The Jazz aren’t quite what the Toronto Raptors were prior to last season, and Mike Conley isn’t quite Kawhi Leonard. But what resulted from Leonard settling in -- for one season, anyway -- north of the border is what Utah has in mind for Conley and the impact the veteran point guard might have on their 2019-20 fortunes. Oh, and Conley too. "I think what Toronto accomplished this season,” Conley said, “is just confirmation that if you put together a good roster, a deep team, and guys improve as the year goes on, you can be sitting there right in arm's reach of a championship.” The Jazz, in other words, bring the highest ambitions into the new season.
> 30 Teams in 30 Days: Utah Jazz
Winning 50 games last season only earned Utah the opportunity to get bounced in first round. So it was time for some retooling … In the demolition work of retooling their roster, the Jazz said goodbye to Ricky Rubio, Derrick Favors, Jae Crowder, Kyle Korver and Grayson Allen … Their new additions included Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, Jeff Green, Ed Davis and Emmanuel Mudiay.
1. Mitchell needs a lighter load. As delighted as Jazz fans and the organization are with Mitchell’s impact after just two seasons, he shouldered too great an offensive burden -- and it showed, especially at playoff time. Conley, Bogdanovic and Green should be able to provide enough scoring and playmaking to free up Mitchell.
2. Gobert is this team’s MVP. Nothing to argue about here. Others might score more or in flashier ways, but none of his teammates plays as pivotal a role at both ends. The repeat winner of the Kia Defensive Player of the Year award is the fulcrum of Utah’s defensive schemes, and Gobert’s screen-setting and offensive boards keep the attack flowing.
3. Avoid the Rockets. Houston has eliminated the Jazz from the past two postseasons, so even though both teams have changed considerably, Utah would be wise to avoid that matchup again next spring.
MAN ON THE SPOT
Conley didn’t seek out Utah as a place to go deep into his career, but he seemed like an ideal fit as soon as the trade was announced. He was a huge get for the Jazz, and the fact that it happened in June sent Utah into free agency with some sizzle. That helped convince Bogdanovic he was making the right decision to leave Indiana. His scoring and playmaking should also enable Mitchell to breathe and develop at a less pressured pace.
Mike Conley | 21.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 6.4 apg
Conley joins what likely will be the best offense he’s ever run.
Donovan Mitchell | 23.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.2 apg
Beyond his court game, Mitchell gained leadership skills with Team USA at the FIBA World Cup.
Joe Ingles | 12.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 5.7 apg
Led the Jazz in assists 42 times. Also ranked fourth in the NBA in defensive rating (101.6).
Bojan Bogdanovic | 18.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.0 apg
An offensive catalyst and underrated defensively.
Rudy Gobert | 15.9 ppg, 12.9 rpg, 2.0 apg
Matched Wilt Chamberlain as the only players with 1,200 points, 1,000 rebounds and 65% shooting.
Royce O’Neale | 5.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.5 apg
Helpful role player who defends and rebounds hard.
Dante Exum | 6.9 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 2.6 apg
Injuries (ankle, knee) continue to hamper his development.
Jeff Green | 12.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.8 apg
Veteran joins his eighth NBA team, and sixth in the past six seasons.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Coach Quin Snyder has Utah pointed toward its fourth consecutive postseason and third 50-victory season in four years. If Gobert can stay healthy and effective -- without the help to which he’d grown accustomed from the brawny Favors -- the Jazz might be able to push to the top of the West and reach The Finals for the first time since Michael Jordan was trolling Karl Malone and John Stockton.
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