September 22, 2020

Tai’s Takes: a closer look at the Utah Jazz

The Utah Jazz lost Game 7 to the Denver Nuggets in heartbreaking fashion. Before that happened, Donovan Mitchell blossomed into the star every Jazz fan believed he could, but the Jazz also had a 3-1 lead in the series and are watching the 2nd Round from home. On one hand, everyone counted them out once it was announced that Bojan Bogdanovic would miss the remainder of the season with a wrist injury. One the other hand, this was a season entered with championship expectations and they didn’t make it past the 1st round, so what do we make of the strange and whacky 2019/2020 season?

This season for the Jazz won’t soon be forgotten. It involved a feud between the two best players on team, the team setting a record for the most four-game-winning streaks and four-game-losing streaks in a single season and a nationwide pandemic that shutdown the season. Every team had to deal with that last part, but you get the idea.

It was an up and down season for the Jazz that ended in heartbreak. At least that part was normal.

This season can be looked at in two different lights for Jazz fans, as I’ve somewhat outlined, but we can dig deeper. This season could be seen as a building block, or as a sign that they’re not quite good enough to compete with the elite teams in the NBA. Which is the correct way to look at it? Is this team a couple moves away for a title, or do they not have enough?

They don’t have enough. The Jazz are a good, solid, playoff caliber team, but what they aren’t is a team that is about to bring the franchise its first championship in team history. Even if they bring Bogdanovic. I understand that Bogdanovic is a good player and a key part of the team, especially what he brings on the offensive side of the floor, but the reason the Jazz are eliminated right now is defense. Jamal Murray torched the Jazz defense for the entire series.

Whether it was Royce O’Neal, Joe Ingles or a double team, it didn’t matter. The Jazz defense, the side of the ball the Jazz have pride themselves on under coach Quin Synder, got cooked by Murray and Nikola Jokic. They had no answer for either one of them as the Nuggets’ two stars shot the Jazz out of the Playoffs.

People will argue that with Bogdanovic playing, the Jazz would’ve won this series and maybe that’s true, but as good as he is, what he brings to the table isn’t what the Jazz need to suddenly become a title contender. Not to mention, the Nuggets were also missing key players. This was a series of two-banged up teams. You can’t use the injury excuse on one side without mentioning the other injuries Denver was dealing with as well.

The Jazz need wing defenders that can get stops because the team that had the two-time defensive player of the year in Rudy Gobert couldn’t get stops in the Playoffs.

I’m not meaning to single out Bogdanovic, because like I’ve said, he’s a good player and his and Mitchell’s late-game scoring is the only consistent late-game scoring the Jazz have had under Synder. He’s clearly useful, but he’s also the only asset the Jazz have that they could use to improve the team. The front office would be foolish to not shop around using the money his has left on his deal. The Jazz are entirely out of other assets, unless you believe you can trade Conley (for a piece that’ll actually help, you can’t) then shopping around Bogdanovic is the only way you can bring in the type of players that this team needs to truly become a championship contender.

All this being said, I think the front office will not take my advice and will run back close to the same team, just banking on the team being healthier come Playoff time 2021. I also think the organization and front office is content to win 47-52 games a year, have a couple home Playoff games a year and never truly contend. That’s the motto they’ve had since John Stockton and Karl Malone left.

We’re talking two decades of the same approach from the front office and organization, so I’m fully expecting them to run it back with this same core next season. It’s not in their personality to be aggressive.

We may not know what’s coming in 2021 in the world. Let alone sports, but one thing I think we do know, if the Jazz don’t improve this roster, the fanbase will be heartbroken again at the end of 2021.

The Jazz have a guy in Mitchell that’s 23-years old and just had one of the best playoff performances in franchise history. Every other game he was setting a record. The Jazz need to do everything they can to maximizing their championship window with Mitchell on the roster.

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