Basketball

The Unexpected Rise of the Utah Jazz to 1st in the West

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The rise of the Utah Jazz to the top of the Western Conference has gone under the radar so far. With the ‘Big Three’ Nets and LeBron James‘ Lakers dominating the headlines, the success of the Utah Jazz has not been on the minds of all NBA fans.

The Utah Jazz are at the top of the conference and their record is currently 15-4. They also have an 11 game win streak. At the time of their last defeat, they were 4-4 after blowing an 18 point lead to the New York Knicks. It was hard to imagine the Jazz going on such a streak.

It should also be noted the games during this streak have not been that close. Their average point differential per game is +8.3, leading the NBA with the Bucks in second place and the Lakers third.

The only game that went down the wire is when they faced the Denver Nuggets. But the Jazz managed to close that game through their star man Donovan Mitchell. He made a 14-foot turnaround jumper to give Utah ahead by three with a minute left which iced that game.

Donovan Mitchell ices out game against Nuggets, Jazz went on to win 109-105.

The Rise of The Utah Jazz: How Good Has Donavon Mitchell Been?

Donovan Mitchell has of course been key to the rise of the Utah Jazz. He is averaging 23.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 4.9 assists so far this season. During Utah’s streak, he’s been putting in big performances. One that stands out was their second game against New Orleans Pelicans.

Mitchell dropped 36 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. He also went 6-8 from beyond the arc, and 11-19 from the field.

The game sparked a lot of controversy due to the comments Shaquille O’Neal made to Mitchell.

“You don’t have what it takes to get to the next level,” Shaq said. “What do you have to say about that?”

Mitchell replied: “Shaq I’ve been hearing that since my rookie year you know, I’m just going to get better and do what I do.”

Even LeBron James and Kevin Durant spoke on the exchange between the two. Durant said: “Them old heads need to go enjoy retirement. These boys have coaches they work with everyday lol.”

James said: “There’s a different between constructive criticsim and soft hating though.

“I’ve seen it both ways come my way, mostly the hate. You can hear it in their delivery.”

How Good Has Rudy Gobert Been?

Rudy Gobert has been a big part of the rise of the Utah Jazz. The Jazz great season so far comes down to the great defense they have been playing. Gobert is usually in the conversation for defensive player of the year, and this year has been no different.

He recieved critism after signing a five-year $205 million contract extension, the largest deal for a center in history.

“It means they believe in me,” Gobert said on signing the contract. “They believe in what we’ve been building over the years with this whole organization, with Coach and all the guys.”

Whilst there was debate over whether Gobert deserved to be the highest paid center in history, and receive the third biggest deal in NBA history but he continues to prove he is invaluable to the Jazz team.

Gobert is one of the best defenders in the league, and you can see his affect through Utah’s defensive rankings. Utah only allow 105.1 points a game. Only the Knicks allow less (102.7) and the Lakers (104.8).

The Jazz also leads the league in rebounds with 50.0 per game. The closest to them is the Milwaukee Bucks with 48.8 rebounds per game. A big part of their great rebounding is of court Gobert.

He is averaging 14.1 rebounds per game to go along with his 13.6 points. 14.1 is the most rebounds Gobert has ever averaged in his career, and he averages 11.1 for his whole career

Gobert is also averaging 2.7 blocks per game. He’s had five different games in the 11 game win streak where he has had four or more blocks.

Throughout the whole season, he’s had 8 of those games. Utah’s defense is a big part of them turning their season around and Gobert has unsurprisingly played a big part in it.

Gobert noted that the rise of the Utah Jazz and their defensive improvements has a lot to do with losing to the Knicks the way they did

The Impact of Jordan Clarkson

Jordan Clarkson has also been a big contribution to the rise of the Utah Jazz. He’s put himself in the conversation and maybe leading the race, for the Sixth man of the year award.

Clarkson is currently averaging 17.9 points per game, the most he’s ever averaged in his career. The former Lakers player has even received praise from the great Magic Johnson for the great season he’s having.

Clarkson is another guy the Jazz can count on to go get a bucket. He is capable of going off and dominating scoring in periods of games. He always attacks the rim well and manages to create the shot he wants, whether that be stepping back for Aa jumper or.

He shoots 38.5% from three, the best he has ever averaged in his career. You can tell he’s feeling more comfortable with his shot as he’s averaging 7.9 attempted threes a game, the most he’s ever attempted a game in his career.

Mike Conley Has Been Key to the Rise of the Utah Jazz

Mike Conley is another big reason for the rise of the Utah Jazz to the top of the West. Utah’s point guard has been an underrated player in the league for a long time and is now continuing to show how good he is.

Conley and Gobert have started to form a great partnership on the court. Conley and Gobert now run a great pick & roll.

Conley previously played with Marc Gasol, as he was at the Memphis Grizzlies for 12 years. Gobert is a very different center to Gasol, sets better screens, and doesn’t fade out of the screen for a shot like Gasol could.

In Conley’s second year with Utah, he and Gobert are proving to be one of the better point guard and center duos in the league. Conley is comfortable pulling up from three, midrange, and driving to the rim, whether he goes for his floater or goes in for the layup.

He is averaging 16.8 points per game and 6.1 assists. He attempts 7.1 3-pointers a game, the most he’s ever attempted in his career. He also does this whilst shooting 41.8% from three, also the best he has ever shot in his career.

The veteran PG looks to have fully adopted the Utah team and will most definitely be a big part of the team’s hopes past the regular season.

The Struggles of Bogdanovic

Bojan Bogdanovic is a key player in the Utah Jazz, who was a big miss in the playoffs for them. He averaged 20.2 points per game last season. He has struggled so far this season on offense by his standards. This season he is only averaging 13.9 points so far.

He is shooting 38.9% from three so far this season but is capable of shooting better. His last year he shot 41.4%, and the year before that 42.5%. If the Jazz can get him to play well consistently they will be significantly better.

Without their star man Mitchell, Bogdanovic dropped 32 points against the Dallas Mavericks. He also went 7-11 from beyond the arc. Hopefully, for the Jazz, that last game was a sign of better things to come

Bogdanovic spoke on how much their record means to them. He said: “It means a lot for us, especially those two wins without Donavan, he’s out best player and our leader.

“So it’s great to see all those teams behind us on the standings.”

“Like I said we have a tough schedule right now and we gotta keep going, we gotta play defense like we are playing right now.”

They’ve got a strong roster other than those discussed in detail. The likes of Joe Ingles, Derrick Favors, and Royce O’Neale all play hard and give important minutes. Ingles recently passed NBA legend John Stockton for most threes for Utah.

With Mitchell coming back soon and Bogdanovic picking up form, the Jazz could be in the conversation for a team to watch out for in the postseason.

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