As we all know, the 2017-18 season for the Utah Jazz was somewhat of a snowball. It started off relatively successful, hit a snag in December with the injury of Rudy Gobert, and really started to see major success after his return in February. Plus/minus is a statistic that often confirms the popular “eye test”, and it does so in this case. The following chart is the Jazz’s +/- for each month of the 2017-18 season.
The Jazz roared into the playoffs, and rode that scorching momentum into the second round. This year, the Jazz should be looking to grow off of that and claw their way to a hard-earned Western Conference Finals appearance, or potentially even an NBA Finals appearance. When thinking about this goal, it might benefit the Jazz to ask themselves, “What is this team missing that would make us true title contenders?” The obvious answer is star power. Golden State is the favorite this year to win the championship with their entire starting lineup of all-stars. At the same time, Golden State may be more vulnerable this year than they typically have been. The depth of their roster looks like it significantly drops off after their starting five. We see a 32-year-old Shaun Livingston, a rookie Jacob Evans, a 34-year-old Andre Iguodala, and a couple promising-but-inexperienced bigs in Kevon Looney and Jordan Bell. I don’t know about you, but to me that lineup seems a little lacking. Point being, this may just be the year that the Warriors are dethroned, and star power may not be a requirement if you simply have a good bench—and that is something the Jazz do have.
A second thing the Jazz are missing is a defensive answer to midrange shooters. James Hansen reported on an article from Five Thirty Eight last week concerning the Jazz being title contenders, but I liked it so much that I decided to bring it back for further review.
Unlike clubs who have matchup problems with a particular player, for the Jazz it was their scheme that was exposed. During the postseason series with Houston, Chris Paul and the Rockets showed a willingness to exploit the Jazz’s funnel-everything-inside-to-Gobert scheme by feasting on midrange jumpers — a shot that most elite defenses welcome with open arms. The challenge for Utah, of course, was that Paul has long been a great midrange shooter, and the Warriors — maybe the best shooting team ever — have begun hitting that shot at a ridiculous clip, too. And such an attempt mitigates Gobert’s best skill of protecting the rim.
It’s too early to ask, “What can we do differently?” But for a team that could be as good as the Jazz should be, they’d be wise to at least begin formulating an answer. If they can generate one come postseason, it could put them on close-to-even footing with their conference heavyweights — and on the short list of true NBA title contenders.
Two teams that particularly worry me, while we sit here and contemplate during the offseason, are Houston and Portland. Chris Paul and James Harden are particularly good at hitting the midrange shots that the Jazz’ defense prefers to allow. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum have floaters with just enough arch to get over a fully-extended Gobert arm. The Spurs with DeMar DeRozan’s midrange specialty may be another team to keep an eye on. All in all, Quin has his work cut out for him with this one. Maybe this is easier said than done, and there is nothing to be done but hope those shots miss. Although, I am certain Quin and his staff will think of something.
Here’s a good thought process: what do the Jazz have to do this upcoming season to prove to you personally that they are true contenders? For me the answer is threefold:
- Show a defensive answer for “five-out” offenses. (Where all five opposing players are three-point threats.)
- Show a defensive answer for midrange offenses.
- Show improved efficiency on the offensive side of the floor—making more shots has a strong correlation with winning more games.
Donovan Mitchell celebrated his birthday over the weekend. Like a true competitor, he spent at part of his day putting in the work to get those gains. Spida is looking well-toned in preparation for this upcoming season.
NBA on TNT and ESPN posted a couple of my favorite Donovan Mitchell plays from the season. I just had to share them. These plays brighten my day, that is for sure, but imagine what is in store for us this next season.
Donovan Mitchell turns 22 today.— ESPN (@espn) September 7, 2018
We still can't believe he did this. pic.twitter.com/BxOE9uQKIH
Rob Goldberg of Bleacher Report wrote an article ranking the top 5 rookie shooting guards of this year’s draft class. He notes that these rankings are based on how they will perform this season, and not on their long-term potential as prospects. They are as follows:
5. Josh Okogie, Minnesota Timberwolves
4. Lonnie Walker IV, San Antonio Spurs
3. Kevin Huerter, Atlanta Hawks
2. Grayson Allen, Utah Jazz
1. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
Here is an excerpt from the section about Grayson.
The Jazz will value his shot-making as a spot-up threat and shooter off screens, after he buried 273 threes over the last three seasons.
But Allen can also give the Jazz exciting athleticism and a secondary playmaker as someone who has made progress as a setup man. He ranked in the 75th percentile last year as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, and he was effective creating for teammates even when he didn’t have a screen, with seven of his 12 passes out of isolation resulting in field goals.
Inconsistency has always been a problem for the soon-to-be 23-year-old (October). However, in a spark role playing with Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Ricky Rubio, Dante Exum, Derrick Favors and Jae Crowder, Allen’s hot nights will be more impactful than his off ones.
He also made a case for himself in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas during July, flashing a more well-rounded skill set that suggested he’ll still have something to offer during games when his shot isn’t falling.
I recommend a click through to see his reasoning behind the rest of these. I personally find myself in agreement with him, although I will admit to drinking a little too much Grayson Allen Kool-Aid. I am very excited to see what Grayson will be able to do as he enters his rookie season. It may be daunting at first, but once he gets settled into coach Quin’s system, I get the feeling he will be just what the doctor ordered.
Taking a look around the league...
- Rodney Hood signed a one-year 3.4 million dollar qualifying offer with the Cleveland Cavaliers. There have been negotiations back and forth, and it looks as though Rodney’s agent had to do this in order to get any leverage whatsoever over the situation. Rodney will be in a true contract year, with the Unrestricted Free agent mark looming over.
Restricted free agent Rodney Hood is signing a one-year, $3.4M qualifying offer to re-sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers, per league sources.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) September 9, 2018
- Devin Booker is out indefinitely after having hand surgery. He is likely to miss more than four weeks. Booker should not miss many—if any—regular season games. Even if he did, this would not affect the Jazz much, as the first meeting between the Suns and Jazz will be held at the Vivint Arena on February 6th.
I put out this poll to my followers on Twitter, and would be interested to find out what all of you thought as well. Out of these four Utah Jazz role players, which will have the best overall career in their time with the Jazz?
Which of these four players will have the best career with the Jazz?
This poll is closed