SALT LAKE CITY – And that will be it.
The Utah Jazz lost in gut-wrenching fashion, 98-96, to the Dallas Mavericks in Game 6 of a first-round Western Conference matchup, with the Mavs ending the series 4-2, ending the Jazz’s season and quite possibly ending. era with the core of this current roster.
At this point, you can’t mince words. This has been one of the most disappointing years in the franchise. The Jazz had a great title heading into the season. They ended the season on a virtual whimper.
So, what happens going forward?
We take time to examine what might happen and what the Jazz are facing with 10 questions heading into what promises to be an interesting and intriguing offseason.
Will there be changes to the roster this summer?
This is the easiest question to answer, and that answer is a resounding yes. There is no way the Jazz will run this roster back for another year. In truth, they made changes to the rotation last offseason, trading Derrick Favors to the Oklahoma City Thunder, allowing Georges Niang to walk in free agency, and signing Rudy Gay. There were actual changes to the rotation after last season.
But, this season will be significant, and possibly seismic. Expect at least one starter to be on the team once training camp rolls around. Expect there to be noise all summer around the two biggest stars on the team. And expect Justin Zanik and Danny Ainge to take a good, long look at what this team should look like next season. The core of the Utah Jazz may very well be altered.
Are the Jazz blowing it all up and tearing it down?
That is not the plan, according to several sources – at least initially. According to The Jazz, sources are committed to building around Donovan Mitchell, which means taking a step back is not an option. Utah would like to keep climbing up the mountain toward contention, and the Jazz feel like they were still that far off, despite the disappointment of this season.
What you are probably going to see is the Jazz entering the offseason with almost every idea on the table. Mitchell should consider the player most likely to be with the team through the offseason. Everything else should be considered a question mark.
What about Quin Snyder?
There has obviously been a lot of smoke around Snyder and his intentions throughout the season. Sources say his status will be dealt with one way or the other in the coming days and weeks. Snyder has been one of the best coaches in the league over the last eight seasons. According to sources, he still has not lost much in the locker room, or the respect of his players.
Sources also travel the Jazz’s front office has been happy, overall, with his work. At the same time, there has been significant speculation regarding his future. There is no doubt, if Snyder wanted to strike out on his own, that he was capable of putting himself in a position to find work elsewhere.
How should Jazz build around Mitchell?
The time has come for Mitchell to take over the point guard role full-time going forward. His decision-making still needs work. Playing that spot will probably always be ever-evolving for him. But, it ‘s getting to be too much in this league to have a 6-foot-1 shooting guard. The league is too big and long and athletic on the wings. Mitchell is at a size disadvantage practically every night. With his wingspan, athleticism and build, he would be at a size advantage at the point guard spot more nights than not.
So, this offseason, Utah’s top roster priorities have a structural sense: become bigger and more athletic on the wings, in order to surround Mitchell. The point guard clearly has the spot he needs to play. The Jazz clearly has stagnated with a small backcourt.
Should Jazz fans not pay attention to the NBA Draft?
They absolutely, positively should.
On paper, the answer is no. The Jazz don’t have any picks, as they are paying off the Mike Conley deal to the Memphis Grizzlies. But buying their way back into the second round is currently an option. And Jazz fans should expect to bring a bunch of undrafted rookies to the front office and try to find an overlooked diamond in the rough. If you look through this postseason, there are second-round picks playing roles all over the place; Herb Jones in New Orleans and Xavier Tillman in Memphis both come to mind. Expect the Jazz to try and give them as many bites at the apple as possible to try and improve their roster.
Rudy Gobert has not been mentioned? Why?
Gobert is currently a pillar for the Utah organization. At the same time, there is probably more of a chance that he goes elsewhere than Mitchell. But, this is a tough case. He’s still one of the very best bigs in the league. He’s still one of the two best defenders in the NBA at absolute worst. Sources tell The Athletic That he is all in the Jazz, does not want to play anywhere else and would like to retire in a Jazz uniform. He has had a terrific season. He’s very clearly still in the prime of his career.
At the same time, Gobert will be in June 30. His contract is one of the most expensive in the league and could become burdensome if he experiences a drop-off in the playoffs over the next few seasons. The Jazz could opt to sell high on Gobert when it is still at peak value. There are multiple teams interested in trading for him, should the Jazz decide to go that route, according to multiple league sources.
For the Jazz, this may be the only true avenue to explore in terms of refining the roster on the fly. The only other route in this sense would be to explore trading Mitchell. And at this point, the Jazz want to keep Mitchell.
Is it even possible for the Jazz to stay at or near the top of the Western Conference?
Great question. And at this point, it’s going to be tough. The West was ridiculously good this season and will be even better and even more competitive next season. We say this because Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. The figure comes back healthy for the Denver Nuggets. Kawhi Leonard figures to come back healthy for the Los Angeles Clippers. It puts pressure on the Jazz to have a terrific offseason. Frankly, every move Zanik and Ainge make in the coming months needs to be a good one. It’s going to make June and July fascinating. There is significant pressure on the Utah Jazz this summer.
Which Jazz player has helped himself to the most in the playoffs?
The answer is to be Jordan Clarkson. He’s the only Jazz player able to touch the paint off the dribble in almost any scenario in this series. The Mavericks have locked up Mitchell and Conley. They are significantly limited in Bojan Bogdanovic overall. Only Clarkson was able to beat the Mavericks’ defense time and again. Clarkson’s skill set is proving to be valuable in a postseason setting, and that skill is the ability to beat postseason offensive-switching defenses to the basket.
How much pressure is Mitchell heading into the summer?
Immense. This wasn’t a good playoff run for him, and the Jazz pretty much gave him the keys to the franchise. Mitchell was good this season, even very good in spurts. But, last season, he was a no-doubt All-Star and borderline All-NBA player. This season, Mitchell was a no-doubt All-Star and borderline All-NBA player.
The Jazz need more from Mitchell, especially if they are hitching their wagon to him. They need him to be a no-doubt All-NBA player. They need him to approach top-10 overall status, and right now, Mitchell is about top-20 overall status. In short, the Jazz need Mitchell to take the leap this summer they thought he was going to take over last summer.
What about the young guys?
Jared Butler will go into his second season, and it will be interesting to see how his situation shakes out. He oozes talent and natural ability but was stuck behind a veteran rotation, so he didn’t see a lot of minutes. But the talent is clearly there; He can clearly play at the NBA level. Juancho Hernangomez and Danuel House Jr. Both helped themselves significantly. Both seem to be on their way out of the league in January. Both contributed heavily to this playoff run. Both should be in the league next season as a result. Nickeil Alexander-Walker will need a lot of development over the summer, as well. He has talent but was also stuck behind a deep rotation. Trent Forrest was terrific all season and should be a steady backup point guard in this league for years to come.
(Photo: Melissa Majchrzak / NBAE via Getty Images)
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