• With a young and talented core that finished the 2014/15 season strong, the Jazz entered the 2015/16 season with hopes of making the playoffs for the first time in four years.  Instead, they were ravaged by injuries and finished one game back of the eighth and final playoff spot. Hoop Ball’s Post-Mortem series takes a look back at the season that was in Salt Lake City.

    OVERVIEW

    The 2014/15 version of the Utah Jazz seemingly put it together post-break and rode the stingiest defense in the NBA – allowed a league low 94.9 points per game – to a 19-10 finish. They traded away the headache of Enes Kanter and turned to Rudy Gobert as their full-time center. Gobert flourished and the team followed suit.

    The hopes were very high heading into this past season. Their point guard of the future Dante Exum, promising swingman Rodney Hood, and Head Coach Quin Snyder were all entering their second seasons. They were going to have a full season of their defensive backbone, Derrick Favors and Gobert, in the frontcourt. Star player Gordon Hayward was entering his prime. Alec Burks was returning from injury and was going to compete for sixth man of the year. By virtue of missing the playoffs, they added lottery pick Trey Lyles to the mix. Lastly, the Western Conference was seemingly weaker than years past. The stars were aligning for the Jazz to breakthrough and make the playoffs.

    Unfortunately, the stars didn’t align for long as prior to training camp even starting, they lost point guard Dante Exum to a season-ending ACL injury. Injuries to Burks, Gobert and Favors followed, leaving the Jazz as a shell of their former self at times. They were once again ranked 30th in offensive pace and in the middle of the pack in offensive rating – 16th overall. They had a tough time generating assists and were in the bottom third in turnovers.

    In a time when offense was rising in the NBA, the Jazz seemingly remained stagnant. But even with all of the injuries and offensive limitations, the defense was the second stingiest in the league – allowed 95.9 points – and even improved their defensive rating from 14th in 14/15 to 7th this past season.  Rodney Hood blossomed and the trade for Shelvin Mack at the trade deadline provided a much needed boost for the offense as they pushed towards the playoffs. Unfortunately, the Jazz ended up one game back of the eighth spot in the Western Conference, getting eliminated on the final day of the regular season.

    Ultimately, the Jazz didn’t achieve their goal of making the playoffs. But injuries were more to blame than their play on the court. They improved their win total from a year prior and still possess a very good young core with a very good young coach. As long as they remain relatively healthy next season, expect the Jazz to once again improve their win total and be one of the last eight standing in the Western Conference.

    COACHING

    Quin Snyder has seen his team’s win total improve in each of his two seasons even though he saw numerous key members of the team miss significant time this past season. He has done a fantastic coaching job and is proving to be a developmental wizard. The young and talented core of the Jazz have all posted career seasons under Snyder and should continue to develop moving forward. A few weeks after the season ended, the Jazz rewarded Snyder and his excellent coaching job with a contract extension through 2021.

    From a team total standpoint, Snyder’s offense is not fantasy friendly. They have ranked 26th and 28th in point scored, 29th and 28th in assists, and last in pace over his two seasons.  But even then, his players have all posted career-best seasons under him. Passing and spacing is very important, but injuries and a lack of personnel have limited his overall team numbers.

    Defensively, Snyder’s read and react scheme defense is fairly fantasy friendly. It is much better real life defense though, as the pace that the Jazz play in tends to slow the opposition down. Also, it is far more fantasy friendly to the good defensive big men – Favors and Gobert – than it is the guards, as the guards tend to funnel everything towards the middle for the big men in the paint. But once again, Snyder has yet to have his team remain healthy to a point where we can judge them accurately.

    THE PLAYERS

    Derrick Favors

    ADP: 45 (Yahoo! 9 cat) & 51 (ESPN 8 cat), Total Value: 60/71 (9/8 cat), Per Game Value: 28/33 (9/8 cat), Games Played: 62

    On a per game basis, Favors was the best fantasy player on the Jazz this season. Still only 24 years old, it feels as though he has been around for a decade. Despite improving his overall game year after year, he doesn’t get much recognition because he has yet to reach the superstar level that was once expected of him. But even if he never reaches that superstar level, the Jazz already have a fantastic overall player in which they can build around.

    Although his numbers were very similar to last season’s numbers, he had himself his finest season to date. He posted career-highs with 16.4 points, 1.2 steals and 70.9% shooting from the charity stripe, to go along with 8.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.5 blocks on 51.5% shooting from the field. He relied less on scoring around the basket, extended his jump shot more often, and became a beast from three to 10 feet – improving his efficiency from 32.7% a year prior, to 45.3% this season.

    Overall, Favors shot 62.1% within 10 feet of the basket. He has fantastic touch around the basket and is a load to handle as he has the strength and power to back his opponent down. He has a decent mid-range game and can knock it down consistently if left open. But even when he isn’t scoring, he is very active on the offensive end, setting screen and working the pick-and-roll.

    Defensively, his mobility and athleticism makes him a good defender. He can protect the basket, can’t be backed down easily, is active in the passing lanes, and has the quickness to go out and guard smaller players. In arguably his best defensive season to date, he averaged a career-best 2.7 steals and blocks combined.

    Overall, Favors is a very good basketball player. He has vastly improved under Quin Snyder, producing by far the best two seasons of his career. He’s still young enough to continue to improve and possibly one day the superstar level that was expected of him. Heading into next season, he needs work on his shooting to the point that the mid-range jumper is a strength, as well as continue to improve defensively. Fantasy wise, draft him in the late-second, early-third and reap the benefits.

    Gordon Hayward

    ADP: 40 (Yahoo! 9 cat) & 25 (ESPN 8 cat), Total Value: 33/41 (8/9 cat), Per Game Value: 40/53 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 80

    The best fantasy player on the Jazz on a total value basis, Hayward led the team in games played was one of the only players on the roster to remain relatively healthy the entire season – although he did have a nagging plantar fasciitis injury that hampered him down the stretch. Hayward had himself another very good season, but failed to take the expected leap forward and did not live up to both real life and fantasy expectations.

    Hayward’s season averages were very similar to last season’s, posting a career-high 19.7 points, career-high 1.8 treys, 5.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists,1.2 steals, and 0.3 blocks on 43.3% shooting, 34.9% shooting from deep, and 82.4% shooting from the charity stripe. His FG%, 3PT% and assists were all down from a season ago. One can assume that the increased defensive attention of being the primary option and the injuries of players around him led to the decrease in efficiency and playmaking. Defensively speaking, he slightly improved once again, proving to be at least average on that end.

    Similar to Favors, Hayward has posted far and away his two best seasons in the two years Quin Snyder has been the bench boss. He didn’t take the expected step forward, but it is difficult being the go-to guy when everyone around you is decimated by injuries. He likely never will be able to be the top dog on a championship contender, but he certainly is capable of being the number one option on this Jazz team next season. Heading into next season, his primary focus should be finding a way to improve his play down the stretch of a close game. Fantasy wise, draft him in the third or fourth round and bank on Snyder once again continuing to develop his players.

    Rudy Gobert     

    ADP: 17 (Yahoo! 9 cat) & 19 (ESPN 8 cat), Total Value: 106/114 (8/9 cat), Per Game Value: 66/68 (9/8 cat), Games Played: 61

    Putting it simply, Gobert was a major bust for fantasy owners that drafted him in the second round. Big things were expected of him after finishing the 2014/15 season extremely strong. He was expected to take the leap into the elite tier of centers after being entrenched as the starting center with no real competition for his minutes. Unfortunately, inconsistencies and injuries proved to be speed bumps in his development.

    He showed slight improvement in his game, posting career-highs in a few categories – 9.1 points, 11.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists – while staying constant in others – 2.2 blocks and 0.7 steals. What sank his value was the drop in his efficiency. A 60.4% shooter from the field and 62.3% from the charity stripe a season ago, he shot 55.9% and 56.9% this season, respectively. He was still a force defensively on the season, but a knee sprain that forced him to miss time also limited him on both ends when healthy.

    It was a tough year for Gobert but he will still be just 24 years all of next season. He needs to work on his back down game offensively and improve his free throw shooting specifically. He needs to improve to the point where he punishes opposing teams on the offensive end for going small because there were too many times this season where his minutes were limited with the opposition playing small ball. His tough year this season will be a blessing in disguise next season, as fantasy owners should be able to draft one of the most promising centers in the league in the middle rounds, but expect early round value in return.

    Rodney Hood

    ADP: 146 (Yahoo! 9 cat) & 140 (ESPN 8 cat), Total Value: 82/88 (9/8 cat), Per Game Value: 94/94 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 79

    All the injuries the jazz endured may have been a blessing in disguise, as it provided Hood the opportunity to showcase his talent. With his sophomore season in the books, Hood’s development has him on the trajectory to becoming a star.

    Starting in all 79 games he played, he posted career-highs across the board – 14.5 points, 2.0 treys, 3.4 boards, 2.7 assists and 0.9 steals on 42% shooting from the field and 86% shooting from the free-throw line. The only statistical category in which he barely regressed in was his 3PT shooting, from 36.5% to 35.9%. He is a long and athletic wing who can create for himself, create for his teammates, and has a smooth shooting stroke. He can finish around the basket and also knock down the three. Hood has all the tools to be a star and seems to be on his way developmentally.

    His slight drop in 3PT efficiency isn’t concerning because he attempted more than two more threes per game. He still has a smooth shooting stroke, and with work in the offseason, should definitely see that number rise next season. Offensively in the offseason, he needs to work on using his athleticism to get to the rim and the FT line more often. He also needs to improve his overall defensive game, as he has the physical tools to one day be an elite defender. Hood could very well be the Jazz’s best and most important player starting next season. Draft him in the middle rounds in fantasy leagues and watch as he blossoms into one of the best young players in the NBA.

    Trevor Booker

    ADP: N/A, Total Value: 162/168 (9/8 cat), Per Game Value: 194/205 (9/8 cat), Games Played: 79

    Booker has more real life value than he does fantasy value due to his intangibles – leadership, energy, hustle and fight. He’s a player who will provide solid defense and rebounding, while never being accused of giving a lack of effort. Unfortunately, his offensive game is severely limited. On the season, he averaged 5.9 points, 0.2 treys, 5.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.7 steals and 0.5 blocks on 49% shooting from the field and 29.3% shooting from deep. Although his minutes slightly increased from a year prior, he became less involved offensively, seeing his usage rate, points and efficiency from deep all drop. He cut down on mid-range and three-point attempts, and increased his activity around the basket. That is a positive adjustment for his efficiency, but a negative for the spacing of the offense. There will always be a rotation spot for a player who works as hard as Booker does, but his value will always be limited due to his poor shooting stroke. He needs to work hard on that shot – specifically from deep – this offseason or he will never be more than an energy guy off the bench. As for his fantasy value heading into next season, he’ll be nothing more than a streaming option.

    Jeff Withey

    ADP: N/A, Total Value: 264/282 (9/8 cat), Per Game Value: 222/256 (9/8 cat), Games Played: 51

    Withey played a larger role than expected this season due to the injuries to Rudy Gobert. As a result, he posted career-highs with 12.9 minutes, 4.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.0 block on 53.7% shooting from the field and 72.9% shooting from the charity stripe. He provided the Jazz with great rim protection with his ability to both block and alter shots, but his athletic limitations prevented him from being much of a contributor elsewhere. Despite being 7’0” tall, he wasn’t a very good rebounder. He does have a decent shooting touch and can finish around the rim, but he needs to work on improving his overall offensive game in the offseason. As of right now, he looks to be nothing more than a back-up center. He is not on the standard fantasy radar heading into next season, although he can be a decent spot starter when given the chance.

    Trey Burke

    ADP: 130 (Yahoo! 9 cat) & 115 (ESPN 8 cat), Total Value: 230/245 (8/9 cat), Per Game Value: 228/252 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 64

    Once viewed as the point guard of the future for the Jazz, Burke found himself out of the rotation by season’s end. Coming exclusively off the bench for this first time in his career, his averages were down across the board – 10.6 points, 1.4 treys, 1.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.5 steals and 0.1 blocks. Although his numbers dropped from a season prior, they can be directly associated with his steep drop in minutes – from 30.1 minutes to 21.3 minutes. Just like his entire career with the Jazz, this past season was up-and-down production wise for Burke. He was actually much better scoring the ball as he posted career-highs in both FG% and 3PT% – 41.3% and 34.4%, respectively. But as his scoring efficiency and output per 36 minutes increased, his rebound and assist percentages once again declined. Burke continues to be an inefficient shoot-first point guard – even if he improved his efficiency this season – that doesn’t do a great job of getting his teammates involved, all while being a defensive liability. If he wants to one day find himself as a starting point guard, he needs to focus on producing in other areas besides scoring. Settling for less jumpers and focusing more on breaking down the defense and creating for his teammates would be a great start. If Burke remains on the Jazz heading into next season, he will not be on the fantasy radar. But he finds himself in a better situation on another team, he will be on the standard league radar.

    Alec Burks

    ADP: 127 (Yahoo! 9 cat) & 119 (ESPN 8 cat), Total Value: 326/338 (8/9 cat), Per Game Value: 211/260 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 31

    Injuries and circumstance keep robbing Burks and the fantasy world of his playing time and production. Entrenched as the sixth man heading into the season, big things were expected from Burks. A very good scorer with elite ability to drive and finish around the basket, he added a 40.5% three-point shot to his scoring arsenal. Unfortunately, he broke his leg in late December and was able to return for only three games later in the season in which he clearly wasn’t himself. He still posted fairly impressive numbers, averaging 13.3 points, 1.0 trey, 3.5 boards, 2.0 assists, 0.6 steals and 0.1 blocks on 41% shooting from the field over 25.7 minutes. But once again, injuries prevented us from experiencing the full Alec Burks breakout. Heading into next season, his number one priority should be staying healthy. As long as he stays healthy, he has the talent to produce and will once again be a hot name during fantasy draft season.

    Shelvin Mack

    ADP: N/A, Total Value: 260/285 (8/9 cat), Per Game Value: 216/281 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 52

    It was a tale of two seasons for Mack. Prior to his trade to the Jazz, he was buried on the bench for the Hawks and provided top 400 value. But following the trade, he played fantastic basketball and provided top 110/170 (8 cat/9 cat) value. In his 28 games with the Jazz, he averaged 31.4 minutes, 12.7 points, 1.3 treys, 3.8 boards, 5.3 assists, and 0.9 steals on 44.4% shooting from the field, 35.7% shooting from deep and 73.5% shooting from the charity stripe. He provided stability to an otherwise position of weakness for the Jazz, and was a major force behind the Jazz’s playoff push late in the season. He fit in well with the team, scoring when he needed to and creating for his teammates better than any other point guard option. The question moving forward with Mack is where he will fit in next season with the Jazz. With Dante Exum’s expected return, he will need to fight to once again earn his minutes. But even with his future in doubt, Mack needs to build on the career stretch he had with the Jazz by continuing to improve his outside shooting and working on cutting down his turnovers. His fantasy value will be directly tied to what role he has next season – if he is starting, he will definitely be on the standard league radar.

    Trey Lyles

    ADP: N/A, Total Value: 248/249 (8/9 cat), Per Game Value: 307/310 (9/8 cat), Games Played: 80

    After a slow start to his rookie season, Lyles showed great improvement and potential as the season progressed. Despite being one of the youngest players in the league, he gave the Jazz hope that they have a prototypical stretch four in today’s NBA but putting his impressive offensive skill set on display. He can score in the post and with his back to the basket, rebounds well, can pass the ball, and also stretches the defense with his 38.3% shooting from deep. He finished the season with averages of 6.1 points, 0.6 treys, 3.7 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.3 steals, and 0.2 blocks on 43.8% shooting from the field. Heading into his second season, he really needs to improve his defensive game, as he was a liability on that end of the floor. Given the depth of the Jazz up front, Lyles may not be much of an asset in fantasy next season, but definitely will be in the years to come.

    DOCTOR’S ORDERS

    Depth, depth and more depth, as the Jazz lack both guard and wing depth. The depth should be addressed with players that can space the floor with their shooting ability. They also need to address the point guard position and find out if Exum is ready to run the offense and get others involved. Otherwise, they need to either bring back Mack or find a better option in free agency. Lastly, they need to continue to develop the young players from within, and hand more playmaking responsibilities over to Hood next season.

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