Before we move to the downbeat. YES MICHAEL J. FOX WITNESSES THE GOBERT REPORT, GOBZILLA, THE STIFLE TOWER IN PERSON. Well, he seems Rudy from the stands during the Utah Jazz at Brooklyn Nets game, BUT we can only assume his presence pushed Rudy Gobert to a dominate second half.
The Jazz have been exciting since Rudy Gobert has emerged a starter in the Jazz's front court. It gives us a glimpse of what the Jazz may become. Brett Koremenos of Sports On Earth argues that we are witnessing a glimpse of Utah's future, we are witnessing Utah's present.
Yet in losing talented but flawed big man Enes Kanter for spare parts just hours before the trade deadline, Utah found not only real hope for a promising future, but something that has eluded the franchise even under Sloan: a dominating defense.
In the nine games since Kanter was dealt, Utah is not only 7-2 with wins over conference heavyweights like Portland, Memphis and San Antonio, it is sending a message to the rest of the NBA that points will no longer be easy to come by. The Jazz have posted a defensive rating of 89.7 during that stretch, per NBA.com data. To put that number in perspective, the Golden State Warriors defense, which routinely frustrates and outright demolishes teams around the league, currently leads the league with a defensive rating of 97.6. That number, while admittedly part of a small sample size, is also light years better than Utah's season average of 103.7 -- which currently ranks 17th.
While Rudy Gobert seems like the biggest beneficiary of Quin Snyder's head coaching, we fail to recognize the even bigger one. Dante Exum. Few head coaches would have made the decision to start Dante Exum. His play was erratic, he looked overmatched, and he looked 19. Fast forward to now in which the Jazz have a winning record since Dante Exum was made the starter ahead of Trey Burke. Ben Anderson of KSL talks about that in his article:
Over the next 21-game stretch, the Jazz nearly doubled their total from the previous quarter season, finishing with a nine-win and twelve-loss record — respectable but unspectacular in the league's landscape.
Then Snyder made a gamble of his own.
Just one game beyond the season's midway point, the first-year coach called on Dante Exum, the highly touted, but extraordinarily inexperienced 19-year-old Australian rookie, to take over the reigns as the Jazz starting point guard. Despite never playing college basketball, Exum was being asked to take over the role once held by Hall of Famer John Stockton and perennial All-Star Deron Williams.
We all know this is hilarious. When was the last time Andrea Bargain was a key matchup?
Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com has put out the newest Mock Draft and it appears that Utah's new defensive identity is playing a part in who he selects for Utah.
Another Duke player??? Are we ready for a world in which the Jazz have a coach who was at Duke and two small forwards from Duke?
The Jazz have risen a rank in Nylon Calculus' rankings!!!!! WOOOOO! Hooray for arbitrary ranking systems that make us feel better about our team even though we have no shot at making the playoffs!!! WOOOO!
Utah Jazz: The Jazz are not only still in the top ten, but they've climbed! The Jazz are legit, as is Rudy Gobert, and even if we expect them to slow down by the end of the year they're a threatening team now behind a stifling defense, and they're gonna be a sneak threat to the Western playoffs next season with another draft pick in their belt.
In other crazy news the Jazz's odds of making the playoffs keep rising though ... according to Hollinger's Playoff Odds, the Jazz still have a 0.3% chance of making the playoffs. SO YOU'RE SAYING THERE'S A CHANCE.