A year ago, I definitely would not have imagined ever coming up with a headline like this one. But yet, here we are. We’ve seen the Jazz get featured in a handfull of national articles this summer after being one of last year’s biggest surprises. Some national writers have predicted the Jazz to finish as high as second in the Western Conference. This hype train kept rolling yesterday with The Ringer publishing a piece on that same idea of the Jazz being the Warriors’ biggest threat in the NBA.
In what was a great feature piece, D.J. Foster posed the following question: Are we sure that Utah isn’t the 2nd-best team in the West? He spat some stats from Utah’s incredible run, giving it the respect it truly deserves.
The Utah team that finished the 2017-18 regular season may already be good enough to become Golden State’s biggest challenge in the West. The Jazz won 29 of their final 35 games after the trade deadline and posted a whopping plus-12 net rating during that span, a number that would have led the league by 3.5 points over the whole season. Utah also posted a 96.5 defensive rating during that time; you have to go all the way back to the Chicago Bulls and the Boston Celtics in 2011-12 to find teams that bested that mark over a full season. Utah being so dominant defensively—even with a rookie (Donovan Mitchell) and a trade-deadline acquisition (Jae Crowder) coalescing on the fly—lends credence to Jazz exec Dennis Lindsey re-signing Derrick Favors and Dante Exum and running it back.
He spent some time talking about Utah’s Aussie stars in Dante Exum and Joe Ingles, and what they mean for the Jazz defensively when trying to lockdown the league’s best scorers.
Utah’s potential ace in the hole against Golden State is Exum, finally healthy and fresh off cutting his teeth against James Harden during the Western Conference semifinals. Exum’s postseason sent sorely needed good news to the dwindling inhabitants of Dante’s Peak. Although Utah’s defense was elite with Exum playing in only 14 regular-season games, no player on the roster offers his level of defensive versatility. At 6-foot-6 with long arms and quick lateral ability, Exum can switch and reasonably hold his own against every member of Golden State’s crunch-time lineup while offering some bonus playmaking that Utah’s other bench players can’t.
The underrated defenders from Australia don’t stop there, as Joe Ingles has proved he can make life a little harder on Kevin Durant. In their past 10 head-to-head matchups, dating back to 2016, Ingles has held Durant to 20.8 points per game (roughly five points below his average as a Warrior) on lower shooting percentages across the board. Ingles won’t do this to Durant, but his complete nuking of “Playoff P” Paul George in Utah’s first-round defeat of the Thunder last season was a sight to behold.
He gave a shoutout to the Jazz’s “no fun” mentality, which should absolutely be embraced by everyone in Jazz Nation.
That’s the goal of this Jazz team: How not-fun can we make this for you? Fly into the city, everything is closed. Come to the arena, the fans are right on top of you. Game starts, there’s a defender climbing inside your jersey and a C.O.U.S. (Center of Unusual Size) waiting at the rim for you. Shootouts in Houston can be fun. The rock fights in Utah never are.
Ultimately, no matter how well the Jazz defend, the only team in the West that’ll beat Golden State will be a listless, bored, unmotivated version of Golden State. Houston won’t get to play that team—not after what happened last postseason. But the Jazz just might.
This feature piece landed smack-dab on the front page on The Ringer’s site in premier click realty space. It’s pretty awesome to see the Jazz in the bright lights, no matter if it is the dog days of the NBA offseason.
But after seeing yet another national feature piece on the Jazz, is it possible that this team is getting too much hype? Expectations are higher than they have been in probably the last decade. The national spotlight is beaming brighter than it has since the Stockton-Malone days. The pressure to perform is real. But too much hype? I don’t think so. I think it’s just the right amout of hype. The Jazz are for real. As long as they can stay healthy, we will truly see what type of damage they can do.
Who loves watching Donovan Mitchell dunks?
*Everyone raises hands*
Who loves watching Donovan Mitchell dunks with Donovan Mitchell talking about Donovan Mitchell dunks?
*Curious blank stares with crooked smiles*
It seems to be a weekly occurrence that Donovan Mitchell is somewhere doing something amazing for other people’s benefit. In this week’s edition, Spida surprised high school students in Utah encouraging excellent academics and getting them ready for the new school year.
Donovan Mitchell is here at Kearns HS surprising the top-performing students from last year on the second day of school this year. He’s also giving them all backpacks and T-shirts. pic.twitter.com/EViNusiQsh— Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) August 21, 2018
It’s not the Spida 1’s (sigh) but Adidas did reveal the new shoe that Donovan Mitchell will be sporting this season.
It’s only a matter of time before Donovan get’s his very own shoe, and when that day comes we will celebrate on the rooftops in our new Spida 1s.
How long will Donovan Mitchell’s rookie three-point record last? Are there any rookies in this year’s class that pose a threat? Meanwhile, Ben Simmons looks for his first three-pointer.