'30 Teams in 30 Days' 2015-2016 NBA Season Preview: #15 Utah Jazz

'30 Teams in 30 Days' 2015-2016 NBA Season Preview: #15 Utah Jazz

NBA

'30 Teams in 30 Days' 2015-2016 NBA Season Preview: #15 Utah Jazz

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  • Odds to win the 2015-2016 NBA Championship: 150:1
  • 2014-2015 Record: 38-44 (No Playoffs).
  • 2015 Draft Results:
    • Trey Lyles, University of Kentucky (12th Overall)
    • Olivier Hanlan, Boston College (42nd Overall)
  • Key Offseason Additions: N/A
  • Key Offseason Losses: N/A
  • Projected Starting Lineup:

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  • Player Salaries:

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  • Season in Review:

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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: The “young core” this franchise has been slowly building since trading away its biggest superstar, Deron Williams, is finally developed and in place. While their 38-44 record from last season doesn’t suggest the Jazz had a good season, it is important to recognize two things:

  • This 38-44 = FOURTEEN games better than their 2013-2014 season
  • Utah started off the season 6-18.

That 6-18 record to start the year is important because it finally illustrated how toxic Enes Kanter was on the rest of the Jazz players. Posting an absolutely putrid &  team-low -4.1 Box Score Plus Minus Average, second-to-worst -0.7 V(alue) O(ver) R(eplacement) P(layer) on the team, all while having the highest usage rate of any player not named Gordon Hayward … Kanter’s awfulness also inflicted collateral damage – as he took the playing time of arguably the most impactful player on the roster: Rudy Gobert.

When Quin Snyder finally pulled the cord on Enes and the franchise traded him to Oklahoma City on February 19th, 2015, the Jazz had a record of 19-34. They finished the season 38-44, a 9 game improvement, and had the NBA’s #1 overall defense during that specific stretch.

How, you ask?

The Stifle Tower.

With Kanter gone, it opened up massive chunks of playing time for who I believe to be the best defensive player in the NBA and predict to take home the “NBA Defensive Player of the Year” Award in 2016: Rudy Gobert.

Standing 7’2”, a wingspan of 7-foot-8.5, and an unfathomable 9’7” inch standing reach … NINE FOOT SEVEN!!!! … Gobert is the most physically-daunting big man we have seen in the NBA in some time (that’s with Anthony Davis, DeAndre Jordan, and Dwight Howard all in the league simultaneously!) … and as of this 2015-2016 campaign, he has been unleashed by Quin Snyder like that Persian monster in 300.

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Gobert not only passes the “eye-test” as a legitimate NBA big man who could start on any team, the advanced statistics of his season support any claim to his stardom. Not only did Rudy record a 21.6 P(layer) E(fficiency) R(ating), 0.2 behind the team leader Derrick Favors, a team- high +5.8 Box Score Plus/Minus (+5.1 on Defense alone), and a team-high 4.3 V(alue) O(ver) R(eplacement) P(layer) – he was responsible for 27.2% of the entire team’s defensive rebounds and 7% of the Jazz’s total blocks last year when he was on the floor … all while having a team-low usage rate (14%) behind Dante Exum and Joe Ingles.

What all this means is that Rudy Gobert is one of those players who doesn’t need the ball in his hands to be successful/help the team – an incredibly rare quality in today’s NBA. He is such a dominating physical specimen that his mere presence in the paint effects the opposition on both ends of the floor – and what it enables is the team’s play-makers who DO need the ball: Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, Derrick Favors, Trey Burke, etc. to probe without having to worry about an opposing big man coming over to help if they break their defender down … because if they do: Gobert is going to throw an alley-oop/tip-slam down on your soul.

In addition to the emergence of Gobert, we can’t disregard the progress of Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors. Gordon may never be a “superstar”, but, what he is: a talented offensive scorer who is properly compensated in re: to his value. After a disappointing 2013-2014 season, Hayward responded with an impressive 19.1 Points, 4.9 Rebounds, and 4.1 Assists per game last year – the only player in the NBA to average these numbers and NOT make the all-star roster. He also proved that his productivity is essential to the success of the team, as the Jazz scored 104.7 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, and only 97.9 when he was on the bench.

As for Favors, Utah fans would be lying to you if they said they weren’t starting to doubt the main piece they acquired from the blockbuster Deron Williams trade a couple years back … however, like Hayward: Favors responded to a disappointing 2013-14 by posting the 15th overall PER in the NBA, 22.4, and 5th amongst all power forwards.

These guys might not be household names, but, the Jazz have something special brewing in Salt Lake City. Parlaying all of this no longer young, but, experienced talent with one of the best home courts in the NBA…

  • Baseless God Wob

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…means the Utah Jazz will shock the world and get the final spot in the Western Conference playoffs this season. You heard it here first.

Here’s the challenge: Dante Exum, who tore ligaments in his knee this offseason while playing in Australia, won’t be around to contribute. While he didn’t have the best rookie campaign, he proved that he was NBA-ready, despite being 18 years old – and this upcoming season was supposed to be his “break out” year. Like every other team in the NBA, injuries happen. What separates the good ones and the bad ones is how they respond to this adversity … and I’m so high on the Jazz this season because I truly think they have built themselves a poor man’s version of the San Antonio Spurs organization in the way that anyone on this Utah roster can step in at a moment’s notice – and the transition will be seamless…

The example that will exemplify this the most: Bryce Cotton in for Exum.

I have had a man-crush on Cotton since he dropped a career-high 36 points vs. the North Carolina Tar Heels in the opening round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament, and almost single-handily won the game. This dude was put on this planet to get buckets, and I can’t name many people I’d rather go to war with than this savage. You can’t teach this type of “me against the world” mentality, you’re either born with it or you’re not.

Needless to say: I think his game has translated to the NBA quite well…

Oh, by the way … HE DUNKS.

I’m flooding your screen with these videos for one purpose: to show you that this Jazz squad is filled with uber-talented guys who you won’t see on SportsCenter, won’t see in any Sprite commercials, or see on a national TV platform. Bryce Cotton, in particular, will not only shine filling in for Exum this season – he will, at one point, take over the starting point guard job from the less-than-mediocre Trey Burke.

Jazz fans, I implore you to join me in this movement: #StartBryceCotton

And if I’m wrong about the Jazz being the NBA’s surprise club this season, at the very least: we’ll get a lot of Serial killer Quin Snyder faces.

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  • 2015-2016 Season Projection:
    • 43-39 Record
    • 8th Place in West
    • Playoff Prediction: Western Conference Quarterfinalists
    • 2015-2016 NBA Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert
  • Fan Mindset, as told by Hollywood:
    • Trent, Swingers

You’re so money, Utah, and you don’t even know it…

  • Baseless God Wob’s 3 Divine Questions:

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  • Should Utah trade Trey Burke before the season starts and his value is worthless?
  • What is the ceiling for Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors?
  • What is the next step for Gordon Hayward? What does he need to accomplish before he can be considered a “star”?

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