If you blinked this offseason, you might have missed the Utah Jazz transforming from fringe playoff team to legitimate title contender.
With Kevin Durant leaving the Warriors, the NBA title picture seems to be wide open for the first time in a while, and no team appears more ready to take advantage of this than the Jazz.
It started when they made a major trade for former Memphis star Mike Conley. Conley has always been underrated, but he truly is one of the best point guards in the league and serves as a massive upgrade over Ricky Rubio. His addition will enable Donovan Mitchell to play off the ball, which is where he is far more efficient, as well as open up the floor for him as teams will need to respect Conley’s 3-point shooting. He will also help fill the void in the locker room left by the departing Derrick Favors. Utah didn't even have to give up a whole lot to bring in Conley, only sacrificing one first round pick and a handful of role players.
The other big move the Jazz made, a move that was easy to miss with all of the superstars changing teams, was signing Bojan Bogdanovic away from the Pacers. Bogdanovic averaged a career best 18 points per game last season while shooting a scorching hot 42.5% from three. He's a big upgrade over Jae Crowder and can play either forward spot, giving the Utah more lineup flexibility.
Yet another sneaky good move from the Jazz was signing center Ed Davis to back up Rudy Gobert. I was personally shocked that the market for Davis was so quiet, and the Jazz were the beneficiaries getting him on a cheap one year deal.
The team didn't draft a player in the first round but made 3 selections in the back half of the second round. The first pick was Jarrell Brantley out of College of Charleston at number 50 overall. The four year college player demonstrated an ability to grow every season and averaged a career high 19+ PPG as a senior while shooting 32% from three in his career. Pretty solid for a 6’7” 260 pound big man.
The second pick the team made in the draft was selecting Hofstra guard Justin Wright-Foreman at 53. He showed the ability to be a go-to scorer in college, averaging 27+ PPG in his final season and hit threes at a 38.6% clip. His defense needs work, but he has the characteristics to be a difference maker on offense.
Finally, the team selected shooting guard Miye Oni at 58 out of Yale. He showed consistent shooting in school as well as elite vision and playmaking, albeit against light competition in the Ivy League. If things go well for the Jazz, none of these three should get any consistent run this season.
Offseason Grade: A | Predicted Western Conference Ranking: 4
The Jazz transformed themselves from quality middle-of-the-pack team into legit title contenders this season. If that doesn’t warrant an A, I don't know what does. They didn't even need to sacrifice much in order to bring that talent in, with the only true loss being Derrick Favors.
The trio of Conley, Gobert, and Mitchell is as legit as any “Big 3” in the league right now. Don't be surprised if the Jazz are the last team standing in the West when all is said and done.
Graduate of Loyola Maryland and die hard Boston sports fan. "I rub it in pretty good when I win" - Tom Brady