Raul Neto

Jazz sign J.J. O’Brien to join roster competition

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The Jazz are set to hold one heck of a training-camp battle.

Utah just added its 20th player, the offseason limit, to compete for 15 regular-season roster spots.

Jazz release:

The Utah Jazz announced today that the team has signed free agent forward J.J. O’Brien.

Utah has 13 players with guaranteed contracts, leaving two potential vacancies on the regular-season roster for the other seven players.

Jeff Withey’s deal is $200,00 guaranteed, and Treveon Graham’s is $75,000. Christopher Johnson, Jack Cooley, Elijah Millsap and Bryce Cotton have unguaranteed contracts. O’Brien’s salary is partially guaranteed, according to Mark Zeigler of The San Diego Union-Tribune.

O’Brien, a 6-foot-7 forward, went undrafted out of San Diego State. He’s well-rounded for a power forward, though undersized. He’s not quite skilled enough to be a small forward.

Most likely, the Jazz waive him and assign his D-League rights to their affiliate, the Idaho Stampede.

Withey, Millsap and Cotton are the favorites to make the regular-season roster. Withey has shown some ability at the NBA level and has the largest guarantee. Millsap looked good defensively last season. Cotton might be needed at point guard with Dante Exum injured, though Utah has Trey Burke and Raul Neto, and Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Joe Ingles and Rodney Hood can handle some point guard duties.

Like Graham’s, O’Brien’s partial guarantee gives him a slight leg up. Its size – but more importantly, how he plays in camp and the preseason – will determine whether he makes the team.

Report: Jazz interested in Wizards’ Garrett Temple after Dante Exum injury

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Garrett Temple is the Wizards’ third point guard behind John Wall and Ramon Sessions.

In other words, Temple is a luxury in Washington.

The Jazz – who just lost Dante Exum to a torn ACL – might view him as more of a necessity.

Jody Genessy of the Deseret News:

The Jazz are interested in pursuing a trade for Wizards guard Garrett Temple, the Deseret News has been informed.

Jazz coach Quin Snyder is pushing for the deal, according to the source

Snyder and Temple established a good relationship when the guard was with the San Antonio Spurs at the end of the 2009-10 season.

J. Michael of CSN Washington:

Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey was also a San Antonio assistant general manager when Temple played there.

The 6-foot-6 Temple uses his size to defend the backcourt well. If he can repeat the best 3-point shooting season of his career – 37.5% on 4.3 attempts per 36 minutes – Temple might be nearly as good as a healthy Exum right now. Exum (20) is much, much more valuable than Temple (28) because of his age, but immediate production is a different story.

Temple could battle Trey Burke for the starting job, raising Utah’s floor at point guard. The Burke-Temple combination would also prevent the Jazz from having to rely on the unproven Bryce Cotton or Raul Neto in the rotation.

Acquiring Temple shouldn’t really set Utah back long-term, either. He’s on the final year of a minimum contract. Plus, he’s not good enough for Washington to command a significant return. Utah, through Exum, has the luxury of knowing a low-usage, defense-first point guard works behind the Gordon Hayward-Derrick Favors-Rudy Gobert frontcourt. Don’t mistake that for believing Temple is a gem.

With a payroll of $81,485,782, the Wizards aren’t really in jeopardy of surpassing the luxury-tax line ($84,740,000) or their hard cap ($88,740,000). But  – probably more importantly – dumping Temple’s $1,100,602 salary would keep a little more money in owner Ted Leonsis’ pockets. Plus, that’d give Washington just 14 players with guaranteed salaries, opening the flexibility of a vacant roster spot.

Jazz confirm: Dante Exum tore his ACL

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It looked like Dante Exum might have torn his ACL.

The Jazz were reportedly concerned Exum tore his ACL.

The early diagnosis was reportedly that Exum tore his ACL.

Unfortunately, but not unsurprisingly, Exum tore his ACL.

Jazz release:

Exum suffered a left knee injury on Aug. 4 while competing for the Australian National Team in a game against the Slovenian National Team in Ljubljana, Slovenia. After returning to Salt Lake City, he underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at University of Utah Health Care’s Orthopaedic Center this morning. Following the examination, Jazz physicians Dr. Travis Maak and Dr. David Petron determined that Exum sustained a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee.

“First and foremost, our overriding concern is with Danté and his long-term health,” said Utah Jazz General Manager Dennis Lindsey. “We are continuing to work closely with our medical staff, Danté and his representation in order to reach an accurate diagnosis and recommended treatment so that we can provide him with the best possible care. We all know how hard he will work to make a full recovery and look forward to his return to play.”

This injury will probably keep Exum out the entire season. If he returns, it will almost certainly be very late in the year.

This is a big blow for the Jazz, who were on track to challenge for a playoff berth in the loaded Western Conference. Exum became Utah’s starting point guard last season and played a key role in its second-half defensive breakthrough. Trey Burke figures to move back into the starting lineup, and perhaps his defense will be adequate behind Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors. Those bigs mean more to the Jazz’s defense than either point guard.

Burke’s bigger challenge is shooting better than he did in his first two NBA seasons. Exum didn’t shoot well either as a rookie, but at least he took a lower-usage role. Burke’s misses have sunk more possessions.

This also opens playing time for second-year Bryce Cotton and/or rookie Raul Neto. Utah went from two point guards with at least some proven NBA success to one and mystery.

Of course, this season is not the only concern. How will this injury affect Exum long-term? He’s just 20, so there’s reasonable hope he can recover without losing athleticism. But his athleticism was such a big reason for optimism with him. Any diminishment could alter his career arc.

This injury won’t necessarily derail Utah or Exum, but it presents challenges nobody wanted to face.