Utah Jazz: Why They’re Trapped In Mediocrity
In the NBA, we get all sorts of teams. There are good teams who are dull to watch (like the Atlanta Hawks) and bad teams who are fun to watch (like Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers).
Of course, there also great teams who are also thoroughly entertaining (like the Miami Heat) and horrible teams who you can’t watch for five minutes without being bored to death (like the Phoenix Suns). Really, we get teams on every possible part of the spectrum.
Then, there’s the Utah Jazz, who remain firmly in the middle.
If you had to pick the most vanilla team in the league, you’d have to pick the Jazz, right? I mean, they’re not a bad team, and they’re currently seventh in the Western Conference, but they lack any true stars and the odds of the current group getting them past the first round is slim to nil.
Likewise, the Jazz aren’t necessarily a boring team to watch and on the rare occasion that Jeremy Evans gets some playing time, you might see a great dunk. Still, no one rushes to the television to watch the low-post talents of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, however skilled they may be in that department.
This is the way things have been in Utah ever since the Great Implosion of 2011. That was when coach Jerry Sloan left after 21 seasons and star guard Deron Williams forced his way onto to the team now known as the Brooklyn Nets. That was the moment the Jazz stopped being a title contender.
Instead of hitting rock bottom and starting anew, however, they fell to the middle, becoming a serviceable team that doesn’t go down without a fight, but poses no real threat in the postseason. Now, the Jazz find themselves in a conundrum; how do they rise back to the top in the Western Conference without having to first collapse and become a lottery team?
For starters, they need to clear out some area in the frontcourt. The amount of talented big men the Jazz have is obscene. After Jefferson and Millsap, the Jazz’s second unit contains Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, two players with loads of potential who would likely thrive if they were getting more minutes.
When the trade deadline comes, the smartest thing the Jazz can do is shop one of these players. My guess is they would go with Favors in that case. He is a considerably stronger defender than Kanter and currently plays far more minutes per game.
Favors feels like a starter trapped on a team that needs him to be a bench player. Kanter, on the other hand, is still somewhat raw and continuing to grow as a player. If Favors were gone, Kanter would become the first big off the bench for the Jazz and likely develop his abilities at a faster rate.
If Kanter fully realizes his potential, he could become quite a dangerous player. The Jazz would be smart to keep him in their system and help him gradually improve his skillset.
If the Jazz’s frontcourt is so loaded, why blow it up? To help out the backcourt, which feels rather neglected lately. Ever since Mo Williams went down, the team has been thoroughly depleted at the point guard position. Even when he’s healthy, though, Williams is hardly a star player.
That’s the biggest problem with the Jazz; too many decent-but-not-great guys. You could say the same thing about Gordon Hayward and Marvin Williams; both are adequate, low-usage players who can occasionally make plays, but can’t carry a team.
The Jazz are stuck with a team that’s just good enough to not be a lottery team. In the future, they need to go after a guard who can score. Picking up a player like O.J. Mayo, who will be a free agent after this season, would be a real coup for them. In any case, they need players in the backcourt who can put points on the board.
The Jazz have a good shot at making the playoffs this year and even if they fall short, they certainly won’t embarrass themselves. Unfortunately, they lack the firepower necessary to do anything else.
That’s why in the future, the Utah Jazz need to clear out some of the room up front and make room for a scoring guard who can carry their offense and make big plays. If they can add a little flash to their offensive attack, they could find themselves near the top of the West sooner than later.
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John Hugar lives in Buffalo, where he is finishing up undergraduate work at the University at Buffalo. His work has appeared at 3 Shades Of Blue, The Classical, and Bleacher Report. He's been a Grizzlies fan since day one, during their time Vancouver and Memphis.