The Utah Jazz fell to 2-2 in pre-season last night after blowing a 30 point lead to the Phoenix Suns. Least it’s only pre-season, right? 14 different players saw action last night with Rudy Gobert leading the way with 17 points and 8 rebounds. Dante Exum finished with 18 points while Joel Bolomboy also contributed 12 points and 7 rebounds.
The Jazz are hoping to return to the playoffs after falling short the last 4 seasons. Since trading away Deron Williams back in 2011, they have not been able to maintain a consistent core. The team was built around Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson in 2012, but both men are now with different teams. In 2014, the team decided to build around perimeter player Gordon Hayward by rewarding him with a 4 year $63 million contract. Last season, Hayward averaged an impressive 19.7 points, 5 rebounds, and 3.7 assists. However, his stellar play was not enough to lead the Jazz to a winning season, as the Jazz finished with a 40-42 record and finished just 1 game below the 8th seeded Houston Rockets. *NOTE* Even if Kobe Bryant didn’t drop 60 points, the game was meaningless as Houston had the tiebreaker. The Jazz were a young core and many of the players lacked NBA experience. General Manager Dennis Lindsey and Head Coach Quin Snyder made some key changes this off-season in hopes of making the Jazz contenders once again.
Veteran guard George Hill was acquired in a trade involving the Jazz 2016 first round draft pick. As a man who came into the league backing up Tony Parker on the San Antonio Spurs and starting 55 playoff games with the Indiana Pacers, he was the type of leader the Utah Jazz were looking to add to their roster. The Jazz also added 7x All-Star Joe Johnson in free agency. Johnson has appeared in 101 playoff games, averaging 16.6 points per game.
Here is a look at the projected 10 man rotation for the Jazz this upcoming season:
PG- George Hill, Dante Exum
SG- Rodney Hood, Alec Burks
SF- Gordon Hayward, Joe Johnson
PF- Derrick Favors, Trey Lyles
C- Rudy Gobert, Boris Diaw
This is only a prediction, as young teams always look to develop their prospects if the work ethic is in order. Unfortunately Gordon Hayward is recovering from a broken finger and there is no timetable for his return. It was clear though that their off-season plan was to bring in some accomplished veterans to help guide the players in the right direction. The pre-season is off to a solid start but only time will tell if this core is capable of making the playoffs. Fans in Salt Lake City miss the glory days of seeing John Stockton and Karl Malone lead the Utah Jazz to consecutive Finals appearances and showcase basketball entertainment at its finest. The team will head into the 2016-2017 season with a new identity and stack of confidence. While the Western Conference will likely be dominated by the likes of the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs, the playoff spots are certainly up for grabs. The Jazz will play their 5th pre-season game on October 17th when they host the Los Angeles Clippers, live at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.