Utah Jazz 2019-20 Team Awards
After going all-in this past offseason, the Utah Jazz believed that they had primed themselves for a run at a high seed in the Western Conference and the pursuit of an NBA Championship. Instead of franchise-record-setting success, this season for the Jazz has been defined by inconsistency, culminating in a record of 41-23 and the 4th fourth seed in the Western Conference prior to the suspension of the NBA season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the NBA is looking at opportunities for the season to re-commence, we’ll be taking a look at the regular season team award winners for the Utah Jazz thus far.
Most Valuable Player & Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert
Perhaps the toughest honour to award, it would be easy to make a case for Donovan Mitchell’s career-best campaign, as he’s led the Jazz in scoring with 24.2 points per game. However, even with less of a team-wide reliance on the Frenchman's offensive production, Rudy Gobert has been the Most Valuable Player in a Jazz uniform this season.
With added ball handlers and offensive weapons like Bojan Bogdanović, Jordan Clarkson and Mike Conley joining the fray, Gobert’s shot attempts have decreased (8.8 to 8.2 FGA) but he’s posted a career-best 69 percent field goal efficiency, a mark that ranks second league-wide (which makes sense, given that most of his shot attempts come from within three feet of the rim).
The crucial part of Gobert’s success this season (and throughout his career) has been his defensive ability, which has risen to new heights yet again. The two-time reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year is averaging a career high 13.7 rebounds per game (third in the NBA) with a defensive rating of 103, and is the only player in the NBA with a DRPM rating above three.
Gobert's first All-Star worthy campaign translates into a take-home prize of two prestigious team awards for the Jazz.
Sixth Man of the Year: Jordan Clarkson
Another easy award to pick, Clarkson’s arrival in Utah in December of 2019 was instantaneously productive, bringing life to a struggling bench.
Clarkson’s 15.6 points per game are the second-best scoring numbers of his career, slotting him in as the team’s third-leading scorer despite only averaging 25 minutes per game.
In providing the Jazz with someone who can create their own scoring opportunities, Clarkson has maintained shooting percentages of 48 percent from the field and 36 percent from three-point range, living up to his billing as spark plug/microwave scorer.
Despite largely acting as a gunner, Clarkson has shown increased poise and maturity during his time under head coach Quin Snyder, and it would be a great move for the Jazz to keep the unrestricted free agent in Utah for the foreseeable future.
Most Improved Player: Tony Bradley
While Emmanuel Mudiay certainly was considered for this award, Tony Bradley takes home the Most Improved Player trophy in Utah. After playing 12 games and a mere 65 minutes in two seasons, Bradley has transformed into a solid backup big behind Gobert.
Appearing in 50 contests so far (with two starts), Bradley has averaged 4.7 points per game on 66 percent shooting from the field, while adding in 4.3 rebounds and 0.5 blocks per game, all in 10.7 minutes per contest.
Bradley’s play has been so valuable that he’s supplanted veteran big man Ed Davis in the rotation, a big who - at the time of his signing - looked like sure-thing as a valuable front court pickup during the offseason. This is mainly due to Bradley’s better fit on the offensive end, where he’s ranked in the 84th percentile when scoring on possessions as the roll man.
While there are still improvements to be made on the defensive end to cut down his fouling habit (seven fouls per 36 minutes), Bradley’s turned into a valuable insurance policy for Gobert, which would have been hard (read: near impossible) to predict in the previous two seasons.
Rookie of the Year: Juwan Morgan
A tricky award to pick as no Jazz rookie has played major minutes this season, Juwan Morgan edges out Rayjon Tucker with a more promising NBA performance. Said performance took place against the Houston Rockets on February 22, when Morgan contributed four points, four rebounds and finished as a +2 in 13 minutes of action.
With only 74 minutes of action for the season, Morgan’s main source of encouraging play has been in the G-League. There, Morgan has averaged 14.3 points (on 66 percent from the floor and 41 percent from three-point land), 7.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.7 blocks, showcasing his potential as a utility rotation piece in Salt Lake City.
The forward out of Indiana University has shown enough promise that he may receive more rotation minutes under Snyder in seasons to come.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.