The Utah Jazz are among the young teams that are expected to make the hopeful jump into a playoff position this season. This is a roster that oozes potential, which was shown when they finished the 2014-2015 season with a record of 19-10 over the final 29 competitions.
A large reason for their late season success was due to the blossoming play of big man Rudy Gobert. After the departure of Enes Kanter, the 23-year old France native solidified himself as one of the top rim protectors in the NBA. As a result, over their last 29 competitions, they allowed just 94.8 points per 100 possessions – the best in the association. Gobert looks as if he continued to build on his new found success over the offseason as he topped off this preseason with 14 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks in under 30 minutes of play in Utah’s 98-78 win against the Denver Nuggets.
It will be important to follow how cornerstones players outside Gobert fare in this first month. A large portion of success is riding on the play of swingman Gordon Hayward. Many agree that if the Jazz are going to have any sort of regular season success this season, Hayward is a candidate that is going to need to break out from a very good player to a true All-Star and mental leader. The ladder will be tested this first month, as through 16 games in November, 10 of the matches will come away from the EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City. Last year, the Jazz were 17-24 when they played away from home, and while it isn’t an awful record, it is definitely not a quality of a winning team.
One key match-up will fall on November 28th, when Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans march into town. These teams both represent a youth movement and the most intriguing head-to-head of the night will be between Davis and Gobert. Aged 22 and 23 respectively, the two big man have eerily similar play styles and are both already dominant forces to be reckoned with on the defensive side of the ball. It will not only be fun to watch the center match-up (that may or may not be a future rivalry), but it’s worth noting that this game could go a long way in playoff positioning come April. The Pelicans, who finished 8th in the Western Conference last season, are looking to build on last season’s success. Though they have cracked into the top 6 of the West’s elite just yet, they are looking like a strong lock for one of the final positions. The Utah Jazz ceiling on this season is also one of the final postseason positions in the tougher of the two conferences and winning games against other fringe teams may be the difference down the road. This will be the first of fourth scheduled competitions between the two teams this year.
Courtesy of Saltcityhoops.com