“Thank you, Utah”, the start of what turned out to be a long, disappointing off season for the Utah Jazz. Coming off a hard fought 2017 campaign, that saw them grind out a 4-3 game 1st round playoff victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. The Jazz were in prime position to improve on their 51-31 finish from last year. But, there was one piece of the puzzle that wasn’t a guarantee, and his name was Gordon Hayward.
Keeping Gordon Hayward was objective number one for the Jazz. Without him, the Jazz are short the key scoring piece to their starting lineup. With Rudy Gobert clogging up the paint, and Joe Ingles stretching the floor from the three point line. Gordon is the “go to” threat when times get tough, or if you just need to get a solid consistent 25 point game. But, the Jazz knew selling Gordon on staying, however important, wasn’t going to be easy with the level of competition for his services.
Hayward, choosing between the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, and staying with the Utah Jazz. Decided to go with Boston in what was the saddest 4th of July in the state of Utah. He chose Boston for the opportunity. The opportunity to play for his old college coach, and in all honesty, against the weakest Eastern Conference in many years.
But enough about the past, lets look ahead to the future of Jazz basketball. And how they will try to deal with a very strong Western Conference, and Northwest Division.
Starting Lineup (Projected):
PG: Ricky Rubio
SG: Joe Ingles
SF: Rodney Hood
PF: Derrick Favors
C: Rudy Gobert
My first reaction to this lineup is, defense looks solid but I don’t see where the scoring comes from. Ricky Rubio is still a great passer and can get guys open looks, but I’m not convinced they can hit them. Joe Ingles can spread the floor, but is an inconstant shooter. Hood and Favors have both been good offensively, but injuries have plagued their carriers. Rudy, while a great defensive threat, hasn’t proven his worth on the other side of the court (yet).
The Jazz are going to be able to score some, but I am afraid they are missing the “go to” guy to get them through the nail bitters and the down early games. Defensively however, the Jazz will remain one of the toughest teams to play in the NBA this year. Coach Snyder’s defense was the best at stopping the corner three. That trend will continue this year thanks to the job General Manager Dennis Lindsey did bringing in solid defensive pieces to fill the bench.
Key Bench Players:
SG Alec Burks
SF Joe Johnson
SF Thabo Sefolosha
C Ekbe Udoh
SF Donovan Mitchell
While this bench isn’t going to win any awards for the most recognizable group they’re the exact systematic players to fit in the Quin Snyder defense. Sefolosha and Johnson are the veteran players who will give this team needed experience. Udoh has shown glimpses early that he can be a solid backup while Rudy Gobert gets some needed rest.
But do you see whats missing? I didn’t list a key bench Point Guard. While I am hopeful Raul Neto can fill in while Rubio is on the bench. The loss of Dante Exum to season ending shoulder surgery is devastating. The Jazz already had severe issues with the Point Guard position last year. And with all star Point Guards Russell Westbrook, Steph Curry, and Chris Paul as constant opponents. Shoring up the Point Guard spot is the new objective number one for the Jazz. New draftee Donovan Mitchel shows potential of becoming a good piece for this team. Minutes may be hard to come by early on if this team stays competitive.
Led for the fourth season by Coach Quin Snyder, the Jazz are in good hands in the form of philosophy and scheme. Coach Snyder has led his team to an improving record each of his last three seasons. Going from a 38-44 team, all the way to a 51-31 team this past season. While the trend is one to not take lightly, even great minds like Quin can’t completely overcome the obsticals of a star studded Western Conference.
Assuming the Jazz can find another piece to back up Ricky Rubio, the Jazz are a solid defensive team. But the consistent offensive firepower just hasn’t shown itself for me to make a prediction on. I feel with the power in the NBA swinging very hard to the West, the Jazz will have to scratch and fight their way for every win to get into the postseason. I feel that this is a team that could leave a great foundation for a better 2019 campaign if the youth talent can gain some experience. But the future sadly isn’t all that bright for the Jazz for the next 82 games. I project the Utah Jazz to finish 39-43.