The Utah Jazz had high expectations heading into the 2021 NBA playoffs, especially after they finished the regular season with the best record in the league. Unfortunately, they came up short in the Western Conference semifinals after they lost to the Los Angeles Clippers in six games. What made Utah’s exit more disappointing is the fact that they blew a massive chance against an LA squad that was missing its franchise superstar Kawhi Leonard.
The Jazz could use this strong 2020-21 campaign to build on for next year. However, they may need to make some changes this offseason to get more equipped for a championship run in 2021-22. With that, here are two major decisions the Jazz need to make this offseason after falling short of their goal.
2. Re-signing Mike Conley Jr.
Mike Conley’s contract is set to expire this 2021 offseason, and he will be an unrestricted free agent. It’s likely that the Jazz will bring back the veteran as he serves as a steady hand for them at the point.
In 51 regular season games, Conley averaged 16.2 points and 6.0 assists while shooting 44.4 percent from the field and 41.2 percent from three. Unfortunately, the 33-year old wasn’t available for the Jazz in their second round series against the Clippers, save for Game 6 where he struggled mightily in his return.
Perhaps their series could have gone differently if Conley was at full health for the entire time. He was a vital piece for Utah’s success with his ability to create plays for himself and his teammates. Likewise, he served as one of Utah’s primary playmakers and could have eased the load off Donovan Mitchell’s shoulders.
Mike Conley with seven straight in warmups 💪
Conley and Donovan Mitchell are available for Game 6, per the Jazz.
📺 10 ET on ESPN pic.twitter.com/2c3f0wc3Cv
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) June 19, 2021
Mitchell was clearly still bothered with his ankle, and it’s worth considering if the ailments of their starting backcourt played a role in their collapse to end their season. Nonetheless, the Clippers were also dealing with their own injury bug themselves, so it shouldn’t be an excuse for Utah.
Re-signing Conley will likely be the Jazz’s no. 1 priority, and there’s no reason for them to let him just walk away. Likewise, the 14-year veteran will likely consider sticking around Utah due to some unfinished business.
At this stage of his career, Conley won’t command the max dollars that he received from the Memphis Grizzlies five years ago. Nonetheless, he should still have a reasonable price tag–perhaps the same the Goran Dragic got from the Miami Heat a year ago–due to his veteran leadership and the intangibles he brings on the floor.
1. Getting more depth
The Jazz were pretty much down to a six-man rotation when Mike Conley went down, and it’s clear that the load just got a little too heavy for Donovan Mitchell as the series went on. Aside from Jordan Clarkson, they don’t have any other reliable players that they could give important playoff minutes to.
It’s likely that the Jazz could have made a deeper run had they been fully healthy. However, it’s definitely no excuse given that nearly every single team remaining in the postseason is dealing with injuries to their key guys. With that, Utah needs to be able to get more veterans they could rely on when one of their core rotation players go down.
JORDAN CLARKSON HAS 21 POINTS IN THE 2ND QUARTER ALONE 😱 pic.twitter.com/bcEuZ2d3tB
— ESPN (@espn) June 19, 2021
Pretty much Utah’s entire core will still be under contract next season, aside from Conley. As mentioned, retaining him should be their top priority. Rounding out their roster with battle-tested vets should be the next order of business after they ink the 33-year old to a new deal.