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How Will We Judge This Utah Jazz Season? The Downbeat #1871

Will this season be a failure if the Jazz don't make the playoffs? That and more in your Wednesday Downbeat.

Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

With the Utah Jazz on a three-game winning streak, the fan base's mood has improved significantly from a few weeks ago. But the team is still sitting ninth in the eight-team Western Conference playoff race. Will this season be a failure if the Jazz don't make it? We'll discuss that, look at a possible injury-recovery comparison for Dante Exum, talk more gaming with Gordon, and get to your FanPosts. It's your Wednesday Downbeat, and we're keeping it tight.

So last week I wrote about how critical I felt it was for this year's Jazz squad to make the playoffs. But Jazz coach Quin Snyder doesn't necessarily agree. Via Tony Jones at the Trib:

After years of rebuilding and trips to the lottery, the playoffs are once again within reach for the Utah Jazz. But with a month left in the season, Jazz coach Quin Snyder says he won't consider the season a failure if his squad fails to reach the postseason once again.

"Frankly, I don't know how it could be" considered a failure, Snyder said before listing off the injuries the Jazz have endured this year. "If you look at the adversity this team's been through, to set a mark like that ... that doesn't really equate for me."

[...]

The process-oriented Snyder, meanwhile, has at least publicly has hedged when asked about the importance of the postseason. The experience would be welcomed, he said, but simply being in the playoff race this season would also have its benefits.

"It's not the end of the world for us to really compete and not make it," he said this week. "To be in a situation where you are in a competitive race is something that can help our team whether we're able to win that race, so to speak, and make it or not. It would be something that would be really good for our program. [But] the process of going through that challenge is good for us regardless of the result."

I mean, I get Snyder's point that just being in the race is valuable, since the Jazz haven't been close to playoff contention since 2013. And of course the progress that players like Rodney Hood and Trey Lyles have made won't be erased if the Jazz stay home. And yes, the number of games lost to injury seriously damaged the team's playoff possibility anyway.

Still, having said all that, here the Jazz are, two or three games out of the playoffs and not getting any younger. "Failure" may be too strong a word, but I'll still be disappointed if the Jazz don't make it, and I think it'll delay this roster's progression even more.

Maybe that's too much emphasis to put solely on the right to be throttled by Golden State in the first round. But I can't shake the feeling. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

So maybe you feel like it's okay if the Jazz don't make the playoffs this year, because they'll get Dante Exum back next season. But what if he's not the same? What if his injury has permanently affected his potential?

KSL's Ben Anderson says there may be a good comparison for a young player recovering from injury: Milwaukee's Jabari Parker.

Jabari Parker in 25 rookie appearances had a disappointing start to his career with the Bucks. Averaging just over 12 points and 5 rebounds, while shooting a disappointing 25 percent from the 3-point line, Parker appeared further away from developing into the superstar in the NBA that many had predicted before the draft. After suffering a torn ACL, Parker's future appeared even more in doubt.

Through the first 46 games of his sophomore season, Parker did little to change those opinions. Parker's scoring dropped from 12 points per game as a rookie to 11 points per game in year two. His rebounds dropped from 5.5 to 4.6 per game, and he failed to make a 3-pointer throughout the stretch.

Then it clicked.

[...]

Over his last 15 games, Parker has upped his scoring average to over 20 points per game, his rebounds are up over 6 per game -- higher than his rookie average -- while his shooting percentages have jumped to 51 percent from the floor and 33 percent from three.

All told, the knee injury cost Parker 61 career games, including an entire offseason and nearly half of another season to get back to full strength. Now he's ready to progress from his rookie year. There were 421 days between the injury and when Parker appeared to find his groove. Jazz fans should hope for a similar timeline.

Obviously Parker and Exum are very different players, in body size and position as well as experience and athleticism. But it's a good reminder that young players develop at different speeds, even without injuries, and plenty of players have come back from early-career outages to reach All-Star status.

Sometimes it's hard to remember the Jazz do have Exum coming back. Remember how much his elevation to the starting lineup helped the team's defense? (Granted, it coincided with swapping Enes Kanter for Rudy Gobert, but Exum's definitely better equipped to defend the perimeter.) How many of those excruciatingly close losses the Jazz have suffered this year might have been avoided with another lockdown defender on the outside?

I guess, as disappointing and frustrating as this season has been at times, there's still a lot of hope for the future. I'm excited to see what part Exum plays in that.

FanPosts! Here's this week's trio:

BTork on the Jazz's new "core":

The core is limited as to what they can do by the offensive scheme. If anything needs to be tweaked it is the offense. There needs to be more slashing to the basket, passing out of the triple teams, and a few shots off of screens and pick and rolls, learn how to do them.

The future is bright but growth is painful, but it is the core that needs to be built up and stabilized before the bench can be put together.

Combojazz on Shelvin Mack, Trey Burke and Quin Snyder:

Quin Snyder was a point guard. He has also written the book on the quintessential point guard-centric play, the pick and roll. He is cerebral, patient (and emotional) and has a lot of experience working with the masters of the game.

Shelvin Mack is a known quantity for Snyder. Snyder as an assistant with Atlanta seems to have been a player development guy, judging from comments and stories by Paul Millsap and Demarre Carrol. Snyder also has a lot of experience judging and associating with Trey Burke, Exum, and Raul Neto.

So, what do we have? We have an expert on the point guard position making a move for a guy he knows very well and then inserting him over Neto and Burke. Given Snyder's vast experience and expertise, we can assume that he has made a judgment call that Mack's ability, and ceiling, is better than what we had, and the results are supporting that so far.

And Jeffersoniandoc with a lesson for the Jazz "from the guy who thinks he's peeing blood". (I won't spoil that one with an excerpt. Click through; it's a great read.)

Thanks, everyone!

I always love checking in on Gordon Hayward's gaming habits (and since he's out with plantar fasciitis, which means he has to stay off his feet, he'll probably be gaming as much as ever):

The experiences of a successful NBA player can feel alien to a gamer, but when framed in conversation with Hayward it's a far less foreign affair. "I still probably play video games more than you would think," he laughed when asked about a typical NBA game day. "Before I was married, and now we just had our first daughter and another on the way, I got a chance to play all the time because when I wasn't playing basketball, it was just me." He continued, "Now it's a little bit different because I have a family, and so a lot of times I'll play when my wife goes up to bed for a couple of hours because I usually stay up pretty late." With all that to handle, he still manages to make morning shootaround at 10am the next day.

Quick turnaround on this Twitter vid with a couple of highlights from Monday night's game: