2014-15 Record: 38-44
C Tibor Pleiss, PG Raul Neto, PF Trey Lyles
SF Jeremy Evans
Projected 2015-16 Lineup
PG Trey Burke, SG Alec Burks, SF Gordon Hayward, PF Derrick Favors, C Rudy Gobert
This front court is underrated. If Favors and Gobert decide to keep things rolling for years, the Utah Jazz could take over the Memphis Grizzlies duo’s mantle. The type of rebounding and paint protection that Gobert and Favors offer won’t be overlooked this season if they play the way they did at the end of 2014-15 and make a run to the playoffs in the always tough Western Conference. The job of the wings and backcourt will simply be to feed them inside in favorable situations and to hit their shots and successfully use their cutting opportunities. Burks and Hayward were solid three-point shooters while Burke is viewed as a player with the type of shot that should succeed. This could be the start of something nice in Utah.
X-Factor: Rudy Gobert
Gobert has comparables — according to the FiveThirtyEight CARMELO projections — of DeAndre Jordan, Samuel Dalembert, Javale McGee, and Tyson Chandler. Obviously two of those names are great, one is fine, and one seems bad. But, Gobert is a monster at protecting the paint and is simply enormous. Within 6 feet of the basket, opponents shoot 48% against Gobert, 11 percentage points less than normal for players that he defended. The Frenchman ranked 8th overall in the NBA in the difference between a shooter’s normal percentage and when defended by a player within six feet. That includes some iffy inclusion of some guards and wings, and Gobert is the fifth-best front court player at this and third-best full-time center. The point? Gobert can be a one-man defensive wrecking crew and the Jazz were 27-23 after Gobert starting playing in January.
Most To Prove: Trey Burke
The injury to Dante Exum seems to be an x-mark on the Jazz season, but Trey Burke actually had the highest assist percentage1 in 2014-15 on the team. Unfortunately that was just 34.4%, not bad on its own, but a far cry from the other point guards he’s up against daily. Exum may have the pedigree, but Burke could stake a claim to the starting job for the time being with a solid year as a true point guard.
Why They’re Worth Watching
I mentioned it above and I want to see some old school front court, power basketball. The front line should be all over the court blocking shots and snapping up rebounds while Gobert can dunk on the offensive side and Favors has a nice back-to-the-basket game.
The defense just smothers teams in the paint and the wings shoot a high volume and efficient percentage from deep, leading to a balanced and high quality team. 50-32
Small samples from Gobert make it a risk to rely this much on him being a game changer. Burke also shot poorly from deep last year especially considering how often he shot. With Exum down, if Burke doesn’t turn things around, they’ll struggle. 35-47
Projected 2015-16 Record: 42-40
Percentage of total assists that the player had when he was on the floor ↩