The Utah Jazz are back in the playoffs after missing out the past 4 years. Their last appearance was a first round loss back in 2012, under coach Ty Corbin. Since then, they have added Quin Snyder as head coach, and he has drastically changed the atmosphere around the Utah franchise and turned them into a very good defensive team. Led by All-Star Gordon Hayward and defensive menace Rudy Gobert, the Jazz sit in the 4th seed in the West as of today, with a potential first round matchup against the Clippers. Now, nobody expects the Jazz to win a championship, as they are still missing at least one piece, and probably more, but they might be a team that can make some noise in the playoffs.
Are they capable of eliminating the Spurs or the Warriors in the Western playoffs? In my opinion, probably not. But they are more than capable of knocking out the Clippers and also the Houston Rockets, if that matchup were to happen too. Chances are they won’t play the Rockets, as they sit in the 3 seed and if they advance to the next round they’d play either Golden State or San Antonio, with the missing team going up against the winner of the Clippers-Jazz series. But that Clippers-Jazz series is going to be very interesting if it ends up happening. For as good as the Clippers have been the past few seasons, they’ve been at their peak for the past 3 seasons, and unable to play past the 2nd round of the playoffs. They haven’t made any major changes to the roster and still employ their “big 3” of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan. But the Jazz defense might be enough to stop them. Rudy Gobert can cancel out Deandre Jordan, as they are both very good on the defensive end, but Gobert might be a little past Jordan on the offensive end. Nobody is stopping Chris Paul, but George Hill is an excellent defender who can at least bother him enough. Blake Griffin will be tougher to defend, as the Derrick Favors of the Jazz is not the best defender at the PF position. But what makes the Jazz great is how they play defense off each other. Gobert is excellent on help defense, giving Favors a chance to at least slow down Griffin.
The main factor in this series will be Gordon Hayward, as he is the superstar of the Jazz and has been on an offensive tear since the All-Star break. My issue with the Clippers has been their SF position, as they have nobody good enough to contend with the star SF’s in the league like Lebron James, Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard, to name a few. This has always been their main issue, and without addressing it at all, they stand vulnerable against any talented SF. Gordon Hayward is not like any of these guys mentioned, but he is still a factor and is the best player on this Jazz team. He can singlehandedly win this series for the Jazz if the rest of the team can do their best at slowing down the Clippers’ pick and roll offense. I honestly think the Jazz will win the first round matchup if it is against the Clippers, which will probably send the Clippers into a rebuild as Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are both pending free agents.
The Jazz won’t go much farther than that, but I still see that as a big improvement over what they have been the last few seasons, and it looks like they might be an attractive destination for future free agents, if they can keep their core intact.