As the NBA world overreacts to every win and loss of this early season, what have we really learned about the Utah Jazz?
Had you told me two weeks ago that the Utah Jazz would lose to both the Portland Trail Blazers and the Los Angeles Clippers, I would have shrugged. Following any analysis you like during the preseason, the Blazers and Jazz figure to finish around the same position when fully healthy. Throw in Utah’s injuries and a loss isn’t a surprise.
On the flip side, take Tuesday night’s big win over the San Antonio Spurs. Historically, Utah doesn’t do well against the Spurs, and forget about playing in San Antonio. Utah had lost 10 consecutive games in San Antonio, until last night. But don’t get cocky Jazz fans. Utah is now 3-9 over the last three years against Gregg Popovich and whoever he puts on the court.
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Last night was a perfect example of how the length the Jazz can put on the floor can close down passing lanes. Even an elite offense that buried the Warriors by 29 points last week was unable to adjust. Throw in Dante Exum leading the team in blocks and you can start to make out the picture through the static in the television set.
I have already read a lot of the hand wringing from Jazz fans being disappointed so far this year. I understand that, after the excitement we all experienced coming into the season, to be struggling to score the ball yet again isn’t ideal. Boris Diaw has had a real rough start to the season. To be fair he wasn’t intended to be the starting power forward a month ago. It turns out he’s been playing hurt as well.
Oct 28, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
This is the reason Derrick Favors injury was the most impactful that the Jazz have experienced so far this year. Favors is the defensive anchor that provides the flexibility for everyone else to succeed at what they do. As great as Rudy Gobert is, he doesn’t have the lateral quickness that Favors has. The defensive juggernaut that Utah has the capacity to become is with both of those guys on the floor.
Rudy’s projected max deal would have been around $110 million. When the reports came out that the $102 million deal is actually $90 million guaranteed with three million in incentives each year, it’s even better.
I’m no CBA expert, but what I understand is that depending on how achievable the incentives are, they may not be included in the cap. As Favors just became eligible for his own extension on October 19th, they need all the cap space they can get for him and Hayward’s free agency after this season. With 12 million of Rudy’s 102 million designated for incentives that should allow the Jazz some flexibility with cap space.
Rudy signing long-term is a step in the direction of solidifying Utah’s future. By signing for less than the max he shows his willingness to win and loyalty to the organization. He is actively taking part in building the future of the team and that is great news.
Even if the team is going to stumble out of the gates this year, there is no need to panic. The goal should be to finish around .500 before Hayward gets back. The good news is Hayward has started shooting. When he starts catching passes from the training staff we’ll know he’s close.
Gordon Hayward out on the warmup floor taking shots. First time I've seen him shoot since injury. Looks decent. pic.twitter.com/Ks5P6ncu5o
It’s hard for me to understand the hand wringing about the offense at this point of the season. Favors has only played twice in limited minutes. Another 35 points per game we anticipated during the preseason is dressed nicely on the bench during games.
I know it’s not fun to be the reasonable person in the era of HOT TAKES!!!!! However, this Utah team didn’t get good overnight. They showed some of the promise we’ve been waiting for against the Spurs; they’ll also have their share struggles. With three games in four nights and two of those games being against the Spurs, don’t panic if the results vary.
We’ve all waited this long, we can wait a little longer.