What Does the Recent Play of the Utah Jazz Mean for Their Future?
Just 20 days ago, the Utah Jazz traded young center Enes Kanter to the Oklahoma City Thunder in a trade deadline move that, in a nutshell, returned two 2017 picks (one protected first-rounder). Needless to say, I don't think the Jazz are looking back.
At 27-36, the Jazz haven't had a great season by any means. They're 11th in the West and 19th in our current power rankings. But, lately the youthful Jazz have shown signs of a promising future.
What does that mean going forward?
Without the recently departed Kanter, the Jazz have been nothing short of outstanding. In the 10 games since the trade, Utah is 8-2 overall -- tied for the second-best record in the league in that span. But, there is some good news and some bad news hidden in that record.
The bad news is that, despite their 8-2 record, the Jazz have a 0% chance to make the playoffs and their two losses came to the likes of the Lakers and Celtics -- two teams below them in our power rankings. In fact, in a home game against the Lakers, the Jazz gave up 100 points, which is the most they've given up in their last 10 games.
So what's the good news? Everything else.
In a six-game span, the Jazz bested the Trail Blazers, Spurs, Bucks, and Memphis -- four surefire playoff teams. The highlight of those four wins was a 93-82 win at Memphis, during which Rudy Gobert finished with 15 points and a ridiculous 24 boards.
Gobert's outstanding play isn't confined to one game though. Since Kanter's departure, The Stifle Tower is averaging 9.7 points per game on 54.7% shooting from the floor. Now that's' not all too impressive, but Gobert's defense and rebounding has been. In the last 10 games, he's grabbing 13.3 rebounds, blocking 3 shots per game, and posting a Defensive Rating of 84.7 points per 100 possessions.
As for the team, they've also thrived on the defensive end of the floor. The Jazz have held their last 10 opponents to 83.4 points per game on an average of 39.7% shooting from the floor, and since February 20th, Utah's Defensive Rating of 89.6 is first in the NBA and Net Rating of 9.8 is third in the league.
So, if you're going to build a bright future in Utah, why not start with a stifling defense?
However, defense isn't all the Jazz have going for them. Utah is the youngest team in the league with an average player age of 23.5 years old -- 0.1 years younger than the Philadelphia 76ers.
Utah's three best and most promising players -- the aforementioned Gobert, Derrick Favors, and Gordon Hayward -- are all 24 years old or younger and have already proven themselves as starters in the NBA. All three have a nERD of at least 5.8 and are among the top 26 players, according to our rankings. nERD is our way of measuring a player's on-court impact. A player whose nERD is 5.8 means that a roster full of average team could expect to win 5.8 games above .500 on the season if that player was a starter.
With a trio of efficient players and a solid defense in place, the Jazz have a foundation of talent on which to build their future, and it's starting to show. Now all we can do, as NBA fans, is look on and hope that the Jazz reach their full potential.
In the meantime, sit back and enjoy plays like this.