The Utah Jazz (51-31, 4-3) have gotten the 100% full complete A+++ rating for the 2016-2017 season. The team won a combined 55 games after winning just 40 the season before. (Up from 30 something the season before that, up from 20 something the season before that.) The Jazz not only won 50+ games, but claimed yet another division title - their 9th in 43 seasons. Furthermore, they have advanced to the second round of the NBA Playoffs.
Utah was #1 in opponents points per game, and had the #3 best Defensive Rating in the land. While they didn’t manage a Top 10 offense (only #12 in Offensive Rating), the team was dangerous on the other end of the court as well. One major characteristic of this team was being able to get to the line on offense (#12 FT/FGA), and being able to defend without sending the other team to the line (#9 in Opp. FT/FGA) That “not fouling” ability helped the Jazz defend and contest so damn many shots, and the other team missed a whole heck of a lot as a result (Jazz team #3 in Opp. eFG%). And those misses led to a lot of rebounds (Jazz #4 in DRB%).
It was lunchpail basketball on one end, and hyper egalitarian ball sharing on the other end. This team has NEVER shot as many threes (2127), and they were tired for fourth best in Franchise history in 3PT%, .372. That space allowed for better looks inside than we’ve ever seen.
And the players thrived despite not putting up the biggest stats (thanks to the team’s slowest pace in the league). Gordon Hayward was an All-Star reserve in the Western Conference, and could be an All-NBA Player by the end of the season. Rudy Gobert didn’t make the All-Star team, but he is sure to get a lot of votes for Defensive Player of the Year, All-NBA team, and All-Defensive team as well.
New additions brought in by GM Dennis Lindsey have also made huge impacts. George Hill had the best year of his career, with career highs in points, and near highs in the other important categories. Boris Diaw became the late season starter and his ability to stabilize a team helped secure those four wins in the playoffs. Joe Johnson has turned back the clock and continues to make clutch buckets down the stretch, including a game winner a few days ago.
Quin Snyder was forced to use 23 different starting line-ups this year because of nearly 200 man-games lost to injury this year. According to the egg heads the Jazz, if healthy, should have won 9 more games this year. It’s been a tremendous year of growth, cohesion, and innovation.
Jazz fans should be very happy to see the team make huge strides. Yes, they should have made the playoffs last season but did not. This year they went to the second round. And really, this team has done EVERYTHING they needed to do in order to put them in the inside track for re-signing forward Gordon Hayward. The team had great success, one of his teammates could be an award winner, the team is a winner, and he was recognized as a star despite playing in this unpopular market.
If Gordon leaves it’s because of some external factor. Utah did everything they needed to keep him. And Utah Jazz fans should be so happy with the results of this season, with games still to play. It’s the cherry on top. Whatever happens against Golden State is free basketball. It’s been that A+++ season already where all the team goals were met.
This is freeing, and our guys should play lose and without any pressure. That, plus their overwhelming youth (they do not yet know to be scared or intimidated) should give them a good shot to shock the world.
It’s going to be a fun series, but it’s already been a great year. The Jazz have now been around for 43 seasons. The team has gone to the post-season 26 out of 43 times. In 11 of those 26 times the team was eliminated in the first round. Some of those teams were really great teams, like 1994-95 (60 wins), 1989-1990 (55 wins), and 2000-2001 (53 wins). Those teams shouldn’t have missed the second round. Our 2016-2017 team didn’t though, and they are already the 15th best Jazz season of all time.
And there are games to play still.