The Utah Jazz pivoted in the summer of 2022, jettisoning their top stars and going in a new direction by appointing the second-youngest coach in the league.
Danny Ainge took charge of their rebuild after setting the Boston Celtics up for success and he’s looking to the long-term in Salt Lake City.
That means Jazz fans will have to be patient this time around, as this season could see them take a step back in a stacked Western Conference.
|2022/23 Utah Jazz||Record: 37-45|
|Result: 12th in the Western Conference, Missed the playoffs|
|To win 2023/24 NBA Championship||+25000|
|To win 2023/24 Western Conference||+12500|
Markkanen was moved as little more than salary dump in the Donovan Mitchell trade in 2022, having failed to establish himself with both the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls. However, a breakout yet brought not just All-Star recognition, but the Most Improved Player award.
The forward marked himself out as the best player on the Jazz, while at just 26 years of age he’s young enough to fit their timeline. His scoring rocketed with more room on the floor on the offensive end as he averaged 25.6 points per game.
Markkanen also posted career-highs in field goal percentage, assists and blocks per game. He was also given a lot more room to work in, as he hit a career-high for minutes too.
This season will be about nailing down the Finn’s true level. He’s not quite a main-man on a contender, but could he grow into a solid third option for a future, better, version of the Jazz? As he refines his game, that’s the main thing to watch out for.
Kessler was sent to the Jazz as an add-on in the Rudy Gobert trade. His development made people wonder if the Minnesota Timberwolves made a mistake in giving him up.
Kessler capped off a good 22/23 campaign with a place on Team USA at the FIBA World Cup, which is a big leap in less than 12 months.
Kessler finished third in the Rookie of the Year ballot and there’s a lot of excitement about the center’s defensive potential. In his rookie season, he averaged 2.3 blocks per game, alongside 0.4 steals and 8.4 rebounds. He’s a brilliant defensive option, and his scoring will surely improve over time.
Kessler showed what he is capable of in a revenge-game win over the Timberwolves earlier this year. The Auburn product posted 20 points and an incredible 21 rebounds against the side that sent him to Utah.
His sophomore season will be about softening his edges, while continuing to build on his excellent defensive abilities.
|John Collins (F)||Atlanta Hawks|
|Omer Yurtseven (C)||Miami Heat|
|Taylor Hendricks (F)||Draft (Round 1, Pick 9)|
|Keyonte George (G)||Draft (Round 1, Pick 16)|
|Brice Sensabaugh (F)||Draft (Round 1, Pick 28)|
|Rudy Gay (F)||Atlanta Hawks|
|Juan Toscano-Anderson (F)||Free Agent|
The Jazz have an incredibly tricky start to the new campaign, which pits them against five of the top six sides from last season’s Western Conference.
The Jazz open with a home double header, first against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday October 26th, then they host the LA Clippers the following Saturday. Next it’s two consecutive away games facing arguably the strongest teams in the West, the Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets.
The Jazz return home to meet the Memphis Grizzlies, before they host the Orlando Magic on November 3rd. The Jazz’s first 10 games are rounded out with a four-game away trip, which takes them to Minnesota, Chicago, Indiana and Memphis.
The Jazz built their 2022/23 campaign on a fast start, but that will be tough to repeat.
The Jazz were expected to be among the worst teams in the league last season, but a great start turned that on its head. They spent much of the campaign in the mix for a Play-In place, only to slip to 12th when the dust settled.
That surprise season alongside the eye-catching signing of John Collins has led to more optimism for Utah. Their over/under for total regular season wins is 36.5. However, it’s worth remembering that this Jazz side lost key players at the trade deadline, chiefly guard Mike Conley.
The Jazz went 9-12 after the deadline and they’re competing in a Western Conference which looks incredibly deep. They were the best of the rest after a clear top 11, while the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs behind them have taken clear steps forward.
With that in mind, don’t be surprised to see the Jazz slide.