Utah Jazz: Top 3 reasons to look forward to 2017-18

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 9: Rudy Gobert (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 9: Rudy Gobert (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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OAKLAND, CA – MAY 04: Ian Clark (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA – MAY 04: Ian Clark (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

The intrigue of who steps ups

As the team’s leading scorer and lone All-Star, there’s no questioning that Gordon Hayward was an absolutely crucial part of the Jazz roster last season. His 21.9 points per game and versatile skill set aren’t something that will be easily or immediately replaced. However, as I’ve touched on quite a few times in recent weeks, I feel like lots of people are forgetting just how good the rest of this Jazz team was last season.

Consider the first round playoff series against the LA Clippers in which the Jazz logged two of their four victories without one of their best players on the court. In Game 1, Rudy Gobert went down mere seconds into the contest with a knee injury and Gordon Hayward missed nearly all of Game 4 with food poisoning. Nevertheless, the other guys around them stepped up and led the Jazz to two big wins on those occasions.

They’ll need to continue to have a “next man up” mentality all season long, but now with Hayward gone, several guys have an opportunity, and quite frankly the team has a necessity, for one or more of them to step up in a big way throughout the 2017-18 campaign. Thus, there’s an air of mystery regarding who the Jazz will be able to look to next season to step up in a big way.

And given that they have several potential candidates to do so, the intrigue of which guys are going to break out and take that leap has me absolutely ecstatic for next season.

Derrick Favors is due for a bounce back after an injury-plagued year. Rodney Hood is primed to break out as the Jazz’s go-to guy offensively. Dante Exum has a ton to prove given his lack of playing time last season and reputation as a potential superstar. Ricky Rubio is getting a fresh start on a new team.

Rudy Gobert gets to show what he can do as the heart and soul of the team. And last of all, Donovan Mitchell has the chance to prove the Jazz made the right call by trading up and drafting the rookie.

Beyond that, those guys are complimented by several formidable veterans that ought to help this team have a nice balance of youthful athleticism and crafty experience. For the Jazz to be a playoff team for the second year in a row, one or more guys will have to progress dramatically and make a name for themselves. Finding out who’s going to rise to that challenge is one of the most exciting aspects of the upcoming year.