Imagine a Jazz starting 5 with perfect balance: scoring on the wings, outside shooting, length, quickness, multiple rim protectors, no egos, and an elite defensive unit. Imagine a deep bench with size, versatility, and experience. Jazz fans have been hoping for such a team since Stockton and Malone hung them up and now, that team has arrived.
Yes, it’s true. This is that team. The Jazz has drafted well, developed the talent, and added the right mix of veteran leaders. The rebuild is officially over. The time to win is now.
Let’s see what the roster looks like:
Point Guard-George Hill, Dante Exum, Shelvin Mack/Raul Neto
I don’t know who will be starting, but I predict that regardless of who starts the season, Dante will take the reins by the end of the season. Hill is a solid defender and three point shooter with Championship experience. Exum is an inexperienced youngster with elite speed and length. If he can become more aggressive to the rim, he has the potential to be a John Wall-type player. Not sure what the plan is with the 3rd point guard, but I have a hard time thinking they will keep 4.
Shooting Guard-Rodney Hood, Alec Burks, Joe Ingles
Hood showed flashes of being an elite level pick-and-roll option as a go-to player on a Playoff team. At 6’8″ he has phenomenal length for his position and can get to any spot on the floor he wishes and has been better than expected on defense in Coach Snyder’s scheme. Burks has been effective as a bench scorer/slasher with a knack of getting to the rim and finishing, but needs to figure out how to stay healthy. Slow-Mo Joe will be the best 11th man in the league.
Small Forward-Gordon Hayward and Joe Johnson
Hayward is poised to have his best season yet. With more playmakers on the floor this year, assuming the Jazz stay healthy, Hayward should get more quality looks at the rim. Johnson will be showing Hayward how to get to his spots and will show Gordon how to be a professional scorer. Johnson, a 7-time All-Star and future Hall of Famer, will most likely join the 20,000 point club this season and will be the mentor Gordon has needed to take his game to the next level. He’ll also offer great experience in hitting clutch shots in close games. Remember the Jazz lost 17 games by 5 or fewer points last season.
Power Forward-Derrick Favors and Trey Lyles
How is it that Favors continues to get overlooked? Prior to his back injury last season, it was Favors that was playing like an All-Star, not Hayward. He’s consistently averaged 17-9 and continues to be consistent. I don’t think he will evolve into an alpha male whom you feed in crunch time like we hoped he would become, but he’ll be a solid starter and borderline All-Star for the next 5-6 years at least. Lyles has shown that he may end up as the steal of last year’s draft, the Jazz’s version of Draymond Green, a big that can shoot the three (especially from the corner) and be a playmaker off the dribble. He’ll be a valuable “big” in the Jazz small ball lineup.
Center-Rudy Gobert, Boris Diaw, and Jeff Withey
Rudy may be the best interior defender in the league. He needs to attack the rim more on the offensive side, but as a game-changing rim protector he may be the most important player on the defensive-minded Jazz. Diaw brings championship chops and a steady veteran influence that will have a profound impact on fellow Frenchman, Gobert. Withey will likely not play a ton unless there are injuries and I see the Jazz playing small with both Favors and Lyles playing some five, but Withey is not a bad shot-blocker himself and has made the most of his limited time on the floor.
The Jazz will be the top defensive team in the league this season and will host a first round playoff series. George Hill is the only rotation player under 6’6″ and the team’s length is going to cause all kinds of problems for opposing offenses. Gobert led the lead in opponent field goal percentage within 5 feet. Joe Ingles will instantly become the NBA’s most valuable 11th man. Raul Neto or Shelvin Mack, who both started a good portion of the season last year, now becomes your third point guard. That’s how deep this team is.
The time to win is now. Hayward has already said he plans to opt out after this season, and there is no way that the Jazz will be able to pay Hayward, Gobert, Favors, Hood, and Exum. These are all players that will eventually earn a max or near-max contracts from someone and the Jazz will need to be worthy of a hometown discount–which means the Jazz need to win now. With this collection of talent, I think they will.
Jazz fans, the team you have been waiting for has arrived.