Thanks to Peter Parker's uncle (rest in peace, Uncle Ben) we all know that with great power comes great responsibility. That's great, but what comes with great expectations? The question is pertinent because the Utah Jazz are expected to make a significant jump in the 2016-2017 season. In light of their off-season acquisitions of veterans George Hill, Joe Johnson, & Boris Diaw it seems as if the floor for next year's team is reaching the playoffs. And the ceiling? Well, that's where it's getting a little crazy.
ESPN's Kevin Pelton recently released 2016-2017 projections based on real plus/minus (RPM) and had the Jazz ranked 3rd in the West and winning the Northwest Division with 47.6 wins. The Jazz projection trails only those of the Warriors (66.8 wins) and the Spurs (54.5 wins) in the Western Conference. While Pelton admits that these projections have missed the mark in some cases, they have also correctly predicted surprising results in the past (like that the Trailblazers would still be good last season after losing some big contributors).
Zach Lowe recently reiterated on his podcast with Kings coach Dave Joerger (who said the Jazz should be top 5 or 6 in the West) that if the Jazz do not win 50 games this season it is a disappointment. Less than 50 games is a disappointment?!? Strong words. It's been a long time since anyone could say that about a Jazz team without losing credibility or sounding like a delusional super-fan.
So what does this all mean? Are fans setting themselves up for disappointment if they start buying into these expectations? Who will be to blame if the Jazz fall short? That last question is an intriguing one because I believe the only correct answer is Quin Snyder. Last year the Jazz fell short of expectations and while injuries is often cited as the culprit, the blame should fall on Dennis Lindsey's shoulders. The Jazz rolled the dice and didn't make any moves last off-season and they lost the bet when the injury bugs swarmed. That's on Lindsey and, to be fair, he has owned the decision.
This off-season the Jazz have brought in veteran help to add much-needed depth and all the returning Jazz players are a year older, wiser, and stronger. If the number of player games lost to injury this year returns to a reasonable number they should have enough depth to withstand those injuries and still make the playoffs this year. While he likely won't get accolades or even accept credit if they meet expectations, it will be Snyder who is under the microscope if this team underperforms. The blame won't be on the players because Quin was brought in to develop and improve the talent.
And if you're Snyder (or any competitor for that matter), you should be fine with expectations falling on your shoulders. You want it to come down to something you have control over like your strategies and game plans. You don't want to be blaming injuries or youth or rebuilding. Snyder has a talented and deep team this year. He has the confidence of team management and ownership. His players are hungry, hard-working, and seem to be happy playing for him. This season will be huge in determining if this rebuild is a success or failure. You play the game to win and the stage is set for the Jazz to do just that.
So maybe the expectations are high. But maybe that's not a bad thing.