3:33pm: The Jazz have changed their minds on removing Conley from the starting lineup and will instead move Ingles to the bench, according to Charania and Jones (via Twitter). The move will have a similar effect on the rotation balance, with a defensive specialist who doesn’t need the ball replacing a ball-handler in the starting five.
2:01pm: The slumping Jazz are shaking up their starting five, according to Shams Charania and Tony Jones of The Athletic, who report that forward Royce O’Neale will replace point guard Mike Conley in the team’s lineup. The change will go into effect beginning on Wednesday night against Boston, per Charania and Jones.
Conley is Utah’s highest-paid player and was the team’s major acquisition in the summer of 2019. However, he has struggled to adjust to his new NBA home this season, battling injuries over the course of the year and underperforming when he’s healthy enough to play. In 34 games (27.9 MPG), Conley has averaged just 13.4 PPG, 4.1 APG, and a .394 FG%, all of which are among the worst marks of his 13-year career.
As Charania and Jones explain, the Jazz believe that the lineup change will balance their rotation a little better, allowing Joe Ingles to take on more of an offensive role with the starters while O’Neale – the team’s best perimeter defender – handles the toughest assignments on the other end of the court. Conley will come off the bench and look to provide an offensive punch alongside Jordan Clarkson.
It has been an up-and-down season in Utah not just for Conley but for the Jazz as a whole. After a modest 13-11 start, the club won 19 of 21 of its next games. Since pushing their record to 32-13 though, the Jazz have endured a pair of losing streaks, winning just four of their last 12 contests. The roller-coaster season has left the team searching for an identity, Tim MacMahon of ESPN wrote today.
Despite their recent struggles, the Jazz are still fifth in the Western Conference, just one game back of the Rockets for home-court advantage in the first round. Utah will hope that its latest lineup change has a positive impact on its push for a top-four seed.