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The Downbeat: Jazz miss the playoffs?

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Utah fighting for respect as much as they are for wins

NBA: Playoffs-Utah Jazz at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

As we creep along through the dreaded August, championing the return of the NFL (until we realize it’s just preseason football), the news will get less and less interesting. Still, there are things for us to look at and talk about until the NBA preseason rolls around and we can drool over Donovan Mitchell again.

If you want to keep your optimism for the upcoming season, skip this first section. HoopsHype released a season preview for the Jazz and, spoiler alert, they don’t see Utah making the playoffs.

Following a brief breakdown of arrivals, departures, strengths and weaknesses, the author, Jorge Sierra, laid out his prediction. According to him, Utah will finish last in their division and 10th in the Western Conference.

Sierra’s main critique of Utah is their lack of a Gordon Hayward. In six of the eight sentences of the“weaknesses” section Sierra mentions Hayward directly—all in connection with the likely offensive struggles.

While it may be easy to write Sierra off as a naysayer, keep in mind that this is a realistic (pessimistic yes, but still realistic) prediction. I don’t like to think the Jazz will miss the playoffs by two spots, but with some bad luck (which seems bountiful in Utah), it’s certainly possible.

Utah Jazz assistant coach Johnnie Bryant will take part in a Basketball Without Borders camp in Israel next week, the first time the program has visited the country.

This isn’t the first time Bryant has taken part in Basketball Without Borders, nor is he the first Jazz affiliated person to take part in the camps (Thabo Sefolosha took part in a camp in South Africa last week). But it is yet another example of how much the Jazz are having an international influence on basketball and the NBA brand.

This...interesting...photo of Ricky Rubio has made it’s way around the interwebs in the last 24 hours

I’m not sure what to think about it. Some guys can pull off the man bun. Others, not so much. Maybe it’ll go well with the new Nike uniforms. Let me know what you guys think.

Going back to HoopsHype, the released an interesting list of the top international players drafted at every spot in the draft. And there are Jazz fingerprints all over it. Three current Jazz players (Ricky Rubio #5, Thabo Sefolosha #13, Rudy Gobert #27), two former Jazzmen (Boris Diaw #21 and Mehmet Okur #38) and Ante Tomic (#44) are on the list. And with my incomplete knowledge of Jazz history, there are probably a few more of the 60 players who had a stint in Utah at one point.

It should be noted that the only player Utah actually drafted has never played one NBA minute. But at least three of the other will (or did) get a chance to make their mark on Jazz history. Boris Diaw and Thabo Sefolosha will likely be cast upon the heap of players who have come and gone. The same will (hopefully) not be said of Ricky Rubio, Rudy Gobert and it for sure as heck has not be said of Mehmet “Moneyman” Okur.

Deseret News writer Benjamin Mehic wrote about the possibility of Donovan Mitchell being the first member of the Jazz to win Rookie of the Year since Darrell Griffith in 1980-81.

“The numbers Mitchell put up in summer league, for what it’s worth, are similar to the ones Griffith averaged when he won the award in his inaugural season. Griffith averaged 20.6 points on 19 shots per game (albeit at a much higher level, given that he did it during the regular season).

But more importantly, like it was for Griffith, Utah is going to be a place where Mitchell can shine as a rookie.

During the 1980-81 season, Griffith was one of Utah’s leading scorers, second only to Adrian Dantley. Griffith was also one shot shy of leading the team in shots per game. The latter stat is more important because it indicates that Griffith was allowed to work through his rookie mistakes on the court, not just in practice.”

It’s admittedly a long shot for Mitchell to win ROY. He’s will have some limited minutes off of the bench and his marquee skill (defense) won’t be recognized over the box score-stuffing players like Lonzo Ball, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz. However, with the potential he flashed in summer league, at least it’s possible.