With the 2018-19 NBA season quickly approaching, we're rolling out 30 Teams in 30 Days. Between now and opening night, we're dedicating one day to each team in the league, starting with the five teams in the Northwest Division.
After looking at the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday, here's everything you need to know about the Utah Jazz entering the season.
2017-18 season record
48-34 (No. 5 seed in the Western Conference)
Projected 2018-19 season record
48.5 (tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference)
Grayson Allen (21st pick in the 2018 NBA Draft)
Jonas Jerebko (waived)
3 key storylines
Donovan Mitchell's development
With an average of 20.5 points, 3.7 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game in his first regular season, Mitchell finished behind only Ben Simmons in Rookie of the Year voting.
The 22-year-old then stepped it up in a big way in the playoffs, outplaying Russell Westbrook and Paul George in the first round by doing something we haven't seen since 1970.
According to @EliasSports @spidadmitchell has 171 points in first 6 career playoff games, 3rd-most by a rookie in NBA history behind Lew Alcindor in 1970 (216 Pts) and Wilt Chamberlain in 1960 (199).- ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 28, 2018
If Mitchell can build off of his regular season and postseason success by establishing himself as a legitimate star, the Jazz could find themselves in the running for homecourt advantage in the Western Conference this season. And who knows, depending on how much Mitchell does improve, it wouldn't be a complete surprise to see them make a run at the Western Conference Finals.
Rudy Gobert and Dante Exum both missed significant time with injuries last season. Gobert plays a bigger role than Exum - the Jazz are a completely different team when the Defensive Player of the Year is on the court - but Exum showcased his value in the second round of the postseason when he slowed down the league's MVP.
Exum's versatility on defense and potential on offense is a big reason why the Jazz signed him to a three-year, $33 million extension this season even though he's battled injuries his entire NBA career.
If he can stay healthy, Exum's contract could turn out to be a steal down the road.
Ricky Rubio's 3-point shooting
After struggling to space the floor in his first six seasons in the NBA, Rubio established himself as a reliable threat from 3-point range in his first season with the Jazz. According to NBA.com, the Spaniard knocked down 37.6 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts, putting him on the same page as Khris Middleton, Wesley Matthews and Danny Green on the season.
|Season||Pct of Total FGA||3PM||3PA||3P%|
The bulk of Rubio's 3-point attempts were wide open, and that's unlikely to change as long as Mitchell is the leader of the offense. If Rubio can make those opportunities at a similar rate this season, the Jazz should finish higher than the middle of the league in offensive efficiency.
5 games to watch
Oct. 24 vs. Houston Rockets
The Rockets took down the Jazz in five games in the second round of last season's playoffs. The loss of Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute, plus some improvement from Mitchell, could close the gap between Houston and Utah.
Nov. 9 vs. Boston Celtics
Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury on opening night in 2017-18, so this will be the first time he returns to Utah as a visitor. Every NBA fan should tune in for this game.
Dec. 10 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
You best believe Russell Westbrook and Paul George will have this game circled on their calendar based on how last season ended for them. This will be the first of four matchups between the Thunder and Jazz this season, the last coming on March 11.
Dec. 25 vs. Portland Trail Blazers
The final game on a loaded Christmas Day slate. Not only does the individual matchup of Mitchell vs. Damian Lillard make for must-see TV, it should be a competitive game, with only one game separating the Blazers and Jazz in the standings last season.
Dec. 27 vs. Philadelphia 76ers
They're no longer battling it out for the Rookie of the Year award, but you can expect Mitchell and Ben Simmons to bring their A-game whenever they play against each other.