Jazz

The Jazz Should Scare You and Your Favorite Team

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“You are one of my favorite players, but you don’t have what it takes to get to the next level… what do you have to say about that?” Hall of Fame center turned TNT analyst Shaquille O’Neal challenged Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell.

“Aight, that’s it”, Mitchell responded.

Odd timing for such a question, following a 129-118 Jazz rout over the New Orleans Pelicans. The key takeaway from this exchange isn’t found in the question, but in the response, and the performance leading up to it. Perhaps Spida was expecting the TNT crew to praise him for dropping 36-7-5 on efficient shooting.

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Either way, he wouldn’t have cared to hear their analysis. The reality is: the Utah Jazz don’t care about national-media coverage, or the lack thereof. They only care about beating your favorite team, and beating them badly. The Jazz should scare you, and here’s why:

Firepower To Go the Distance

It’s no secret– the Jazz intend to shoot threes, and a lot of them. Utah ranks 2nd league-wide in 3-point attempts at 42.3 per game. They’ve been able to cash in on 17 of those attempts per game (40.2%), ranking 1st in the NBA. Breaking down Utah’s roster, it’s easy to see why those numbers are what they are. The Jazz have five players shooting over 40% from beyond the arc:

Shooting is an absolute must in today’s NBA, and the Jazz have four guys that demand hard close-outs on the floor at all times. The result is a 4th-ranked offense in terms of efficiency in the league.

Depth Galore

The 2021 Jazz have something that separates them from years past: depth. The bubble exposed Utah’s bench depth, particularly at the center position. To say that a 22-year-old Tony Bradley looked out of place in a playoff series is an understatement.

Much to Jazz Nation’s delight, F/C Derrick Favors made a triumphant return to Utah in free agency after a one-year hiatus in New Orleans. Favors’ re-addition allows the Jazz to play bigger when needed, and provides a more-than-serviceable option to back up all-star C Rudy Gobert. With a high-ceiling rookie in Udoka Azubuike and stretch-five option Juwan Morgan at the ready, the center position appears to be one of strength, currently and in years to come.

In Orlando, Quin Snyder’s squad sorely missed resident marksman and secondary scorer, Bojan Bogdanovic. Bogdanovic has been resurgent after a slow start, likely caused by a wrist surgery prior to the bubble. Bojan’s return allows other wings such as Joe Ingles, Royce O’Neale, and Georges Niang to play more comfortable roles, tailored to their skillsets.

You can’t talk about this Jazz bench without mentioning 6th Man of the Year frontrunner, Jordan Clarkson. Clarkson is more than earning his four-year/$52M contract this season, posting 17.4 points per game on a .445/.378/.974 shooting split.

He is that guy for the Jazz, and someone the opponent hates to see heating up. Clarkson also belongs in the J.R. Smith Unwavering Confidence Hall of Fame (along with Jamal Crawford and Lou Williams). Any shot is a good one for Jordan, and his fans, coaches and teammates love to see him shoot the ball with confidence.

In addition to Utah’s bench big 3 (Clarkson-Ingles-Favors), the Jazz have enjoyed quality minutes from 3-point specialist Georges Niang. Second-year wing Miye Oni has produced incredible defensive ability in spot minutes as well.

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The Brains, Heart and Experience to Win

Coach Snyder finally has his ideal roster, and he’s showing just what his system can do with the right players. As an early Coach of the Year candidate, Snyder has stymied opposing offenses with his defensive schemes, and overwhelmed opposing defenses with actions and movement to get wide-open 3-point looks. With a JD/MBA degree from Duke and 3 Final Four appearances as a player, Snyder has incredible intellect, as well as basketball experience.

Perhaps the number one reason to fear the Jazz is Rudy Gobert. The French big-man is well on his way to winning a 3rd Defensive Player of the Year Award this summer. Gobert is the heart of this Jazz team, and the key to its success on the defensive end. Gobert defends the paint so well that Jazz wing defenders can aggressively shut off the 3-point line.

With 3-point shots unavailable and paint buckets hard to come by, Jazz opponents have turned to the midrange jumper to score. As we all know, the Daryl Morey guide to analytics says: Midrange jump shots are like poison to offensive efficiency. The Gobert-led Jazz defense ranks 3rd in the league in points allowed per game at just 105.8. That defense has propelled the Jazz to the second-best mark in point differential, and the best overall record in the NBA.

Armed with four consecutive playoff appearances, this Jazz team is poised to make waves in the Western Conference. With a seasoned veteran in Mike Conley running the offense, the Jazz should feel experienced and ready to beat any team in a seven-game series.

It’s time to stop sleeping on the Utah Jazz.

Follow us on Twitter @JazzLead for the latest Jazz news and insight. 

About Matt Peay

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