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Utah Jazz: 5 big questions for 2021-22 NBA season

Jazz

In an unprecedented season with a slew of COVID-related absences and recurring injuries, the Utah Jazz stood out in the 2021 NBA regular season. They coasted through the number one seed in the Western Conference. They had a phenomenal point differential as they were almost unbeatable in their home floor at Vivint Arena because of their impeccable long range bombs.

Even with the best record in the league, Utah had a boatload of problems in playoff time that began with the miscommunication between Donovan Mitchell and the squad in Game 1 against the Memphis Grizzlies. After toppling the Grizzles in five games, the Jazz were eliminated by the Los Angeles Clippers in six games in the Western Conference semifinals.

To add insult to injury, Clippers superstar Kawhi Leonard missed the final two games of the series due to a torn ACL. Thus, there are still many questions surrounding the 2021-22 campaign of the Jazz, and here are five of them.

Can Rudy Gobert take advantage of small ball lineups?

In the Clippers series, L.A. played five guards and wings for majority of the last games against the Jazz because Rudy Gobert could not capitalize on a smaller man defending him in the paint. Mitchell or Mike Conley had a tough time feeding him the rock and converting a semi hook shot or a short stab in the shaded lane.

In his France tenure in the Tokyo Olympics, he improved on that aspect of his repertoire already, but he must prove it at the NBA stage as well. Moreover, Gobert and the Jazz must adjust in defending five small individuals with Gobert in the floor because the Clippers cooked them with this strategy in the playoffs as Terrence Mann tallied 39 points in Game 6 of the series-clinching victory.

Who is the vocal leader of this squad?

Conley and Joe Ingles have been brilliant leaders for Utah over the last few years, but the Jazz still lack that intense individual similar to Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics or Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors. Ingles is a tough and rugged player like Smart and Green, but he is not as vocal as them. On the other hand, Conley is a laid back type of athlete who lets the game do the talking as a floor general for Utah.

Mitchell and Gobert still lack leadership qualities to continue inspiring their teammates to perform at a high level. The acquisition of Rudy Gay may help with their current problem, but that might not be enough to propel the Jazz to the Promised Land. Their main competition in the Western Conference have proven and better leaders to guide and mentor their teammates when the going gets tough in the playoffs.

Who will consistently help Mitchell in manufacturing offense in the playoffs?

As previously mentioned, the offense of the Jazz are arguably one of the best in the regular season. The ball movement is sensational as they find the open guys all over the floor. However in the biggest stage, Mitchell is the only individual expected to orchestrate the plays of Utah. Conley has took a step back from his Grizzlies days, while Clarkson is more of just converting shots for him individually.

Ingles and Bojan Bogdanovic usually tally an efficient performance because of their excellent shooting prowess, but there were many instances in the Clippers series wherein they disappeared. One of them must step up to lighten the load on Mitchell for the Jazz and make sure his tank is still enough for the latter part of each game.

Do the Jazz have the firepower to compete with the best in the Western Conference?

Utah will likely finish as a top two seed in the regular season as well because their play style is very effective in the regular season. With their difficult time of succeeding in the playoffs, home court advantage will be integral for the Jazz. Unfortunately, franchises like the Los Angeles Lakers or Golden State Warriors are far more experienced and proven in the biggest stage of the season.

The core of these squads have experienced immense success in the playoffs compared to Utah, which will be highlighted when the going gets tough. Additionally, LeBron James or Stephen Curry could go on a flurry in a series tilting match wherein the Jazz have no firepower to even compete with the huge caliber of these Hall of Fame players.

Is Quin Snyder on the hot seat?

Quin Synder has led the Jazz to one of the best regular season records ever since he began his tenure in 2014. He seems to be the coach that is relatable to their core because he is a players coach who allows them to chuck up a ton of shots from behind the arc while also developing lasting relationships with his players

However, the Jazz have not even reached the Western Conference Finals with Snyder at the helm. He seems to be slow in implementing in-series adjustments compared to Michael Malone or Tyronn Lue. There are many options that they can replace with Snyder, but it also does not mean that he can mesh and communicate well with the franchise that is expected to continually challenge for championships in the next years.