At 15-5 and just 0.5 games out of first in the West, scratch that first in the entire league, the Utah Jazz are off to a fantastic start this season. In fact, they are off to their best start since 2006-2007*. You know, the last time the Jazz made an appearance in the Western Conference Finals!
(*They also started the 2010-2011 campaign 15-5 but ended at 39-43)
Quin Snyder’s teams have generally come out of the gate pretty slow, so having an 11 game winning streak was an awesome change. And you can easily argue the Jazz haven’t hit their peak yet either. Bojan Bogdanovic, who scored 20+ points per game with ease last season is still settling in after the wrist injury.
Once things really settle in this season, just how good will this Jazz team be? Could a return to the Western Conference Finals be in play? Is this the best Jazz team since the 2007 version. Or is it the best since the late 90’s glory days?
2007 vs 2021
Aside from how it ended, I loved the Deron Williams era of the Utah Jazz. They were fun to watch and Jerry Sloan’s offense was just a well-oiled machine, leading them to consistent top 5 finishes at their peak. That team was SO good. It felt like they were on the brink or just 1 piece away for a couple years there.
But I think this year’s team is even better.
Let’s compare their starting lineups:
Point Guards: Deron Williams vs Mike Conley
Mike Conley has been fantastic this year. He’s been every bit the player that the Jazz traded before last season. It took him a while to reach this point, but he’s near-All Star caliber again. Deron Williams in his prime was definitely better, but DWill hadn’t quite hit his prime in 2007. At just 22 years old he was still an up and comer. That season he averaged 16.2 points, 9.3 assists, and 3.3 rebounds on 46/32/77 shooting. His advanced numbers were 111 ORtg, 110 DRtg, 1.3 BPM, .117 WS/48, and a TS% of 53.5%.
Mike Conley, on the other hand, is averaging 16.6 points, 6.2 assists, and 3.8 rebounds on 44/41/80 shooting. And his advanced numbers are 124 ORtg, 109 DRtg, 4.6 BPM, .213 WS/48, and a TS% of 58.9%. At best this one is probably a wash. Again, this is 2007 DWill, not peak DWill.
Shooting Guards: Derek Fisher vs. Donovan Mitchell
It pains me that I have to put Derek Fisher there. Personally, I remember Ronnie Brewer in this slot a lot more but this is how the majority of the 2007 starting lineup played out. This one obviously isn’t even close as to who the better player is. Don’t get me wrong, Fish played his role well for his limited time in Utah but Donovan would destroy that guy. Fisher was basically just a veteran presence that you could trust to make the right play, meanwhile Donovan is an All Star. I’m not even going to waste anyone’s time putting stats or other arguments here. Donovan >>>>> Derek.
Small Forwards: Andrei Kirilenko vs. Bojan Bogdanovic
Why do I love that it’s the two foreigners matched up here? But also with 2 drastically different games. I feel like this could be the matchup of the series if these two teams met. You’ve got the jack of all trades Kirilenko (who would be an absolute beast in the modern NBA) and the offensive specialist in Bojan.
2007 was definitely not AK47’s best season. That year he put up just 8.3 points but did add 4.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists. More important were his 1.1 steals and 2.1 blocks per game. After his insane All Star season, Andrei kind of just morphed into this Swiss (Russian?) army knife that could do it all. His 3 point shot wasn’t very reliable (just 31% for his career) but he hit some big ones. He could defend literally any position at a high level and was a crafty playmaker. Bojan, meanwhile, is averaging 14.7 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.0 assists. His overall FG% is quite down but his 3 ball is still going in at a 39.7% clip. The advanced stats definitely lean towards Kirilenko and I think I tend to agree. I think he would win this matchup over Bogdanovic.
Power Forwards: Carlos Boozer vs. Royce O’Neale
Honestly, I have a hard time believing that Derrick Favors wouldn’t be the starting PF in this hypothetical matchup. He just feels like the better matchup against Booz. Carlos Boozer is a tough one for me personally. He was an important player in a very successful era, but I just never really loved the guy like I have some Jazzmen. That being said, he put up some big numbers here, 2007 included. That year he averaged 20.9 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 3.0 assists. The advanced numbers were really good to him as well with a 114 ORtg, 104 DRtg, 4.6 BPM, .185 WS/48, and .588 TS%.
Royce counters with a very different play style. His numbers aren’t big but his impact can be at times. He’s having a solid year and is embracing the PF role. He is averaging 8.0 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 2.4 assists which are (nearly) all career highs. As is his scorching 46.8% from downtown. This is another pretty interesting matchup. You’ve got a traditional post man with like 30 pounds on his opponent. But that opponent has shown to guard PF’s pretty well and can stretch the floor. Boozer is the better player here. No doubt. But Royce would be a fun back and forth to watch.
Centers: Mehmet Okur vs. Rudy Gobert
Another matchup where playing styles couldn’t be much different. Memo was ahead of his times as a stretch big that wasn’t afraid to let it fly from deep (or with his toe on the line!). 2007 was his lone All Star campaign after averaging 17.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game. His shooting was so important for that Jazz team and he was a beast that year.
Rudy Gobert is definitely not a stretch big. But boy is he big. You Jazz fans obviously don’t need me to tell you that. He’s the best defensive player on the planet and arguably has become one of the best defensive players this planet has ever seen. And he’s having a really good year so far. He is putting up 13.5 points, 13.8 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks. And his defensive is absolutely top notch again (minus that Denver game...). I think Rudy is obviously the better player here. But Memo would make him work and be tough pulling him away from the basket so frequently.
- 2007: Matt Harpring, Paul Millsap, Gordan Giricek, Jarron Collins, Ronnie Brewer
- 2021: Jordan Clarkson, Joe Ingles, Derrick Favors, Georges Niang, Miye Oni
Ok this isn’t even close. The depth of the 2021 Jazz is almost unfair at times. Especially spots 6-8, each of which could likely start for many NBA teams. I know that playoff rotations tighten up quite a bit, but there’s no way that this discrepancy doesn’t play a pretty big role here. I think the bench minutes, even if limited, would lean pretty significantly in 2021’s favor and gain or stretch leads.
That being said, can you imagine the chess match between Jerry Sloan and Quin Snyder? I think Quin would come into a 7 game series with the better pieces, but Coach Sloan always got more out his rosters than he should have. I (obviously) give the coaching edge to Jerry here. He’s one of the best to ever do it. But is it that advantage enough? I don’t think so.
Personally, I think this current team is the best one we’ve seen since The Statues. I think they beat the 2007 Jazz in a 7 game series.
But what do you think?