• John Aiello

Jekyll or Hyde: How Will the Utah Jazz Fare This Year?


*Photo via Getty Images

The Utah Jazz finished off their 2014-15 campaign with a 38-44 record, very respectable for a team full of youngsters and a first year coach trying to prove himself. They headed into the all-star break with a 19-34 record and were struggling, as expected, to win games. After the break, the Jazz flipped a switch and went 19-10 to finish the season.

What the hell happened? Maybe the Jazz hit the hyperbolic time chamber (DBZ reference). Just kidding, in reality, they traded disgruntled Enes Kanter, moved Dante Exum into the starting lineup, and picked up their offensive pace.

Now, many are looking at this up-and-coming Jazz team like they’ll duplicate their second half success and compete for a playoff spot. It’s possible, but what can we really expect to see this year?

Roster for 2015-16

*Photo via NBC

I love the Utah Jazz. If I could be any basketball player it would easily be the new ‘Great White Hope’, Gordon Hayward. He’s got the cool hair, he’s got some solid hops for a white boy, and he’s a nerd.

Ok, enough about Gordon Hayward.

Anyways, this a budding young team with plenty of talent. Besides Hayward, they have perhaps the most dominant defensive center in the league in Rudy Gobert, Derrick Favors is a stud scorer inside, and Alec Burks is a capable two-way player who missed most of last season.

This year may not go as smoothly as the last 29 games of last year as they simply didn’t do enough in the offseason to improve.

Drafting Trey Lyles out of Kentucky gives them a stretch four, but now they have a glut at the power forward position with Favors, Lyles and Trevor Booker.

With Exum missing the upcoming season with a torn ACL, they lose their starting point guard and now will be forced to start Burke, who was playing well as a sparkplug off the bench last year. Plus, this leaves them a major hole at the backup point guard position.

Signing Jeff Withey is a decent move; he’s a solid backup center who hasn’t had much of a chance to show his stuff. But, the rest of the roster is filled with names that look like they should be on D-League rosters (Grant Jerrett, Bryce Cotton, who are these guys?).

Failing to acquire more veteran players could be an issue for a team with the second lowest average age (24.6) heading into this season. They relied on the development of their young players too much, and it could come back to bite them.

Offensive Woes

*Photo via SBnation

The Jazz indeed had an elite defense last year, but their offense was quite the opposite. They relied too much on “OK, give the ball to Gordon and let him go to work”. Hey Quinn, Hayward is the best player ever but basketball is a team sport man!

Utah ranked first in passes per game (this means nothing, the Knicks ranked second, LOL), but they were 29th and 26th in assists and points per game, respectively. This reminds me of when I was in college and I would go to the library to watch YouTube videos and text, just because it made me feel better about not studying.

Late in games, their offense was considerably worse as they failed to get easy shots. Unfortunately, the Jazz lost a number of games in the final stretch because they couldn’t generate points.

On the bright side, the Jazz were near the middle of the pack in terms of offensive efficiency, showing that maybe they don’t take enough shots. If they heave up more shots, work on using Gobert and Derrick Favors to get second chances, it could propel their offense going forward.

On the Outside Looking In

*Photo via Sporting News

Sadly, the Jazz could find themselves not making the postseason for the fourth consecutive year. Why? Well, the West is good this year, like stupid good, even for West standards.

Barring any injuries, the top six seeds are locked up by the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies, and Golden State Warriors. So, that leaves two seeds available for the taking.

The Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Pelicans will also compete with Utah for those final two playoff spots.

The Pelicans have arguably the best player in the game in Anthony Davis, and a talented head coach in Alvin Gentry manning the helm. The Mavericks always find a way to compete for the postseason. The Kings are a circus, but they have the potential to win close to 50 games if Karl and Boogie can get on the same page. Then, there are the Suns, a comedic organization in their own right. Nevertheless, they’re always a lethal offensive team.

With all that being said, the Jazz have an incredible defense, and that always keeps you in games, but they struggle finishing games and their offense needs to improve. Can they win 50 games this year? Possibly, but even if they do it may not be enough in the Western Conference.

Stats courtesy of NBA.com, basketball-reference, and ESPN

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