Utah Jazz have elite potential, but must prove they can stay healthy


The Utah Jazz have high expectations heading into the 2018-19 NBA season, but they’ll have to buck their recent injury trend if they hope to reach them.

No matter how you look at it, the Utah Jazz have had good seasons the past two years. With a staunch team led by Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert in 2016-17, the Jazz earned the fifth seed in the West and advanced to the second round of the NBA Playoffs.

After losing Hayward the next season, few believed the Jazz could repeat their success from the previous year. But Donovan Mitchell and Co. proved otherwise. Despite starting out the year dismally slow, the Utah Jazz bounced back and once again both earned the fifth seed and reached the second round of the playoffs.

However, in both seasons (and the two prior, for that matter), the Utah Jazz were prevented from reaching their utmost potential due to one reoccurring issue – injuries. Time after time, various players dealt with a number of health problems that kept key guys out of action and made it hard for the Jazz to find a rhythm over significant stretches.

In 2016-17, Derrick Favors missed 32 games, former starting point guard George Hill missed 33, Rodney Hood missed 23 and even Hayward was absent for nine. The injuries were so common and recurring that ManGamesLost.com calculated that Utah would have been a 60-win team had it not been for all those setbacks.

Then last season, the fates weren’t much kinder to the Jazz. This time around, though, the key victim to the injury bug was defensive anchor Rudy Gobert.

Gobert was held out of 26 games due to a pair of knee injuries, and while he was off the floor Utah was nothing short of a disaster. While Rodney Hood was a member of the Jazz, he once again missed some significant time, as did Joe Johnson. And of course Dante Exum was out for all but 14 regular season contests.

Without question, the Jazz could have avoided their slow start and easily reached the third seed, which they were a mere game back of accomplishing anyway, if they had been able to avoid the plaguing string of injuries.

In other words, while the Jazz have been a good team these past couple seasons, they could have very easily been a GREAT team had they benefited from a little more luck on the injury front.

I’d say that the Jazz didn’t quite meet regular season expectations in 2016-17 because of the injuries. In 2017-18, they probably exceeded the expectations of many despite the injuries, but it’s pretty obvious they could have done much more. Now, with 2018-19 nearly upon us, the Jazz have the highest expectations they’ve had of any of those seasons.

Several national media folks have Utah pinned as high as second or third in the Western Conference. They’re expected to build off their hot finish to last season and be a menacing threat to all who oppose them this upcoming season. Honestly, I think the predictions and hype are spot-on and absolutely attainable for this deep and disciplined Jazz team. However, such accomplishments come with a major ‘but’.

BUT they have to remain healthy.

The Jazz haven’t proven able to do so the past couple years, and it’s prevented them from reaching their highest potential. As exciting as it is for fans to get their hopes up and believe that their team will accomplish great things such as reaching a top-three seed in the West, it may be best for the Utah faithful to curb those expectations somewhat.

I don’t say that to be a downer, but rather to be realistic. The Jazz haven’t been able to stay healthy for several years in a row now. Until they prove that they can do so, it’s unfair to pin them as a top-three team in the deep and dangerous Western Conference.

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The good news? Even with persistent injuries, the Jazz have finished fifth two years in a row. If the injury bug bites them once again this year, I have full confidence that they’ll be able to bounce back and still nab a playoff spot.

And if they’re able to finally shake the injury monkey off their back and remain healthy all season long? Watch out. If such is the case, Utah Jazz fans will have no need to curb their expectations for 2018-19 at all. A top-three seed will absolutely be within reach. Let’s hope last year’s newly-implemented training staff finally pays off.