Utah Jazz GM Justin Zanik likes team’s chances for upcoming season

BOISE, ID - MARCH 24: Utah Jazz Assistant General Manager Justin Zanik answers a question at a press conference announcing the purchase of the D-League's Idaho Stampede by the Utah Jazz on March 24, 2015 at the Grove Hotel in Boise, Idaho. Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Otto Kitsinger/NBAE via Getty Images)
BOISE, ID - MARCH 24: Utah Jazz Assistant General Manager Justin Zanik answers a question at a press conference announcing the purchase of the D-League's Idaho Stampede by the Utah Jazz on March 24, 2015 at the Grove Hotel in Boise, Idaho. Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Otto Kitsinger/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Utah Jazz general manager Justin Zanik is feeling optimistic about his team’s odds at competing for a championship next season.

If you’re a Utah Jazz fan that has wondered if perhaps you’re getting a bit too overly optimistic about the season ahead, don’t feel bad. There’s definitely a ton of hype surrounding the new-look squad due to the savvy additions they made this summer and the exciting prospects of improvement among their existing players. So much so, that one can begin to second guess whether or not it’s wise to get their hopes up too high.

But rest assured that it’s not just crazed fans that are looking forward to the upcoming year, Jazz execs are stoked about what they’ve pulled off as well. And in a recent interview with the Deseret News, Utah Jazz general manager Justin Zanik revealed that he has as high of hopes as anybody about the upcoming season.

When asked about how optimistic he is for the 2019-20 campaign, he had the following to say:

"I’m optimistic and we’re optimistic for the opportunity that we have because in the Western Conference we have so many good teams. Every game is going to be a competitive matchup and the East has improved as well. As we go into this (season), you want to be the last team standing so the decisions (you make), the people you hire — the coaches you have, the players you have — they’re coming here to (compete) too. We expect to compete. We are here to win and we’ll take our chances. We’ll work hard and let the chips fall where they may. But we’re excited about this season and we’re excited to compete."

Of course, within much of that response is a very humble and conservative answer, which is to be expected. Even when everyone knew the Golden State Warriors were going to win it all in 2017 and 2018, (as well as in 2019 before injuries ravaged the team, if we’re being honest with ourselves), you never even heard the Warriors front office boldly declaring that they’d face no resistance. These teams’ leaders typically always act with tact, respect and poise.

Therefore, considering the Jazz, though definitely a championship contending team, are far from the favorites, it’s to be expected that Zanik would attempt to reel in his enthusiasm to some degree. Nevertheless, there are some tidbits in his quote that should really have Jazz fans feeling excited.

Most of all, he touched firmly on the Jazz being in a position to compete. When he says that, you know he’s not just talking about competing for a playoff spot or home court advantage – he means competing for the whole enchilada. Despite acknowledging that the West is very deep, it’s clear that there’s a buzz and excitement around the Jazz front office because they feel equipped to go head-to-head against and compete with even the best of the best in the West this season.

That certainly isn’t something that could have been said in years past. But with the new additions of Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic, it’s entirely fair to claim this season.

And Zanik’s next statement had me even more excited:

"None of us would be here if we didn’t enjoy competition and (being) competitors. The expectations come from all of us from the inside to build the best team possible. We’re here to compete and I have every expectation — and hope for some luck too — to be the last team standing. As long as we’re getting up everyday and doing our jobs with the best intent, I’ll be happy with the results and be able to deal with the criticism no matter what."

This is where Zanik crosses the threshold ever so slightly from humbly describing his team to revealing just how thrilled he truly is about the squad’s potential. Not only does he believe the Jazz can compete, but he has a belief that with a little luck, they could be ‘the last team standing’. In other words, they could be the team to win it all and hoist the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy.

Of course, the Jazz have a long way to go in order to reach those illustrious heights. It’s easy to presume they’re going to be a great team, but they still have to go out on the court and prove it. The new faces have to fit. The chemistry needs to come together. The key members of the roster have to stay healthy. Guys like Dante Exum, Royce O’Neale and Joe Ingles have to step up whereas Conley, Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert need to assert themselves as stars.

But the good news is that all of those things are believably plausible. There’s truly a clear path for all of those aspects to come together. And while Jazz fans accustomed to heartbreak might be hesitant to buy into the hype from their peers, seeing that the team’s general manager is equally as excited about this team’s potential should be a reassuring sign.

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In short, make no mistake about it, the 2019-20 Utah Jazz are going to be very solid and a championship is definitely their ceiling. Does that mean they’re guaranteed to get there? Absolutely not. Becoming the last team standing, as Zanik put it, is far from an easy or foreseeable road.

But it does mean that they have a legitimate shot, which is far more than could be said in recent seasons. And it’s a reason for Jazz fans to be absolutely ecstatic about their ability to compete, just as Justin Zanik himself has indicated. Thank goodness the season gets underway in less than a month, meaning the high anticipation is quickly nearing its end.