Zach Lowe published his annual NBA league pass rankings, and the Utah Jazz once again find themselves towards the bottom of the league. After coming in dead last a year ago, Zach Lowe has them at just the 25th most interesting team headed into 2023-2024.
Here’s some of what he had to say about the “Purple is Back” Jazz:
Utah officials still mock last year’s rankings for slotting them 30th and referring to the Jazz as a random motley of players gathered in an airport waiting area, readying for flights to new teams.
Utah proved the league’s most adaptable team, turning the thrown-together bounty of two megatrades into a fast-paced, 3-point machine by maximizing each player’s strengths instead of getting hung up on their weaknesses. Lauri Markkanen’s ability to score in a variety of ways from anywhere on the floor made it easy for everyone else to find their comfort zones.
This year’s team looks similarly disjointed, but the League Pass algorithm is a self-teaching neural network and knows better. There is no traditional point guard. Markkanen is starting, again, as a gigantic “small” forward. John Collins, rescued from “stand around and watch Trae Young” prison, will again start next to a rim-rolling center — Walker Kessler — who does the thing Collins does best.
And yet: Utah and its coach, Will Hardy, will Voltron this into a coherent team. Collin Sexton and Jordan Clarkson attack the paint with the swashbuckling machismo of 10-time All-Stars. Sexton flies at giants, inviting collisions. Clarkson is a slippery, jump-stopping gunner — and bought into more of a distributor role last season. Talen Horton-Tucker’s arrhythmic diagonal slashing is hard to grasp. Keyonte George and Ochai Agbaji will stake claims. (Agbaji surged late last season.) Collins will rim run and power dunk when Kessler rests.
To hit All-NBA, Markkanen has to improve his playmaking. To reach his next level — borderline All-Star, maybe — Kessler has to expand his offense, and he flashed the touch and guile to do it. Their progress will determine a lot of Utah’s medium-term trajectory.
Honestly, I think it’s a pretty fair assessment. The Jazz aren’t expected to compete for a championship this year. In fact, they may not even compete for a playoff spot with how deep the Western Conference is yet again. And they don’t appear to be handing the reigns over to a bunch of young, exciting new talent either. So they’re in that middle ground of a rebuild where things are moving in the right direction, but that can be less exciting for an outsider.
That being said, the Utah Jazz have some fun talent and one some nights will play some extremely entertaining basketball. Can Keyonte George have a Donovan Mitchell-like blast off to his rookie season? Will John Collins revitalize his career? Can Lauri Markkanen take that next step? What do Justin Zanik and Danny Ainge have up their sleeve next, because a trade or two seem inevitable this season.
The Jazz will always be ranked #1 in our hearts!