The Jazz had the most wins and the best net rating in the NBA last season, but a fifth straight early exit in the playoffs has added a newfound sense of pressure going into this season. Utah has the same core in place led by Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, with veteran Rudy Gay headlining the new additions. The Jazz are an excellent team, but how long can they keep running it back without even making the conference finals? With several challengers in the West severely hampered by injuries entering the season, this feels like the Jazz’s best chance to finally break through.
The Jazz made some nice additions to bolster the defensive weaknesses of the second unit by adding Rudy Gay and Hassan Whiteside. Gay will also provide some lineup versatility for Quin Snyder, but Utah’s defensive problems on the perimeter still loom large. If healthy, the Jazz will be very good, but not good enough to make it to the Finals.
Having Rudy Gobert makes the Jazz a perennial playoff team. The question is, does Gobert add a ceiling to what the Jazz do? Gobert received way more blame than he deserved for another playoff collapse last season against the Clippers. Is there something else that’s keeping the Jazz from making it past the second round of the playoffs? They have to find out this year, because another first-round exit with the amount of talent on this team is unacceptable, albeit certainly possible. Yes, injuries were a major part of their collapse, but giving up a 25-point lead in Game 6 last year was a travesty, and the Jazz had a healthy Gobert playing the majority of that game. Quin Snyder needs to prove it this year.
For Utah this year, everything is dependent on how healthy they can stay. The Jazz are a team that need the sum of all their parts to overcome their opponents. When healthy, and in sync, the Jazz are a fantastic machine that can blow out any team on any given night. But when one of the cogs in the machine breaks down, the rest of the machine tends to sputter in the playoffs. In the bubble the Jazz fell short without Bojan Bogdanovic. Last season they had injuries to Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell. The Jazz are going to be extra careful this year, but age is likely going to catch up with them at some point. Ultimately, it’s very unlikely the team stays completely healthy, and a second-round exit is most likely this year.
It’s mostly the same team this year for the Jazz. Much of this season will be spent watching how the Jazz keep their team healthy. But the Jazz have a little bit of a wildcard this year in Jared Butler. Butler was slated to go as high as the lottery in the draft, but dropped because of health concerns. Word out of camp is he looks good. What if Jared Butler is really good? If Butler can play well and allow Mike Conley to avoid a lot of wear and tear, it could be huge for the Jazz.