Following Gordon Hayward’s departure, how do the Utah Jazz now stack up against the rest of the teams in the crowded Western Conference?
After nabbing the fifth seed in the West despite dealing with several injuries throughout the regular season, then going on to win their first-round playoff series, the Utah Jazz appeared to be a team on the rise. Their return to the playoffs felt far overdue and their success in 2016-17 seemed to be only the tip of the iceberg for them as a bright future was clearly in store.
However, that bright future was largely contingent on the continued play and improvement of Gordon Hayward who had a breakout season last year after hovering just beneath All-Star caliber play. But unfortunately, as all Jazz fans know all too well by now, Hayward has opted to part ways with the team and by so doing, has left the Jazz in somewhat of a state of disarray.
That’s not to say that all is lost for the Jazz. In many ways Rudy Gobert was Utah’s most impactful player last season and should very well still be as he continues to further improve. Dante Exum, Rodney Hood and rookie Donovan Mitchell will have ample opportunity to develop and show their worth. Derrick Favors and Alec Burks will be primed for bounce-back seasons. Newly added Ricky Rubio should add some flash and finesse to Utah’s offense.
In other words, while Hayward’s departure is without a doubt disappointing and there’s no debating that the Jazz as a team took a collective step backwards, they are far from being out of luck. Unfortunately, though, the Jazz were one of the few teams in the West to regress while it seemed like just about every other team around Utah got significantly better, making Utah’s position an even tougher one to be in.
Thus, the question that lingers now is, after losing their All-Star while most of the rest of the West got better, where will the Jazz stand among their conference peers next year? That’s definitely not easy to answer and quite frankly it may be too early to explore such a question given that many teams in the West (including hopefully the Jazz) may very well be far from done dealing this summer.
However, from what we know right now, we can begin to get somewhat of an idea of how the West is going to stack up. Based on how teams are currently constructed and on our current set of knowledge, this is how I believe the Jazz and the rest of the West are going to stack up next year.