The 2020-21 NBA season is set to tip-off on Dec. 23. To get you ready for the year to come, we're dedicating one day between now and the start of the season to each team in the league.
Today, the Utah Jazz take the spotlight.
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2019-20 season record
44-28, 6th in the Western Conference
Udoka Azubuike, No. 27 pick in 2020 NBA Draft
Elijah Hughes, No. 39 pick in 2020 NBA Draft (via New Orleans Pelicans)
Derrick Favors, Free agency
Ed Davis, Trade
Tony Bradley, Trade
|PG||Mike Conley||Shaquille Harrison||Justin Wright-Foreman|
|SG||Donovan Mitchell||Jordan Clarkson||Miye Oni|
|SF||Bojan Bogdanovic||Joe Ingles|
|PF||Royce O'Neale||Derrick Favors||Juwan Morgan|
|C||Rudy Gobert||Georges Niang|| |
3 key storylines
Has Donovan Mitchell made the leap to superstardom?
It's hard not to think about the epic Donovan Mitchell vs. Jamal Murray battle when your mind wanders back to the bubble.
Mitchell averaged 36.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.9 assists in the first-round series against Denver that went seven games. The astonishing series was headlined with two 50-point outings, as the 24-year-old carried the Utah offence.
🔥 MITCHELL x MURRAY- NBA (@NBA) October 27, 2020
🔥 2x 50-PT games each
🔥 7-game series
Relive the HISTORIC NBA Playoffs duel between Donovan Mitchell (@spidadmitchell) and Jamal Murray (@BeMore27)! #BESTofNBARestart pic.twitter.com/xaEcQE1Qas
While it's well known the Jazz gave up a 3-1 lead in that series, it has been often overlooked that the team was without Bojan Bogdanovic, leaving the squad short of one of their most reliable offensive options. Mitchell was a first-time All-Star in 2020, and if his superstar turn holds true throughout the 2020-21 campaign, the addition of Bogdanovic could propel them beyond the second round for the first time since 2007.
What to do with Joe Ingles?
It was a strange 2020 for Ingles, who was impacted more than anyone on the roster after the franchise moved to add multiple new pieces before last season.
A fixture in the starting lineup in seasons prior, Ingles found himself starting the season coming off the bench, as Mike Conley Jr. and Bogdanovic moved into the starting lineup. As a result, the veteran wing saw a reduction in minutes, shot attempts and points per game despite the fact a variety of injuries saw him ultimately start in 45 of his 72 appearances.
Unless the Jazz decide to go small with Ingles at the four it seems unlikely that the Australian will start this season, with Royce O'Neal projected to slide into that role. Perhaps Ingles will thrive off the bench with his old pick-and-roll partner Derrick Favors returning, but it will be an interesting question for the Jazz coaching staff to work out how to get the best out of the fan favourite.
How can the Jazz maximise the recently extended Rudy Gobert?
Rudy Gobert recently agreed to the third-richest deal in NBA history, so to suggest he is important to the short-term success of the franchise would be putting it lightly.
The two-time Defensive Player of the Year is still an absolute force on that end, providing elite rim protection that has him carrying a six season streak of averaging over two blocks per game.
Criticised in the past for being unplayable in certain playoff matchups, Gobert responded against the Nuggets in the 2020 NBA Playoffs, averaging 16.9 points and 11.4 rebounds in over 38 minutes per game. More importantly, the Jazz were better with their cornerstone on the floor, registering a 5.5 net rating in his 270 minutes on court while being neutral in his 71 minutes on the bench.
As teams continue to go small, the pressure will be on the Utah coaching staff to try and implement wrinkles in their game that allow them to maximise Gobert while he is on the court.
They have 208 million reasons to do so.
5 games to watch
Jan. 2 vs. LA Clippers
Joe Ingles vs. Paul George.
Ever since their playoff battle when PG was in Oklahoma City, these games have been worth watching. Ingles loves the challenge and I'm not so sure George enjoys the pestering Aussie defending him.
Jan. 18 at Denver Nuggets
The rematch of the above mentioned Mitchell vs. Murray battle will be mouth watering. Two of the rising stars of the league going toe-to-toe. It doesn't get much better than that.
Jan. 24 vs. Golden State Warriors
The centre position in Golden State is somewhat of a question mark but watching the No. 2 overall pick in James Wiseman battling Rudy Gobert will be enthralling. Wiseman is an athletic player who will try to run out in transition. Will Gobert try and attack the young rookie?
Oh yeah, Steph and Mitchell could also put up 50 points, which is fun.
Feb. 14 vs. Miami Heat
Bam Adebayo is a matchup nightmare for opposition coaches.
While Gobert likes to stay at home in the paint and protect the rim, the Heat use Adebayo on the perimeter as an initiator with regularity, so it will be fun to watch the big men do battle with their contrasting styles.
Feb. 25 vs. Los Angeles Lakers
If the Jazz want to make a deep playoff run, they will likely have to go through the Lakers. This will be a nice measuring stick game nearing the halfway mark of the season.
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