Utah Jazz: Who is the team’s third-best player right now?

Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images /

The Utah Jazz may not have a star-studded roster, but they still have quite a few quality players. Who’s the third-best of the bunch?

Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, regardless of the order in which you rank them, are the two best players on the Utah Jazz. That’s about as close to a fact as you’re going to get in the NBA.

Gobert is a defensive anchor, a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate and an underrated offensive presence. Mitchell is a rising star and led the Jazz to the playoffs in both of his first two seasons. If his third campaign ended today, he would have extended that plaoff streak to three years. The two players are unquestionably the best on the team.

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After that, things get a bit murky. Quin Snyder’s system is predicated upon tough-nosed defense and high-intensity effort overall. There isn’t a grittier team in the NBA than Utah. That mentality leads to players like Royce O’Neale holding more value to the Jazz and their fans than he’d have if placed on another team. His ability to defend at a high level and know his role on offense are both admirable qualities.

Veteran point guard Mike Conley was a shoo-in to assume third-best player duties before the 2019-20 season, but his first 41 games with the team were underwhelming. Battling injuries and inconsistent play all year, Conley’s averaging just 13.8 points and 4.3 assists per game on 40.5 percent shooting from the field.

After that, three candidates emerge for the title of the Jazz’s third-best player. Bojan Bogdanovic has excelled in his first season with the team. Joe Ingles, a fan-favorite, is the definition of a “you can’t just look at the box score and form an opinion” type of player. His impact goes beyond points, rebounds and assists. Jordan Clarkson has emerged as one of the best sixth-men in the league after coming over from Cleveland mid-season.

So… who is it? Clarkson is likely the first one to be eliminated. While his steady presence off the bench has been tremendous and his efficiency is impressive, he doesn’t bring much to the table outside of scoring.

Ingles’ 9.8 points per game are the fewest he’s averaged since 2016-17, but he’s also been in and out of the starting lineup all season. His willingness to do whatever is asked of him — and do it well — means a lot to the Utah Jazz.

The offseason’s second-biggest addition, Bogdanovic, has resulted in the 31-year-old being the team’s third-best player. In 63 starts this season, he’s averaging a career-high 20.2 points per game and shooting a scorching 41.4 percent on 3-pointers. Bogdanovic has served as a consistent scoring threat and a clutch performer when the Jazz have needed him.

He doesn’t bring the defensive value nor facilitating prowess of Ingles, but Bogdanovic would be a great tertiary option on a contending team. He oftentimes finds himself as the second option in Utah, behind Mitchell and ahead of Gobert or Conley. With how the Jazz are currently constructed, that works just fine.

The end result of the Conley-Bogdanovic experiment has yet to be determined. If all goes as planned, the band will be back together in 2020-21. Hopefully, health won’t be an issue for Conley and he’ll come back a rejuvenated player. Bogdanovic and the rest of the squad will play their respective roles. If the backcourt takes a step forward, the Jazz could make the leap from very good to a potentially elite team.

A lot can change between now and then. For now, Bogdanovic is the Utah Jazz’s third-best player. To this point, he’s been worth every penny of the four-year, $73 million deal he signed in June.

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