SALT LAKE CITY — A lot has changed in the last four and a half months since the Utah Jazz were eliminated from the NBA playoffs by the eventual champion Golden State Warriors, following a 51-win season and a fifth-place finish in the Western Conference.
The Jazz lost their premier player, Gordon Hayward, to the Boston Celtics in a free agency move that gave the Utah franchise nothing in return. They also lost starting point guard George Hill, who chose to sign with Sacramento, again with nothing in return. Also moving on were former first-round draft choice Trey Lyles, who was traded to Denver, part-time starting point guard Shelvin Mack and backup center Jeff Withey, who signed with the Mavericks and veteran Boris Diaw, who was waived.
Jazz picked up seven new players, six of whom who are expected to be on the 13-man active roster, led by former lottery pick Ricky Rubio. The Jazz also have first-round draft picks Donovan Mitchell and Tony Bradley as well as veterans Thabo Sefolosha, Jonas Jerebko and Ekpe Udoh. The Jazz also signed swingman Royce O’Neal, but he’ll most likely be fighting for a spot on the 15-man roster.
Training camp opens Monday, with the first preseason game set for the following Monday, Oct. 2 against the Sydney Kings, an Australian professional team. The Jazz season officially gets underway October 18 at home against Denver.
Here are six storylines to watch as the season unfolds:
Who will pick up the scoring slack with Hayward gone?
The most obvious answer is Rodney Hood, who has shown an ability to score during his three years in Utah with a 12.5 scoring average. That’s better than Hayward, who averaged just 10.3 points per game over his first three seasons as a part-time starter.
Hood’s shooting averages of 41.5 percent from the field and 36.3 percent from 3-point range are behind Hayward’s averages for his first three years when he shot 45.1 and 40.1 percent, respectively. However, it took Hayward awhile to progress to his current status as an NBA max player as he shot just 41.3 percent from the field and 30.4 percent from 3-point range in his fourth year, his first as a full-time starter.
Still, the 21.9 points per game that Hayward averaged is a significant number and it will take Hood scoring four or five more points per game and several other Jazz players stepping up, including Derrick…