How Good Can the Utah Jazz Be Next Season?
The Utah Jazz have not advanced past the second round of the NBA playoffs since the 2006-07 season, but a reinvigorated Utah franchise is eager to restore its name among the NBA’s elite this coming season.
The Jazz crashed out of the playoffs at the hands of the Houston Rockets each of the past two seasons not because of their defense (Utah has been top-three in defensive rating for each of the past three seasons), but because of their lack of offensive firepower. The Jazz have been relying on Donovan Mitchell to be their primary offensive creator for both of those playoff runs, but despite his valiant efforts, he was unable to shoulder the load. The Jazz front office realized that, and made this offseason the year they would bolster their ranks and join the upper echelon of the West.
The Jazz followed the Lakers into the trade market to kickoff their offensive overhaul on June 19th when they sent Jae Crowder, Grayson Allen, Kyle Korver, a lottery protected 2020 first round pick and the 23rd pick in the 2019 draft to Memphis in exchange for Mike Conley. The Jazz had been favorites to acquire Conley at last year’s trade deadline, but couldn’t work out a deal at that time. It was always a dream for Jazz President Dennis Lindsay to pair Donovan Mitchell with a point guard who could run the offense so that Mitchell could be a secondary initiator, and make more plays off the ball. Conley is the perfect back-court mate for him.
Mike Conley may be the best NBA player ever not to make an All-Star game. He is a sniper coming off of the high PnR and might have the best floater in the game, able to hit it with either hand when the defense gives him even a sliver of space. He is coming off of arguably the best year of his career having averaged 21.1 ppg, 6.4 apg, and 3.4 rpg on 44/36/84 shooting splits, and showed his durability by playing in 70 games this past season after playing in only 12 during the ‘17-18 season. Conley is also a very solid defender, and will be an unbelievable presence in the locker room - he is one of the most level-headed stars in league history, playing over 700 games with the Grizzlies and never getting hit with a technical foul.
And The Jazz didn’t stop with Conley deal. Having created a hole in their frontcourt when they sent Crowder to Memphis, the Jazz added Bojan Bogdanovic from the Indiana Pacers on a 4-year, $73 million deal. Bogdanovic was integral to the Pacers success last season after Victor Oladipo went down with injury in late January. He became the Pacers’ primary offensive creator and thrived in the role, averaging a career high 18.0 ppg to go along with 2.0 apg and 4.1 rpg on 49/42/80 shooting splits. His numbers increased when Oladipo went down to 20.6 ppg 2.3 apg and 4.1 rpg on 50/41/79 shooting splits. He is going to be a fantastic third option on a stacked Jazz team.
Utah’s front office also solidified their bench and added ancillary pieces to fit around their core of Mitchell, Gobert, Ingles, Conley, and Bogdanovic. They signed Ed Davis to a 2-year, $10 million deal to make up for the loss of Derrick Favors to the Pelicans. They got Jeff Green on a 1-year, $2.5 million deal to provide some front-court depth and they were also able to secure Emmanuel Mudiay on a 1-year, $1.7 million deal. Mudiay had a solid year with the Knicks this past season and his agent BJ Armstrong was reportedly very eager to have him sign with the Jazz where he can be mentored by Conley and coach Quin Snyder. Mudiay is a very talented guard who just hasn’t had it click for him yet; hopefully going to a professional organization like Utah can help him realize his potential.
With this major roster turnover and sky-high expectations, the 2019-20 Utah Jazz team will have something that has been absent from Utah basketball for the better part of two decades: pressure. They now have championship aspirations not only as a team, but also as an organization and as a state. The Jazz have 16-1 odds to win the 2019-20 NBA Title -- honestly, they should be a bit higher.
They are the second-most complete team in the West top-to-bottom and boast real offensive threats to go with a defense that once again projects to be Top-5 in the league this coming season. As Jazz GM Justin Zanik told Adrian Wojnarowski on the Woj Pod this past week, “To be championship competitive ideally you need to be in the top five in offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency.” The Jazz have certainly accomplished that this offseason.