HOW TO PLAY JAZZ


UTAH HEAD COACH QUIN SNYDER

The 2015-2016 marked the fourth year in a row that the Utah Jazz failed to make the playoffs. That four year streak ties the longest playoff drought that this team has had since it moved to Utah in 1979. At one point in time, between 1983 and 2003, the Jazz franchise made the playoffs for twenty straight seasons in a row. But since legendary head coach Jerry Sloan stepped down from his position, this team has missed the postseason in five of its past six seasons. The players on the current roster needed to learn how to play Jazz basketball the way Sloan and his teams did.

But coming into the 2016-2017 season, many believed that the Utah Jazz would return to the playoffs. The Las Vegas sports books set the over/under for the Jazz’ win total this season at 47.5 wins; that would’ve been good for fifth place in the Western Conference last year. Many media outlets placed the Jazz as one of the five or six best teams in the Western Conference heading into the year, with some of them predicting that Utah could finish as high as the third seed by the end of the season.

So why was there so much optimism for a team that failed to make the playoffs last year, and didn’t really make any major, franchise-altering free agent acquisitions during the off-season? Simple. It’s because what the Jazz may have eschewed in “quality,” they’ll make up for in “quantity,” utilizing a roster that’s as deep as any group you’ll find in the NBA.

THE YOUNG AND TALENTED

First, they’ll undoubtedly be a lot healthier this year than they were last year. Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors — two of their front-court starters — combined to miss nearly half a season’s worth of games (41) between the two of them. After becoming only the 10th first rookie in franchise history to play in all 82 games, Dante Exum missed all of his second season after tearing the ACL in his knee while playing for the Australian national team over the summer. All three guys are part of the promising foundation that this team has built over the years, and getting them back and healthy, in order to use their prodigious skills and further develop all their talent, would be a huge boost for the Jazz.

Then, there’s the additional young talent that the team already has, in addition to those guys coming back. Rodney Hood, the team’s first round pick in 2014, started 79 games last year for the Jazz, in only his second season in the NBA. At 6-foot-8, he not only had the size to play any wing position on the court and guard any wing player of the opposing team, but he also had the ball-handling ability that allowed the Jazz to overcome their thin point guard rotation last year. Trey Lyles, the team’s first round pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, is a 6-10 forward whose versatility, outside shooting, and do-a-little-bit-of-everything skill set gives the Jazz another talented piece in their front court.

“THE ALL-STAR”

GORDON HAYWARD

And last but not least, there’s still their “franchise player” in Gordon Hayward, who’s only 26 years old himself. Coming off a 2015-2016 season where he averaged a career-high 19.7 points per game, Hayward established himself as a versatile play-maker who can make shots from the wing, finish around the hoop, or make plays for other teammates (he averaged 3.7 assists per his 36 minute average last season). The former star of the Butler University Bulldogs is well-known for taking his Alma mater — who was then coached by Brad Stevens, who now coaches the Boston Celtics —   to the NCAA Championship game. In that game, he missed a game-winning, buzzer-beating, half-court shot, which hit the backboard and rim. But, after a highly-successful two-year stint at Butler, the Jazz picked him with the ninth overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.

To help with the cadre of young talent that this organization has accumulated over the year, the Jazz shrewdly added several veteran pieces to this roster, giving this very young group the experience and wisdom it’ll need to win tough games in their conference. George Hill was brought in to shore up the point guard spot for Utah, while serving as the “bridge” between the present and the future at the position, and a mentor, of sorts, to Exum. Swing-men Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw have had illustrious NBA careers, and ample postseason experience. They’re the type of players who can help teach and guide the younger players in the locker room, because of the success they’ve had in the league.

PATIENCE PAYING OFF

RUDY GOBERT

Fast forward to the present, and the brain-trust of the Utah Jazz is finally starting to see their blueprint come to life. In a league where so many teams make moves focused on winning immediately, the Jazz look like they’re in fantastic position because of their discipline in sticking to the plan that they laid out: draft talented players, find coaches who will develop those players, sign veterans who can help mentor those players, and then take care of those players when the time comes.

Through the first evening in February, the Jazz are in fifth place in the Western Conference, and only one game away from taking possession of one of the top four seeds in the West. Since December 1st, Utah is 19-11. They went 10-5 in December, and then 9-6 in January. With their .620 winning percentage, they’re on pace to win about 50 or 51 games this year, which even exceeds the expectations set forth by the sports books.

For the first time since 2011, the Jazz will finally have a player represent the team in the All-Star game. Hayward was voted in as an All-Star reserve by the Western Conference coaches, becoming the first Jazz player to be selected to the All-Star team since Deron Williams six years ago.

Ironically, the fact that the Jazz will only have one All-Star has been a small source of controversy, because you could easily make an argument that Gobert deserves to be joining Hayward. Gobert has emerged as perhaps the league’s best rim protector, and easily the most imposing defensive presence on one of the best defensive teams in the NBA (more on that in a second). Gobert averages 13 points and 13 boards per game, but he also leads the league in blocks per game (2.55). On top of that, he’s first in true shooting percentage, second in offensive rating, first in defensive rating, and fifth in rebounding. Gobert’s efforts are a major reason why Utah allows the fewest points per game in the NBA (95.5), by a pretty healthy margin.

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?

With a team that has the talent and athleticism to play any style of offense, a defense that’s able to stop opposing teams from putting the ball through the hoop, and a head coach (Quin Snyder) who’s continued to guide this team in the way it needs, the question is: what’s next for the Jazz? They look like they’re a lock to break their streak of seasons without a playoff appearance. They have the talent to make any series against the stalwarts of the West an interesting one.

The Utah Jazz organization is a great example of having patience. With one of the best and most loyal fan-bases in the NBA, they have been afforded the time and opportunity to rebuild the correct way. They have made great strides this season and the future looks very bright. The next step in their progression remains to be seen. Whatever happens in the playoffs, one thing is certain. The Utah Jazz are once again a very good NBA team, which is good for the NBA.

 

This article was originally published on 2-3-17

8 thoughts on “HOW TO PLAY JAZZ”

  1. Rendell says:

    Hello there !
    ill be providing a comment on your site with my own personal opinion. I have no knowledge of sports so ill just comment on the website’s content and everything in general

    To start off i would like to say that the main home page is very well done. The posts are informational, the imagery is nice and a nice array of widgets that i would click on for myself.
    One thing that i really like about your website is that if i was getting into basketball with no experience, i would want to come across this site first hand so that i get to watch the eyes of pro players and learn from those that are better than me. I really dig the product reviews as they contain a lot of great products to improve basketball playing.
    Overall if i wanted to be a pro basketball player i would visit this site.

    1. Rob Giannotti says:

      Hello,

      I appreciate your review of the website. We strive to inform our viewers with the most in-depth, comprehensive knowledge possible. We have personally seen and/or used all of the product reviews. We cover the high school, college, and NBA landscapes so there is something for basketball fans at all levels.

      -Rob

  2. Kevin says:

    I really like your site you have plenty of information about your team the Utah Jazz.I have to admit it right here and now that I am a Oklahoma city Thunder fan and think we have one of the best player on the planet Russel Westbrook . we to have a very your and talented team despite the departure of Kevin Durant sore subject around here still.But overall great site !

    1. Rob Giannotti says:

      Hello,

      Thank you for the compliments. I appreciate it. Westbrook is playing unbelievable this season. They are eventually going to have to get another very good player to play alongside him. Losing Kevin Durant obviously hurts them a lot. However, they do have some nice young players to play with Westbrook for the next few years. To win in the NBA playoffs, a team needs at least 2 excellent players. For Thunder fans, maybe they can get that player in a trade, free agency, or get lucky in the NBA Draft.

      -Rob

  3. J.R. says:

    Wait! Karl Malone and John Stockton aren’t on the team anymore? LOL JK. I root for the Lakers but I’m also a fan of the NBA as a whole. It would be nice to have the Jazz back in the playoffs. They have some good history and would be great to have them relevant again. They do have some good pieces in place but the Western Conference is so stacked that it’s hard to get in even as the 8th seed. Hopefully they can put together a good season. Jazz fans are awesome and deserve to have their team back in the playoffs.

    1. Rob Giannotti says:

      Hello,

      I agree with you hat it would be a nice scene to have Utah back in the playoffs. Utah is a proud franchise with great fans. They had a great 10-12 year run with Karl Malone and John Stockton but always came up a bit short in the NBA finals. The Western Conference is tough. The Jazz are a young team who should be good for a while. Just getting playoff experience this year will help them prepare for the next few years. Their fans deserve some home playoff games.

      -Rob

  4. JSC says:

    I never thought that the “Stifle Tower” would amount to what he has become. I have to give a lot of credit to Quinn Snyder. He has turned out a good product during his time with Utah. They have several good young players. I just hope that they can keep Hayward long term.

    1. Hello,
      Rudy Gobert has turned into an excellent NBA player. He is perhaps the best defensive player in the NBA. Snyder has this team playing very good team basketball. Gordon Hayward has really improved his overall game and is one of the most underrated players in the league. We believe he is a top 20 player in basketball.
      -Rob

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