We continue our “Seasons in Review” series with a look at Jazz Gaming, a team that raced out of the gates in the regular season before falling down more than an octave or two.
Current roster: Yeah I Compete, Deedz
Protections: Yeah I Compete, Deedz
Offseason transactions: None
Draft picks: 1st round (1st overall), 2nd (23rd), 3rd (39th), 4th (55th)
The Good: The Jazz played really well early in the season. They sat as high as third place, at 5-2, before Week 7, with ancillary scorers such as Smoove and Yeah I Compete’s pick-and-roll partner MrSlaughter proving efficient and perfectly complementary. The team made the elimination round of The Tipoff tournament early on. Point guard Compete proved to fit perfectly in Utah and engaged in some memorable games with his fellow top-3 picks early. Deedz wound up being exactly the versatile player the Jazz had in mind when they drafted him, playing essentially every position.
The Bad: Remember that 5-2 record? That didn’t last long. The Jazz dropped their final seven games of the season, tumbling to a 5-9 final record and losing their opening game in both the Turn and Ticket tournaments. The team as a whole lost its original identity and integrity. Compete switched to and played an ineffective shot-creating slasher. The defense dropped like a stone—the team finished second-last is opponent points per possession and allowed over 60 percent shooting from the field. Rotational efficiency dropped, players fell out of the rotation, and the Jazz slipped to shooting 42.5 percent from beyond he arc, second-last in the league.
The Good: Let’s start with the obvious. The Jazz have the first overall pick after winning the draft lottery. It’s a modest jump, from No. 3 to No. 1, but it nicely dispelled rumors about the team trading the pick for a protected player. The team is really happy with Compete after season one, and his chemistry with Deedz augurs well for building next season’s culture. They should be happy with a team that looks flexible enough to accommodate a variety of potential draft picks while building around an obvious franchise cornerstone in Compete. Did I mention that they have the first overall pick?
The Bad: Let’s ignore the rumours that the Jazz might have been trying to acquire Ramo from the Pistons with that first overall pick. The team doesn’t have a manager lined up for next season; the open position listed on TeamworkOnline is merely a seasonal one, without full decision-making power and without any drafting input. That could mean that Compete and Deedz are really running the draft show, which doesn’t necessarily augur well for an impartial process. Lack of decisive coaching proved deleterious to the team last season, as Jazz Gaming was unable to adjust effectively to the patch. They’ll also have to integrate four new players to Utah, which isn’t necessarily bad but is certainly indicative of the team’s desired clean start.
The Big Question
What will be the core identity of this team?
As I’ve reiterated, the Jazz really like Compete and value him as their franchise cornerstone. What happens when the team brings in someone with the first overall pick, two spots higher than Compete went last season? They certainly won’t look to bring in a merely complementary player, and while that will maximize their talent it may also create problems, unless Compete gets a friend selected (though everything changes with real money on the line). Taking a big man makes a lot of sense here. But the Jazz demonstrated last season that they didn’t have quite as much integrity as their hot start suggested. Without a coach handling the integration and without a clear culture, and potentially with two franchise cornerstones on the court(a very nice thing to have), what will bring the team together and enable them to maximize their talent through good and bad times?