2015-16 NBA Record: 40-42
Additions: Joe Johnson (Miami Heat), Boris Diaw (traded from San Antonio Spurs), George Hill (traded from Indiana Pacers), Marcus Paige (draft rights traded from Brooklyn Nets), Henry Sims (Brooklyn Nets)
Subtractions: Trevor Booker (Brooklyn Nets), Trey Burke (traded to Washington Wizards)
Projected Starting Line-up (via rotoworld.com)
PG – George Hill
SG – Rodney Hood
SF – Gordon Hayward
PF – Derrick Favors
C – Rudy Gobert
After just missing out on the playoffs last season, the Jazz went out and added the pieces they feel can propel them to the next level. Joe Johnson, George Hill and Boris Diaw join a side led by stars Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors, while young players in Rodney Hood, Dante Exum and Alec Burks should hopefully reach their full potential this year. Exum and Burks will be two to watch after missing the majority of last season with injuries.
Gordon Hayward has become the leader and top offensive weapon for the Jazz, but recent reports have said that Hayward has dislocated a left finger, which could keep him off the court for up to six weeks.
Utah will miss Hayward’s offensive versatility, as he led the team in points and assists last season. The team will be happy they have Joe Johnson and Rodney Hood around to cover. Even if Hayward was on the court, he would’ve faced a lesser workload with ball-handlers in George Hill and Johnson joining the side, but it would’ve generated more open spaces for Hayward as the result of others’ work. A season that looked to be a chance for Hayward to potentially become an All-Star will be halted by his injury unfortunately. Young rim protector Rudy Gobert was troubled by injury last season, but when healthy, he’s a top Defensive Player of the Year candidate. He’ll need to improve offensively, but having a passing point guard like George Hill will help. Speaking of Hill, his ability to both make plays for teammates and himself will take the pressure of guys like Hayward, Hood and Exum, who’s returning from an ACL injury. Exum played very well in his rookie year, showing some positives in defense and playmaking, while also displaying negatives in his shooting. The Australian point guard will slowly be worked back into the rotation after a full year of development wasted due to injury. But if he’s able to bounce back to the form he showed in his rookie year, and more, the Jazz will be very dangerous to watch. Joe Johnson will become the go-to guy in clutch situations, as he’s been his entire career, but last season, Rodney Hood earned the trust of Coach Snyder to become the clutch player, so one of these two players may take that last-second shot. Derrick Favors averaged over 16 points and 8 rebounds last season and along with Gobert, form a formidable defensive front-court. Boris Diaw has been brought to in for depth and will is the ideal mentor for stretch four Trey Lyles.
It’s easy to see this team’s identity is based on defense, and when healthy, the side is one of the top defensive outfits in the league. Injuries were a problem last year and the news regarding Hayward will put them off, but having the depth that they lacked in previous years will help massively. The Jazz have taken a few years to get used to Quin Snyder’s system and with the added players this offseason, there’s no reason to believe that they can’t make the playoffs. The Northwest Division is up for grabs and I think the Jazz can ultimately finish as high as 2nd. For now, I think that the Thunder and Trail Blazers will finish ahead of them and it’ll be close, but they can definitely reach the playoffs in 3rd place.
Prediction: 3rd in Northwest Division