Getty Images/Timberwolves Illustrations

2018-19 Basketball Extravaganza | It's All About Balance With The Jazz

by Kyle Ratke, Digital Content Manager

Digital Content Manager

Follow

Twenty-nine different opposing NBA teams will walk through the doors of Target Center to play the Wolves this season, and we want you to know as much as you can about all of them. We’re going worst to first in order of last year’s standings and telling you everything you need to know. Next up, the Utah Jazz, a team that took an unexpected leap last season on the shoulders of a rookie.

Notable Players Acquired: G Grayson Allen (draft)

Notable Players Lost: 

Recapping 2017-18: 

The Jazz took the NBA by storm last season, finishing 48-34 overall, fifth in the West. Utah beat the Thunder 4-2 in the first round of the playoffs before falling 4-1 against the Rockets in the second round.

The biggest surprise was the play of rookie Donovan Mitchell. Mitchell was the 13th-overall pick in last year’s draft. A year later, he looks like he’ll be the cornerstone of this franchise. He averaged 20.5 points in his rookie season, falling second in the Rookie of the Year voting to Ben Simmons.

Coach Quin Snyder was elite, scheming on both ends of the court, even with the Jazz shaking up their roster midseason, trading Rodney Hood and Joe Johnson while acquiring Jae Crowder.

Utah has pieces that fit perfectly together. Mitchell is the go-to scorer. Rudy Gobert is the best defensive center in the league, although you’d like to see him on the floor more often. Ricky Rubio seems to have found a home. Derrick Favors is a good fit alongside Gobert, and Joe Ingles continues to be one of the more underrated players in the league. He can do a little bit of everything, including drill the long ball. He shot 44 percent (third in NBA) from deep on 5.7 attempts per game.

This team wasn’t busy in the offseason, because it didn’t need to be. It should get natural progression from the majority of the team. Grayson Allen, the team’s first-round pick, should be a perfect fit on this team with fellow Duke alum Snyder as his coach.

Snyder has an uncanny ability to put his players in the best position to succeed.

The Big Question:

What type of jump will Mitchell take in season No. 2? With last year’s squad, there is a ceiling for this team, especially in a Western Conference with Golden State and Houston.

But if Mitchell can take the leap from scorer to potential superstar, that could change things. Mitchell will need to do more besides just score in Utah if the Jazz want to have deep playoff hopes. He averaged just 3.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game last season, something you’d like to see around 5.0 on both for him to take that next leap.

Mitchell is a volume scorer, not necessarily an efficient one. He shot 43.7 percent from the field and 34 percent from the 3-point line on 17.2 and 7.0 shots per game, respectively. One thing you’d like to see is him getting to the free-throw line a bit more than the 3.8 attempts he averaged last season.

This isn’t a knock on Mitchell at all. I think he’s going to be a really great player. He’s already so good, but this just shows how much potential there is for him and the Jazz in general. This is a group of players in their prime, or not quite there yet, which is a scary thing for the rest of the West and Utah’s championship window might just be perfect.

How Do The Wolves Beat Them?

The Wolves were 2-2 against Utah last season, winning the first two matchups and losing the last two.

Utah is such a tricky team to play against because there’s not one player to hone in on defensively. Mitchell, sure, but guys like Ingles, Gobert and Jae Crowder are also guys who can get hot.

Team defense is the way to go. For reference, Rodney Hood (20 points) led Utah in game one against the Wolves, Mitchell (24) was the leader in the second, Mitchell and Gobert (26) led game three, and Rubio (23) led Utah in game four.

Among players on the roster this year that were with the team last year, Mitchell, Gobert, Rubio, Favors, Crowder and Ingles all averaged double digits. This team is about balance, not necessarily about force-feeding one player.

Ratke’s Prediction: 

I think this team has a very good chance to earn the three or four seed in the conference. I know that sounds crazy in the West, but this team found an identity that worked last season and they wisely are sticking with it.

Describe This Team In 15 Words Or Less

There might not be a shoe-in All-Star, but that’s what makes it work.

So When Can I See Them?  

The Jazz come to the Target Center on Oct. 31 and Jan. 27. The Wolves travel to Utah on Jan. 25 and Mar. 14.