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April 3, 2020

No Talking Heads, Just Talking Hoops

The Jazz are Quietly Trending Up

Utah has been on a nice run in December. What does this mean for their outlook and playoff hopes?

After a decent, but underwhelming start to the regular season, Utah seems to be finding a rhythm. The Jazz have gone 7-2 over their last nine games and boast a 4.9 net rating over that period, good for 7th in the league. While they only played four projected playoff teams during that stretch, the Jazz showed some real promise.

Mike Conley played in only one of those games and is out for an indefinite time. Joe Ingles has been injected back into the starting lineup as his replacement and has been fantastic, shaking off the rust experienced earlier in the year. He’s shot 54% from three on nearly 7 attempts per game, while also leading the Jazz with 5.7 assists per game.

The whole team has collectively started to gel, but there are still some glaring weaknesses. Bench scoring has been a problem for Utah this whole season; GM Dennis Lindsey moved his first pawn.

Jordan Clarkson was brought in on Christmas Eve to provide scoring off the bench. This was a rather low risk move that I think could work well for Utah. Clarkson is a walking bucket who can be rather lackadaisical on defense, but Quin Snyder’s system should help with that, as well as Clarkson hopefully buying into his new role. Exum was mostly out of Snyder’s rotation, and 2 second rounders for a team with title/deep playoff aspirations are a small price to pay.

While Clarkson is a solid addition with high upside, I believe this team has another move to make. Even with Conley back in the lineup and Ingles’ renewed playmaking, Utah needs another guy who can not only create his own shot, but create for others as this team truly lacks premier playmaking.

This trade I think makes great sense for the Jazz and would potentially be accepted by Detroit depending on what the market for Derrick Rose looks like in a few weeks. Detroit is in a four way race for the 8 seed (this sounds familiar). The Pistons are ripe for a rebuild.

Rose would immediately become Utah’s second best playmaker and provide a huge spark off the bench. I’m not sure how he and Clarkson would mesh, but I believe it’s worth the risk. If the Jazz want to vie for the West this year, they need players who have proven themselves in crunch time. Rose gives them another option as he has shown throughout his career that he is a prime-time player

Christian Wood has shown exciting flashes in Detroit, but has been stuck behind Blake Griffin and Markieff Morris and has been unable to get steady minutes. Utah doesn’t really have a four on the roster and usually plays Bojan Bogdanovic or Royce O’Neale there. Both are plus perimeter defenders but are out of their depth when matched up against the top fours in the league inside the arc. Wood provides size, spacing, and rim protection. He by no means can stop Anthony Davis one on one, but gives Utah a look with more size that they currently lack.

Ed Davis hasn’t really worked out in Utah, partially due to injury, and Tony Bradley has really improved, showing he can competently backup Rudy Gobert. So, I’m comfortable moving on from Davis to make this trade happen. Niang and Williams-Goss haven’t been high impact players this year (they certainly have some potential), but are worth moving on from to make this deal happen.

This is just a trade that I came up with, but I think it makes a great deal of sense for Utah and would be another step towards playoff success for them. Utah’s window with their current iteration is smaller than other contenders and they need to capitalize this season.

Mike Conley has struggled so much this year, but I’m still firmly of the belief that he is going to figure his game out and be a plus contributor. He played all of his 11 seasons with the same organization and much of the same supporting cast. Hardly a third of the season has passed, it may take a while to integrate him still. Pump the brakes, he hasn’t fallen off, he still looks spry and his shot looks right, it’s just going to take time.

If the Jazz can maintain their current play without Conley and are able to make a move similar to the one above, I firmly believe the Jazz will find their way into a top 4 seed.

What do you think of Utah’s start to the season and their recent run? How do you think they match up against top West teams? Any other trade ideas? Let me know down below!

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