OTG's All-Decade Team: Utah Jazz Edition
Joe Camporeale – USA TODAY Sports
The past decade of professional basketball in Salt Lake City has been an up-and-down roller coaster. Deron Williams, Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap led the Jazz to top four finishes in the Western Conference, while the current Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert era looks equally promising.
With a few other iterations thrown in, the Utah Jazz have certainly seen great change.
There’s been some terrific players to suit up for Utah in the 2010s.
Guard: Donovan Mitchell
While it may come across as recency bias, young Donovan Mitchell is the best Utah Jazz point guard of the decade. (Deron Williams had a phenomenal final season in Salt Lake City before being traded to the Brooklyn Nets in 2011, but it was his lone SLC season in the 2010’s.)
Mitchell represents Utah’s present and future, and the 2018 Rookie of the Year runner-up has taken his game to new heights this year. Making a marked improvement on the defensive end of the floor, Mitchell’s third-year stats are highlighted by averages of 25.3 points per game, five rebounds, and nearly four assists a game.
Forward: Gordan Hayward
A heartbreaking departure won’t stop Gordan Hayward from earning a nod as the best Utah Jazz forward of the 2010’s.
Culminating in almost 22 points per game, 3.5 assists, and 5.4 rebounds on almost 40 percent shooting from long-range and a whopping 74 percent from the floor, Hayward’s 2016-17 season in Utah was sublime.
Becoming an All-Star and endearing himself as a fan favorite, Hayward’s decision to join up with his old Butler coach Brad Stevens hurt for fans in Utah. Despite this, it’s hard to deny how good the Indiana-native was during his seven seasons in Salt Lake City, establishing himself as arguably the best small forward in Jazz history.
Center: Rudy Gobert
The easiest selection of this list and potentially the player of the decade for SLC, defensive juggernaut Rudy Gobert is undoubtedly the best Jazz center of the 2010’s.
Boasting career averages of 13.4 points, almost 14 rebounds, a field goal percentage of 64.3 and 2.2 blocks per game, Gobert has excelled in the Vivint Smart Home Arena paint this decade.
The Frenchman’s impressive resume includes:
All-NBA Second Team in 2017
All-NBA Third Team in 2019
Back to back NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2018 and 2019
NBA All-Defensive First Team 2017-2019.
Missing an All-Star selection (a pure travesty) doesn’t stop Gobert from being regarded as the leader of one of the best NBA defenses in recent memory, and an integral part of this all-decade Utah Jazz team.
Role Player: Derrick Favors
Now this is where things get difficult. Choosing between the clutch (Joe Johnson in the 2017 playoffs), or a reliable glue-guy (Joe Ingles) isn’t easy.
In the end, though, one player stands out for his versatility in different roles and ability to contribute in key playoff moments. The best Utah Jazz role player of the 2010’s is Derrick Favors.
The recently departed Favors came over to Utah in the Deron Williams trade, and became the longest-tenured Jazz player of the decade until he moved to New Orleans in the past offseason. Ultimately a victim of the current NBA landscape, Favors formed a great 1-2 punch with Al Jefferson and eventually Gobert, either as a starting tandem or as great injection of energy off the bench.
Favors would be regarded as an ideal modern center in today’s NBA while playing in Salt Lake City, rather than the perfect power forward role envisaged for him when he was drafted earlier in the decade.
Reaching career high points per game averages in 2015-16 with 16.4 and a career field goal percentage of 52.6, Favors wasn’t just great in the regular season; he had clutch playoff moments.
With Rudy Gobert in foul trouble against the Clippers in Game 7 of a first-round playoff series against the LA Clippers, Favors turned it on at Staples Center. Coming off the bench for 17 points on 8-11 shooting, to go with 11 rebounds in a go-home game was immense, and secured Utah’s first playoff series win since 2010.
The next year, Favors was again the hero off the bench. In Game 2 of the first-round series against Oklahoma City, Favors dropped 20 points and snagged 16 rebounds - 8 of which on the offensive glass.
Best Wildcard: Jeremy Evans wins the 2012 Slam Dunk Contest
With career stats of 3.5 points and 2.6 rebounds per game over seven seasons in the NBA (five of which were for the Jazz), Jeremy Evans’ production doesn’t jump off the page. His dunking prowess, however, is a different story.
Seriously, check out this ridiculous block and then coast-to-coast slam against the Clippers in 2012. (Sorry Ronny Turiaf.)
Evans’ high-flying antics booked him a spot in the 2012 Slam Dunk Contest, jamming over comedian Kevin Hart while paying tribute to Karl Malone. He also dunked two basketballs in one go, assisted by a fresh-faced Gordon Hayward.
Overall, the 2010s were full of highs and lows for the Jazz, but they exit this decade with arguably their best team since John Stockton and Karl Malone were in Salt Lake City. An elusive NBA Championship is as close as ever.
All statistics included from Basketball Reference and NBA.com