The Utah Jazz is the team no one wants to play when the playoffs start. Before some of you get upset, let’s take a moment to think about that statement. What have you exactly heard about the Jazz this season that will make you think I’m crazy? That’s the thing, you haven’t heard anything about them. Take a look at the NBA standings out West and I guarantee that your eyebrows will arch due to shock.
The Jazz are currently in 4th place in the West with a 37-22 record but, it’s more to them then those wins.
The offseason was dominated by the New York Knicks addition of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah plus the Golden State Warriors signing Kevin Durant that no one noticed the moves that the Jazz was making. The trade for George Hill was so overlooked that many didn’t know it happened until the Jazz started winning. Another huge move was signing Joe Johnson. Johnson is no longer the 20 point scorer that he was with the Phoenix Suns and the Atlanta Hawks but it’s his leadership and experience that the Jazz was in search of.
But still, when I mentioned the Jazz as contenders early in the season I was given looks that would make a mother cry but now, those looks still have a slight disbelief in them but people are starting to take notice. The reason I believe the Jazz will be dangerous in a 7-game series is simply, they have no weakness.
Yes, their record states they have lost 22 games but pay attention to what has not happened.
Derrick Favors and Rodney Hood have yet to catch fire. No, they are not All-Star players but the dimension they bring to the Jazz cannot be taken lightly. Favors is mired in a bit of a slump but he’s been known to break out. For the season, he has averaged nine points and six rebound but has done so in only 24 minutes with eight FGA per game. Hood is averaging just 13 points but it’s his shot that looks a little flat this year. If both players can pick it up the Jazz will be that ONE team that will give the Warriors fits in a series.
Their offense is not the best in the NBA but that is due to what we just mentioned, Hood and Favors. If they can improve (I believe they will) by the playoffs, there is no team that can stop them. Remember, there is a difference between the regular season and the playoffs. Take last season when the Oklahoma City Thunder let their foot off the gas due to their inability to play defense. The Jazz will not have that same problem. They are ranked in the top 5 defensively, it’s their offense that must improve.
Gordon Hayward is a scorer that can go point for point with the likes of Durant and James Harden. Hill is not a great scorer but he’s a solid defender who likes to get in the lane which causes foul trouble for any player guarding him. Rudy Gobert is a rebounding machine with averages of 13 per game to go along with 13 points and 2.5 blocks. This is what killed the Thunder last season. No rebounding and no one to protect the lane. And the most important factor in the series will be Johnson. In Brooklyn, he was called “Joe Jesus” for his heroics in close games.
It doesn’t matter how many times the San Antonio Spurs, Warriors or Houston Rockets beat the Jazz during the regular season, it’s a series that will give those teams nightmares. You give the Jazz 4-7 games to plan a defensive strategy against you and you are asking for a world of hurt.
The Jazz are flying under the radar now but by the end of June, they may be the last team standing.