In May 2017, the Utah Jazz were just coming off a 4-game series sweep to the soon-to-be NBA Champion, Golden State Warriors. That was after the Utah franchise beat the Los Angeles Clippers in 7 games in the first round of the playoffs (their first appearance in 5 years). Now all of the focus was on all-star Gordon Hayward and if he would stay with the team. Fans found out on the 4thof the July that he was heading out to Boston to join his former college coach with the Celtics. With the delayed answer, the Jazz front office was left scrambling to salvage the damage that Hayward left the state of Utah.
Once the NBA draft came around, a lot of scouts and executives didn’t see any “Franchise” players that could come in and make a difference from day one. Then the Jazz traded their 24thpick in the first round to Denver for the 13thpick. The Nuggets (via the Jazz) selected guard Donovan Mitchell from Louisville. Not a lot of fans in the state were familiar with his game. The main thing that stood out was his defense, a rare thing to find in a rookie. A few weeks after the draft, the fans were treated to Donovan Mitchell’s impressive Summer League play. At the start of the season, Mitchell came in, took over, and didn’t stop. He broke many NBA rookie records as well as Jazz records–actually too many to name. The Jazz were bit by the injury bug and lost star center Rudy Gobert for two different stretches of the season.
By January 22nd, the Jazz had a 19-28 record and all hope was lost among the fanbase. Then came a bitter defeat to the Atlanta Hawks, whom had one of the worst records in the NBA. The Jazz had one streak of 11 games without a loss and another 9-game winning streak. They made themselves one of the hottest teams in the NBA and launched themselves in the 5thspot in the western conference. They finished the season 29-6 and an overall record of 48-34.
All of a sudden the Jazz had three members of their team nominated as finalists for end of season awards:
- Quin Snyder for Coach of the year
- Rudy Gobert for Defensive Player of the year
- Donovan Mitchell for Rookie of the year.
Regardless of what happens in this year’s playoffs, Jazz fans should be extremely excited for the future because of how young the team is and the bright future of Gobert and Mitchell. Come on, Mitchell is already averaging over 20 points per game in his first season! He and Rudy Gobert could become the next great duo that could go down in history as one of the greats. This tandem could keep the Jazz in the playoffs for many years to come just like the good ol’ days.