The Jazz were a very interesting team last season. They looked to be out of the playoffs, but then went on a 29-6 run while playing the best defense in the league to get in there. They were the top Defensive Rating team in the league, but that doesn’t even really do them justice. During that 29-6 run they had a Defensive Rating of 98.3, the only team in basketball under 100 and 4.8 points better than the next best team. The promise of this season’s Jazz is that second half finish. They finished 48-34 last season and their win total is set at 48.5.
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There are people who think that the series against Houston exposed them a bit, thanks to Houston’s super switchy defense that gave this team problems. I find that silly. This team has a smart coach in Quin Snyder that will figure out something to counteract and there are very few teams that can do what Houston did on defense last year. The future is bright for this team.
The player to watch here is Donovan Mitchell. He was so great as a rookie last year that it almost seemed like he wasn’t a rookie. 20.5 points per game with 3.7 assists and 3.7 rebounds, he showed himself as a potential star in this league. I foresee a big jump forward for him this year and he is a sleeper MVP candidate. He really handled the Rockets throwing everything at him in the playoffs last season and should only continue to improve.
Derrick Favors is an interesting player and when healthy can be huge for this team. If the Gobert-Favors lineups can work, the sky is the limit for this team. On nights when they don’t, this team can go smaller with the best of them. They are loaded with talented wings from starter Joe Ingles to Jae Crowder (perfect for this team) to Thabo Sefolosha to Royce O’Neale.
The team has Ricky Rubio entrenched as the starting point guard and he rewarded them with his best ever offensive season last year. He was a huge part of the run they went on as his aggressiveness really took this team to another level. He’ll be backed up by Dante Exum who is sort of the forgotten prospect in this league. He’s only managed 80 games the past two seasons after missing all of the 2015-16 season. He still has tremendous upside and is a tough defender.
Utah is a great team with a great coach and a budding superstar. They are my darkhorse to win the Northwest Division and I am expecting great things out of them this season. This is an easy over for me.
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