June 9, 2018, 2:25 am
The Jazz weren’t going to bottom out after losing Gordon Hayward, but there were many (legitimate) concerns about whether or not they’d be able to stay in the playoff hunt without their main source of offense. They smashed expectations thanks to a coach who knows what he’s doing, a DPOY level center, and a rookie who took the league by storm.
Utah entered the season with tempered expectations after losing Gordon Hayward in free agency. With Hayward (21.9 PTS, 3.5 AST, 2.0 3PT, 0.471 FG%, 0.398 3P%) the Jazz were 12th in offensive rating and their staunch defense was third-best in the league. This season their defense improved to the second-best in the league, even though Rudy Gobert only played in 56 games which is a testament to the discipline of the rest of the roster. The team also lost George Hill in free agency but was able to trade for Ricky Rubio to keep their point guard spot filled. Even though they lost their only All-Star and their best defensive player missed about a third of the season, the Jazz only lost three more games than last season and were able to eliminate the Thunder in the first round of the playoffs.
It was a nice surprise for Jazz fans who quickly got over the loss of Hayward thanks to the electrifying play of ROY candidate Donovan Mitchell. Some viewed the Thunder losing to the Jazz as an upset, but if you paid close attention to this team you would see that they’re arguably the third-best team in the conference when healthy. They certainly played like it when it mattered most and although they lost to Houston in five games, they were able to tie the series at 1-1 before being overwhelmed by talent. Losing to a 65-win team with the likely MVP in the second round is nothing you can hold against a team that wasn’t even supposed to the make the playoffs.
Gobert dealt with knee injuries that cost him the month of November and the middle of December through January, but when he returned the Jazz were a wrecking ball. They ripped off an 11-game win streak with an average margin of victory of 13.5 points and three games later they went on a nine-game win streak with an average margin of victory of 16.4 points. Granted, some of these teams were weak, but elite teams don’t lose to weak ones and the Jazz showed signs that they were elite during these stretches.
It took a while for Donovan Mitchell and Ricky Rubio to truly mesh, but they were able to get the ball rolling by February which bodes well for their prospects in the 2018-2019 season. The backbone of the team will always be defense as long as Gobert is there and it’s the main reason why they’re such a threat in the playoffs. The Jazz surprised the league thanks to their stellar defense and guys like Joe Ingles and Donovan Mitchell outperforming (most) experts’ expectations. They’ll head into the next season with ambitions of winning their division and making a deep run in the playoffs and if they’re healthy, there’s no reason to think they can’t.
Coach Quin Snyder is one of the most stable and competent coaches in the NBA which is a blessing for the Jazz and fantasy owners. His first two seasons with the Jazz were a bit rough, but in his fourth year with Utah he proved his worth by taking this team to 48 wins even though they dealt with multiple injuries to key players. Snyder has also shown his ability to adapt and adjust lineups in the playoffs which is highlighted by the fact that there are so many coaches that can’t even get basic rotations down.
Although he didn’t have much talent to work with on the wings after Gordon Hayward left, it’s encouraging to see him thrust Donovan Mitchell into the starting lineup from the early going. He and his staff are known for developing players well and we can see that with how Rudy Gobert and Gordon Hayward have progressed over the years. You know what you’re going to get with Snyder and the stability helps out everyone involved, so fantasy owners can expect more of the same next season as he has a winning formula in Utah. It should be noted that assistant coach Igor Kokoskov is leaving for a head coaching gig in Phoenix, but that shouldn’t have any major effects on how the Jazz are coached. Expect improvements from their core players in Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert.
Snyder was rightfully nominated for Coach of the Year and while he’s unlikely to win, the defensive wizard got some well-deserved props and is firmly among the NBA’s best coaches.
ADP: 14 / 15 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 64/61 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 36/28 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 56
2017-2018: 32.4 MPG 13.5 PTS 0.0 3PT 10.7 REB 1.4 AST 0.8 STL 2.3 BLK 0.623 FG% 0.682 FT%
The Jazz start and end with Gobert. With Gobert on the floor the Jazz were 38-18, but the problem was he had trouble staying on the court this season. He suffered a knee contusion which would shelve him for a month and upon returning, Gobert only played for six games before sitting out another month due to knee soreness. This was obviously a frustrating situation for fantasy owners and it hurt those in roto leagues the most. If you were in a head-to-head league you were lucky enough to have him back in time for the fantasy playoffs in the month of March where he averaged 16.6 points, 12.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks on .682 FG% and even shot .734 at the line.
We saw Gobert’s primary stats decrease from last season and his ADP was near the end of the first round so this season was definitely a bit of a letdown considering the lofty expectations placed on him, but when you look at the numbers relative to the league, Gobert was still elite. He was No. 3 in blocks per game behind Anthony Davis and Kristaps Porzingis and was still elite in field goal percentage.
Block regression is common amongst bigs who erupt at an astronomical rate as opponents are more careful when challenging elite shot blockers the following year, but Gobert has stayed at or above 2.1 blocks a night for the past four years which is a great sign. He’s turning 26 next season and the Jazz are committed to him so he’s primed for a big year if he can stay healthy as most players see their peak statistical seasons around age 27-28.
Don’t expect Gobert to become a stronger scoring threat as the Jazz have found their new offensive machine in Donovan Mitchell, but if the Stifle Tower can stay on the floor longer, you can expect a greater return than what you got this year. That being said, Gobert shouldn’t fall further than the second round due to his blocks, a stat that is becoming increasingly scarce as the NBA is shifting towards positionless basketball. Even though the values don’t show him as a top-20 player, his specializations warrant a pick in that range.
ADP: N/A / 138 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 27/41 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 45/54 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 79
2017-2018: 33.3 MPG 20.4 PTS 2.3 3PT 3.7 REB 3.6 AST 1.4 STL 0.3 BLK 0.436 FG% 0.804 FT%
Mitchell was selected 13th overall by the Jazz after a trade that sent Trey Lyles to the Nuggets for the selection and there’s a reason why he fell to the middle of the first round. He was described as a late bloomer in high school and his first collegiate season was less than spectacular, averaging 7.4 points and shooting .250 from deep. There was some promise after his second season, but the weaknesses in his game were his height, inability to shoot from deep and poor shot selection coupled with inefficient scoring.
He started the season off slowly, totaling 14 points in his first three games, but in his fourth game Mitchell scored 19 points on .350 shooting. This prompted some people to pick him up as the Jazz were longing for a dynamic scorer, but he followed up with a two-point outing. After some on and off games, he rewarded all the owners who held onto him by giving top-50 value on a per-game basis and top-40 value in total value thanks to his 79 games played.
The Don has exceeded all expectations for his rookie year and it was a two-man race for ROY between him and Ben Simmons in a loaded draft class. He still has some work to do with shot selection, but those problems are masked by his ability to finish tough shots. His role is only going to expand within the Jazz offense as he’s the best shot creator on the team. We saw a glimpse of this in the OKC-UTA series where he took 23.8 FGA and hit .462 from the floor. And that was through some foot problems.
At a minimum, Mitchell should be able to return top-50 value next season just by the fact that he’ll have a year of experience and an increased role from the start of the year. The bar is set much higher than last year, but with what we’ve seen from him over this season, there’s no reason to think he can’t break inside the top-30 in value in the 2018-2019 season if he can continue to develop.
ADP: 61 / 46 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 43/60 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 61/83 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 77
2017-2018: 29.2 MPG 13.0 PTS 1.2 3PT 4.5 REB 5.3 AST 1.5 STL 0.1 BLK 0.418 FG% 0.866 FT%
Rubio was a major headache to own this season as he was acclimating himself to a new team. Another factor working against him was Donovan Mitchell’s meteoric rise on the offensive end which made Rubio’s ball-handling duties a bit more foggy than expected. Coach Snyder had a solid system though and Rubio isn’t a difficult player to mesh with as shown by his ability to seamlessly plug himself in the offense by February. After beginning the year outside the top-100, he dominated the second half and made for one of the best buy-low stories of the season.
He missed only five games but was on the injury report with a number of issues, sitting out with Achilles soreness, a sore hip and a sore hamstring that he would aggravate in the postseason which forced him to miss the end of the second round.
Every season we see Rubio go supernova in the last two months of the year and it causes expectations to rise in the upcoming season, only to have him flop during the beginning half of the year. It was the same story in 2017-2018, but hear me out one last time, Rubio will have a strong 2018-2019 campaign.
The Jazz offense needs Rubio, as he adds a wrinkle into their offense and pairs well with Rudy Gobert on the PnR. He also has the highest passing frequency rate to Gobert. There were many who were spurned by him, but Rubio is turning 28 and entering his prime years with a Jazz team that has had a year to gel. His assist numbers were down for most of the year but began to inch back towards his norms by the end of the season. Next season the roles will be more concrete and Rubio should be more comfortable and the value should be more consistent throughout the season.
ADP: 120 / 127 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 40/37 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 62/61 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 82
2017-2018: 31.4 MPG 11.4 PTS 2.4 3PT 4.1 REB 4.7 AST 1.1 STL 0.2 BLK 0.466 FG% 0.795 FT%
Hopefully you listened to us about Smokin’ Joe Ingles. This guy had all the metrics backing him up and pointing towards a breakout season, but the eye test didn’t fail either. He’s not the fastest or strongest player, but his I.Q. and quickness allow him to defend the likes of Paul George. He’s also a deadeye from deep, hitting .440 from beyond the arc, a mark that tied for fourth best in the league.
Owners experienced some valleys with Ingles, as he had some lulls in offense and his steal numbers were lower than expected, but if you were smart you held on and got a top-40 player as a reward. It should be noted that he plays much better on offense with Rudy Gobert, as they have the best 1-2 punch on the team. Gobert was assisted by Ingles on 80 of his field goals, which is the highest mark on the team, with Rubio trailing at 54 assists. Ingles knows how to play with Gobert and their chemistry is obvious when you watch them so it’s not surprising to see his numbers drop when Gobert is off the floor. The cat’s out of the bag now, but Ingles shouldn’t have trouble returning solid value next season as well so make sure he doesn’t slip in your drafts.
ADP: 110 / 105 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 105/64 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 103/87 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 77
2017-2018: 27.9 MPG 12.2 PTS 0.1 3PT 7.1 REB 1.3 AST 0.7 STL 1.0 BLK 0.562 FG% 0.651 FT%
Favors might not be on the team next season due to some rumors about the Jazz using his expiring contract as a trade chip, but he was able to give owners the value that came with his ADP this season. Thanks to Rudy Gobert missing two months, owners got an increased surge of production from Favors, but those were sell-high opportunities that were bound to regress.
Favors isn’t an outstanding defender, but he can bruise down low and is a strong enough finisher to be a positive on percentages. If he’s with the Jazz again next season, expect more of the same and maybe less now that Donovan Mitchell and Ricky Rubio are becoming more comfortable with the system. If Favors lands on any teams that are tanking with an open spot at the four position, we might be able to see him creep up in value, but we’re getting too deep into the hypotheticals now. He stayed healthy this year and that was more than enough to turn a profit.
ADP: 66 / 70 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 166/160 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 226/212 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 80
2017-2018: 26 MPG 9.6 PTS 1.3 3PT 3.4 REB 1.2 AST 0.7 STL 0.2 BLK 0.403 FG% 0.817 FT%
Crowder was acquired by the Jazz at the deadline from Cleveland in exchange for Rodney Hood in what could be considered a win for the Jazz. Hood has had trouble staying healthy for the past three seasons and Crowder brings everything Hood did and is on contract for another two seasons at $7.5 million per year. It makes sense for the Jazz to find another wing on a cheap contract that can play defense and take 3s.
Emphasis on the word take. Crowder shot .316 from deep on 5.6 attempts which is disappointing, but he had a tumultuous year playing in Cleveland and it’s tough to adjust to a new team. It looks like his .398 mark from deep in Boston was a product of the Brad Stevens system which means his fantasy impact will remain in the top-150 range as opposed to the mid-rounds.
ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 261/265 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 295/298 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 64
2017-2018: 16.5 MPG 7.7 PTS 0.7 3PT 3.0 REB 1.0 AST 0.5 STL 0.1 BLK 0.41 FG% 0.862 FT%
Burks has shown some scoring potential in the past and has given fantasy owners some decent weeks of production, but he could never stay on the court. Over the past three seasons, Burks played a total of 100 games. In an unlucky turn of events, Burks turned in his healthiest season in four years with 73 games played but lost his playing time to Donovan Mitchell.
He had a decent run in the playoffs, but there’s no reason to believe that there will be sustainable production from a fantasy standpoint in the upcoming season. Burks will be on the last year of his contract, but don’t expect the mythical “contract year” production to occur as he just hasn’t panned out in the way the Jazz thought he would. It’s Mitchell’s team now.
ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 266/248 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 154/118 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 38
2017-2018: 21.2 MPG 8.2 PTS 0.8 3PT 4.2 REB 0.8 AST 1.3 STL 0.3 BLK 0.491 FG% 0.814 FT%
Sefolosha gave the Jazz a solid 38 games before a sprained right MCL and subsequent surgery would take him out for the rest of the season. His fantasy impact was that of a steals specialist and next season he’ll be in his last year of his contract at 34 years of age. Thabo fits in well with the Jazz as he’s a tough defender who shot .381 from deep this season. The Jazz only need him to give 15-20 minutes a game so hopefully he’ll start the season healthy to give them some extra wing depth, but fantasy-wise his impact days are over.
ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 259/259 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 310/313 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 69
2017-2018: 16.6 MPG 4.9 PTS 0.6 3PT 3.4 REB 1.3 AST 0.5 STL 0.2 BLK 0.421 FG% 0.802 FT%
O’Neale signed a non-guaranteed $3.3 million contract in July before the season and was a filler for the Jazz roster until about January. Once the calendar flipped to 2018 he was receiving consistent rotational minutes and handling the backup role well. He’s not shy on the offensive end as he went at the Houston Rockets in the playoffs, scoring 17 points in a start, but it would be the last game of the season for the Jazz. There’s no reason to get overly excited for O’Neale because of a few strong games, but he’s shown the ability to play in this league and could be a name that pops up if anyone on the Jazz gets hurt.
ADP: N/A / 141 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 395/394 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 251/282 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 14
2017-2018: 16.7 MPG 8.1 PTS 0.3 3PT 1.8 REB 3 AST 0.5 STL 0.2 BLK 0.482 FG% 0.806 FT%
Exum’s first years as an NBA player have been rough and to make matters worse, in October he suffered a separated left shoulder which would sideline him until March 15, 2018. He played limited minutes and looked shaky at best, but in the playoff series against Houston Exum showed us all why he was a top-5 pick in the 2014 draft. He used his lengthy wingspan and quickness to help corral James Harden into Rudy Gobert and was the best defender the Jazz had for the likely MVP. On offense he wasn’t a non-factor as he was a threat as a cutter. He’s also not too bad with the ball in his hands.
Exum suffered a hamstring strain on May 8 which would keep him out of Game 5 where the Rockets would eliminate the Jazz and although the injury concerns are still there, he’s only 22 years old and has the potential to fill in a gap the Jazz need. The fantasy impact is still a long ways off, but he’s a restricted free agent who will likely find a home somewhere which is a big improvement from his outlook to start the year.
ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 248/220 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 269/229 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 63
2017-2018: 12.9 MPG 2.6 PTS 0.0 3PT 2.4 REB 0.8 AST 0.7 STL 1.2 BLK 0.500 FG% 0.750 FT%
Udoh returned to the NBA after two years overseas and was a pleasant surprise for the Jazz. He gave them solid rotational minutes when called upon and ended up as a quality option for cheap blocks at times. He ended up with 11 games of three or more swats, including one monstrous six-swat outing in a start for the injured Gobert. His skillset is extremely limited but Udoh was dependable enough to reestablish an NBA career. Good on him.
ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 255/240 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 327/292 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 74
2017-2018: 15.3 MPG 5.8 PTS 0.9 3PT 3.3 REB 0.6 AST 0.3 STL 0.2 BLK 0.466 FG% 0.807 FT%
Jerebko fits the bill as a solid stretch four option off the bench. He’s got a pretty versatile stat set but tends to struggle for minutes, as evidenced by his placement outside the rotation to begin the year. The injuries around the roster did help him out some, and he wound up making 14 starts on the season. Jerebko made 10 in a row from the middle of November onward that offered low-end appeal but he’s firmly a back-of-the-rotation option for the most part. One of three Swedes to appear in the NBA, Jerebko is a solid roster piece but isn’t a fantasy option.
The Jazz have a great thing going. They’ve got perhaps the best defensive player in the league, a dynamic scoring guard who came in and shocked everyone, a cerebral point guard, an elite 3-point shooter and some tough defensive wings. Utah wasn’t supposed to be this good after losing their star and starting point guard but they have one of the league’s best coaches and a fairly shrewd front office pulling the strings. If Mitchell keeps up this trajectory there’ll be more than just Slam Dunk Contest trophies headed his way.
The Jazz stunned OKC in round one as the Thunder seemed to think they could coast by on star power alone. That’s just not the case, and the Jazz seem poised to take their place atop the West’s second tier of contenders as soon as next season. Utah might not have the juice to keep up with Houston and Golden State but they’ve got the pieces and the shot-callers to give anyone fits. The Jazz are very much a team on the rise and have an extremely bright future.