With the All-Star break approaching and the NBA season bridging the halfway point, the Utah Jazz look to make a statement in the upcoming weeks.
Expectations for the Jazz this year were all over the place after losing Donovan Mitchell to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves this past offseason.
In what was expected to be a rebuilding year for the team, Utah has exceeded the expectations of fans across the NBA and has kept their foot in the door of a potential playoff run.
Leading the team is hopeful All-Star Lauri Markkanen, who is averaging career highs in virtually every category available. The 25-year-old Markkanen was part of the Mitchell trade, with Cleveland, that also included promising young guards Collin Sexton and Ochai Agbagi, as well as multiple draft picks.
The team has a clean slate this season with few returning players and a slew of newcomers with something to prove. Utah is entering their 49th season as a franchise dating back to their humble beginnings in New Orleans, though Hardy used this phrase as a rallying cry for the identity of the roster.
“We know who we have and this is the 49th team in Jazz history,” Hardy said. “And that’s our focus, team 49.”
Adopting this new identity has propelled the Jazzmen to a modest 23-24 start and a glimpse at the future of the team considering only four of the team’s seventeen players are age 30 or older There is an outrageous amount of young talent for a team that is already playing incredibly well, keeping in mind that at 34 years old, Will Hardy is also young and hungry for NBA success.
There is no doubt that the ceiling is high for Utah and a lot of the guys on the team feel this is their chance to prove something. “There’s a collective toughness, we have a lot of guys that have a chip on their shoulder,” Hardy said. “And I think that’s really powerful to have guys that are competitive and feel like they have something to prove.”
The Jazz look significantly different without Mitchell and Gobert on the roster, and Hardy is leaning into the new, grittier identity. There is a lot to be excited about in the upcoming few weeks around the NBA. Utah will host the All-Star weekend Feb. 17-19 and then hit the ground running in the weeks following, with the talented roster of young players hoping to make a lasting impact come playoff time