Utah Begins Season After Major Roster Revamp
The Toronto Raptors begin their quest to get back to the NBA postseason when they play host to the Utah Jazz in both teams’ preseason opener on Sunday. Toronto fell to the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round in 2022 after missing the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons in 2020-21.
Utah was one of the top seeds in the Western Conference a season ago but was upset in the first round and traded away most of its main players this offseason. Both teams are looking to get off to a good start, so check out our in-depth preview of this contest before you do your betting online.
Jazz Wondering Who Will Be Their Leaders
All-Stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert are gone. So is last year’s second-leading scorer, Bojan Bogdanovic. So who will new head coach Will Hardy turn to as the leader of the team, which is building for the future rather than the present.
“In the NBA life cycle, this was kind of a touch point to make a pivot,” Jazz general manager Justin Zanik said of the revamping of the team’s roster. “To do that, we wanted to give the organization every opportunity, the greatest base of flexibility, young players and assets going forward to make really good decisions going forward to reach the ceiling we want to get to and that’s win a title here.“
One obvious candidate to be a leader is guard Collin Sexton, who played 11 games last season due to a torn left meniscus but is a top-scoring guard when healthy, averaging 20.0 points over his first four NBA seasons. Sexton will need to be a playmaker as well, but with the lack of depth on the Jazz, he may take over at times, especially early on.
Guard seems to be the strong point for the Jazz in the early going as they try to continue to contend for the playoffs despite sinking in the eyes of most bookmakers. Veteran Mike Conley and top reserve Jordan Clarkson are some of the only regulars back from last season. Clarkson is instant offense off the pine, averaging 16.0 points a season ago.
Raptors Trying To Climb in Stacked Eastern Conference
It’s hard to believe we’re only three seasons removed from the Toronto Raptors winning the NBA title, but the franchise continues to try to build itself back into one of the teams given some of the best NBA championship odds. Coach Nick Nurse has some pieces to build around, and he’s hoping injuries aren’t as prevalent this season.
Guard Fred VanVleet (20.3 points, 6.7 assists) was an All-Star last season, but he also played just 65 games due to various injuries. Forward Pascal Siakam led the team with 22.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game but was also limited to only 68 games. With that in mind, Nurse may keep his top players off the floor in the preseason more than usual to try to avoid any injuries that would hamper them this season.
The reigning NBA Rookie of the Year, forward Scottie Barnes, is hoping to build on his award-winning first season. Barnes averaged 15.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists, and he’ll be an even bigger piece of the puzzle for the Raptors this season.
Jazz vs Raptors Prediction
The Utah Jazz are trying to learn each other, so they’ll likely play more of their veterans together to form some chemistry. The Toronto Raptors have plenty of chemistry, but they want to avoid injuries, so this could be quite a mismatch as the Jazz play their regulars much more than the Raptors.
When making your NBA picks, take Utah to pick up the road win.