Expectations are weird. They can change everything about how you view something. They can make the bad seem good, the good seem bad, or the bad seem worse, depending on what your expectations were prior to the event. We’ve all been gone to a movie that was super hyped up, only to be utterly disappointed. It might not have been because the movie was bad, but because the movie was so highly anticipated and talked about, it leaves a larger gap for disappointment and disapproval.
The Utah Jazz find themselves in a tricky spot this upcoming season regarding expectations. Last season was so incredible. Donovan Mitchell’s outburst, the epic comeback, Ricky Rubio’s brilliance late in the season and playoffs, Rudy Gobert’s Defensive Player of the Year campaign, etc. Part of what made all of this so amazing is that it wasn’t expected. The Jazz weren’t expected to win 48 games last season, especially after how they started. Donovan Mitchell wasn’t expected to take the NBA by storm, rocketing himself into the ROY conversation and getting truckloads of national attention. It was incredible, and so much fun because it came out of nowhere. After what happened last summer, nobody really knew what to expect from the Jazz.
But everything is different this summer. We know how good the Jazz can be. We know how good Donovan Mitchell is. We know how well Ricky Rubio can really play. And that makes it all very difficult to manage expectations for this upcoming season. With that in mind, here are some of the biggest questions the Jazz face going into this season regarding expectations.
What can we expect from Donovan Mitchell?
There is a lot on Donovan Mitchell’s shoulders. But then again, there was last year too. Mitchell will enter his sophomore year in the NBA with the world at his fingertips. How much better will he be this year? Can he be more efficient? Can he develop a mid-range? How many points per game can he really score? Mitchell has gotten a lot of hype and attention this summer, which was all well-deserved. This attention will put some added pressure on him, but everything points to him thriving and continuing to improve.
What is a realistic expectation for Donovan Mitchell’s performance this upcoming season? If he can get more efficient with his shot selection, scoring, and getting to the free-throw line, it’s not crazy to think that he could average 25 points per game. He is Utah’s primary scoring option, there’s no question in that. We can expect more of what we saw last season in Mitchell including some awesome dunks, step-back threes, and flashy finishes. It will be a great challenge for Mitchell to be named an All-Star or All-NBA, which is probably the next step in the ladder of greatness. It’s not unfair to expect Donovan Mitchell to lead the Jazz to a top four finish in the West, as he practically did so as a rookie last season. We still don’t know what Donovan Mitchell’s ceiling is, and it is going to be a heck of ride once we find out.
Will Dante Exum make the jump we know he is capable of?
The Jazz bet on Dante Exum this summer. With his new contract in hand, Exum has some monetary pressure taken off his shoulders and can now focus on just playing basketball. Anyone who has watched Dante Exum play knows what he is capable of. But because of injuries and some weird rotation bugs during his early career, we haven’t seen the best of Dante Exum. If Dante Exum can stay healthy all season long, we may get a true taste of what he has to offer. But can we really expect that? It’s hard to say. You can never plan on/not plan on injuries, that’s the hardest thing about trying to predict health, you just never know. But for now, we can expect Exum to continue to improve, and help the Jazz win basketball games.
Can Ricky Rubio pick up where he left off?
One of the few negatives about the Jazz’s playoff run last year was Ricky Rubio’s injury. It was heartbreaking to see him on the sidelines during the Houston series, unable to help his teammates and play in front of his fans. It’s even more sad when you realize that Ricky Rubio was playing the best basketball of his entire life. After becoming the first Jazz man in years to record a triple-double in the playoffs, Ricky Rubio showed that he too could be an integral part of this team going forward. With one year remaining on his contract with the Jazz, this season will be the tell-all for Ricky Rubio in Utah. If he can play like he did at the end of last season, there’s no reason the Jazz wouldn’t want him to stick around. Rubio will need to find a level of consistency in his offense, which would mean the world to the Jazz given their offensive needs after Donovan Mitchell.
Can Rudy Gobert stay healthy?
After two scary knee injuries last season, what can we expect from Rudy Gobert? He obviously recovered in an epic fashion winning Defensive Player of the Year, but is it realistic to think that Gobert can stay healthy for more than half of a season? No player is important to the Jazz winning basketball games than Rudy Gobert, as was proven last year after his return. It’s hard to think that the Jazz could have such bad injury luck and lose Gobert for more games this season, but we will not question the injury Gods, EVER. If we can have anything this season, please just let Rudy Gobert stay healthy.
What is the ceiling for the Utah Jazz this season?
Considering all of the above questions regarding expectations, what is the overall ceiling for the Jazz this upcoming season? The Western Conference got even more crowded this off-season with Lebron coming over, so it will be even more difficult for teams to find space in the playoff picture. But the Jazz aren’t going anywhere. They solidified themselves as one of the toughest teams in the league last season after overcoming injuries and adversity. Their future is as bright as Donovan Mitchell, which right now is as bright as the sun at mid-day. Jazz fans should definitely expect the Jazz to make the playoffs this season, with the best scenario landing a three or four seed. Making it past the first round of the playoffs and contending with the Warriors or Rockets is the next step. The ultimate ceiling for the Jazz would be a Western Conference Finals appearance. So much can happen in the NBA, and as we saw last season, you just never know what might go on. The Jazz are for real though, and it should be another fun season in the works, no matter what you are expecting as a fan.