This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
With Dante Exum expected to miss the season because of a torn ACL, with Trey Burke coming off an uneven sophomore year, with Raul Neto being a rookie and with Bryce Cotton still being somewhat of an unknown, it isn't unreasonable to think that the point guard position holds the key to the Utah Jazz making the playoffs or spending another year in the NBA's draft lottery. That's a mouth full, we know. But at this point, it's also very fair. Health permitting, the shooting guard spot is solid with Rodney Hood and Alec Burks. Gordon Hayward is fast becoming one of the best small forwards in the league. Derrick Favors is getting better and better at power forward. And of course, Rudy Gobert mans the center spot. It all brings us back to the point guard, and with that position cumulatively being arguably the strongest spot in the NBA, it's a bad time for the Jazz to have unrest at this spot. All of this has led to speculation of Utah wanting to bring in at least temporary help in the form of a veteran. But the Tribune has learned the Jazz fully plan to go into training camp and the preseason with Burke, Neto and Cotton as their floor leaders. If things don't work out, the front office could take another course of action once the regular season begins in November. Or if someone makes a trade offer the Jazz would be fools to turn down, but that's a remote possibility. For now, Utah's content to go with its trio of playmakers and let them…..play. There are reasons for this. The Jazz love Neto's passing ability. They also think he'll be able to defend at a high level. They think he's a crafty pick and roll player and is someone who may not be the typical rookie, because he's already played against intense competition overseas. In Burke's case, he's facing a personal back-to-the-wall kind of season for him. And if anyone has followed Trey Burke throughout his career, he kinda does pretty well with his back against the wall. He and Neto have been working out at the Jazz facility extensively over the past two months. The Jazz are happy with the work he's put in over the summer and typically, NBA point guards tend to blossom in year three. This is year three for Trey Burke. Cotton played so well during the end of the regular season and in summer league, he's earned a long look. The point guard out of Providence proved in large measure that he can play in the NBA. Together, the three offer differing abilities. Burke is a scorer and a cerebral playmaker. He can make shots, and he can put points up in bunches. Neto is by far the best passer of the three, and probably the best defender as well. He's the biggest of the three, but he's the one that's a spotty jump shooter, although Jazz insiders say he's been shooting it better in individual workouts than his overseas percentages the last few seasons. Cotton is the best raw athlete of the three, and is probably the best of the three when it comes to pace, although Neto isn't bad at pushing the ball in the least. But a lot of it comes down to fit with the remainder of the starting lineup. Specifically, who can spot up and make shots, letting Hayward/Burks/Hood be playmakers, because those three are all outstanding playmakers for wings. Who can get the ball to Favors and Gobert where they like it? And maybe most important, which one of the three can stop people? Exum was promoted to the starting lineup last January because of his ability to keep opposing point guards out of the lane. He wasn't ready offensively, that much was clear. But….he stopped people, and that's a huge reason the Jazz improved so much. Neto, Cotton and Burke are all good players. But the best defender, may be the one who sees minutes in the fourth quarters of games come the regular season.
- Tony Jones