Additions: Grayson Allen
Subtractions: Jonas Jerebko
Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Ricky Rubio
SG: Donovan Mitchell
SF: Joe Ingles
PF: Derrick Favors
C: Rudy Gobert
Key Bench Players: Jae Crowder, Dante Exum, Grayson Allen, Royce O’Neale, Alec Burks, Georges Niang, Thabo Sefolosha
This is a Jazz team that surprised many en route to the 5th seed in the Western Conference and a trip to the Western Conference Semifinals. Their success can be attributed to Rookie of the Year runner-up Donovan Mitchell and Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert. The team made zero changes over the offseason, save for drafting Grayson Allen out of Duke with the 21st overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft. They will be looking to Mitchell to maintain his excellence and not fall into a sophomore slump.
Donovan Mitchell was the steal of the 2017 Draft, taken with the 13th overall pick out of Louisville. Last season, he was the leader of all rookies in points with 20.5 per game. With the ability to score from all three levels and extreme athleticism at 6’3, Spida is the undisputed number one option in this Utah Jazz offense. Not only is he an electric scorer, but Mitchell is also a tough defender with a lengthy 6’10 wingspan from the shooting guard position and can operate as a secondary playmaker (3.7 assists per game last season) next to pass-first point guard Ricky Rubio. If he continues to rack up points, the Jazz will be looking at another playoff berth. If not and he falls into the proverbial sophomore slump, this could be a tough season for Mitchell and the Jazz.
The best thing going for the Jazz right now is their defense. With the best rim protector in all of basketball in the Frenchman Rudy Gobert, Utah is well-armed for the less glamorous end of the basketball court. Pair that with 3-and-D specialist Joe Ingles and savvy defender Ricky Rubio alongside Mitchell and Gobert, the Jazz will continue to rack up wins based on their defense alone. Also off the bench are above average defenders in the versatile Jae Crowder, Thabo Sefolosha, and Royce O’Neale, and lengthy guards Dante Exum and Alec Burks. This is a reminder that this same Jazz team was second in the NBA a season ago in opponents’ points per game at 99.8. Even if the offense takes a step back, their defense should thrust them into the playoff conversation.
I am not completely sold that the Jazz will once again be the fifth seed out West, but they are most definitely in the conversation with the Pelicans behind the Warriors, Rockets, Thunder, and Lakers. With Grayson Allen injecting scoring and athleticism off the bench, Mitchell’s expected improvement, and any other players taking the next step, coach Quin Snyder and Co. should be looking at a successful season. They may not see the same playoff success as last season, but the future is starting to look rather bright in Salt Lake City.
Picture Courtesy of The Shadow League
*For yesterday’ article on the Toronto Raptors, click here
Up next tomorrow: Washington Wizards
University of South Carolina ’21