Season preview: Utah Jazz

Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Season preview: Utah Jazz

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Season preview: Utah Jazz

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After a few years of teetering between being a good team and a great one, the Utah Jazz made multiple moves this offseason in hopes of turning the corner and becoming a legitimate title contender.

Still, the team will be centered around Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, Utah’s two most important players, and the two with the most responsibility as far as helping the Jazz reach the next level. Gobert has done his part over recent years, coming off back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year campaigns, and blossoming into a legit threat on offense. It’s Michell who needs to fine-tune his game and become more consistent on a nightly basis in order to become, at the very least, an All-Star-caliber player.

The Jazz may not have the buzz a lot of their Western-Conference counterparts do, but don’t sleep on them; they have the talent and coaching to finish near the top of the loaded conference.

STAYING: Tony Bradley, Dante Exum, Rudy Gobert, Joe Ingles, Donovan Mitchell, Georges Niang and Royce O’Neale.

ADDED: Bojan Bogdanovic (Indiana), Jarrell Brantley (Charleston), Mike Conley (Memphis), Ed Davis (Brooklyn), Jeff Green (Washington), William Howard (Limoges), Stanton Kidd (Darussafaka), Emmanuel Mudiay (New York), Miye Oni (Yale), Nigel Williams-Goss (Olympiacos) and Justin Wright-Foreman (Hofstra).

GONE: Grayson Allen (Memphis), Tyler Cavanaugh (Alba Berlin), Jae Crowder (Memphis), Derrick Favors (New Orleans), Kyle Korver (Milwaukee), Naz Mitrou-Long (Indiana), Raul Neto (Philadelphia), Ricky Rubio (Phoenix), Thabo Sefolosha (Houston) and Ekpe Udoh (Beijing Ducks).

STRENGTHS: The upgrade of Mike Conley over the departing Ricky Rubio is a big one … Conley is a better shooter, scorer and should prove a more natural fit next to Mitchell … Gobert is the best defensive player in the league … Around him, the Jazz have been able to field a Top-3 defense each of the last three seasons, per defensive rating … Mitchell is close to reaching superstardom … He just needs to find a bit more consistency, get to the foul line more often and become a touch more efficient from three-point range … The addition of Bojan Bogdanovic should be quite fruitful … He’s coming off a career season, averaging 18.0 points and hitting 42.5 percent of his triples … He’ll add an element to Utah’s perimeter scoring that they haven’t previously had … Plus, his addition will allow the Jazz to bring Joe Ingles off the bench, where he could do serious damage against second units … Quin Snyder has proven to be a very good head coach, if not an outright great one … That’ll help with the team’s assimilation.

WEAKNESSES: The team has some reliable vets coming off the bench, but pure reserve scoring could be an issue … Their backcourt is pretty thin outside of Conley and Mitchell, especially with Emmanuel Mudiay and Dante Exum (two historically inefficient players) already nursing injuries … Mitchell still has too many off nights to be truly considered an elite player … Many thought he would reach that next level last season, and it didn’t come … Despite being an elite team the last few seasons statistically, they never really looked like legitimate title contenders … Now, that could change this year with the big offseason acquisitions they made, but it remains to be seen if Utah can become a legit threat to win the title.

PREDICTION: 2nd in the Northwest Division, 4th in the Western Conference.

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