How the Jazz have become one of the strongest teams in the NBA this season
The Utah Jazz have consistently been a lock for the playoffs for the last 3 NBA seasons, but this season the midwestern franchise have made an astronomical climb to become the team with the best record in the entire league. A lot of this success can be attributed to the front office of the Jazz organisation who made various trade moves and free agency swipes to add depth to the already solid duo of Donovan Mitchell and 2 time DPOY Rudy Gobert, the three main additions being the free agency signing of Bojan Bogdanovic from the Indiana Pacers, the trade for Jordan Clarkson to the Jazz in exchange for Dante Exum and two future second round picks for the Cavs and the trade for Mike Conley for Grayson Allen, Jae Crowder, Kyle Korver, the draft rights to Darius Bazley and a protected first round pick. These 3 pickups by the Jazz have contributed massively to their success this season and with Mike Conley being the primary playmaker on the team, he has been able to up his numbers from last season’s 14.4 points, 4.4 assists and 3.2 rebounds to a current stat line of 16.5 points, 5.8 assists and 3.7 rebounds. This huge improvement by Conley from his previous season seems to be the main factor towards increased success for the organisation this season.
However, it is important to not rule out the increased contributions from other players such as Jordan Clarkson, who has made himself a front runner in the sixth man of the year award with hot streaks off the bench that more often than not lead to him outscoring the oppositions' starters. Bojan Bogdanovic has also been a credible asset for the Jazz in terms of spacing the floor as the European wing lets 3’s fly from the arc on a regular basis.
The Jazz’s offensive capabilities were never in doubt coming into the season with franchise player Donovan Mitchell being one of the most ruthless scorers in the league who creates his own shot with ease or winds his way to the basket, tip toeing past opposition defenders with his crafty finishing ability or quite brutal posterising dunks (ask Javale McGee), but the real worry from last season was the Jazz’s poor defence with them being only the 9th best defensive team. The Jazz have now climbed to the 3rd best defensive team and the best offensive team in the entire the league and this rise can be attributed to two separate components of the game. One being the increase in 3 pointers made and attempted by the Jazz as they lead the league in attempts and makes and the other component being the distribution of the ball amongst the players in the squad this season. The team now trust each other more than ever with the ball in their hands.
The final and most important factor that has lead to such a rapid rise for a team that has been lacking success for the past two years, through example of their second and first round playoff exits, is the locker room effect. It’s important not to disregard that despite expectations, the Jazz were a new team that had to build up a comradery and connection last season, and having done so through last years regular season and the NBA bubble playoffs, they now have a greater understanding of each other than ever before. This allows the players to predict what their teammates are going to do such as cutting to the basket for Donovan Mitchell or waiting in the corner for a swing out three for the likes of Ingles and Bogdanovic.
Whatever it may be, the Jazz know where their team mates will be when they are needed and that is the key to the current success of the Utah Jazz.
Written by Lewis Nolan