However, for the second straight spring, the Jazz are about to be eliminated by the Houston Rockets in a series that was not even close, and it demonstrates just how far Utah is from actually contending.
Look: Mitchell is a stud and Rudy Gobert is one of the best defensive players in the league, but this team is clearly talent-deficient and needs another star to seriously compete, not just in the Western Conference, but in the NBA in general.
I know we all love to talk about how great the West is, but, honestly, with a healthy Victor Oladipo in Indiana, the Jazz are probably not even a top-five team in the East.
Yes, they are staunch defensively; yes, they play the game very hard; yes, they have a bright coach in Quin Snyder, but that can only take you so far when you only have on go-to scorer, and let’s face it: as talented as Mitchell is, he is not a true No. 1 option at this stage of his career.
As a matter of fact, Joe Ingles is probably the most efficient all-around scorer on Utah’s roster, and that is just not going to get it done.
The thing about the Jazz is that they have the complementary pieces in place. Gobert is a true defensive anchor. Ingles is a very solid three-and-D guy. So is Royce O’Neale. Derrick Favors is a very nice power forward.
But outside of Mitchell, Utah just doesn’t have anyone that opposing defenses genuinely fear, and that’s a problem.
To further exacerbate the issue, the Jazz are too good to land any lottery picks, they don’t have a whole lot of trade chips and Salt Lake City is not exactly a free-agent hot spot, and players’ recent run-ins with Jazz fans don’t exactly help matters much.
Still, Utah should have ample cap space this summer, so the Jazz could theoretically make a significant free-agent signing to elevate their team to another level.
Because Utah has Mitchell and Gobert, which is a solid foundation, it may be able to lure one good free agent, which could end up making all the difference in the world for a Jazz team that desperately needs another playmaker.
Of course, it won’t be easy, and it might take some serious convincing from Mitchell and Gobert, but there are reasons why some of the better free agents in this summer’s class may put Utah on their lists.
Remember: Snyder is being a pretty good reputation around the league as a great coach, similar to Brad Stevens in Boston. Players pay attention to that sort of thing, so if they think Snyder can put them in a situation to succeed and best utilize their talents, they may be swayed.
Heck, even someone like Bojan Bogdanovic, who actually had a really good year in Indiana, could represent a candidate for the Jazz, as he is certainly a guy who can create his own shot, a skill Utah is starving for.
Basically, the Jazz just need someone to take some of the pressure off of Mitchell, as he is struggling mightily in this series against the Rockets largely due to the fact that Utah has no other weapons for Houston to worry about. Yes, he is averaging 23.8 points per game, but he is shooting just 35.6 percent from the floor and 32.4 percent from three-point range.
Mitchell isn’t exactly the most efficient guy in the world to begin with, but due to the fact that the Rockets’ defense can key on him, he is having even more difficulty than usual.
The Jazz have room to add one big-name free agent such as Walker or Harris, and if that doesn’t work out, they should have the space to add a couple of guys like Bogdanovic and maybe even Terry Rozier, who is a restricted free agent for the Boston Celtics.
No matter how they do it, the Jazz simply need to find some players who can provide Mitchell with some offensive support. As good of a center as Gobert is, he is not an offensive threat outside of alley-oops and putbacks, and Ingles can’t do much more than he already does.
If Utah continues at this pace, it is going to see more of the same in the years to come.