The Utah Jazz are expected to do great things in the 2019-20 season, as Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell get a couple of serious teammate upgrades from Mike Conley replacing Ricky Rubio and Bojan Bogdanovic playing a role once occupied by Jae Crowder.
The “surround a big man with shooters” offense, so popular in Milwaukee, finds another home here, and for Gobert, already one of the most lethal offensive presences efficiency-wise in the low-post, having outlets will only be a boon to his already-impressive scoring prowess.
And then there’s the whole having one of the best rim protectors in the league thing.
Consider also, this tweet, courtesy of @BaltejNBA:
Bojan Bogdanovic last season:
Wide Open 3's: 45.8%
Open 3's: 41.7%
Wide Open 3's: 35.4%
Open 3's: 30.8%
Wide Open 3's: 33.8%
Open 3's: 25%
Wide Open 3's: 43.3%
Open 3's: 34.4%
Gobert and Mitchell gonna see some clear lanes to the rim
— Baltej (@BaltejNBA) October 3, 2019
The Jazz went 50-32 last season. Based on point differential, they probably should’ve been 54-28 (according to Basketball Reference’s calculation.) Vegas has them at 52.5 for the over/under, half a win better than the average of those last two figures.
Seems cut and dried, but let’s look deeper into the numbers and see what emerges.
2018-19 record: 50-32
2019-20 over/under: 52.5
A Heavy Cross to Gobert
Gobert looked impressive at the FIBA World Cup, completely shutting down the United States and Myles Turner as he guided the French squad to the semifinals.
He led the league in field goal percentage (66.9), True Shooting (.682), and Defensive Box Plus-Minus (5.1.) He had a mind-blowing .268 WS/48 and 5.9 VORP, all with an amazing 14.4 Win Shares overall.
He’s the kind of player who—just look at the Jazz’s rise from left-for-dead after Gobert came back from injury in 2017-18—can more or less singlehandedly get you into the playoffs if your team is even remotely good.
And he’s still just 27, very much in his prime.
Gobert had 14.3 WS the last time he played a full season. This seems like his normal. So we’re good on that front.
The Wildly Inefficient Donovan Mitchell
As Mitchell heads into Year 3 of his career, he’s at a bit of a crossroads since he can’t go on being a 30 points on 30 shots kind of player indefinitely.
His eFG% regressed (.506 to .493) even as his 3-point shooting improved (34.0 to 36.2 percent.)
His WS/48 sits below the Mendoza Line (.097) and his VORP dropped from 2.1 to 1.7.
All of the above suggests “solid starter nowhere near as good as he thinks he is” unless either (a) all that perimeter shooting mentioned above opens up lanes to the basket for easy buckets or (b) coach Quin Snyder makes Mitchell ride pine if he’s hoisting up bad shots like Russell Westbrook on an off night.
I’m hesitant to write off such a hungry natural scorer, but he shot the Jazz out of plenty of games. It’ll be interesting to see if that liability continues to hurt him.
Jingles, Bojans, and Let ‘Em Fly
Joe Ingles hit 39.1 percent of his 3-pointers last year. Bojan Bogdanovic, in Indiana, hit 42,5 percent of his. The Jazz overall were 10th in the league in 3-point percentage and seventh in 3-point attempt rate.
This is a team not afraid to shoot the long ball and very good at making those triples count, and they just got better at that key offensive strong suit.
And, as mentioned, that number looks to rise as they get even better shooters installed into that offense.
You start to see that 2.5 wins (or half a win, if you believe in luck) might actually be a lowball estimate.
The State of the Northwest Division
Jusuf Nurkic‘s health is a question in Portland. The Timberwolves still suck. The Thunder fell off a cliff. And nobody knows what to make of Denver, a team that managed to underachieve while snagging the 2 seed in the Western Conference somehow.
Let’s say that 54 wins takes the division again. Can you really see the Jazz not being the team that wins that 54?
A great defensive team kept its anchor and its coach. A great 3-point shooting team upgraded its 3-point shooting. Mike Conley is better than Ricky Rubio. Bojan Bogdanovic is better than just about every catch-and-shoot wing in the league. Donovan Mitchell won’t have to take near as many bad shots. And Rudy Gobert’s not wasting a single opportunity in the low post when he gets the ball.
Not for nothing does Vegas have them as the second-highest over/under in the West and fourth overall.
The Jazz are emphatically Confirmed and I see them winning between 55 and 58 games. Take the over.
NEXT: Portland Trail Blazers
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