Season Preview: Utah Jazz

As a site, we ranked all the NBA teams from worst to best for our release of season previews. Day sixteen’s release of a season preview ends up being the rising Utah Jazz. I will provide a recap of their past season, an offseason recap, and then finally the season preview all of us fans are eager for.

Utah Jazz:

Last Season’s Record: 38-44

Playoff Status: Missed the playoffs

Heading into the 2014-2015 season, Utah’s core was looked upon to take the next stages of development. The beginning of the season saw none of this, as they started 19-34. However once the trade deadline happened, Utah blossomed into a dangerous team. At the deadline, Utah sent Enes Kanter to Oklahoma City, clearing the way for Rudy Gobert to begin his ascent into defensive stardom, and for them to finish the year hot with a record of 19-10. The main question people are asking, is whether or not, Utah can maintain this hot streak into the start of this upcoming season, or be the losing squad we saw for the majority of the season. With the return of a healthy Alec Burks, and a lottery selection, Utah became a crowd favorite this offseason for a dark horse playoff contender.

The 2015 NBA draft was an exciting night for a majority of the league. Utah was able to land their prized stretch four in Trey Lyles with the twelfth overall pick. Lyles will help space the second unit’s frontcourt, as well as provide another lanky defender to Utah’s arsenal. Although I am not a huge fan of Lyles, his skill set is what was needed in Utah, thus giving him a better chance for success. Utah added a few undrafted rookies in the name of J.J. O’Brien and Treveon Graham. Neither of these two forwards look to be huge contributors this upcoming season, and will likely see a majority of their playing time in the D-League.

As we all know, Utah is not a hot place for big name free agents to sign, and Utah kept this tradition alive, as they did not sign any big names, and wanted to develop from within. Note, this does not mean they did not get any good players, as Utah helped improve their depth with good role players. Raulzinho Neto was brought over to help spice up the point guard position, and help its overall depth. Tibor Pleiss, Jeff Withey, and Joe Ingles were also either traded, signed, or resigned to help the depth on the roster out. Pleiss and Withey are two big bodies, who can help give Gobert some breathers throughout the year. Both players lack the ability to be game changes, but serve as quality depth pieces. Ingles was resigned, and his veteran leadership  is what Utah wanted out of him. Utah is going to be facing some big changes this year, in the prospective they will be expected to win games. The biggest news out of Utah this summer was the ACL tear for Dante Exum. Exum was hurt playing international basketball, and this was going to be a critical season in his development. Hopefully Exum can recover to 100% playing ability, but luckily for Utah they have Burks coming back. Although Utah did not make any huge moves, their ability to shore up their bench will go a long way in helping this team make the playoffs this year.

Heading into the season, Utah and many people outside the organization are excited for what this team can do. Utah is looked upon to take the 7th or 8th seed in the 2016 playoffs. Now there is quite a few people who doubt Utah can do this. For this reason, I will set up an outline for the Jazz’s season, and how they can clinch a playoff berth. Defense will be a critical part of a possible playoff berth, but as long as their interior is anchored by Gobert, Utah is in good shape. In a league where the point guard is a critical piece, Utah was hoping Exum could fill this, but with his injury, they now must turn to Burke. Trey Burke will need to the final steps in offensive development in order for Utah to have any chance at the playoffs. The return of a healthy Alec Burks will play huge dividends for Utah. Utah’s General Manager, Dennis Lindsay thinks Burks is one of their top players, and believes he will help lead them to greater things. Burks will need to find efficiency early on, as his scoring ability will be heavily leaned upon during the season. Gordon Hayward will keep improving. With other scorers now on the team and healthy, Hayward’s efficiency should return to its normal levels, and he will be able to shoulder the main offensive scoring load. The frontcourt is the biggest strength of Utah, as it possesses the scoring man in Derrick Favors, and then the defensive Goliath, Rudy Gobert. These two players will form a great duo, with very little weaknesses, as they compliment each other well. The bench has a few new faces to it, but it should be a productive one. Pleiss and Withey anchor the rim, while Booker roughs everyone up at power forward, Lyles stretches the floor as an offensive mismatch, while the different rotations of guards should control the pace and provide scoring. Making the playoffs in the Western Conference will not be an easy task, but with defense, and an improved offense, Utah will not be a fun team for opponent’s to see in the playoffs.

By: Mac Crowe, @Mac_Truck17

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