The Utah Jazz will host their annual media day on Monday, signaling the beginning of the 2018-19 season. Unlike last season, when much of media was spend avoiding talking about Gordon Hayward’s departure for Boston, and introducing new players on the roster (Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell, Royce O’Neal, Ekpe Udoh, Thabo Sefolosha, Jonas Jerekbo) this media will be about how the Jazz plan to build on a terrific 2017-18 season.
The Jazz stars, Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell will again have to do the majority of the heavy lifting, as the Jazz held off adding a significant upgrade over the summer. But with Mitchell just scraping the full spectrum of his superstardom, the Jazz have plenty of upside entering the season.
Gobert will again be the favorite to win the Defensive Player of the Year award, and because of that, the Jazz should once again be one of the league’s five best defenses. Reinserting Thabo Sefolosha after a season ending knee injury last year, and a fully healthy Dante Exum, the Jazz defense should be even more imposing than it was last season.
Offensively, the Jazz will have to hope for a healthier Gobert, and improved three point shooting to make a major leap. Ricky Rubio shot a promising 40% from the three point line over the second half of the season, and upped his point per game average to more than15 after the all-star break. If Rubio can keep up those numbers, with the growth of Mitchell in his second season, the offense can improve substantially.
The Jazz shouldn’t expect much production from their new comers, as the Jazz have plenty of depth on the wing to keep rookie Grayson Allen off the floor, and Georges Niang will struggle to find minutes ahead of Joe Ingles, Jae Crowder, Derrick Favors, and Joe Ingles.
While the Jazz starting five should resemble last season, with Rubio, Mitchell, Ingles, Favors, and Gobert getting the majority of the starts for the Jazz, keep an eye on whether the Jazz will toy with Crowder in the starting lineup. Favors can still get at least 25 minutes per game as a back up power forward and center should he find himself beginning games on the bench, but he should start to begin the season. Favors three point shooting will be worth watching during the preseason, as he showed flashes as a corner three point shooter last year. He’ll get lots of opportunity to shoot in during the pre-season, but those looks could disappear if he isn’t hitting them at a better rate than the 22% he shot last season.
It should be a good season from the Jazz, assuming they can avoid the injury bug that has seemed to plague them or stretches during previous season. The Jazz will again compete for home court advantage, despite teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, and Dallas Mavericks making major improvements this off season. With key losses on the rosters of the Houston Rockets and Portland Trailblazers, and run to the Western Conference Finals should be within reach for the Jazz.
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