The Utah Jazz have reached a new low for the 2021-22 season. After blowing yet another double-digit lead to a bottom feeder NBA team, they fall to 29-16 on the season, and a surprising 14-9 at home. The Grizzlies have now passed them in the standings at 31-16, and the Jazz sit in fourth place in the Western Conference, six games out of first place, and three games ahead of the Dallas Mavericks for home court advantage. The Jazz are reeling right now, and have lost six of their last seven games. It’s by far the worst stretch of basketball that they’ve played in the last two seasons, and might be even more than that.
Yes, they have obviously not been at full strength in the majority of these games. They’ve been dealing with their first struggles with COVID-19 on the team, missing games from Rudy Gobert, Joe Ingles, Rudy Gay, and Hassan Whiteside in the last two weeks. They are also dealing with injuries, most significantly to Donovan Mitchell who was concussed in the Lakers game. But in all but one of these losses (looking at you Toronto), the Jazz have had plenty of of their star players and opportunities to win games. If the Jazz had been playing top teams in the league during this stretch and losing games, you could understand that a little better. But when they are losing to the Pacers, Pistons, and Rockets while blowing big leads... it’s not a great look. If you want to re-live the pain, here you go!
Unfortunately for the Jazz too, they’ve got one of the toughest eight-game stretches of the season coming right at them starting this weekend. @Warriors, @Suns, Suns, @Grizzlies, @Wolves, Nuggets, Nets, Knicks is pretty brutal. And looking at the season beyond that, it doesn’t get much easier.
So, with all things considered, where do the Jazz go from here? There have been reports of the Jazz wanting to be very active as the trade line approaches, having a “defensive-minded wing” at the top of their priority list. You watch the Jazz one game and you can see their most glaring weakness, which is perimeter defense. With Rudy Gobert missing a few games over this bad stretch, the Jazz defense was completely exposed. It’s pretty clear that the Jazz need to improve on the perimeter or they will struggle with the exact same things that knocked them out of the playoffs last season. But what’s the play? The Jazz lack the assets to really make a meaningful move, unless they are willing to get crazy, which most believe they are not.
Myself personally, I’ve been pretty anti-trade throughout most of this season. In general, I am usually anti-trade. I get attached to the players, and tend to retain optimism that “they will start playing better”, or “just need to find their groove”. I truly believe that if the current Jazz roster played to their fullest abilities, no trade would be necessary. But that simply is not realistic. We’ve gotten enough sample size this season to see that Jordan Clarkson’s shooting probably isn’t going to improve, or that Joe Ingles isn’t going to get more aggressive, or that Bojan Bogdanovic will stay struggling to stay in front of his man. As much as I personally love these guys as Jazz players, for the sake of a shot at a championship, things need to get shaken up. The Jazz’s energy as a team just is not good right now. Even if they can’t get drastically better through a trade, just shaking things up enough to get a fresh set of legs in the rotation might spark a flame. Watching the Jazz over the last few weeks has just been brutal. Failing to do anything is just delaying the inevitable, which is an early playoff exit, like we’ve seen for the past five years.
If the Jazz fail to make a trade by the February 10th deadline, it will be hard to keep a positive outlook on the remainder of the season. It’ll be difficult to think that things will go any differently in the playoffs than they have the past few seasons. I would love nothing more than for the current Jazz players to just start playing better, and win a championship. I think that is the most ideal situation for all Jazz fans. But the way the last couple weeks have gone, it just seems almost impossible. We’ll leave it up to the actual front office to make these calls, as they will definitely be busy these upcoming weeks.