The Utah Jazz have not had an ideal offseason, but there is still reason for optimism.
The Jazz missed out on bringing back Gordon Hayward and two-way point guard George Hill, and that’s unfortunate in a loaded Western Conference. Whenever you lose two players that account for nearly 39 points and eight assists per game — it’s a blow. Both could create for themselves, score and defend. That said, the Utah has done a commendable job growing a roster that is trending up thanks to the direction of Quin Snyder and Dennis Lindsey. And I don’t expect them to go by the wayside all of a sudden.
Utah brought in nifty passing point man Ricky Rubio to help replace Hill via trade, which is a good place to start. He is not a shooter, but he is someone who is always going to make plays somehow and execute well in the open floor. He’ll fit in nicely with Snyder. Even though the Jazz are still going to be a slow team, they will have many open looks from three for Joe Ingles and Rudy Gobert could get even more lobs with Rubio’s vision. Perhaps the biggest reason to stay upbeat is the potential of first-round draft pick Donovan Mitchell.
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He’s been electric in the Summer League thus far, including a 37-point and eight steal performance Tuesday against the Memphis Grizzlies. Mitchell will have his ups-and-downs as the season goes on, but it appears he could be a big-time perimeter contributor shortly.
He has Russell Westbrook-like athleticism, but he’s much further along as a shooter than this year’s MVP. If he keeps working, the sky is the limit for this young man. A 6-10 wingspan for a 6-3 combo guard was what everyone was raving about surrounding the draft, and he’s beginning to display that defensively.
The Jazz are going to get after you on the defensive end with players like Mitchell, Ingles and Gobert. That is going to be their calling card, especially with Hayward now gone. They added a pro’s pro in Thabo Sefolosha as well, which could help mentor Mitchell and Rodney Hood defensively. However, they still have capable offensive production from their ball-movement offense with veteran scorer Joe Johnson, playmaker Boris Diaw and others.
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Utah is going to have their hands full because they’re in the West, but the drop-off will not be that as much as people think. Mitchell and Rubio could prove to be a formidable two-way tandem as the season progresses, and although they don’t have a superstar, the Jazz are deep. Things could be a heck of a lot worse after losing an All-Star.
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