Utah Jazz: They might be better than you think
A look at the Utah Jazz and their late season surge.
When we talk about the best teams in the NBA, the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets usually come to mind. Rarely does anyone talk about the Utah Jazz.
However, over the course of the 2017/18 NBA season, the Utah Jazz have quietly become a team that everyone knows not to take lightly. They are also a team that no one wants to face in the first round of the playoffs.
Let’s take a deeper look at one of the best-kept secrets in the NBA.
How good have the Jazz been?
After losing Gordon Hayward in the off-season, many people expected the Jazz to take a major step back this season. Despite a mediocre start, they might be a better team than they were a year ago.
This was clear with their recent surge. Over the past two months, Utah went on an impressive 21-2 run from January to late March and moved back into the playoff picture.
With the help of “Defensive Player of the Year” candidate Rudy Gobert, the Utah Jazz have also become one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, owning the second-best overall rating only behind the Boston Celtics.
Much of the credit goes out to General Manager Dennis Lindsey, and the valiant job he has done in re-vitalizing his roster. With that said, here is a deeper at the personnel of this team.
The Jazz has plenty of contributors with different skill sets in their lineup. Players like Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors gives Utah a huge advantage in the paint as they form one of the best frontcourts in the NBA.
The pair have played together frequently in the starting lineup, giving the Jazz the ability to protect the paint and secure rebounds on both ends of the floor. Helping them get a lot of second-chance points and make the opposing team take tough shots.
After battling with injuries and inconsistency for much of last season, Favors is having a nice bounce-back year averaging 12.1 points, 7.2 rebounds, and is shooting a 0.572 effective field-goal percentage.
Other key players have played a huge role in changing the identity of this team and they include:
Donovan Mitchell has been the most eye-catching addition to the Utah Jazz this season. The 21-year-old has made an immediate impact as a rookie, leading the team in scoring. He is averaging over 20 points a game along with 3.6 assists, 1.5 steals and is shooting an impressive 0.504 effective field goal percentage.
Mitchell has given the Jazz a legit scoring combo-guard who can be relied to generate offense nightly, something they didn’t have last season. Besides that, the Louisville product looks like he is on his way to winning the “Rookie of the Year Award” this season.
Ricky Rubio has had an intriguing first season in Utah. The seven-year NBA veteran was acquired through trade in the off-season and has flourished under Quin Snyder’s system.
Not only have the Jazz have utilized Rubio’s elite playmaking abilities, Rubio has also significantly improved as a shooter.
Traditionally, he has never really been a great shooter in the NBA but he has shown great consistency this season. The former Minnesota Timberwolves is averaging a career-high 12.7 points per game and shooting an impressive 0.463 effective field goal percentage and making 1.2 threes per game.
The 30-year-old is having a breakout season of his own. Averaging a career high in points (11.5), assists (4.5), rebounds (4.3) and minutes played (31.5). Ingles has also worked his way into the Jazz’s starting lineup and has been a vital part of the team’s success.
He has helped the Jazz stretch the floor with his elite shooting and has been a top-three pointer shooter in the NBA this season. The Happy Valley, Australia native has one of the best percentages from beyond the arc at 0.444 and is a top-ten in the NBA with 194 three-pointers made.
Aside from their impressive starting unit, the Jazz also has had solid contributions form the bench. Despite only averaging 17 minutes a night, the Jazz’s have the 12th highest scoring bench; generating an average of 34.5 points a night.
Noticeable contributors include:
Jae Crowder – Acquired from the Cleveland Cavaliers in the middle of the season, Crowder has given the Jazz a versatile wing contributing in multiple ways, has provided instant offense off the bench.
Royce O’Neale – is another player who has quietly made a solid impact on the Jazz this season. O’Neale gives the Jazz a solid “Three and D” option and can guard multiple positions making a major impact on both ends of the floor every night.
Dante Exum – The Jazz recently got Dante Exum back from injury and the former fifth overall pick seems to have given their bench more firepower. He has plenty to prove and definitely has the skill set to be a key offensive player for the Jazz’s second unit.
There is obviously a lot to like about this Utah Jazz team as they try to secure a playoff berth. They have been one of the hottest teams in the NBA for the past several months and doesn’t look to be slowing down soon.
They have a good chance to finish anywhere from third to eighth in the Western Conference. If they can avoid the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets in the first round, one must like their chance to be at least a second-round team in this year’s playoffs.
What is your opinion of the Utah Jazz? Let us know in the comment section below.