Utah Jazz: Ranking the 5 biggest challengers in the West

Utah Jazz (Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports)
Utah Jazz (Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Utah Jazz
Luka Doncic (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports) /

The term “heliocentric offense” may have existed before Luka Doncic emerged as the face of the Dallas Mavericks, but it was certainly less popular. To say that the Mavs’ fate rests on the young Slovenian’s shoulders would be akin to observing that the internet changed society.

It’s obvious, and it’s also a slight understatement.

Doncic paced the entire NBA in Usage Rate last season at 36%. Meanwhile, the leader in that category for the (slightly) more egalitarian Utah Jazz was Donovan Mitchell at 33.5. As talented as Mitchell is, Luka earned his higher usage by virtue of being, simply, a more talented player.

He bested Mitchell in Player Efficiency Rating (PER) by a score of 25.3 to 21.3. His 5.1 Offensive Win Shares comfortably surpassed Mitchell’s 3.9. Finally, his Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) was double Mitchell’s, at 5.0 to 2.5.

Sure, Luka Doncic is better than Donovan Mitchell, and water is wet. Unfortunately for Luka, we’re not comparing individual players here. We’re talking about the biggest team threats to the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference, and as a team, the Mavericks do not pose the Jazz a significant challenge.

Luka Doncic is a man in desperate need of help. Kristaps Porzingis was acquired by the Mavericks to be his second star, but based on the 13.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per game he averaged in last year’s playoffs, he may not be up to the task. Tim Hardaway Jr. is an advanced floor-spacer, but he relies on others (read: Luka Doncic) to set up his three-point looks. He doesn’t have the handles, creativity or athletic burst to be Luka’s secondary playmaker.

Jalen Brunson may have those first two qualities, but as solid as the 24-year-old floor general is, it’s hard to imagine a future where the adjective of “star” is attached to his name.

Meanwhile, Donovan Mitchell’s cup runneth over as a member of one of the NBA’s deepest teams in the Utah Jazz. Mike Conley Jr., Jordan Clarkson and Bojan Bogdanovic would all have a case as the second-best offensive player on the Dallas Mavericks. Joe Ingles provides solid tertiary playmaking in the second unit. The Jazz are so overrun with solid offensive players that they can afford the luxury of prominently featuring the relatively-offensively-limited Rudy Gobert to capitalize on his elite rim protection.

Luka Doncic is a special talent, and the best player between the Utah Jazz and the Dallas Mavericks. His team simply does not have the firepower to pose a true threat to the Jazzmen.