- Mamadou Tall
Small Market Making Big Moves: The Utah Jazz
This summer has been for the big market teams in the NBA. Los Angeles, New York, Houston and Philadelphia have come away with something to look forward to. But what about Salt Lake City?
Yes. You read that right, Salt Lake City. The small and overlooked city is home to the Utah Jazz. In an offseason that only seemed to highlight the big stars and big markets of the NBA, the Jazz have silently put themselves in a position to succeed for the next couple of years.
Trading for point guard Mike Conley was the first order of business for the Jazz. The move went under the radar, but is a game changing acquisition for the team. Conley, the 12 year veteran has been one of the more underrated point guards in the NBA for the better part of his career. Coming off a season where he averaged 21 points, 6.4 assists and 1.3 steals per game, Conley has a lot to contribute to Jazz’s efforts to contend. Bringing shooting, defense, leadership and experience.
On top of scooping Mike Conley off of the trading block, the Jazz managed to make some impressive lowkey signings in free agency. Jeff Green, Ed Davis, Emmanuel Mudiay, and Bojan Bogdanovic will all be wearing the Jazz’s colors this upcoming season. The most notable free agent signing was Bojan Bogdanovic, who is coming off the best season in his career with the Indiana Pacers. He averaged career highs in points (18), assists (2), rebounds (4.1), steals (1), field goal percentage (49.7%), three point field goal percentage (42.5%), and free-throw (80.7%). Having balled out last season, the Jazz are hoping Bogdanovic can duplicate those efforts while playing for them.
The Utah Jazz lost Ricky Rubio and replaced him with Mike Conley. They lost Derrick Favors and replaced him with Bojan Bogdanovic. Two non threats from behind the arc gone and replaced with 3 point threats in a league that continues to trend towards the three ball. They have certainly come out as the winners in that situation.
The appeal of small market teams has seemed to dwindle in the past years. The trend of stars running off to big cities and markets has formed a pessimistic outlook on the future of small market teams in the league. Anthony Davis leaving the New Orleans Pelicans and Paul George leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder to go to Los Angeles are the most recent examples of this trend.
The Utah Jazz have also been a victim of that very trend. Star player, Gordon Hayward, elected to leave them and sign with the Boston Celtics in 2017. Similarly to what other teams do when losing a star, they looked to the draft to help compensate for what they lost. In the 2017 draft they landed, Donovan Mitchell, who two years later has proven to be one of the NBA’s brightest young stars. In his two seasons in the as a pro Mitchell is averaging 22 points along with 4 assists and 4 rebounds per game.
Pair Mitchell’s youth and scoring ability with the defensive juggernaut that is Rudy Gobert and it is no wonder the Jazz haven’t fallen into obscurity. Rudy Gobert is a two time Defensive Player of the Year having won in past two seasons. Gobert’s presence in the paint automatically launches the Jazz into being one of the top teams defensively.
A potential starting lineup of Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Bojan Bogdanovic and Rudy Gobert will prove to be a problem to deal with for any team. Surrounding the explosive scoring of Mitchell with the shooting of Ingles and Bogdanovic is a serious threat on offense. Giving all of them an experienced and seasoned playmaker in Conley is even scarier for opposing defenses.
Supplying the Jazz’s head coach, Quin Snyder, with a roster like this will guarantee a playoff berth for the franchise barring any injury. Snyder has done a lot with less, so giving him a stronger unit will only produce more positive outcomes.
The 2019 offseason has seemed to exclusively belong to the large markets and cities in the NBA. New York (well Brooklyn because the Knicks are the Knicks), Los Angeles, Houston and Philadelphia have all grabbed the attention of fans and media. The Utah Jazz aren’t to be slept on. All the commotion that has taken place this offseason has taken the eyes off of the team in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The Jazz will be a team to watch and other small market teams should all pay attention and follow their lead.