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A high-stakes season begins for the Utah Jazz against the Oklahoma City Thunder

The Utah Jazz are embarking on a potentially historic season

Oklahoma City Thunder v Utah Jazz Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

And we’re back!

The Utah Jazz can finally put the disappointing finish from last season behind them. Even though we could start every Jazz season with that line, it feels especially true this year. The Jazz are coming into this year with arguably their best roster ever. With three all-stars, the reigning DPOY and 6MOY, and new additions in Rudy Gay, Hassan Whiteside, and Jared Butler, this season has a chance to be special.

In some ways, it feels like you just need to fast forward to the playoffs and see if this team can get over the hump. With a historically great point differential last year it seems like it’s inevitable for the Jazz to roll through the season with one of the tops records in the league. But the Jazz can’t get complacent and go through the motions this year. They have to find ways to improve around the edges, their lineups, and sets. If the Jazz do what they did last year and do the same thing start to finish all year, they’ll win a lot of games but it won’t prepare them for the playoffs.

Sure, the Jazz dealt with injuries last season. Not having Mike Conley at 100% was hard to overcome and Donovan Mitchell playing on a bad ankle made it near impossible to overcome the Clippers. But this wasn’t the first time the Jazz have dealt with injuries. The season before they had all three healthy but were missing Bogdanovic. With the roster a year older, chances are the Jazz will be dealing with some sort of injury come playoff time. If they evolve throughout the season, they’ll have experience trying different things that could get them over the hump in the playoffs. If they run the same and the same rotations and they run into an injury, chances are we see exactly what happened last year repeat itself.

That’s why games like this one are important. The Oklahoma City Thunder are a team that’s going to lose a lot of games. It would be easy to just get the easy win and move on, but Utah needs to experiment in games like this. Get out of their comfort zone and make the unfamiliar, familiar with different looks and sets. Because of the versatility of their new additions, this Jazz team could be really special, they just have to embrace the change.

Game Info

When: 7:00 PM MT - Oct 20, 2021

Where: Vivint Arena, Salt Lake City, UT

TV: NBA League Pass, AT&T SportsNet-Rocky Mountain - BSOK

What to watch for

What happens in garbage time?

It’s possible the Thunder come out and have a surprisingly good night, but it’s more likely the combination of Giddey and Poku is not enough to beat the high-powered Jazz. There’s likely going to be a good amount of garbage time in this one. Do the Jazz take advantage and give players like Jared Butler and Miye Oni time to play? Better yet, can the Jazz find ways to get them meaningful minutes against NBA rotation players? I know that’s a tough ask against this Sixers team that looks like it’s playing for a chance to draft Holmgren in the upcoming draft, but it would be nice to see more of the Jazz young talent instead of hiding them until the last couple of minutes every night. It could be the thing that takes the Jazz to the next level.