The Utah Jazz gained a lot of hype in the off-season coming into the new year. They had acquired new pieces that should have put them to new heights. Right now they sit at 12-10 and at the sixth seed in the Western Conference. Sure, that isn’t a terrible position to be in by any means. However, compared to expectations set for the Jazz, there has been some embarrassing basketball being played. They have lost the last five-of-six games in blowout fashion almost every single time. This Jazz team looks completely different in a few ways, let me break that down.
The biggest reason that the Jazz are struggling so badly is because of one guy the traded for; Mike Conley. At one point he was the most underrated point-guard in the NBA and now he doesn’t even look like a top-20 point-guard in the league. Conley has made no impact on either end of the court, and that is what they Jazz brought him to do. He is shooting 36 percent from the field and has been useless on the defensive end. Conley is supposed to be the guy that elevated this Jazz team to different standards, everyone put them in contender talks. He has not only failed to do that so far, he is biggest problem. They gave up Jae Crowder, Ricky Rubio and Derrick Favors to get this man.
Which brings me up to my next point, this Jazz team gave up a whole lot to bring in a 32 year-old point-guard who has fallen off. Crowder, Kyle Korver, Grayson Allen and a first-round pick in the 2019 draft was given to the Grizzlies. Trading away Crowder was a huge-piece missing for the Jazz, as he was the vocal leader and best wing-defender the team had. He was basically the big brother in Utah that protected the young guys, and now the Jazz are missing that guy. Rubio was another piece that the Jazz miss, as he was the play-maker for that team. He made the jobs of Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert so much easier and elevated their games. Conley has failed to elevate anyone’s game, let alone his own. Also, that first-round pick ended up being Brandon Clarke, who has made an impact for Memphis immediately.
Sure, the Jazz brought in Bojan Bogdanovic and yes he has been a sniper offensively. The man can’t miss from three and shooting efficiently, but he also can’t defend a soul. His lack of athleticism doesn’t help this squad in need of some wing-players that are consistent. That is why Crowder on Utah was a match made in heaven, he kept the team in check. To be honest though, Bogdanovic been more of a positive than the next couple of guys I’m about to mention. What has happened to Joe Ingles? His shot has been even worse than Conley’s at this given moment, shooting 36 percent from the field and 31 percent from three. His consistent shot made him such a threat when everyone focused on Mitchell and Gobert. The Jazz also brought in Jeff Green, who we all know is either a superstar or an absolute mess. Right now, Green is leaning more towards an absolute mess, shooting 37 percent from the field.
The Jazz are simply not a great team, a lot of pieces made this team worse not better. Conley has been the biggest shock, if he can fix himself this season then the Jazz might actually be okay. But no one is afraid of this team, which makes Mitchell and Gobert’s job a lot harder than it needs to be. Gobert has always had a one-dimensional game of pick-and-roll and lob it up. Now with Conley or Mitchell at the helm instead of Rubio, Gobert is stuck because his game is just not versatile at all. Mitchell is being asked to score more, with a team that defenders don’t respect. Bogdanovic is the only one helping this team, and that is good enough to beat some teams at home or that aren’t exactly good. However, it scares no teams come the post-season that are contending for a championship.
The past three games, the Jazz have found themselves down 40 points at halftime to Toronto, down 20 to Philadelphia and losing by 20 to the Lakers. The Jazz are only 22 games into their season, but they do not look like anything that we expected. This was supposed to be a gritty, hard-nosed team that can hurt you at both ends. However, teams are getting whatever they desire due to stars not stepping up, rotation players being mediocre and no true leader on that team. They have a lot of winnable games for the rest of the month going into most of January as well. The Jazz should be able to pick up the slack and figure out how to win as a team. I’m also not saying that losing guys like Crowder and Rubio were make it or break it for a championship either. I can’t help but think this team could have been better off with them in Utah. Last night against the Lakers, they watched Dwight Howard drill a three-pointer to add insult to injury. Hopefully they have hit bottom and rally before things get out of hand.
And now a word from our very own Nick Andre…
After being a surprise standout player in his rookie season, we had high expectations of Donovan Mitchell to be a top notch player in the near future. We know he can score and we know he has a super amount of talent as can attack the rim better than most players in the NBA. But what we really haven’t seen from Mitchell lately is leadership on the floor. Mitchell seems to be doing all he can to help the team win but the rest of those guys seem to cannot find a rhythm when they’re on the basketball court.
It’s time to Mitchell to really embrace that leadership role being the franchise player of the team. We know that Utah traded for Conley over the summer because of that reason but we all know Utah cannot go far in the playoffs unless Mitchell runs the show. Hopefully we’ll see Utah turn things around and Mitchell can get this team in the right direction to be a threat in the Western Conference.