After jumping off to an impressive start during the 2019-20 season, many spectators wondered just how far the Utah Jazz could go as they were lead by Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. Both players were once again having career years in their respective roles, earning them nods from across the league.
That momentum came to a brief halt after the learning development and eventual widespread of the COVID-19 virus that’s consumed a majority of the 2020 year. While the pandemic has taken a series of turns in its effects on the world, many viewers from the NBA world will vividly remember the immaturity displayed by Gobert, which eventually led to the knowledge of him contracting the horrible virus and possibly passing it on to Donovan Mitchell.
The Jazz were thought to be in a forcing position to move on from Gobert, but in time since the front office and locker room have greatly recovered. Mitchell reportedly has agreed to a rookie max extension during free agency. Reports from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski also suggested that an extension is hopefully soon to come for Gobert, suggesting that the two have found a way to work past their issues.
Now, the Jazz have to look forward to bouncing back this season following a disappointing exit in the 2020 playoffs against the Denver Nuggets.
Offseason Grade: A-
Draft: The Jazz weren’t overly active on draft night. As it stands, they’re not necessarily in the position of looking at future building pieces when they have Mitchell at the forefront right now.
They ended up drafting No.27 pick Udoka Azubuike from Kansas, a 7-foot center that can stretch the floor in possibly a reserve role for the Jazz. Utah didn’t play their hand for a backup big in free agency, which could suggest that the coaching staff is comfortable with Azubuike taking up that role. He averaged 13.7 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks during his senior season with the Jayhawks.
Utah also made good on selecting guard Elijah Hughes with the 39th pick via the New Orleans Pelicans. The Syracuse product is a young wing with an impressive ceiling should he develop into a decent rotation player as the season commences. He averaged 19.1 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 3.4 assists during the 2019-20 season with Syracuse.
Free Agency: Much like the draft, the Jazz weren’t expected to go out and sign big-name free agents. Keep in mind that they still have Mike Conley on a max deal this upcoming season, which complicated their ability to maneuver in any additional players for the season outside of vet-minimum deals.
They were able to strike gold in re-signing Jordan Clarkson, which was arguably their top priority aside from working on Mitchell’s extension. Clarkson was traded to the Jazz during the 2019-20 season from the Cleveland Cavaliers and proved himself as a key piece of their rotation through only 42 games. He averaged 15.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.6 assists during 24.7 minutes per game.
Clarkson will likely be slotted back into a reserve role for the Jazz seeing as how the backcourt at the time is occupied by Mitchell and Conley.
Re-signing Derrick Favors was also a huge plus seeing as how he would be a heavily sought out frontcourt option for most teams looking for additional production off the bench. Favors had spent most of his career with the Jazz before being traded to the New Orleans Pelicans last season, where he averaged nine points and 9.8 rebounds per game. Favors now returns to a franchise in which he’s had most of his productive moments.
As previously stated, locking up Mitchell was the ultimate win for the Jazz. While they could’ve reasonably matched any offer he fielded next offseason as a restricted free agent, no front office wants it to get to that point. Mitchell has built a level of trust with the organization that they wouldn’t want to take for granted.
As it stands, the Jazz have a pretty formidable duo in Mitchell and Gobert to build around in the next years to come. They haven’t garnished much success when it matters most, but that could be due to the supporting cast more than the actual co-stars.
Utah will roll into the season as it appears with more or less the same players that boasted the roster in the prior season. While that doesn’t add possibly a sense of excitement, the Jazz are more concerned about developing more chemistry amongst their tenured players.