The Utah Jazz will be etched in history as the team that caused the suspension of the 2019-20 NBA season. It can be recalled that Utah’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on March 12, 2020, was canceled after Jazz All-Star center and Defensive Player of the Year winner Rudy Gobert tested positive for the COVID-19 virus days after he ridiculed the coronavirus during an interview.
Following the suspension of the game, the league decided to suspend the entire season due to the virus. Later, it was learned that superstar guard Donovan Mitchell also tested positive for the virus. Mitchell got mad at Gobert for his irresponsible actions and the two stars got estranged during the early stages of the lockdown. The relationship has been repaired, at least according to team officials but the team heads to this restart with plenty of unknowns.
Gobert is still reported not 100% despite having already recovered. The Jazz also lost second-leading scorer Bojan Bogdanovic to injury. Mitchell is also recovered but it’s unsure if he will be 100% physically after contracting the virus and 100% mentally after what he and Gobert went through. Still, there is plenty to be hopeful in Salt Lake City as the team has performed better this season and have yet to get a 100% performance from point guard Mike Conley.
Utah Jazz Season Summary
The Utah Jazz finished the 2018-19 season in 5th place in the Western Conference with a record of 50-32 and they lost to the Houston Rockets 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs. This year, the Jazz brought in Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic to help Donovan Mitchell with the offense. However, Conley spent time on the injured list and played just 41 games. Bogdanovic became the team’s second scoring option behind Mitchell and the Jazz entered the break with the 4th best record in the Western Conference at 41-23.
Despite having a worse point differential per game and per 100 possessions than they did during the 2018-19 season, Utah was on pace to win three more games than they did last season and were positioned to secure home-court advantage in the playoffs if they kept their pace. The Jazz also played better in close games as they went 25-11 this season in games that were within five points in the last five minutes after going just 15-18 in those games during the previous season. The team had a stretch where they went 19-2 during the middle of the season but other than that, Conley hasn’t been the factor that the Jazz thought he would be. Despite that, Utah found success especially after trading for Jordan Clarkson.
Clarkson didn’t look like a big acquisition at first. Utah already had scorers in Mitchell and Bogdanovic plus Mitchell and Conley were good playmakers for the team. However, since Clarkson arrived before Christmas, he’s provided the Jazz with a spark that had the team win its first 10 games with him. Clarkson has not missed a game since he was traded to Utah and he has emerged as the team’s third-leading scorer behind Mitchell and Bogdanovic at 15.6 points per game.
Clarkson is putting up career numbers in true shooting percentage and effective field goal percentage with his averages in both statistical departments even higher in Utah.
Donovan Mitchell remains their main man as the third-year man was averaging a career-best 24.2 points per game while also averaging 4.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game. On defense, Rudy Gobert was Utah’s anchor again as he put up 15.1 points, 13.7 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game. Interestingly, these two stars had their relationship tested after Gobert tested positive for the COVID-19 virus that caused the NBA season to be suspended. Mitchell caught the virus, presumably from Gobert and this caused a rift between the two. However, a Utah exec said last month that both are now ready to move on and help the team win the title.
Utah’s top two players in Mitchell and Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus and although both have since recovered, we don’t know the full effect of their infection unless we see them play actual basketball. But more than the physical effects on the two players, it remains to be seen how the incident will affect their chemistry on the court. It also remains to be seen if the other Jazz players and the other NBA players, in general, will react to Gobert, especially with the latter’s attitude before contracting the virus.
Is the absence of second-leading scorer Bojan Bogdanovic who underwent season-ending wrist surgery last month. Bogdanovic suffered the injury in 2019 and it continued to bother him during the 2019-20 season. The Jazz signed Bogdanovic to a four-year deal worth $73M during the offseason. He averaged 20.4 points per game this season while shooting 41.4% on his three-pointers.
Mike Conley missed multiple games during the season with a hamstring injury. However, he was healthy right before the restart and should be good to go when the league starts to play at Disney World. Conley was supposed to be a big part of Utah’s team this season but his averages of 13.8 points and 4.3 assists per game were his lowest since 2012. Hopefully, the hiatus has helped Conley get back to his old form.
Odds and Outlook
The Jazz have the 11th best odds to win the 2020 NBA title at +4000 and they were 6th in the odds board to win the Western Conference at +2200. When the season was suspended, the Jazz were 8.5 games behind the Los Angeles Lakers who had the best record in the West. They were also just 1.5 games back of third-seeded Denver and only three games off the pace of the second-seeded L.A. Clippers.
Utah can finish from 2nd to 7th place and it depends on how they fare during the “seeding games”. As for their schedule, the Jazz open the restart against the New Orleans Pelicans on July 30th and then they take on the OKC Thunder on August 1, 2020. After a day’s rest, Utah will test the Los Angeles Lakers on August 3rd and then take on the Memphis Grizzlies on August 5th. Then they have a back to back schedule against the San Antonio Spurs and Denver Nuggets on August 7 and 8, 2020. Utah finishes its seeding stage with a second matchup against the San Antonio Spurs on August 13th.
Looking at their schedule, the Jazz have two games against the Spurs who are on the bubble right now. They don’t face the Clippers which is a plus for them and the only opponents who have a better record than them right now are the Lakers and Nuggets.
I’ve seen the schedule of the other teams and I think that the Jazz have a better schedule than most, meaning they could easily climb up the rankings and get a better draw in the first round of the playoffs.
I won’t bet on the Utah Jazz to win the title or even win the Western Conference. Depending on their opponent, you can make money out of Utah in the first round of the playoffs. Without a homecourt advantage, they could be in trouble in the postseason. This team was only 21-16 against the Western Conference this season and they will be meeting Western Conference teams in their remaining schedule. Aside from their struggles against their Western Conference rivals, the Jazz also have personnel issues heading to the restart.
Utah will be without its second-leading scorer in Bogdanovic who is averaging 20.4 points per game. Although you could argue that Jordan Clarkson will be able to absorb some of the scoring load, Bogdanovic was a better overall player than JC. Of course, we will expect a better Mike Conley because given that we haven’t seen these guys play in three months, Conley should be in much better shape when the restart begins on July 30th.
Another issue will be the relationship between Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert because these two went sour after Gobert infected Mitchell with the COVID-19 virus. Although team execs have denied a rift, there is no doubt that something happened between the two and one small incidents could blow it up. It’s also unknown what the effects of the coronavirus will be on the two-star players if any, so that’s another added unknown for the Jazz.
Utah however should be a good day today bet given their schedule. The Jazz have favorable games against the Spurs ( 2 games ) and the Grizzlies. If Gobert is 100%, they could give the Thunder and Nuggets a good fight as well. This has been an interesting season for the Utah Jazz and they have found their identity this year. Hopefully, what happened with the COVID-19 situation won’t destroy what they have worked for all year long.