The Utah Jazz, led by Rubio, Gobert, as well as instant star, Donovan Mitchell, made a surprisingly deep run into the playoffs this past season. What’s in store for the Utah Jazz roster this season?
Here’s our take.
The 2017-2018 NBA basketball season was a resounding success for the Utah Jazz. They finished with a 48-34 record, finishing 5th in an incredibly difficult Western Conference. They even managed to soundly defeat an ostensibly star-studded Oklahoma City Thunder and take the Houston Rockets to 7 games in the semi-finals.
This coming season, the Utah Jazz roster is mostly unchanged, which always a good sign for a young team loaded with talent. So what can we expect, or hope to expect, from this year’s team? Read on to find out.
Can Donovan Mitchell Take Another Leap?
Donovan Mitchell put up some absolutely absurd stat lines in the playoffs this year, making him a household name among NBA diehards and casuals alike. But, there is still much room for improvement for the young star.
His regular season statistics were considerably less impressive, averaging around 20 points per game on just 43% shooting from the floor. This is great for a rookie carrying the weight of his team on his shoulders. But if he continues to work on his game, we believe he can become a much more prolific and efficient scorer like what we saw in the playoffs on the regular basis.
If Mitchell takes another leap, the Jazz can make an even deeper playoff run.
Will Rudy Gobert Stay Healthy?
The Utah Jazz had the best defense in the league last year, and that is owed mostly to the gangly block and rebound machine, Rudy Gobert. However, the 2017-2018 Defensive Player of the Year was unable to stay healthy throughout the regular season, and you can tell his game was definitely affected in the playoffs.
All in all, he only managed to play 56 games last year, which undoubtedly influenced the team’s win-loss record. If Gobert can stay healthy for the entire season this year, the Jazz might be able to secure a higher seed for the playoffs and make a deeper run.
Can Ricky Rubio Improve His Fit?
Ricky Rubio’s career in the NBA has been marred by inconsistency and bad teammates but towards the end of the season, it seemed like he’d really found his niche on the Jazz.
He’s a more than capable passer and can score on his own when he needs to, but you really don’t want him as your first option. If Rubio accepts playing second fiddle to Donovan Mitchell and continues to improve his chemistry with the team, tossing dimes to Ingles and Gobert, this team will greatly improve its 19th ranked offense.
One thing to worry about with Rubio, though, is the injury that sidelined him for the Houston series last year. The team was noticeably less explosive with him off the floor. If that injury affects his game coming into this new season, the Jazz might be in trouble. Only time will tell.
Will Dante Exum Finally Prove His Worth?
The Jazz selected Dante Exum as the 5th overall pick in the 2014 draft, and gave him a 33 million dollar contract extension this summer, but have honestly shown little return on investment for the guy.
Granted, Exum’s career has been held back up to this point by serious injuries, so if he can stay healthy, who knows what his potential might be? We know two things about the Utah Jazz: the team desperately needs a third star alongside Gobert and Mitchell to compete for a championship, and Rubio’s ceiling is only so high.
If Exum can have a breakout year, the Jazz might be able to give the Warriors or Lebron’s new-look Lakers a run for their money.
Was Joe Ingles’ Playoff Performance a Fluke?
Joe Ingles was one of the biggest stories in the NBA playoffs last season. At 30 years old and pasty white, Ingles looked more like a career CPA shooting hoops at your local YMCA than a professional basketball player. He just didn’t, and doesn’t, look like the type of player that can survive in today’s hyper-athletic in the NBA.
But nevertheless, Smokin’ Joe was on fire in the playoffs, averaging 14.5 points and 45% 3-point shooting per game, giving the Jazz a much-needed boost when shots weren’t falling for Mitchell or Rubio.
The only question is, was this a fluke? We think not. The style of the play in the NBA today is very 3-point heavy, and that shows no signs of changing as long as the Warriors are winning championships. So there is absolutely no reason why Ingles shouldn’t be able to replicate his marksmanship from 3 this season. Time will tell, but he’ll likely see even more usage in the regular season this year.
How Deep Can This Team Go?
Despite Lebron moving to the L.A., it can be argued that the Western Conference grew weaker overall this year, while the Utah Jazz roster has only grown stronger through maturity and experience.
The Thunder lost a third man in Carmelo Anthony and haven’t found a worthy replacement. The Spurs lost Kawhi Leonard and as good as Demar DeRozan is, he won’t be able to carry that team through a meaningful playoff run. Lebron’s Lakers, based on their trollish roster moves, don’t appear to be competing for a title this year. And the Houston Rockets lost Trevor Ariza and replaced him with Carmelo, a man not known for defense, playoff intensity, or even scoring anymore.
If Gobert can manage to stay healthy, the Jazz can put up a record that’ll win them as high as a 3-seed in the playoffs this year. With a high seed and a weaker bottom half of the conference, the Utah Jazz could potentially make it all the way to the Western Conference Finals.
Does This Utah Jazz Roster Have You Excited?
The Utah Jazz roster is stacked with talent this year, and while other teams in the West have been under constant renovation, this team has had time to gel and grow together. We expect big things from them this year, and you should, too.
If you live in Utah, or the Jazz happens to bring the party to your city, you should definitely buy a ticket. It’ll be one of the best shows on the hardwood this year.