4. The Jazz Run To The Playoffs
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz open their season on October 20, just four days from today. With the clock ticking, we look at 50 things for Jazz fans to be excited about leading up to the 2021-22 NBA season. Coming in at number four, the Jazz run to the playoffs.
The Jazz Run To The Playoffs
After finishing with the best record in the regular season last year, the Jazz have little to prove that they belong in the conversation as one of the most complete teams in the NBA.
However, after opening a 2-0 series lead against the Los Angeles Clippers the Jazz dropped for straight games to the Los Angeles Clippers and were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs.
As a result, little stock will be given to the Jazz record during the regular season as all eyes will be on their postseason performance.
To improve upon last season’s problems, the Jazz must identify the main cause of the team’s early exit.
The national narrative is that three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert was played off the floor when trying to match up against the Clippers’ small lineup. Others point to the Jazz turnstile defense on the perimeter which asked Gobert to choose between stopping easy baskets at the rim or staying glued to his individual assignment on the perimeter.
Others will point to the team’s rash of injuries late in the season, particularly to their All-Star backcourt of Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley.
Mitchell missed the final 16 games of the regular season and was clearly hobbled by his injured ankle throughout the postseason. Despite averaging 32.3 points, 5.5 assists, and 4.2 rebounds, Mitchell appeared to be playing on one leg by the end of the Jazz run in the playoffs.
After a brilliant opening series against the Memphis Grizzlies in which the guard averaged a 20 point, 10 assist double-double through four games, Conley re-aggravated a lingering hamstring injury and missed all but 26 minutes of the second-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers.
The injuries robbed the Jazz of both a key player in the second round and two of the team’s more capable perimeter defenders when healthy.
Is health enough to propel the Jazz deeper in the playoffs, or will they be more reliant on this year’s offseason additions to take them to the next level?
Through four preseason games, rookie Jared Butler has been the breakout performer for the Jazz. The guard led the team in both scoring at 18 points per game and assist and 4.3 during the preseason. But will Quin Snyder rely heavily on a rookie during the team’s most important games?
Hassan Whiteside had his best performance in the team’s final outing against the Milwaukee Bucks, but will he be consistent enough to be counted on in the playoffs? Rudy Gay was the team’s premier offseason addition, but after undergoing surgery to remove bone spurs from his right heel, the forward has yet to step on the floor.
Based on the talent in their starting lineup alone, the Jazz should cruise to a 50 win regular season. Whether they’ll fare better in the playoffs will likely come down to the team’s health, and if they can get more out of their offseason additions.
While the regular season should be a fun exercise for Jazz fans, success in the playoffs will be the final basis by which the team is judged.
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