Utah Jazz: NBA season preview, roster and schedule 2018
Can the Jazz still be a playoff-caliber team this year without star Gordon Hayward? If so, how good can they be?
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
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.
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.
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
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!