve already seen the result of that through the first two games as the both the Kings and Warriors have keyed in on the guard out of Louisville relentlessly. But it comes with a heavy price. Joe Ingles and Rudy Gobert have seen their offensive numbers increase quite a bit as the heightened gravity of Donovan has allowed them to get easier shots and, for Rudy Gobert, easier alley oops. At some point the trade off is going to be too much. On the defensive end, Donovan has shown incredible improvement and has the potential to be one of the best perimeter defenders for his position. Against Golden State, he had a remarkable play breaking up an alley oop when he was stuck in a pick and roll with 7 footer Damion Jones and Draymond Green. Donovan Mitchell might struggle a bit for the first month of the season as he gets used to the extra attention, but the kid is a heavy film study. He’ll learn, adapt, and learn how to manage the target on his back.
Will Grayson Allen make an impact this season and how?
Short answer no. Long answer is he’s a luxury emergency plan in case the Utah Jazz have any injuries troubles. With the resurgent seasons of Dante Exum and Alec Burks combined with Royce O’Neale’s defensive prowess, it’s going to be incredibly difficult for the product out of Duke to jump the depth chart. On any other team Grayson Allen would probably be seeing significant minutes in the rotation, but Utah, one of the league’s deepest NBA squads, it not like any other team. Grayson Allen most likely will spend the Jazz’s off nights with the Salt Lake City Stars once the G-League season heats up. If the Jazz have injuries, they have a quality replacement to step in and help out. Grayson Allen will get minutes in Utah, just not a lot of them this season.
Are there any surprise rotation players that will make waves this year?
Dante Exum is the man to watch for this season. He’s already averaging 24 ppg, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists PER36 minutes. His elite defense is already back from last year’s postseason and he looks like he’s ready to live up to every cent of his $11 million/year contract. He’s shooting 57% from the field and 50% from three thus far. If he continues these numbers Utah might have a problem most teams would kill for: two starter quality guards who need minutes. Ricky Rubio busted out of his slump against Golden State, but Exum is hot on his heels. They have been split evenly for minutes so far this year, and that trend could continue if Exum’s play stays at this level. Utah has a decision upcoming with Rubio’s contract and whether to re-sign him as the guard out of Spain is a free agent after this season.
Dante Exum chips in 1️⃣3️⃣ points off the bench as Utah go down in a thriller pic.twitter.com/YST3Mknfp3
— NBA Australia (@NBA_AU) October 20, 2018
Do you expect the Jazz to play much different that last year? We know the team is built on defense, but what is something the casual fan may be surprised to learn about the Jazz?
The Utah Jazz so far for the season–VERY small sample size–have one of the league’s worst defensive ratings and one of the league’s best offensive ratings. That’s not going to hold as Utah will settle back down to their defensive tendencies. But one trend that will be interesting to watch is Utah’s pace. They played faster in preseason and through the first two games of the season they are playing fast. Two years ago Utah had the 30th ranked pace in the NBA, one year ago it was 24th, and now, through two games, it’s the 8th highest ranked pace. Their offense has spiked. Part of that is Utah is looking to push the pace whether it’s off a miss or make. The other reason is Utah’s bench is quickening the pace. Speedsters Exum, Burks, and O’Neale are coming off the bench. Utah is playing Jae Crowder at the four even more this year. The Jazz offense is becoming a weapon and that should worry opposing teams.
Joe Ingles is an intriguing player on the court, what is he like off the court?
Joe Ingles, ever the instigator and trash talker on the court, brings the trash talking off of it. Joe Ingles is a top 10 follow on twitter as he’s quick to make jokes on twitter. Twitter was made for the Aussie’s wit. He’s a family man and father of twins. He even played stay at home dad while his wife returned to play professional netball in Australia. One of the best stories about Ingles that few people outside of Utah know about involved Dante Exum. When Dante, in his then 4th season, injured his shoulder that required surgery, he couldn’t just fly back home to Australia. We think of these players as grown men, but a lot of them are kids. Dante was 22 years old. The Ingles family opened up their home for him. Dante stayed with him as he was first recuperating from surgery. Ingles would Instagram how Exum was a terrible babysitter or Exum fast asleep on their couch. Ingles is an amazing player on the court, but an even better dude off of it.
[Featured Image: ClutchPoints]