The Utah Jazz have fallen into a group of teams that are great but cannot seem to get over the hump. Despite not being an ideal free agency destination, they’ve successfully built a solid roster. But given their talent, the Jazz don’t seem to have enough, especially in the competitive Western Conference. But what do the Jazz exactly need to get over the hump?
On a side note, I am citing realistic options. Adding a top 25 player such as Karl Anthony-Towns or Nikola Jokic would almost definitely turn them into an NBA Finals contender. There are also disgruntled superstars who want out of their teams, but Utah is typically not at the top of their list and the Jazz don’t have enough assets to make an enticing offer.
The first big move the team might want to consider is a coaching change. The Golden State Warriors, Toronto Raptors, and LA Lakers are just some of the teams that did it recently and found success despite letting go of high-level coaches. I feel, though, that Quin Snyder is the right guy for Utah and I don’t think the Jazz will be able to find a coach of a higher caliber than him at the moment.
One issue that the Jazz might have is that they typically play one way. In the regular season, where you play against teams a maximum of four times in a year, opposing teams aren’t going to overhaul their entire system to cater to one opponent.
In the playoffs, that changes. Teams are going to adjust to what you do and if you stick to one style of play, no matter how good you are at it, opposing teams will be able to adjust. This is why having lineup flexibility is crucial. I would argue that the Jazz have one of the better team rotations in the league when it comes to guards and forwards. However, they lack frontcourt personnel.
All-Star center Rudy Gobert is no doubt a top-five big man in the league today but his skill set is quite limited for the modern game. Big men are asked to not only be rim protectors and inside finishers but they are also asked to switch onto guards and be able to hit 3-pointers.
Teams that won the NBA title recently have bigs who are more flexible with their role. Brook Lopez, Anthony Davis, Pascal Siakam, Draymond Green are just some of the bigs who can do about three out of the four roles that I mentioned at a productive level.
Gobert is quite limited but he produces at a high level. The problem is that when Gobert leaves the floor, the Jazz typically substitute another traditional big. So teams don’t really have to adjust because it's like playing the same guy, only he won’t produce at the same level as Gobert does.
One player I have in mind who could replace Gobert would be Christian Wood. The Rockets center provides a more well-rounded game compared to Gobert. He might not be able to command the paint at Gobert’s level but he does provide more shooting and the ability to switch onto guards, giving Snyder more creativity in terms of game planning.
Another scenario involves keeping Gobert. To do this, they would need to find a forward who can be a small-ball center and can play with the big man. Players like Marcus Morris, Jaren Jackson Jr., or Chris Boucher are players that could fit that specific role for them. They are players with size who can switch on screens and space the floor without Gobert. They can also protect the rim and handle playmaking responsibilities for some of them.
But in reality, it seems like these options aren’t even on Utah’s mind right now. They seem like they’ll ride out this roster for as long as they can, even after several disappointing endings.
For the Jazz to get over the hump, they have to either move on or get lucky. Only one of those decisions is within their control. Moving on from Gobert or any of their core pieces is definitely a painful process, but it is only through taking some risks that they can go beyond.
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