In recent seasons the Utah Jazz have become one of the most enjoyable teams to watch in the NBA. Their unique combination of defensive intensity and young talent, combined with Quin Snyder’s robust approach to coaching, has helped to make these young upstarts standout in a competitive Northwest Division and make some significant noise in the war zone that is the Western Conference.
Any NBA fan on the planet will tell you, watching the rise of the likes of Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell has been a true joy. After another successful campaign last year, the team from Salt Lake City have retooled under the hood, fitted a new motor, unveiled the greatest throwback jersey ever and thrown their weight into the ring of contention once again.
Make no mistake about it folks, the Jazz are here and now.
Last season’s campaign began with promise for the Jazz, however by the end of November they were 11-12 and in 10th place in the Western Conference. This was not where they were supposed to be, especially after impressing many in the 2017-18 season, where they not only made the Playoffs, but also knocked out one of the favourites in the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Jazz started the season in a slump, which continued well into December. Second-year guard and upcoming superstar Mitchell struggled to make his mark, as opponents focused in on the young offensive force. Yet despite this, the Jazz continued to hover around the .500 mark and were exactly where many of us expected them to be come the end of 2018 – Utah are weird, but right where they should be behind a streaky Donovan Mitchell leading an up and down roster.
In the New Year, Mitchell rediscovered himself and the Jazz went on a tear, closing out the season with a 32-13 run to finish 50-32 and earning the No.5 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. In the first round they ran into the red-hot Houston Rockets, who were themselves on a tear of their own, going 33-14 in 2019 after an unusually slow start to the season. James Harden and the Rockets proved to be just a little too much for the Jazz, taking the series 4-1. 2018-19 was an undoubted success for the Jazz, who got themselves back into the postseason for the second-straight year and took significant strides forward as a young team, capable of overcoming adversity.
After a busy summer, which saw the Jazz acquire Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, Ed Davis, Jeff Green and Emmanuel Mudiay, expectations are high and with good reason. For the past few seasons the Jazz have lacked a true secondary offensive option to fit alongside Mitchell. In fact, they’ve lacked offensive options overall. Often relying upon the superstar skills of Mitchell to bail them out of sticky situations. And whilst it is certainly true that Joe Ingles has put his best foot-forward when it comes to shouldering some of the load on Mitchell’s off nights, he’s never been entirely reliable.
Now everything has changed and with the addition of both Conley and Bogdanovic, offensive output shouldn’t be a problem. As the team formerly known for its offensive struggles, gains two of the most reliable and effective scorers in the game – both coming off career years.
Bogdanovic has been on the scene for quite some time, but last year with the Indiana Pacers was his best-to-date, averaging career highs in points (18.0) rebounds (4.1), assists (2.0), steals (1.0) and three-pointers (2.0) per game, whilst shooting .497 percent from the field. He was an effective perimeter defender, playing a crucial role in a robust Nate McMillan scheme. He should fit right in. The change of scenery shouldn’t have too much of a negative impact on Conley either, who is well known for being a great teammate, a strong member of the community and a defensive work-aholic. Exactly the type of characteristics one needs to play on a Quin Snyder coached team.
Like Bogdanovic, he too had an excellent year, averaging 21.1 points (a new career high), 6.4 assists, 1.3 steals and 2.2 three-pointers per game. He also passed Marc Gasol to become the Grizzlies’ all-time leading scorer. The minor additions of Davis, Green and Mudiay will surely help to fill-out a competitive roster, all three of which bring their own strengths at both ends of the court.
The Jazz nailed this offseason.
All the new additions compliment what was an already talented roster and allow it more flexibility on the court this time around. In Mitchell, the Jazz already had their dagger, but with Conley now filling the spot alongside him, they finally have their pivot point. And with defensive juggernaut Rudy Gobert guarding the paint and a whole host of shooters now spaced around him, we have every right to expect Utah’s best season since the 60-win 1994-95 team coached by the legendary Jerry Sloan.
1. Nobody can stop Rudy Gobert
An elite interior skillset, combined with an incredible ability to set picks, means Gobert will roll to the rim on almost every possession this year. All whilst creating havoc inside and kicking it out to the most talented cast of shooters he’s ever played alongside. He lead the league in screen assists last season and has learnt to score at an elite level as a rolling big. Gobert is a unique luxury, who provides the Jazz with a chance to score on every possession.
2. Utah lost a lot of size and muscle this summer and may struggle with rebounding
The Jazz lost Derrick Favors and Jae Crowder this summer, which is a big deal. With Favors and Crowder playing alongside Gobert last season, the Jazz were a nightmare to out rebound and beat up physically. Crowder’s defensive skillset and size also allowed them to match-up with larger 4’s across the association. Now however, the Jazz will look to Gobert’s lofty talents to make-up this disadvantage. Is a Defensive Player of the Year Award incoming?
3. An elite backcourt opens up a world of possibility
Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell will be a truly elite backcourt. One that is aggressive on both ends of the court. They’ll be able to pinpoint the opponents weakest defender and use their skillset to create an advantage. They’ll switch between who initiates the pick and roll on each side of the floor, make difficult passes and cut or slash to the rim. This should open up opponents to Utah’s expanded cast of three-point shooters. I wouldn’t be surprised if Utah were one of the NBA’s top offenses this season.
Bojan Bogdanovic | 18.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.0 apg
Bogdanovic has played for the Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards and Indiana Pacers throughout his career, and he has never appeared in fewer than 78 games in a season. He now provides Utah with yet another multi-skilled sharpshooter.
Donovan Mitchell | 23.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.2 apg
“Spida” has rapidly cemented his place among the elite guards in the NBA. This season will be his best yet. Now playing alongside Conley, Mitchell no longer has to shoulder the offensive load.
Mike Conley | 21.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 6.4 apg
The Jazz have waited quite some time for the perfect accompaniment to Mitchell in the backcourt. Conley’s elite skills could help to take Utah to the next level. Conley brings with him a veteran presence, elite court vision and an unguardable floater (well, Rudy Gobert used to go up and get it) to help him thrive in the pick-and-roll, he’s also a career 37.5 percent shooter from beyond the arc.
Rudy Gobert | 15.9 ppg, 12.9 rpg, 2.3 bpg
Gobert will be relied upon to do an awful lot this season, as mentioned above, but I see no reason why the 7ft 2 Frenchman won’t exceed our expectations.
Ed Davis | 21.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 6.4 apg
Many people would have expected to see Joe Ingles here, and whilst I fully appreciate the Australian’s game, I think it is worth mentioning a little-talked-about Ed Davis. The 7-0ft Forward/Center has been around the block in the NBA but he provides the Jazz with a perfect backup to star center Rudy Gobert. Since entering the NBA in 2010, Davis has become one of the league’s best rebounders and defenders off the bench. Last season in Brooklyn, he grabbed a career-best 8.6 rebounds in 17.9 minutes per game.