We’ll take a look at all 30 teams in the next 30 days as they prepare for the 2017-2018 regular season, which is when the real fireworks begin! Today's team: The Utah Jazz.
BOSTON -- Like most cities across the country on the Fourth of July, there were plenty of fireworks in Salt Lake City.
But certainly, not the kind to the liking of the Utah Jazz who had quite the Fourth of July bomb dropped on them that day by Gordon Hayward, who informed them that he was moving on to Boston and play for his old college coach, Brad Stevens.
So, here are the Jazz, a team built around Hayward and on the rise, now having to go to a Hayward-less Plan B and reshape a team that still has plenty of pieces to contend for a playoff spot.
Rising star Rudy Gobert will likely become a bigger centerpiece of Utah’s efforts to build upon last season’s success, which saw them win 51 games and advance to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2010 which was also the last time they won more than 50 (they won 53 that year) regular season games.
The 7-foot-1 Gobert was instrumental in Utah’s defense being ranked third in the NBA with a defensive rating of 102.7.
He averaged a double-double last season of 14.0 points and 12.8 rebounds along with a league-best 2.6 blocked shots per game.
But of greater importance to Utah is finding a replacement to fill the void of Hayward as well as George Hill (Sacramento) who when healthy, made the Jazz one of the toughest teams in the NBA to beat.
With Hill in the lineup, the Jazz were 33-16 last season. Without him, they were just 18-15.
As much as the Jazz will surely miss Hayward and Hill, there is reason for some level of optimism going forward.
First-round pick Donovan Mitchell was among the standout rookies in summer league play, showcasing a more well-rounded game than many envisioned at this point. Of course, it was summer league and as we all know, success there doesn’t necessarily immediately result in strong play against experienced, NBA talent.
The replacement for Hayward will surely be by committee, which includes newcomers Thabo Sefolosha and former Celtic Jonas Jerebko.
But when it comes to replacing Hill, those duties will primarily be manned by Ricky Rubio.
Rubio doesn’t shoot the ball as well as Hill, but his court vision ranks among the best in the NBA which is evident by him averaging 9.1 assists per game last season which ranked fifth in the league.
His ability to get guys the ball in position to score will go far in Utah’s quest to move past the disappointment of seeing Hayward leave after seven seasons.
But with a handful of newcomers as well as some additional talent through the draft, the Jazz are optimistic that they can provide some fireworks for fans this season with another trip to the playoffs.
Key free agent/draft/trade additions: Ricky Rubio (Minnesota); Jonas Jerebko (Boston); Thabo Sefolosha (Atlanta).
Key losses: Gordon Hayward (Boston).
Rookies of note: Donovan Mitchell; Tony Bradley.
Expectations: 47-35 (third in the Northwest Division, sixth in the West).