Can The Utah Jazz Improve Without Making An Offseason Move?


Apr 4, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder talks with players during a timeout against the Phoenix Suns during the second half at US Airways Center. The Suns won 87-85. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

It’s true, I’m not. I’m going to miss the Salt Lake Salute. I’m going to miss everything about Trevor Booker. I’m going to miss getting super excited when I see Dante Exum drive and dish or Rodney Hood drilling jumpers in opponent’s mugs. I’m going to miss Gordon Hayward’s hair wispily swaying as he blows by a defender and crushes a vicious tomahawk dunk on some poor forward’s head. I’m going to miss Derrick Favors reaching his potential. I’m going to miss Quin Syder looking like a super villain. I’m going to miss talking about how Enes Kanter should be traded. I’m going to miss this Utah Jazz season in its entirety.

I can’t remember a season that was so polarizing yet so fun. We all thought the sky was falling early, when the entire league kept handing it to our boys, coming to a crescendo during a nine-game losing streak. Fast forward to the present and things couldn’t be more different. The Jazz is playing its best ball in years, with a core of young, hungry talent.

Even though the playoffs aren’t happening, we can all remember the famous Brooklyn Dodgers saying, “wait till next year.” It’s going to be a whole truck load of fun.

With that in mind, I sent out this question on Twitter a few days ago.

The answers went as followed, and I agree one billion percent.

With that as my reassurance, I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility for the Jazz to make a serious playoff push next year without going and signing/trading for someone in the offseason.

The progress this team has made is nothing short of astounding. Since the All-Star break, the Jazz is 18-9, good for fifth in the NBA. That’s pretty awesome, especially considering the sample size is a third of a season. Even more awesome are these other stats. Note: you should get a shovel right now to help pick your jaws up from off the floor.

– 93.5 defensive rating, first in the NBA
– 8.4 net rating, fifth in the NBA
– 54.2% rebound percentage (percentage of all rebounds grabbed by the team), second in the NBA
– 41.4% opponent FG%, first in the NBA
– 33.2% opponent 3FG%, fourth in the NBA

Hot damn, those are some gorgeous numbers. Like Charlize Theron gorgeous. 

Conversely, the Jazz still have some glaring problems. Mainly scoring, point guard play, and wing and front court depth. All of these problems can be fixed in house. I’m sure of it.

Allow me to explain.

First off, it’s a fact that the NBA is a star-driven league. They’re the emotional leaders, biggest playmakers, and dominators of the game. The Jazz has its stars. Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert are all top 50 players based on PER. And with all of them under 25-years old, it’s going to be this way for a long time. Shine on, you crazy diamonds.

I keep finding myself smiling over what Rudy’s going to look like after an offseason of being locked in the weight room. If he gets any semblance of an offensive skill set, he could average close to 15 points and 15 boards per game. Throw in a couple blocks and assists and you’ve got yourself an elite 7’2” monster that’ll make other teams pee their pants due to sheer terror. 

Hot damn, those are some gorgeous numbers. Like Charlize Theron gorgeous

In regards to the point guard play, the adage, “experience is the best teacher” couldn’t ring more true. Dante Exum is STILL A TEENAGER, and has been steadily improving as of late, being more assertive, along with scoring and distributing the ball more comfortably. Trey Burke has had his fair share of ups and downs this season, especially with his shooting, but his determination and confidence have never been in question. A focused offseason for both of these guys—along with Summer League for Dante—will work wonders. Dante will come back bigger, stronger and more experienced/confident, while Trey should be all but sleeping on the court to improve his field goal percentage.

It’s not too much to think that Dante could contribute at a Patrick Beverley level offensively next season. Those numbers, while modest, would mark significant improvement and help out the Jazz’s offense in a big way.
Moving onto the wing depth, I don’t think this is much of a problem at all. Alec Burks will be coming back completely healthy, bringing with him some much needed athleticism and scoring. The Jazz also have the steal of the 2015 draft—yeah, I said it—in Rodney Hood. Since coming back from injury, Hood’s been eye-poppingly impressive. It seems like every other night he’s putting up a new scoring career high. With those two guys playing, along with Hayward, Elijah Millsap, and Joe Ingles, the wings are covered. Check that woe off the list.

The problem—which is a fantastic one to have—now is, who should start next season: Burks or Hood?

The front court depth problem is an easy fix as well. All signs point to Ante Tomic making the jump from overseas to the NBA next season. Tomic would give the Jazz another seven-footer, one with a solid offensive game in the low post and midrange. He’ll help immediately.

Furthermore, Quin Snyder has made it known that he wants a big man who can stretch the floor playing in a Jazz uniform. He tried, unsuccessfully, with Enes Kanter to make this happen, and now the search continues. Enter the 2015 NBA Draft. The Jazz could—and should—use its first round pick to snag a player that fills this void. Frank Kaminsky’s name has come up repeatedly. A player like him could work wonders in the Jazz’s system, adding great court vision, three-point range—that would allow the Jazz to space effectively—and a polished post game.

The problem—which is a fantastic one to have—now is, who should start next season: Burks or Hood?

See, problems solved. But if the Jazz decide to make a move, it has the cap space and assets to do so. I wouldn’t oppose for the right player—Ty Lawson has me intrigued as of late—but again, I don’t think it’s necessary. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.

It’s a mighty good time to be a Jazz fan. Things are looking up. Like the peak of Mount Olympus up. At the beginning of the season, I said the Jazz would go 33-49, and that was me being an overly optimistic fanboy. Jokes on me. The Jazz has surpassed that number and proven in the latter half of the season, that it’s a legit squad ready to make the leap to a contender.

I also, until proven otherwise, have the utmost faith in Quin Snyder and GM Dennis Lyndsey. They keep working their magic and we all keep reaping the benefits.

Our boys will be back better and stronger than ever. The pieces are in place, and I believe there’s a good chance playoff tickets will be on sale at the ESA come this time next year. The team is so young and still developing, but that doesn’t mean that an offseason filled with hard work, commitment and unflinching focus won’t pay massive dividends.

This season has been one hell of a ride and I’m positive the best is yet to come.

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