Utah Jazz Best Case/Worst Case Scenario Series: Thabo Sefolosha

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - JULY 18: Thabo Sefolosha of the Utah Jazz attend a press conference after signing with the Utah Jazz at Grand America Hotel on July 18, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Keith Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - JULY 18: Thabo Sefolosha of the Utah Jazz attend a press conference after signing with the Utah Jazz at Grand America Hotel on July 18, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Keith Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Utah Jazz brought in Thabo Sefolosha to provide a major lift defensively and he’ll need to contribute in a big way for his team to reach its full potential.

After Gordon Hayward announced his intention to join the Boston Celtics, the Utah Jazz were forced to scramble to put together some sort of contingency plan, the which they did by acquiring a trio of players to help soften the blow of Hayward’s departure. One of those players was Ekpe Udoh who I looked at as part of this series yesterday. The other was Jonas Jerebko and the first of the bunch was the biggest name of the three, and the one I’ll be observing today, Thabo Sefolosha.

Of the three players, Sefolosha is far and above the most experienced. He has 92 playoff games under his belt between his time with the Chicago Bulls, Oklahoma City Thunder and Atlanta Hawks and 11 total years of NBA experience. His most notable attribute is his defense and although he primarily plays the same position as Hayward, he can’t really be viewed as his replacement as Sefolosha has never even averaged double-figure scoring over the course of a season.

Therefore, there’s no denying that the two principle reasons Sefolosha was brought in to the Jazz was to provide lock-down defense and veteran leadership. Both are traits the Jazz severely need as their identity will hinge even more greatly on defense this year and their young guns could use more veteran knowledge and experience, the likes of which a guy like Thabo will provide.

As long as he doesn’t take a significant step backwards from where he has remained pretty consistently for the past five seasons or so, then Sefolosha ought to be able to fulfill his role, which is pretty cut and dry, quite well.

Best Case Scenario

In order for Sefolosha to pan out as the Jazz want him to, above all he’ll need to prove his reputation as a daunting perimeter defender. Sefolosha figures to be a key piece of the second unit and his defense alone ought to be enough to keep him there assuming all goes well for him this season.

However, there’s also no questioning that the Jazz are in need of scoring. And while that certainly isn’t a trait that Sefolosha is known for, any offensive punch he can provide will be an added bonus. In fact, given that Sefolosha may very well receive somewhat of an expanded opportunity with the Jazz as they seek to put the most formidable combination of their current players out on the floor together, in a best case scenario, Thabo could finally break into double figure scoring and average right around 10 points per game for the first time in his career.

He also oddly was a solid three-point shooter when on the road where he shot 42.4 percent from deep as opposed to 26.2 percent at home. That’s certainly a stark difference and a nice indicator of his inconsistency as a deep threat, but if he can find a rhythm more resembling that which he had on the road last season, then in a best case scenario he could also end up being an underrated three-point option for the Jazz.

He’s also one of the most crafty defenders in the league in terms of being able to steal the ball, and to be as effective as he can be offensively, he’ll need to covert several of those turnovers into easy baskets. If he is able to maintain, or perhaps even improve on his career high 1.5 steals per game from last season, Sefolosha could very well turn into a precious commodity for the Jazz both on defense and in transition.

Furthermore, to reach his best case potential, Sefolosha will need to bring energy, grit and hustle off the bench while serving as a formidable mentor, particularly to young guys who also happen to be very defensive-minded such as Dante Exum and Donovan Mitchell. Bringing together all these little things may not seem like much, but they’ll definitely add up and perfectly personify the reason why the Jazz wanted Sefolosha on the team.

Worst Case Scenario

Although Thabo Sefolosha’s numbers haven’t exactly jumped off the page at anybody, for the most part he has been a model of consistency over the last few seasons. However, he is 33 years old and certainly closer to the end of his career than to the beginning, so a big concern that could be facing him is that he will start to decline as he nears his mid-30s.

If that causes him issue with his shot or other aspects of the offensive end, it would be an annoyance but wouldn’t necessarily be the end of the world as the Jazz by and large aren’t expecting a ton out of him on that end of the court. Still, a worst case scenario for Sefolosha likely sees his efficiency drop dramatically low including his three-point shooting fall near that aforementioned road percentage from last season.

However, even his potentially poor offense could be remedied by the guys around him. But if age, injury, inconsistency or any other unforeseen factors end up worsening him noticeably on defense, then the Jazz will lose out on the major reason that they brought him in.

And that would without a doubt be disappointing. The Jazz have high hopes that Sefolosha can contribute in a significant way this upcoming season and if he fails to do so, then the Jazz bench and overall defense will take a major hit. And given how much has to go right for them next year if they hope to return to the playoffs yet again, that would likely be something the team couldn’t afford.

Next: Utah Jazz Best Case/Worst Case Scenario Series: Ekpe Udoh

There are a lot of things to like about Sefolosha and his addition to the team, but there are also certainly some reasons for concern, beginning with his age. However, the 11-year pro out of Switzerland was solid in his role last season and could very well prove that he still has plenty left in his tank this season.