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15 Oct 2017

Utah Jazz: NBA season preview, roster and schedule 2018

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Offseason Recap

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Projected Depth Chart

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Strengths

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Weaknesses

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Player to Watch - Donovan Mitchell

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2017/18 Schedule

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Prediction

Offseason Recap

Arrivals: Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell, Ekpe Udoh, Tony Bradley, Jonas Jerebko, Thabo Sefolosha

 Departures: Gordon Hayward, Boris Diaw, George Hill, Trey Lyles

The Utah Jazz’s worst fears were realized this offseason. Their rising star, Gordon Hayward, opted to depart and reunite with college coach Brad Stevens in Boston. 

After all their offseason activity, though, the Jazz look as if they are as in good a shape as anyone could expect considering the major loss they suffered from Hayward’s departure. They replaced injury prone George Hill with Ricky Rubio at point guard. The Spaniard should be a more capable playmaker than Hill, especially in the pick and roll, which makes him a good complement for the franchise’s new cornerstone, Rudy Gobert. Meanwhile, the Jazz opted to add more depth by adding veterans Thabo Sefolosha and Jonas Jerebko, as well as Ekpe Udoh.

However, Utah’s best piece of business was done during the draft, as they traded Trey Lyles and their number 22 pick to the Denver Nuggets for the 13th pick, which they used to select Donovan Mitchell. The guard has shown some star potential with his impressive performances during Summer League and preseason.

While none of those new additions are anywhere close to Hayward’s caliber, Utah are hoping these pieces can integrate themselves into the Jazz’s team-first system and at least help make up for the huge loss of Hayward.

Projected Depth Chart

C - Rudy Gobert / Ekpe Udoh / Tony Bradley

PF - Derrick Favors / Jonas Jerebko / Joel Bolomboy

SF - Joe Ingles / Joe Johnson / Thabo Sefolosha 

SG - Rodney Hood / Donovan Mitchell / Alec Burks

PG - Ricky Rubio / Raul Neto / Dante Exum

Strengths

The Jazz were one of the elite defensive teams in the league last season, and they might be better this year. Rudy Gobert is arguably the most dominant interior defensive force in the league today. He and Derrick Favors will be a formidable duo in terms of protecting the paint and cleaning up the defensive boards.

Meanwhile, their perimeter defense also figures to be outstanding. Rubio has been one of the best defenders at the point guard position for some time. Ingles is a capable team defender, and Sefolosha is one of the more reliable wing stoppers around.

Don’t sleep on the rookie Mitchell, either. While it remains to be seen whether the impressive offensive ability he’s shown in Summer League and preseason is for real, his defense should be there almost immediately. He’s a relentless on-ball defender who will get after it every time he’s on the court.

The sheer depth the Jazz have amassed is also impressive. They will have two to three legitimate options at every position and have the versatility to mix and match based on the matchup.

Weaknesses

The offense will obviously be a struggle now that they’ll be without Hayward. They will miss his shot-making and playmaking dearly, especially in clutch situations. They don’t have anyone close to his level in those departments, so it’ll have to be a team effort to make up for that production.

Because the Jazz will play primarily with two big men, the offense won’t be quite as potent as it could be. While the Jazz are generally an efficient offense, they’ll have to work a little bit harder than most teams to get offense because of their lack of spacing.

Health could also be a bit of a concern. They were decimated by injuries last season, which makes their 51-win season that much more impressive. But while they’re deep, they still need their key players to be healthy. 

They've already lost Dante Exum potentially for the season with a shoulder injury and Alec Burks has never been able to stay on the floor. Favors has a history of back and knee issues and Hood was also ravaged by knee problems last year. If they lose either of Favors or Hood for a significant period, they could be in trouble.

Player to Watch - Donovan Mitchell

Mitchell opened some eyes as he came out of nowhere to be one of the best players in Summer League. He averaged 20 points in five games, and came up with a monster 37-point, eight-steal outing against the Memphis Grizzlies. His shot is still a bit inconsistent, but he’s got the athleticism and the explosiveness to get to the rim on a consistent basis. 

However, Mitchell’s main strength may lie more on the defensive end of the floor. Despite being just 6’3”, he’s got a massive 6’10” wingspan which, coupled with his athleticism, should allow him to defend multiple positions. More importantly, Mitchell plays with a high intensity on that end of the floor, which will make him an unpopular opponent to face.

If Mitchell can continue to make strides with his offense, he could end up being one of the more productive rookies in what is an impressive crop of first-year players this season.

2017/18 Schedule

1 Oct 18, 2017 vs. Denver Nuggets    

2 Oct 20, 2017 @ Minnesota Timberwolves    

3 Oct 21, 2017 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder    

4 Oct 24, 2017 @ Los Angeles Clippers    

5 Oct 25, 2017 @ Phoenix Suns    

6 Oct 28, 2017 vs. Los Angeles Lakers    

7 Oct 30, 2017 vs. Dallas Mavericks    

8 Nov 1, 2017 vs. Portland Trail Blazers    

9 Nov 3, 2017 vs. Toronto Raptors    

10 Nov 5, 2017 @ Houston Rockets    

11 Nov 7, 2017 vs. Philadelphia 76ers    

12 Nov 10, 2017 vs. Miami Heat    

13 Nov 11, 2017 vs. Brooklyn Nets    

14 Nov 13, 2017 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves    

15 Nov 15, 2017 @ New York Knicks    

16 Nov 17, 2017 @ Brooklyn Nets    

17 Nov 18, 2017 @ Orlando Magic    

18 Nov 20, 2017 @ Philadelphia 76ers    

19 Nov 22, 2017 vs. Chicago Bulls    

20 Nov 25, 2017 vs. Milwaukee Bucks    

21 Nov 28, 2017 vs. Denver Nuggets    

22 Nov 30, 2017 @ Los Angeles Clippers    

23 Dec 1, 2017 vs. New Orleans Pelicans    

24 Dec 4, 2017 vs. Washington Wizards    

25 Dec 5, 2017 @ Oklahoma City Thunder    

26 Dec 7, 2017 vs. Houston Rockets    

27 Dec 9, 2017 @ Milwaukee Bucks    

28 Dec 13, 2017 @ Chicago Bulls    

29 Dec 15, 2017 @ Boston Celtics    

30 Dec 16, 2017 @ Cleveland Cavaliers    

31 Dec 18, 2017 @ Houston Rockets    

32 Dec 20, 2017 @ Oklahoma City Thunder    

33 Dec 21, 2017 vs. San Antonio Spurs    

34 Dec 23, 2017 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder    

35 Dec 26, 2017 @ Denver Nuggets    

36 Dec 27, 2017 @ Golden State Warriors    

37 Dec 30, 2017 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers    

38 Jan 3, 2018 vs. New Orleans Pelicans    

39 Jan 5, 2018 @ Denver Nuggets    

40 Jan 7, 2018 @ Miami Heat    

41 Jan 10, 2018 @ Washington Wizards    

42 Jan 12, 2018 @ Charlotte Hornets    

43 Jan 15, 2018 vs. Indiana Pacers    

44 Jan 17, 2018 @ Sacramento Kings    

45 Jan 19, 2018 vs. New York Knicks    

46 Jan 20, 2018 vs. Los Angeles Clippers    

47 Jan 22, 2018 @ Atlanta Hawks    

48 Jan 24, 2018 @ Detroit Pistons    

49 Jan 26, 2018 @ Toronto Raptors    

50 Jan 30, 2018 vs. Golden State Warriors    

51 Feb 2, 2018 @ Phoenix Suns    

52 Feb 3, 2018 @ San Antonio Spurs    

53 Feb 5, 2018 @ New Orleans Pelicans    

54 Feb 7, 2018 @ Memphis Grizzlies    

55 Feb 9, 2018 vs. Charlotte Hornets    

56 Feb 11, 2018 @ Portland Trail Blazers    

57 Feb 12, 2018 vs. San Antonio Spurs    

58 Feb 14, 2018 vs. Phoenix Suns    

59 Feb 23, 2018 vs. Portland Trail Blazers    

60 Feb 24, 2018 vs. Dallas Mavericks    

61 Feb 26, 2018 vs. Houston Rockets    

62 Mar 2, 2018 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves    

63 Mar 3, 2018 @ Sacramento Kings    

64 Mar 5, 2018 vs. Orlando Magic    

65 Mar 7, 2018 @ Indiana Pacers    

66 Mar 9, 2018 @ Memphis Grizzlies    

67 Mar 11, 2018 @ New Orleans Pelicans    

68 Mar 13, 2018 vs. Detroit Pistons    

69 Mar 15, 2018 vs. Phoenix Suns    

70 Mar 17, 2018 vs. Sacramento Kings    

71 Mar 20, 2018 vs. Atlanta Hawks    

72 Mar 22, 2018 @ Dallas Mavericks    

73 Mar 23, 2018 @ San Antonio Spurs    

74 Mar 25, 2018 @ Golden State Warriors    

75 Mar 28, 2018 vs. Boston Celtics    

76 Mar 30, 2018 vs. Memphis Grizzlies    

77 Apr 1, 2018 @ Minnesota Timberwolves    

78 Apr 3, 2018 vs. Los Angeles Lakers    

79 Apr 5, 2018 vs. Los Angeles Clippers    

80 Apr 8, 2018 @ Los Angeles Lakers    

81 Apr 10, 2018 vs. Golden State Warriors    

82 Apr 11, 2018 @ Portland Trail Blazers 

Prediction

The Jazz won't come up with too many surprises this season. They will defend at an elite rate and their offense will take a significant step down without Hayward. However, the defense will be good enough to keep them in contention for one of the final playoff spots in the West, and they ultimately grab the eighth and final seed.

Do you see the Jazz remaining a playoff contender without Gordon Hayward? Share your thoughts in the comments below!