Utah Jazz Preview: Playoffs or Bust

Posted on 19 Sep, 2016, by in NBA

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After four consecutive seasons of missing the playoffs, including one very close call in 2016, the Utah Jazz did the necessary changes in the offseason to put the team in an even better position to compete, adding Joe Johnson, Boris Diaw and George Hill to their core of Gordon Hayward, Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors.

The Jazz had the playoffs in their hands, playing against the Los Angeles Lakers on the final day of the season. But they seemed wowed by the lights of Kobe Bryant retiring, and “gave up” their spot to the Houston Rockets, and so Bryant could have himself the goodbye he always wanted. And so, the Jazz missed the playoffs again, while posting a third consecutive losing season, something that hasn’t happened to them since the early days of the franchise, back when the 80’s just rolled up.

The Jazz, already one of the best defensive teams in the NBA over the last two years, have certainly taken it up a notch when it comes to the team’s depth and offensive power. Joe Johnson joined on a two year deal, worth $22 million. George Hill came via trade from the Indiana Pacers to sure up the point guard position, although the Jazz hope that it’ll finally be the season Dante Exum both stays healthy and shows why they spent such a high draft pick on him. Boris Diaw came from the San Antonio Spurs, with Gregg Popovich tired of his talented big man. There’s also rookie Marcus Paige joining, but he isn’t likely to play a big part.

The Jazz have two things on their mind: Staying healthy, as Favors missed quite a lot of games last season, and considering how they were one game from the playoffs, his absence was meaningful. The other thing is this team has an expiration date. Hill is a free agent when the season ends, so is Gobert. Hayward can and will opt out of his contract at the end of the season. The Jazz need to win this season, so the spine of this team doesn’t break up before they do anything with it.

Best Case Scenario

Playoffs. Nothing complicated. It’s time that this team, even without a scoring superstar, takes it to the next level. They have youth with experience. Shooters and big men. They have depth at almost every position. If everyone stays healthy, there’s no reason the Jazz don’t make the postseason for the first time since 2012, and place themselves one step from being true contenders in the West.

Worst Case Scenario

Also quite simple: Missing the playoffs. It won’t just put one big question mark over their build for the last few years, but throw the future of a number of key players on the roster into a confused state, and teams like the Jazz can’t afford another rebuild. It’s all about choosing and drafting the right players, and holding on to the good ones. They’re not going to make up for losing their best players through free agency.

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