June 11, 2019, 12:23 pm
The Utah Jazz entered the 2018-19 season riding a wave of positive momentum. On the heels of Donovan Mitchell bursting onto the NBA scene as a rookie and establishing himself as a worthy co-star to Rudy Gobert, Mitchell and the Jazz punctuated an impressive 48-win campaign with a 6-game series win over the Oklahoma City Thunder before ultimately falling to the Houston Rockets in five games. Despite falling short of the ultimate goal of an NBA Championship, undeniable progress was made only one year after all-star Gordon Hayward chose to leave Utah for the Boston Celtics in free agency.
With so much going right, Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Dennis Lindsey decided to take a conservative approach to improving the roster last summer, opting to extend his own free agents and let his team build chemistry and experience.
One season and another gentleman’s sweep at the hands of the Rockets later, it might be time to get more aggressive.
2018-19 Record: 50-32 | 5th in Western Conference
It was essentially a tale of two halves for the Jazz in 2018-19. After hearing analysts and experts tout this team as a Western Conference “dark horse” contender all summer long, there was no denying a heightened sense of expectations in Salt Lake City. Lead by Mitchell and Gobert, it was time for the young, up-and-coming Jazz to follow up their impressive 2018 season and solidify their place among the best teams in the league.
Unfortunately, the first two months of their season was a brutal reminder that progress is not always linear for young teams in the NBA.
Most if not all of the Jazz’s early struggles can be directly attributed to their slow offensive start, especially their putrid shooting from distance. Through the first month of the season the Jazz ranked 28th in in 3-point percentage, posting an unsightly 31.9% success rate as a team through November 29.
With an underwhelming ten wins through their first 22 games Lindsay decided it was time to make a change, shipping Alec Burks and a couple second-round picks to Cleveland for 38-year-old Kyle Korver in an effort to improve the shooting and add a calming veteran presence to a young locker room dealing with the adversity and added pressure from a slow start.
Korver would prove to be a useful rotation piece for the Jazz (20 MPG, 9.1 PPG, .384 3P%, 2.1 3PG), but things would get worse before getting better. With a 97-102 loss in Houston on December 17 – their 11th time failing to score 100 points in their first 31 games – Utah hit rock bottom with a 14-17 record.
Mitchell was at the heart of the Jazz’s early-season struggles as the former rookie of the year candidate was mired in a “sophomore slump” that had him averaging 21.1 points on 42.3% shooting and 30.3% from three on 18.5 shots per game. Those efficiency numbers represented regression from his rookie shooting marks of 43.7% and 34.0% and a large share of the struggling Jazz 2019 offense.
Compounding Mitchell’s regression were simultaneous shooting slumps from Ricky Rubio and Joe Ingles who both started the season shooting worse than they did the previous season. With Mitchell, Rubio and Ingles combining for almost 50% of Utah’s shot attempts the results weren’t pretty. Utah sat at 24th in offensive rating (105.8) and 27th in TO% (31.9%). The Jazz were a bottom-ten team with a winning percentage (.452), more comparable to teams like the Washington Wizards, New York Knicks and Miami Heat rather than the upper crust of the Western Conference like they were expecting.
Then, everything changed. To understand just how dramatically Utah turned around their performance, just look at some of their final statistical ranks from the 2018-19 season:
NETRTG: 5.0 (4th)
Offensive Rating: 110.2 (14th)
Defensive Rating: 105.2 (2nd)
Pace: 100.88 (14th)
REB%: 52.2 (3rd)
AST%: 64.4 (4th)
EFG%: 53.8 (5th)
3PT%: 35.6 (10th)
Despite all of the early-season inconsistency throughout the roster, Gobert continued to produce and lead the Jazz defense to a high enough level for Utah to tread water in the standings until their shooting numbers normalized a bit. Once Mitchell snapped out of his slump, it was off to the races for the Jazz.
Over the last 51 games of the season, Mitchell flashed the skill that made so many buy his stock after his rookie season with 24.6 PPG, 4.4 APG, 4.5 RPG and 2.6 3PG on 43.4% shooting from the field and an excellent 38.4% from distance. Powered by his resurgence, the Jazz offense exploded to be 5th in offensive rating (112.9) over this stretch, finally catching up to the performance of their defense.
This balanced effort powered the Jazz to the second-best net rating (8.2) in the NBA during this time. After losing 17 of their first 31 games, the Jazz would win 36 of their last 51 to finish with a 50-32 record – only their second time winning 50 games since 2010.
The Jazz were peaking at the perfect time and ready to make some noise in the playoffs.
Some bad standings luck had them facing off against a familiar Rockets squad in the first round of the playoffs and unfortunately it was more of the same as they fell in 5 games again. Despite the high level of play they sustained for most of the year, another short series against the Rockets exposed a few warts that Lindsay will have no choice but to address this summer, specifically another consistent perimeter scorer and playmaker to pair with Mitchell.
The Jazz hired head coach Quin Snyder in June of 2014 before extending him through the 2020-21 season in 2016. To say that extension was well earned would be an understatement – Snyder has amassed a 227-183 record while establishing himself as one of the top coaches in the NBA during that stretch. His work developing a young and rebuilding Jazz team into a perennial playoff contender (three straight playoff appearances) is one of the more impressive coaching jobs that the league has recently seen.
Perhaps the best example of Snyder’s player development chops is the work he’s done with Gobert – who was little more than a fringe roster player for the Jazz when Snyder arrived in 2014. By the end of their first season together, Gobert finished third in the Most Improved Player award voting. From there the rest is history as Gobert is now a 3x NBA All-Defensive teamer, 2x All-NBA selection and won the 2018 Defensive Player of the Year. Oh, and he’s still only 26 years old.
Beyond player development, Snyder’s calling card is clearly his defense. In the five seasons under Snyder’s direction the Jazz finished in the top ten of defensive rating four times, including three consecutive seasons being rated as a top-three defensive unit. With only two years left on Snyder’s previous extension, it is merely a matter of time before the Jazz offer another long-term extension and lock Snyder down. The timing is perfect as this team’s contending window seems to be opening.
Since the Jazz moved to Utah in 1979, they have hired a whopping total of five coaches. In forty years. One of them being the legendary Jerry Sloan who set a record for consecutive games coached with the same team (1,809) while becoming the first coach in NBA history to win more than 1,000 games (1,127) with a single team. As a franchise, the Jazz hold coaching continuity of the highest importance. That fact combined with Snyder’s stellar record all but ensure another long-term extension between the two sides before he enters the final year of his contract in the 2020-2021 season.
The PlayersRudy Gobert
ADP: 43/26 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 23/17 (8/9-cat) | Per-
Game Value: 23/17 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 81
2018-19 averages: 81 G | 31.8 MP | 15.9 PTS | 0.0 3PM | 12.8 REB | 2.0 AST | 0.8 STL | 2.3 BLK | 1.6 TOV | .669 FG% | .636 FT%
By all accounts, the 2018-19 season was a career year for Gobert almost completely across the board as he set career-high marks in points, rebounds, FG% and TOV%. Even more importantly for the French big man, who has played in 61 or fewer games two out of four seasons since becoming a regular starter, he was able to stay healthy all year, playing in 81 games.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Gobert’s season was his consistency. In an up-and-down season for Utah that saw so many players begin the year on a cold streak, the Stifle Tower stood tall through it all, providing a steadying impact on defense and the rebounds that ultimately define this Jazz team’s identity. His ability to almost single-handedly neutralize one end of the floor allowed the Jazz to hover around .500 before really hitting their stride. If not for Gobert, it is very possible that the hole this team dug would’ve been too deep to recover from.
Despite several years of elite fantasy production, Gobert continues to be undervalued in drafts. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t provide the sexy scoring numbers, but fantasy players seem a bit slow to value Gobert for what he is – a top-five fantasy center worth a selection in the first two rounds of pretty much any fantasy format.Donovan Mitchell
ADP: 22/18 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 41/54 (8/9-cat) | Per-
Game Value: 41/54 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 77
2018-19 averages: 77 G | 33.7 MP | 23.8 PTS | 2.4 3PM | 4.1 REB | 4.2 AST | 1.4 STL | 0.4 BLK | 2.8 TOV | .432 FG% | .806 FT%
Perhaps nobody embodied the Utah Jazz season better than Donovan Mitchell, who fought through an ice-cold start only to finish strong and remind everybody why he drew comparisons to Dwyane Wade in his rookie campaign. Those Wade comparisons led to many fantasy players drafting him a bit too early and ultimately Mitchell did not return the type of value many had in mind when selecting him within the top twenty picks of fantasy drafts.
With that said, Mitchell was still a highly-productive fantasy asset for the majority of last season – one in which he improved on most his major statistical averages. It was also the first time Mitchell, who overachieved in his rookie season, played a full season as the top offensive option so some adjustment was to be expected.
With his third season on tap, it will be interesting to see what pieces the Jazz put around him as they try to make the jump from perennial playoff team to legitimate championship contender. Adding an additional scorer and playmaker next to Mitchell on the wing could open the game up for him to be a bit more efficient and perhaps pump his assist numbers a bit. Expect him to be taken between rounds two and four in fantasy drafts next season.Derrick Favors
ADP: 106/136 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 93/75 (8/9-cat) | Per-
Game Value: 93/75 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 76
2018-19 averages: 76 G | 23.2 MP | 11.8 PTS | 0.2 3PM | 7.4 REB | 1.2 AST | 0.7 STL | 1.4 BLK | 1.1 TOV | .587 FG% | .675 FT%
With the continuing emergence of Mitchell and Gobert as the cornerstones of this Utah Jazz roster, Derrick Favors transitioned into a more complementary role in 2018-19. His 23.2 mpg average was only the second time since 2013 he’s averaged less than 28 mpg. The Jazz still saw value in bringing back the 11-year veteran as indicated by the 2-year $36 million dollar extension he agreed to in July 2018.
Favors mostly rewarded their faith as he provided top-100 value with strong contributions in the points, rebounds and FG% categories. Generally speaking, Favors was drafted outside of the first 100 picks so he provided a fair amount of value to fantasy players who selected him in the back half of drafts.
Given his current role with the Jazz, his status as a three-category contributor is relatively safe. On the flip side, with the second year of his contract completely non-guaranteed, it is unclear at this time whether or not Favors will be back with the Jazz in 2019-20. Favors is still only 27 and if he finds himself on a team with a larger role and a path to more minutes, he could approach top-50 value. As Utah enters a crucial offseason expected to be aggressive, keep an eye on Favors this summer and adjust your expectations based on where he ends up.Joe Ingles
ADP: 122/59 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 75/97 (8/9-cat) | Per-
Game Value: 75/97 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 82
2018-19 averages: 82 G | 31.3 MP | 12.1 PTS | 2.3 3PM | 4.0 REB | 5.7 AST | 1.2 STL | 0.2 BLK | 2.8 TOV | .448 FG% | .707 FT%
Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of the Jazz’s dearth of perimeter offense, Ingles averaged career-highs in points and assists in 2018-19. The extra production did come at a slight cost to his efficiency as he posted his lowest FG% and 3P% since 2016 as well as a career-worst FT% and a career-high in turnovers. Fortunately for Ingles owners, his normal standard of efficiency is so high that even these numbers were hardly a drag on fantasy teams.
Ingles is still under contract with the Jazz for the next two seasons and at this point his fantasy profile is pretty set as an all-around producer including typically elite 3-point shooting. Assuming the Jazz add some more perimeter pieces this summer, that trademark elite Ingles efficiency should return even if it does dip into his counting stats a bit. Consider Ingles an excellent target for roster depth that doesn’t hurt you in many areas for next season.Ricky Rubio
ADP: 54/59 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 88/128 (8/9-cat) | Per-
Game Value: 88/128 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 68
2018-19 averages: 68 G | 27.9 MP | 12.7 PTS | 1.2 3PM | 3.6 REB | 6.1 AST | 1.4 STL | 0.1 BLK | 2.6 TOV | .404 FG% | .855 FT%
In the final year of his four-year contract, Rubio provided more of the same for the Jazz as a points, assists, steals and FT% fantasy contributor. With 2.6 turnovers per game, Rubio’s value fluctuates greatly based on league format — specifically 8-cat vs 9-cat. Regardless of league scoring however, the eighth-year point guard mostly failed to live up to his ADP in the top-60. Missing 14 games with a hip injury did not help.
The Jazz have already made it known that Rubio will not be a priority for them in free agency this summer which means he is heading into next season as a bit of a question mark as far as his fantasy value is concerned. With plenty of PG-needy teams throughout the league there is at least some hope that he can latch on somewhere where he can play in the neighborhood of 30 mpg and continue being a source of assists, steals and FT% with complementary points production.Jae Crowder
ADP: 140/139 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 172/165 (8/9-cat) | Per-
Game Value: 172/165 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 80
2018-19 averages: 80 G | 27.1 MP | 11.9 PTS | 2.2 3PM | 4.8 REB | 1.7 AST | 0.8 STL | 0.4 BLK | 1.1 TOV | .398 FG% | .721 FT%
Jae Crowder filled an important 3-and-D role for the Jazz all season, playing in 80 games and averaging over 27 mpg. His 2.2 3pg tied the career-high set in the 2016-17 season as he posted top-170 value for the season. Crowder’s ability to defend multiple positions was crucial for the elite Jazz defense.
Since being traded to the Jazz, Crowder is attempting more 3-pointers than ever which positions him nicely as a threes and steals streamer that should flirt with top-200 value again next season, which is his final season under his current contract.Royce O’Neale
ADP: NA/NA (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 253/247 (8/9-cat) | Per-
Game Value: 253/247(8/9-cat) | Games Played: 82
2018-19 averages: 82 G | 20.4 MP | 5.2 PTS | 0.8 3PM | 3.5 REB | 1.5 AST | 0.7 STL | 0.3 BLK | 0.9 TOV | .475 FG% | .762 FT%
A key depth piece for the Jazz, Royce O’Neale took another step in his development in 2018-19 as he appeared in 82 games, started 16 and averaged 20.4 mpg. While his statistical output and final season ranking don’t jump off the page, it is important to note that the advanced numbers indicate he could have the makings of a premier 3-and-D role player. With his strong showing in the Jazz playoff series against Houston, the Jazz may increase his role next year.
O’Neale is under contract through the end of the 2020 season. As a role player on a roster that could definitely see some turnover, O’Neale could be used as a young asset in a trade or the Jazz could keep him as an inexpensive and improving player. There is some sleeper potential here but the playing time has to line up just right.Thabo Sefolosha
ADP: NA/NA (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 320/298 (8/9-cat) | Per-
Game Value: 320/298(8/9-cat) | Games Played: 50
2018-19 averages: 50 G | 12.2 MP | 3.8 PTS | 0.7 3PM | 2.5 REB | 0.5 AST | 0.9 STL | 0.1 BLK | 0.5 TOV | .477 FG% | .636 FT%
In his twelfth season and at the ripe age of 35, Thabo Sefolosha averaged his lowest mpg since his rookie season. At this point in his career Sefolosha is little more than a veteran locker room presence.
He heads into the offseason an unrestricted free agent that shouldn’t really be on any fantasy radars at this time.Dante Exum
ADP: NA/NA (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 366/406 (8/9-cat) | Per-
Game Value: 366/406(8/9-cat) | Games Played: 42
2018-19 averages: 42 G | 15.8 MP | 6.9 PTS | 0.4 3PM | 1.6 REB | 2.6 AST | 0.3 STL | 0.1 BLK | 0.5 TOV | .423 FG% | .791 FT%
Fresh off his 3-year $33 million extension, Dante Exum came into the season ready to show some of the skills that made him the fifth overall selection in the 2014 draft. Unfortunately, right when he was starting to shine, the injuries that have plagued Exum and come to define his career to this point once again reared their ugly head. After missing two months between January and March with an ankle sprain, Exum returned to the court only to suffer a season-ending patellar tendon injury.
After failing to play in more than 66 games every year since his rookie season, it’s fair to wonder if Exum will ever be able to stay healthy. Specifically, the patellar tendon injury he suffered to end his season does not have the best track record of recovery in the league. If Exum is ever able to stay healthy he has the makings of a super athletic point guard with defensive potential that is dangerous in transition.Kyle Korver
ADP: 139/132 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 273/268 (8/9-cat) | Per-
Game Value: 273/268(8/9-cat) | Games Played: 70
2018-19 averages: 70 G | 19.1 MP | 8.6 PTS | 2.0 3PM | 2.3 REB | 1.2 AST | 0.4 STL | 0.2 BLK | 0.8 TOV | .416 FG% | .822 FT%
An early-season acquisition for the Jazz, Korver filled a much-needed role as a floor-spacer off the bench for this team. The 16-year veteran did what he’s been doing his entire career, averaging 2.0 threes on good efficiency and logging just over 19 mpg for a good Western Conference playoff team.
As far as fantasy contributions, beyond the 3-point stroke Korver doesn’t bring much to the table at this stage of his career. Treat him as a low-ceiling, high-floor 3-point streamer that is likely to shuffle on and off of fantasy rosters throughout the season.Raul Neto
ADP: NA/NA (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 331/355 (8/9-cat) | Per-
Game Value: 331/355(8/9-cat) | Games Played: 37
2018-19 averages: 37 G | 12.8 MP | 5.3 PTS | 0.5 3PM | 1.7 REB | 2.5 AST | 0.4 STL | 0.1 BLK | 0.9 TOV | .460 FG% | .848 FT%
It was another season full of injuries for Neto who struggled with everything from thigh soreness, a pulled groin, hamstring issues, concussions, lip lacerations and ankle soreness, leaving him active for only 37 games. It was the third season in a row that he’s played in 41 or fewer games.
A positive player for the Jazz when on the floor, Neto occupies a reserve role that doesn’t lend itself to standard fantasy league relevance. Combined with his growing track record of injures, you can find better options for your fantasy team.Ekpe Udoh
ADP: NA/NA (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 408/388 (8/9-cat) | Per-
Game Value: 408/388(8/9-cat) | Games Played: 51
2018-19 averages: 51 G | 6.3 MP | 2.3 PTS | 0.0 3PM | 1.8 REB | 0.5 AST | 0.2 STL | 0.6 BLK | 0.3 TOV | .694 FG% | .633 FT%
Mainly occupying the role of emergency backup center behind Gobert and Favors, Ekpe Udoh struggled to produce any kind of fantasy production in 2018-19. The 6.3 mpg were the second-lowest total of his career.
Udoh enters this offseason an unrestricted free agent that may head back to Europ. While he does have the ability to be a blocks streamer in certain situations, his playing time will have to dramatically increase if he is to even sniff fantasy relevance – an unlikely development.Georges Niang
ADP: NA/NA (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 419/409 (8/9-cat) | Per-
Game Value: 419/409(8/9-cat) | Games Played: 59
2018-19 averages: 59 G | 8.8 MP | 4.0 PTS | 0.7 3PM | 1.5 REB | 0.6 AST | 0.2 STL | 0.1 BLK | 0.4 TOV | .475 FG% | .833 FT%
Georges Niang appeared in a career-high 59 games in his third NBA season with the Utah Jazz. Despite the added playing time, Niang was little more than a bit player who was only used sparingly and in blowouts.
While it’s fun to root for underdog players like Niang, he is not ready to contribute to fantasy rosters at this time.Grayson Allen
ADP: 139/137 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 456/475 (8/9-cat) | Per-
Game Value: 456/475(8/9-cat) | Games Played: 38
2018-19 averages: 38 G | 11.0 MP | 5.6 PTS | 0.8 3PM | 0.6 REB | 0.7 AST | 0.1 STL | 0.2 BLK | 0.9 TOV | .376 FG% | .750 FT%
As a late first-round pick on a Western Conference playoff team, Grayson Allen predictably did not have a consistent role throughout the 2018-19 season. Despite some flashes – like his 40-point performance in the final game of the season – it would be a surprise if Allen emerged as a useful fantasy option next season.
The summer of 2019 will be a crucial time for this Jazz franchise as they attempt to build around the talented young core of Gobert and Mitchell. While this team has enjoyed consistent progress under Quin Snyder by developing their own players, the time feels right to get aggressive in free agency and trades. The Jazz roster has three players due for unrestricted free agency in Rubio, Sefolosha and Udoh. Throw in the non-guaranteed contracts of Favors, Neto and Niang as well as the possibility that Korver could retire and it’s clear that there could be wholesale changes coming to this roster.
Rumored to be one of the teams most interested in acquiring Mike Conley at the trade deadline, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Jazz revisit those talks this summer. Not a traditional free agent destination, expect the trade avenue to be the most likely option for the Jazz to improve the roster.
The Jazz are also rumored to have interest in free agent point guards like Kemba Walker or D’Angelo Russell. While the splashy free agent signing seems like a long shot, there’s no question the Jazz will be looking for another perimeter scorer and playmaker to help diversify their offense as they continue to climb the ladder of Western Conference contenders.