When the Utah Jazz take the court on October 17 for their season opener against the Sacramento Kings, it will mark the beginning of general manager Dennis Lindsey’s run-it-back experiment. Running down Utah’s roster from the final game of the 2017-18 season and comparing it to what should be the opening day roster for 2018-19 is like playing one of those spot the difference games. The Jazz swapped Jonas Jerebko for first round pick Grayson Allen, and that’s about it.
As fans, we often yearn for roster turnover. The notion of coming into a new season with a shiny new toy is enticing, but Lindsey didn’t see it that way. Instead, with better health (like not missing Gobert for a third of the season and Dante Exum for basically the whole year) and maybe a little bit of luck, Lindsey is betting that continuity can take this team to the next level this season.
Maintaining continuity for a team that finished last season with a 29-6 stretch and a playoff series win falls under the category of “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” After all, that roster already included an emerging star in Donovan Mitchell and the Defensive Player of the Year in Rudy Gobert. Add in one of the best 3-point shooters in
NBA history the current NBA in Joe Ingles and you’ve got the foundation for a pretty good team, to say the least.
The continuity will help this team for several reasons (like getting midseason acquisition Jae Crowder more established in Quin Snyder’s system, for example), but there’s one glaring reason that stands above the rest for me: Ricky Rubio and the Jazz’s point guard position.
In Rubio’s career, continuity has been anything but the norm. While he did spend the first six seasons of his NBA career in the same uniform, everything around him seemed to be a revolving door. In his last three seasons in Minnesota, Rubio played for three different head coaches. The franchise cornerstone he was responsible for getting the ball to went from Kevin Love to Andrew Wiggins to Karl Anthony-Towns in the blink of an eye.
When the Jazz flipped the switch to go on their incredible run, you could argue the catalyst for it was Rubio’s play as much as anything else.
Here are Rubio’s averages before the run:
And during the run:
Was this just another swing of the pendulum for a player who has earned a reputation of having streaky performances? Or was this a product of Rubio finally clicking into Snyder’s system? It remains to be seen for sure, but my money is on the latter.
The other side of this coin was the state of the Jazz’s point guard position before Rubio’s arrival. Your point guard is your floor general, perhaps the most important position on the court, and for years, Utah couldn’t find one if their lives depended on it. You could tell me that the Jazz started a literal revolving door at point guard at one point and I would believe you.
Following the trade of Deron Williams, the list of Utah’s starting point guards for season openers reads like... something that changes a lot. (I’m bad with analogies, ok?)
- 2011: Devin Harris
- 2012: Mo Williams
- 2013: John Lucas III
- 2014: Trey Burke
- 2015: Raul Neto
- 2016: George Hill
- 2017: Ricky Rubio
You can’t tell me that having the same starting point guard for consecutive seasons for the first time since 2008-2010 won’t be a benefit to this team and also to Ricky Rubio.
Dennis Lindsey is all in on the idea that the end of last season wasn’t a fluke. The off-court chemistry with this team is incredible, and at the end of last year the on-court chemistry showed it. In 2018, the Jazz are out to prove that the chaos of the NBA offseason isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. We’re all just along for the ride.