Tai Justice sports writer
Coming off the most aggressive and busy off-season [possibly] in franchise history, the Utah Jazz have the best chance to win a championship since John Stockton and Karl Malone.
The Jazz had an eventful off-season that was filled with the most roster turnover they’ve possibly ever had. The Jazz traded for Mike Conley and signed Bojan Bogdanović to a big money deal. Once they did, they officially threw their hat in the running for the NBA title this season. Now, I know technically every year they’re in that running by being a team in the NBA that plays NBA games, but this is different. They are actual contenders for the first time in almost two decades.
Even in past years when they were a good, playoff caliber team, there was a clear gap between them and the true contenders. That gap doesn’t exist anymore. Let’s take a closer look at the 2019-20 team, what the biggest storylines are for this team and make some predictions on how this season will go.
Prediction number one: The Jazz will have the best record in the Western Conference. The West is stacked. Even the teams in the West that are technically bad, will be a tough out on a night to night basis, but the Jazz roster is stacked top-to-bottom. Unlike the other powerhouse teams in the West (Lakers, Clippers and Rockets), the Jazz will have the motivation every single night. Those other three teams have older stars and know that it’s a long season. They won’t care as much if they don’t have home court in the playoffs. If the Jazz are going to get to where they want to go, they’ll need it. It’ll be crucial to the Jazz where I don’t think it will be for those other teams. The Jazz also have a high floor and always have under head coach Quin Snyder. The Jazz won 98 games the past two seasons combined with much less talent than they have now. The system Snyder has is a system set up to have great regular season success. That plus the hunger and energy the Jazz will play with every night will lead the Jazz to home court advantage in a stacked Western Conference.
Storyline number one: Can Donovan Mitchell take the next step? We all love Mitchell. He’s already a star in everyone’s eyes in this state, but can he make the leap on the court from, “really good player” to “surefire all-star”. Because if Mitchell can do that, I feel even better about my prediction above. Everyone compares Mitchell to Dwayne Wade. That’s always the go to comparison because of the way he plays on both sides of the ball, the small guard that can rise up and dunk on anyone and the fire that they both play with. Wade made that jump in 2006 and the Miami Heat went on to win the championship that season. If Mitchell can, the Jazz can follow in the Heat’s footsteps.
Predication number two: The Jazz offense will be better than their defense. It’s amazing that we can even say this without it being laughed at this season because in seasons past this would’ve been a joke with the Jazz defense being miles ahead of their offense, but this is the year that changes. With the new addition, mainly Conley and Bogdanović, the Jazz finally have multiple guys on their team that are elite level scorers to go next to Mitchell. The Jazz have shooting at every position except center and Rudy Gobert is a guy that defenses always have to respect because of his gravity towards the rim. With shooting around Gobert and Mitchell, expect the Jazz offense to be able to carry them to a lot of wins and be better than their defense. It’s not that I think the Jazz’s defense won’t be good, I think it will be, but I think the offense is going to be elite and losing Derrick Favors will hurt the Jazz defense enough for the offense to leapfrog over it. Whenever Gobert is off the floor, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the defense struggle to get stops.
Storyline number two: The depth. The depth of this team is worrying, especially in the front court. Obviously if Gobert goes down for an extended period, their probably screwed anyway, but even if he misses a game or two here and there (which is bound to happen over the course of an NBA season) I think you could see some problems on that end of the floor. I like Ed Davis as a player, but he’s not exactly Favors back there behind Gobert. If Gobert misses significant time, like he has two of the past three seasons, this could all fall apart. He’s the most important player on the team.
Final predictions: The Jazz lose in the Western Conference Finals to the Clippers. I wanted to pick the Jazz to win the whole thing so badly, but with the amount of star power that the West has and the teams that they’ll likely have to go through, it was too tall of an ask. I do think they make it the furthest they’ve made in the playoffs in 12-years, though.
This team is going to be good. The question is how good can they be? Because if everything breaks right, there could be a parade in Salt Lake City in late June. Let’s all hope for that.