Gobert, ‘Statement’ Jerseys, Bogdanovic Earn Jazz Mid-Season Awards
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz are sitting pretty at the midway point of the NBA season by being a top-four team in the Western Conference, a feat accomplished without big offseason acquisition Mike Conley who has missed 19 games due to injury.
KSL Unrivaled decided to hand out some hardware for the first half of the season with a variety of awards for this Utah Jazz season – which is on pace to be one of its best ever. Some will be very obvious, perhaps a couple are controversial, and there will be a few wacky awards.
Defensive Player – Rudy Gobert
Rudy Gobert is an obvious choice as the best defender as he is having another amazing year protecting the rim and patrolling the paint down low.
His numbers so far are comparable to last year with blocks down slightly from 2.3 to 1.9 and steals are a dead heat but his rebounding is up 12.9 to 14.5 per game with his defensive total up two boards per game.
KSL Sports’ Alex Kirry knew Gobert was the clear and only choice for this mid-season award.
“No question about it. This guy changes shots from everyone across the league and everyone changes the game for him when he comes in and goes out,” Kirry said. “It is a bad deal for the Jazz when he is not in the game.”
Team MVP – Donovan Mitchell
Another clear choice with Donovan Mitchell as he has been the rock all year long and with leading the Jazz to one of the best teams in the Western Conference. He is averaging a career-high in points, rebounds, assists and shooting percentage.
“He is averaging almost 25 points per game, this guy is an All-Star, he has to be,” Kirry said. “We have had to wait for Donovan Mitchell to turn it on [in past seasons]. He has been there since Day 1 and has been as consistent as anyone.”
KSL Sports’ Scott Mitchell argued that there is something to be said for playing all year round as a young player and going overseas to see different defenses, playing with different teams, and even failure this summer with Team USA. All of that could be another reason Mitchell has elevated his game.
“Don’t you feel like his game has really elevated itself,” Mitchell said. “I wonder if it had something to do with him playing in the FIBA World Championships and wonder how much impact that had on him this year.”
Newcomer of the Year – Bojan Bogdanovic
With Mike Conley being hurt a good chunk of the year, Bojan Bogdanovic has stepped in nicely to be the best new player on this team. He is hitting three-point shots at a high clip at 41 percent and so far is averaging a career-best 21.1 points per game.
Most felt Bogdanovic would come in and add a three-point shot and score around 12-15 points per game as he was paired with Mitchell and Conley. There have been games where he has taken over and been the star for the Jazz.
No one expected Bogdanovic to score more than 20 per game but with Conley out of the lineup, and even when he is in, Bogdanovic is putting up points and the second-leading scorer on this team.
“I fell in love with the guy from Day 1,” Mitchell said. “What it was that I really appreciated was that he really got into how passionate the Utah Jazz fans are. That really got his juices flowing and he seems like a guy who says, ‘I like playing basketball, I love playing basketball hard and I really love playing basketball for the Utah Jazz.'”
Overachiever – Georges Niang
This pick was a surprise for both Mitchell and Kirry but they went with Niang for how he has surprised the duo – neither had any real expectations for him going into the year.
“I will say that he has been better than I have seen him in his career,” Kirry said.” I used to get super annoyed when he came into the game. Now he is knocking down three’s when he comes into the game.”
Underachiever – Mike Conley
This one is also obvious and a lot of it has to do with the injuries that Conley has suffered this year and saw him sitting out almost half of the year so far. Having said that, when he has been healthy Conley has been inconsistent scoring the basketball with nine of his 24 games played saw him score in single digits.
“You can’t get too grumpy about someone being injured because that is part of the game,” Kirry said.” Mike Conley is well under his career average for scoring with just 13.5 points per game, and that is after a really, really abysmal start. He is progressing in rehab and I am wondering what his return looks like.”
Heading into the preseason the hype was enormous for Conley to be paired up with this Jazz team. Things have not gone as planned in the first half of the year but maybe the sentiment heading into the second half will not be what it was back in July.
“Everyone was excited. This guy has been steady, consistent and doesn’t have to be the superstar on this team,” Mitchell said. “He is a guy who will stir the drink and get everyone in the right place but he has looked lost.”
Worst Jersey Award – Yellow “Statement” Jerseys
This has to go to the yellow “Statement” jersey which have seen the Jazz go just 2-6 in those uniforms. They look good but the record is less than desirable and of all of the other jersey combinations, the Jazz have seven total losses. Are they jinxed? Probably not and it is just a coincidence that the Jazz have nearly as many losses in these yellow jerseys to any other.
“Get rid of those things,” Kirry said. “They schedule these out so why can’t they adjust the schedule because they are not doing well in them and they will have three or four over the next few weeks.”