2020 has finally come to an end. No matter who you are, or where you live, or how you live - 2020 has been an absolute monster. Just speaking in terms of the Utah Jazz, this year was arguably the craziest calendar year in franchise history. Rudy and Donovan named All-Stars in February, Rudy Gobert “shutting down the NBA” in March with COVID-19, the beef that followed between he and Donovan, Bojan’s season-ending wrist surgery, losing Jerry Sloan, the Orlando bubble, social justice movements and George Floyd, Donovan’s 57-point playoff game, blowing a 3-1 lead, Jazz selling to Ryan Smith, extending franchise cornerstone’s Mitchell and Gobert to max deals, and starting season two months after the Finals in December. WHEW that was a big sentence. Did I miss anything? The point is, 2020 has been crazy for everyone, but it was especially crazy for the Utah Jazz. As the final day of 2020 eclipses, we can look forward to a fresh start in 2021. Along with all of us, the Jazz are turning a new leaf. What can we expect from them at the turn of this year? Here’s some resolutions and what we can look forward to.
Find the Three Ball
Last season the Jazz were the best three-point shooting team in the league at 38 percent. Through three games this season (yes, it’s a small sample size), the Jazz rank 18th at 35 percent. This is mostly skewed from a horrible shooting night in the loss against the Wolves last Saturday, as well as a freezing cold start from Donovan Mitchell who is 8-29 from three so far this season. They attempted 50(!!) three-pointers in their opening game against the Blazers last week in a dominant win. The Jazz have shown that they love the three-ball, and making those shots are a huge factor in whether or not this team wins games. In order for the Jazz to be a contender, they need to be a good three-point shooting team. With this roster and personnel, if they stay in the bottom half of the league in 3PT efficiency it will not bode well for them.
Mike Conley’s resurgence
2020 Didn’t go at all how Mike Conley planned. Conley had one of the worst years of his brilliant NBA career last season, shooting below 41% for just the second time in 14 seasons. Expectations were high for Conley in Utah, and it just click the way that everyone was hoping. The 2019-2020 season ended with a heart-breaker shot from Conley rimming out, capping off a blown 3-1 lead, and that pretty much summed up the entire year. But if the first three games of this season are any indicator, Mike Conley is out for vengeance in 2021. Conley is averaging 19/6/5 so far this season shooting 46% from the field and 40% from three. The other night he was one assist away from being the first Jazz player in over a decade to record a triple-double. Through three games this season, Mike Conley looks like Mike Conley. If he can continue this into 2021, the Jazz will be tough. Conley is one of those guys that are so easy to root for, and you just want everything to go well for them. There probably isn’t a more deserving veteran NBA player that is more worthy of an NBA ring than Mike Conley, and if he keeps this recent play up, it won’t be out of the question in 2021.
Peace, Love and Harmony
I think I speak for all Jazz fans when I say that it was absolutely horrible watching it go down between Rudy and Donovan back in March. The beef that climaxed with two positive COVID tests sent the Jazz into a spiral and at one point things were “not salvageable”. For a fan, this was torture watching your team’s two best players be at odds with each other, and have the thought of either of them leaving lingering in your head. Since then, Rudy and Don have worked through a lot and came a long way. Both signed extensions to stay in Utah long term, and all is well in the world. Here’s to more peace, love, and harmony both between Donovan and Rudy, and to everyone in the whole world.
Donovan Mitchell making another jump
Watching Donovan Mitchell over the years has been an absolute treat. He’s gotten better each of his first three seasons, and was named an All-Star in 2020. What’s the next step for Spida? If Mitchell can take another step in the right direction in 2021, the Jazz could be very dangerous. If he can reach that “next level” of scoring like he showed in the playoffs, and find some consistency, this year will be a good one for Jazz fans.
Western Conference Finals
Obviously, the end goal for the Jazz, and really any team in the NBA is an NBA Championship. For for sake of keeping our resolutions completely realistic, the Western Conference Finals are a better goal for the Jazz this season. Not saying at all that a Championship is out of the question, but reaching the WCF is a good start. After addressing some glaring needs in the offseason, the Jazz should be better than they were last season. Getting Bojan Bogdanovic back, adding Derrick Favors, another year of cohesion with Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson, and lowkey sneaking signing of Shaq Harrison (once he’s 100% healthy), is plenty enough to make the Jazz a better contender. If the Jazz play their game, a WCF appearance is absolutely there for the taking, and that would make for a spectacular 2021.