For multiple seasons, the Utah Jazz have found a way to succeed in the playoffs despite not having a team makeup that could overcome the very best in the league.
Each of the last three seasons, when they eventually faced either the Rockets or the Warriors, it would catch up to them. Last season an unlucky draw had them facing the Houston Rockets in the first round and, well, we know how that ended.
The inability of the Jazz to advance in the playoffs is not because of the talent of Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert or even Derrick Favors. In and of themselves, each is a high level starter in the league capable of winning games for the Jazz. We’ve seen each of them do it.
But the sum of those parts does not equal a championship contender. It’s an equation that doesn’t leave you with a clear answer.
If the Jazz are lucky enough to sign Tobias Harris, they have a chance to go all the way because that starting lineup will finally be able to outdo other starting lineups.
Imagine having a starting lineup that doesn’t always hand off a deficit to the bench. That’s been the story for the Jazz the last few seasons and that would change once you have Tobias Harris starting at the 4-spot alongside Rudy Gobert. Finally, the Jazz starting unit would have shooting and spacing to enhance their two best players.
So much of the Jazz offense last season ended with a drive to the hoop with a clogged paint. It’s clear that everything Quin sets up in his offense is to create open shots either from three or at the rim. But as good as Quin is at scheming, nothing can make up for multiple players on the floor who can’t shoot. It made the Jazz very easy to guard for opposing defenses.
No matter how much the Jazz passed, created switches or picked the defender, the starting unit would too often end up with an inefficient 3-pointer taken by Ricky Rubio. Favors would spend most of his time in the dunkers spot with his defender sagging off to help defend others.
Opposing coaches had an easy time guarding the Jazz because they could focus on Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles on the perimeter without consequence. It’s not a coincidence that Joe Ingles had a downturn in his three-point shooting last season.
By putting one of the elite three point shooters in the league at the 4-spot it will alleviate so many problems for Utah immediately. In LA, Harris was over 40% from three consistently. On top of that, he would use a solid dribble drive game where he scored at the rim easily when he had space.
In the playoffs, against the Rockets, Utah had to abandon their normal starting five with Favors at the 4-spot after two embarrassing initial losses. With Jae Crowder starting at the power forward, they immediately became competitive with a victory and close losses.
Now, what if you replaced Crowder’s production with Harris’s?
It’s not a stretch at all to say that Utah could have gotten over Houston in the playoffs had they had that level off production on their starting unit.
Not only would the Jazz get that production from Harris, it would complete the equation for the entire team. Do we really know how good Donovan Mitchell is? In his two years with the Jazz he has had to do everything without spacing and facing multiple defenders. What happens when all he has to do is beat his man? This is the part where you insert an exciting gif...
Harris isn’t just an elite spot up shooter, either. He can put the ball on the floor and score around the rim with nice touch. With Quin’s motion offense, Harris would take advantage of defenses who break down after a Mitchell drive. He’d immediately give the Jazz an efficient 20 PPG from the 4-spot every night while spacing the floor for others.
If the Jazz could also sign a high level shooter that could play off of Mitchell, it could pay off big time. If you inserted someone like a Patrick Beverley, to go along with Tobias Harris, it’s easy to see Donovan Mitchell going for 25+ PPG for the season and making an all-star team.
When the playoffs rolled around, the Jazz would have a perfect team makeup to get over the hump. Now, with the Warriors dealing with injuries, the Jazz have an opening for the finals like they haven’t had for years. If they can convince Tobias to join the team, they’re going to have home court advantage in the playoffs and even the finals.