Before I begin to tell you why the Jazz are closer to contention than you think, we have to go back a few months.
Flashback to July 4, 2017
If you're a die hard Jazz fan, you already know where i'm going with this. If you loved Gordon the way I did, the way many others did, this day was rough. Me along with other devote Jazz fans, waited amidst false reports of Gordon Haywards decision to join his college sweetheart in Boston. A few long, exasperating hours later we received the news that all of us never wanted to hear, see, or think about. Gordon Hayward, our franchise cornerstone, had left us.
To this day, that feeling is still present every time I hear his name or see his old highlights. How could he do this to us? Well, none of that matters now. Gordon Hayward left us for dead. As the offseason slowly progressed, many Utah fans were asking all sorts of questions. Who will be our go-to guy? Will Rubio work well in Quin's system? And most of all "How good is Donovan Mitchell?"
In just 53 games into his career, Donovan Mitchell has not only proved to be promising, but that he is already a go-to kind of guy, whether it be on a fast break or in the clutch. In a season littered with injuries, Utah's defense definitely didn't feel as suffocating as it did last year. However, with Gobert's return along with Mitchell's 1.5 SPG, the Jazz have found their groove defensively. In early December, Mitchell was the first rookie to score over 40 points since Blake Griffin. He had his last 40 point performance since then was last Friday in Phoenix, while playing with the flu.
My point in all this? Dennis Lindsay's decision to trade up to Draft Donovan could have saved us years of trying to tank. Additions like Ricky Rubio and Thabo Sefalosha helped ease some pain caused by Hayward's departure, and those two could very well have long term contributions to this team. Royce O'Neal has shown flashes of potential, and the development of Dante Exum will also help us establish this young core. This team is getting slept on more than anyone else in the league. Regardless of how this season ends, we as Utah fans have to realize just how close we are to contending.