Utah Jazz 2017-18 Season Preview— October 17th 2017
By Garrett Kroeger
Gordon Hayward isn’t walking through the doors of Vivint Smart Home Arena anytime soon. For Utah Jazz fans, that hurts.
Hayward was phenomenal for the Jazz last season. The All-Star averaged 21.9 points per game, while shooting 47.1 percent from the field. He also averaged 5.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists and one steal per game.
That is a lot production departing. However, there is a good case and argument to be made that Rudy Gobert was actually Utah’s best player last season.
The 7-foot center made an All-NBA team while coming in second in the NBA Defensive Player of the Year race behind Golden State’s Draymond Green. So simply, Gobert was tremendous in 2016-17.
Gobert is undoubtedly the best rim protector in the game and he was an offensive force. Last year, in terms of true shooting percentage, the Frenchman shot a league leading 68.1 percent. Not only that, but the Jazz were 8.1 points per 100 possessions better than their opponents when he was on the court. When Gobert was on the bench, Utah was 2.9 points per 100 possessions less than its opposition and the Jazz’s defensively mentality faded.
Now, outside of Gobert, there are a lot of question marks surrounding Utah. Not only did Hayward leave for the Boston Celtics, but George Hill left for the young Sacramento Kings and others departed. Although Hill left, the Jazz replaced him with former Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio.
It’s well documented that Rubio has shooting problems. This offseason, Utah has been focused on improving his long range jump shot. However, it is hard to imagine Rubio as anything less than an asset for the Jazz. He has quick hands defensively and Utah fans should see a lot of lobs to Gobert this season.
While Rubio expects to be an asset for the Jazz, the soon-to-be 25 year old wing Rodney Hood is expected to subsidize the loss of Hayward.
Hood’s production dipped in his third NBA season. He went from 14.5 points per game as a second year player to 12.7 last year. While his 3-point percentage increased (from 35.9 percent to 37.1), his overall accuracy decreased from 42 percent to 40.8. However, a nagging knee issue didn’t help.
The keys for the fourth year wing this year are to remain healthy, become more consistent and don’t put too much pressure on himself to be the No. 1 guy. Now, speaking of health, the Jazz have several players dealing with injuries.
Guard Dante Exum, who was expected to be a contributor for Utah this season, is expected to undergo shoulder surgery on his separated left shoulder on Oct. 24 according to ESPN. Plus, Derrick Favors has injury concerns. And he is seen as player who can become one of the Jazz’s best players this season.
Favors was starting to emerge as a tough big man down on the blocks and was developing a solid jumper. But, last season was forgettable, thanks to knee issues that limited him to 50 games. Favors is essential, if the Jazz want to stay competitive in a very, very difficult West.
Hood and Favors are both seen as guys to replace Hayward, but some are overlooking the potential impact rookie Donovan Mitchell can have this year. Most rookies average 11 to 14 minutes per game. But due to Exum’s injury, Mitchell could see substantial time this season.
Mitchell, is fast — blistering fast. He’s the complete package an aggressive and competent a wing defender as a team can hope a rookie can be.
The Jazz finished third in the NBA in defensive rating (102.7 points allowed per 100 possessions) and that end of the floor looks stable. It’s the offensive side that raises concerns.
Last year, Utah had the No. 12 offense (104.7 points per 100 possessions). That seems quiet lofty in the post-Hayward era in Salt Lake City. It is more realistic for its offense to be in the bottom-10 and that could result in the Jazz becoming a .500 team.
Utah will deliver staunch defense once again. When they do, that alone should pave their path back to the postseason. Granted they’ll arrive in the loaded West probably with a lower seed because the conference got absolutely stacked this offseason. Conversely, with the offseason losses and if there are struggles offensively, the Jazz could dip below 38 wins for the first time in coach Quin Snyder’s tenure in Salt Lake.
But there is no question about it, Utah will be one of the most interesting teams this season.
Ricky Rubio | 11.1 ppg | 9.1 apg | 4.1 rpg
Rodney Hood | 12.7 ppg | 3.4 rpg | 1.6 apg
Joe Ingles | 7.1 ppg | 3.2 rpg | 2.7 apg
Derrick Favors | 9.5 ppg | 6.1 rpg | 1.1 apg
Rudy Gobert | 14.0 ppg | 12.8 rpg | 2.6 bpg
Joe Johnson | 9.2 ppg | 3.1 rpg | 1.8 apg
Alec Burks | 6.7 ppg | 2.9 rpg | 0.7 apg
Donovan Mitchell | 15.6 ppg | 4.9 rpg | 2.7 apg (at Louisville)
- ppg = points per game
- rbp = rebounds per game
- apg – assists per game
- bpg – blocks per game