Tha Sports Junkies 101

How Good Are The Utah Jazz?

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Injuries aside, the Jazz are the second best team in the West

The Utah Jazz were the talk of the league over the summer, and it was well-deserved. The Jazz took a team that was 40-42 and riddled with injuries just a season ago and added George Hill, Joe Johnson, and Boris Diaw on top of that. Predictions began to make their way around the internet including claims they could easily make the 4th seed in the West, that Hayward is reaching superstardom, and even that they are the biggest threat to the Warriors in the West (all of which I believed and still do). At the beginning of the season I was all aboard the Jazz hype train and nothing has changed. Expectations have been incredibly high for a team that is based in Utah but even just 25 games into the season and with a very quiet 15-10 record, they have already surpassed those expectations and here’s why.

Last season, both Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert missed 20 games each, a huge blow to the production of a young team, and the team never could recover from those missed games, even though Gordon Hayward played 80 games. So far this season, Hayward has already missed 7 games due to injury, Favors and Hill have missed 14 games each and Hood has missed 4 games, yet they are still 15-10.

The addition of George Hill has already proven to be vital even with such a small sample size. He is the perfect fit for the way Utah wants to play and he is averaging roughly 20/3/4 while shooting 53% from the field and 45% from deep (both career highs) in the 11 games he has been available. The Jazz are 8-3 in the games that he has played while only going 7-7 without him.

The Jazz have only played one full game in which Hill, Hood, Hayward, Favors, and Gobert were all playing. In that game, they went on the road to Madison Square Garden and beat the new-look Knicks 114-109. Those 5 guys together scored 95 of their team’s points while shooting 55% from the field with only 5 turnovers. Once again, small sample size, but interesting and exciting results.

The Jazz are obviously a better team when healthy but even in games where Hill and Favors have not played, the Jazz have still been extremely competitive. In their last 5 games, games in which Hill and Favors were out with injury, the Jazz are 4-1. Their only loss in that span, a game where Hood, Hill, Hayward, AND Favors were all missing due to injury, came at the hands of the Golden State Warriors by a score of 106-99.

Even without their superstar and important role players, the Jazz are finding ways to play well and win games, and it is thanks in large part their bench depth. Joe Ingles, Trey Lyles, and Shelvin Mack have been playing incredibly well in their roles and when their name has been called on for big time performances, they have answered.

Joe Ingles may only play around 18 minutes per game, but he has taken full advantage of every second, leading the league in 3-point percentage at 48% while also ranking tied for 5th (with teammate George Hill) in True Shooting Percentage at .667.

Even with their injury problems, they have still managed to win 7 games by 15+ points including a win in San Antonio (+15) and home wins against Denver (+25), Atlanta (+27), and Houston (+19). A big part of this has been their defense. The Jazz are currently ranked 1st in points allowed (95.5) and 7th in Defensive Rating (104.3) to compliment their Offensive Rating of 109.7, which is good enough for 8th in the NBA.

Favors is still expected to miss some time going forward and Rodney Hood and George Hill are still questionable for the next week or so. We havent even seen the return of Alec Burks yet and who knows when he’ll come back but one thing is for sure, if the Jazz can get everyone healthy by the time April comes around, the Warriors may be the only team that can stop them. 

15-10 is where I expected this Jazz team to be through 25 games if fully healthy, instead they have achieved that mark while dealing with serious injury problems which is, without a doubt, the most impressive part about their season so far. Some impressive yet (somewhat) unexpected play from the Rockets, Thunder, and Grizzlies have the Jazz sitting in the 7th seed in the West (Jazz would be 3rd in the East) but if George Hill can come back and consistently play by the time Favors returns, things could get scary out West.

My “Rodney Hood for MIP” take is looking a tad bleak at the moment, as his stats have come down to earth a bit after his hot start but his contribution to this team is more important than it has ever been as the Jazz are 1-3 when Hood does not play.

Do I believe that Jazz are better than the Warriors? Absolutely not, at least not right now. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t think a healthy Jazz team is the second best team in the West, ahead of the Spurs. If the Jazz are playing this well while missing their starting point guard and a top 10 power forward, it’s only a matter of time before things start to fall into place.


(Statistics via Basketball-Reference)