If you couldn’t already tell, full disclosure, I am a Utah Jazz fan. Now that that’s out of the way, lets focus on the facts.
If you were looking at the NBA power rankings for the first half of the season, you would think the Jazz were the most inconsistent team in the league. Those rankings are not a good indicator of their success in the beginning of the season.
One example comes from week five power rankings. During the first four weeks of the season, the Utah Jazz, the Los Angeles Lakers, and the Milwaukee Bucks were ranked in the all-time top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. What were the rankings that week? Lakers first, Bucks second, and Jazz sixth. At this time, the Jazz had the same win-loss record as the Bucks, and were ranked higher than them in pace, defensive rating, offensive rating, and net rating. Also, keep in mind that they had the third best record in the western conference, behind the Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers.
A few days after those rankings came out, Shaquille O’Neal decided to conduct a very awkward interview with Utah Jazz shooting guard, Donovan Mitchell. Shaq said, “you are one of my favorite players, but you don’t have what it takes to get to the next level. I said it on purpose, I want you to hear it. What do you have to say about that?” To which Donovan replied, “alright.”
This is something people have been telling Donovan since his rookie year, no matter how well the Jazz perform. They were on a seven game win streak and had one of the best records in the west when Shaq said that.
The Jazz didn’t let any of the noise from the media get to them. They continued their winning streak and made it 11 games in a row before losing, which is the longest winning streak in the league this season. They also clinched the first place spot in weeks 9, 10, and 11 of power rankings. Currently, they’re third in power rankings and first in the western conference. They have three wins over the second place team in the west, are still ranked in the all-time top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency and sent three of their players to the NBA All-Star game.
With all their success, you’d think they would start being taken seriously. No. Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert were among the original picks for the All-Star game. They had a third member, Michael Conley, join the game after a couple other players were kicked out due to COVID-19 contact tracing. Since Conley was filling in, he wasn’t part of picking teams.
The captains for this year’s NBA All-Star game were Lebron James and Kevin Durant. Neither of them wanted Donovan Mitchell or Rudy Gobert. Not even Rudy Gobert! And he’s a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
Lebron’s reasoning? He had this to say, “I just want to say something, because there’s no slander to the Utah Jazz but you guys got to understand, just like in video games growing up, we never played with Utah. Even as great as Karl Malone and John Stockton were, we never would have picked those guys. Never.” No slander, huh? We do not live in a video game. The league needs to accept that the Jazz are a force to be reckoned with.
The Jazz are not allowed to as inconsistent as other teams, and too much weight is placed on Donovan Mitchell’s shoulders. I can remember several times the Jazz have choked during important games, and I’ve been a disappointed fan, but not this year. The Jazz are going to come in hot during the NBA finals and I think a lot of people are going to be surprised by their abilities.