• Andrew Hughes

It's Plan B for the Utah Jazz


This was the nightmare scenario for the Utah Jazz. After advancing to the Western Conference semifinals, the team has had both of its offseason nightmares come true: Gordon Hayward and George Hill have signed elsewhere.

Losing Hill is tough, but the team was able to replace him by trading for Ricky Rubio. Ultimately, Rubio comes at a cheaper price, saving over $7 million. The Spaniard is also more adept at running an offense than Hill, whose strengths include defense and 3-point shooting.

Hayward bolting for Boston stings no matter how you slice it. After spending seven years with the Jazz, Hayward decided that he'd have a better shot at winning with Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics.

The Jazz will not be able to replace everything Hayward brings. He was a 20+ point per game scorer and did everything on the court. Hayward was a capable defender, distributor and rebounder and was able to play either forward position as well as slot in at either spot on the wing. The Jazz were unable to sign a replacement with nearly his capabilities.

But they did sign replacements. The show must go on in Utah. Judging by the way free agency shook out, it could be a bit of a slow-paced, grit-and-grind kind of show.

The Jazz signed Thabo Sefolosha to a small contract to mitigate the damage of losing a two-way presence like Hayward. Sefolosha isn't likely going to start in Hayward's place with young wings like Rodney Hood, Alec Burke, and Donovan Mitchell looking for minutes on the wing.

The Jazz also employ Joe Johnson, who can handle the scoring load for a Utah team that lacks offensive threats. Sefolosha could serve as a change of pace defender who can lock down wings that are exploiting the Jazz's young guns.

Utah doubled down on its defensive efforts by signing Ekpe Udoh out of the Euroleague. Fresh off of a Euroleague title, Udoh can really help the team maintain its defensive identity when Gobert goes to the bench.

None of the Jazz's moves seem like high-impact acquisitions. Hayward was one of the biggest signings of the offseason and Hill was Sacramento's marquee signing. The Jazz's moves are less about the individual signings and more about what in unison they represent.

The Jazz are shifting how they play after the events of this offseason. The team lost two great shooters but have the firepower to come close to replacing it. They doubled down on defense though.

This is a smart move considering Gobert is their cornerstone. The team is going against the grain by being a squad full of stoppers. Maybe that's the way to compete in a Western Conference that features an offensive juggernaut in Golden State and a two-headed monster in Houston.

The Jazz will be less rhythm and more blues this coming season. Perhaps it will be in the form of black and blues with all of the physical defense the team is ready to deploy.

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