Setting Expectations for the Utah Jazz

An in-depth look into the Utah Jazz's upcoming 2018-19 season, the expectations of rising superstar Donovan Mitchell, and which role players need to make a bigger impact.

It's about damn time. 

Yes, the 2018-19 NBA season is just around the corner which means one thing: Utah Jazz basketball is BACK! And with a new season comes new hope and new possibilities. Will Donovan Mitchell take his game to the next level? Will Ricky Rubio continue his incredible efficiency from last season's playoffs? Will Joe Ingles continue to be the greatest basketball player ever? All of these (and more) questions will be answered as we take a deep dive into the Jazz's upcoming season. 

Role Players Stepping Up

Being a team that lacks a true superstar (for now), the play of role players is extremely important for the Jazz. One common theme of last season seemed to be different players stepping up when needed. Whether it was Dante Exum providing some killer defense to irritate opponents or Ricky Rubio out-dueling Russell Westbrook in the Western Conference playoffs, the Jazz's depth carried them to heights no one could have imagined heading into the season. Heading into this season, the play of role players will once again be vital, but which players can and need to take their game to the next level?

Ricky Rubio 

The end of Ricky Rubio's 2018 season was EXTREMELY promising. Before going down with a hamstring injury in game six versus the Thunder, Ricky Rubio dominated the series. Outplaying Westbrook in multiple games during the series, Rubio proved to be a mental block Westbrook couldn't get past, and the Jazz's second-most impactful player. Also having a career year in shooting, Rubio shot over 35% from three. Although this isn't great, 35% is a respectable percentage that could improve this season. And with an improved jump shot (which is what we saw during the postseason) Ricky Rubio is a complete player. Already a great defender, ball handler, and distributor, a solid jump shot would elevate Rubio's game to a whole other level. 

Dante Exum

Recently re-signed to a three year, $33 million contract, Dante Exum is one of those players who could never seem to find their footing in the NBA. Whether because of injuries or team role, it's been very rare for Jazz fans to see Exum at 'full force.' However, a long and lengthy guard, Exum is one of the NBA's elite defenders with a knack for disrupting offenses. Despite his offensive infidelity thus far, Exum has shown flashes of being an athletic slasher with a solid ability to finish at the rim. And with a new contract, this assures Jazz fans that the organization will continue to work with Exum and bring out the potential trapped inside him. 

Derrick Favors

Also re-signed to a new, two-year contract, Derrick Favors is likely the Jazz's best post scorer. A great iso player for when the offense is struggling to produce, Favors is a great contrast to Rudy Gobert (defensive superstar). Playing alongside Gobert will only continue to improve his defense, as this season, I expect Favors to become more crucial to the Jazz's gameplan.

Joe Ingles

It's a well known saying, "No man is perfect." However, I can no longer believe that to be true; because of Joe Ingles. The human embodiment of a perfect basketball player, Joe Ingles is not only an automatic sharpshooter, but a scrappy defender, great facilitator (when needed), and he even dunked the ball six - YES, SIX - times last season. The LeBron James of Utah, I can confidently say that if the Jazz were in a bigger market, Joe Ingles would be the MVP nine seasons out of ten. 

Rudy Gobert

Coming off the best season of his career, Rudy Gobert is once again going to have to put up DPOY worthy numbers while having a bigger role on offense. Because already a top three defender, if Gobert can become a top 5 offensive center, he would have the impact of a top 10 player in the league. 

Donovan Mitchell

Averaging 20.5 points per game on 43% shooting to go along with 1.5 steals per game, Donovan Mitchell had one of the best rookie seasons in NBA history. Carrying the Jazz to the Western Conference semi-finals, Mitchell saved the Jazz from what many thought was going to be a lost season. And at only 22 years old, Mitchell has all the potential to become one of the league's best point guards. However, next season, the expectation for Mitchell is to be a more efficient scorer, develop a more consistent three-point shot, and become a more complete point guard.

Team Prediction

Looking at the Jazz's overall roster combined with a great coach in Quin Snyder, I expect them to finish near the top of the west. Although they don't have the firepower to match teams such as the Rockets and Warriors, team chemistry and most importantly, team identity could carry them past teams with more talent such as the Thunder and Trail Blazers. Ultimately, I expect Utah to finish as the fourth seed in the Western Conference.

Final Prediction

52-30, 4th Seed

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