30 teams in 30 days: Plan B for Jazz? Gobert the go-to guy


30 teams in 30 days: Plan B for Jazz? Gobert the go-to guy

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).

Jerebko hoping for a winning return to Boston


Jerebko hoping for a winning return to Boston

When Jonas Jerebko was with the Celtics, his play and performance often drew very little fanfare or notice from anyone other than his teammates and coaches. 
Now with the Utah Jazz and back in Boston for the first time, he is once again a low-key -- but important -- contributor. 

And it's a role that Jerebko doesn’t mind playing, in part because of his time in Boston. 

“It’s all about winning over there,” Jerebko told the Deseret News recently. “I had three great seasons there, going to the playoffs, Eastern Conference finals and a lot of winning, so I just learned that this league is about winning and that’s it.”
While that’s true, Jerebko’s role with the Jazz appears to be slightly more prominent than it was in Boston. 
In his two-plus seasons in Boston, Jerebko made six starts. We’re not even at Christmas yet in his first season in Utah and the 6-foot-10 forward has already had 10 starts for the Jazz.  He’s also averaging 6.3 points, which is more than he ever averaged in a full season for the Celtics. And he’s shooting a career-high 44.4 percent from 3-point range. 
The numbers are better in Utah, but Jerebko is more concerned with helping the Jazz (13-14) rack up a few more wins.
“It’s all about that win in that column, so that’s really what I learned in spending my time [in Boston],” Jerebko said. “It was a good time.”
Here are five under-the-radar story lines leading up to tonight’s game between the Boston Celtics and Utah Jazz. 

Fans are in for a treat tonight when two of the NBA’s top rookies will be on the floor. Boston’s Jayson Tatum, the NBA’s top 3-pointer shooter this season, has established himself as one of the top rookies in most categories. Meanwhile, Utah’s Donovan Mitchell has made a name for himself as one of the league’s best first-year players, evident by him averaging 17.8 points per game, which is tops among all rookies. 

Keep an eye on Boston’s 3-point defense. The Celtics come into tonight’s game limiting opponents to 33.8 percent on 3’s, which is the second-lowest average in the NBA. They face a Utah team that has been among the league’s best this season. The Jazz are shooting 38.3 percent from 3-point range, which ranks fifth in the league.

Limiting their mistakes will once again be a key for the Celts because few teams capitalize on mistakes as well as Utah. The Jazz force 16.5 turnovers per game, which ranks second in the NBA. But more impactful is the points those turnovers produce. The Jazz come into tonight’s game having averaged 19.1 points off turnovers, which ranks fifth in the NBA. 

This was supposed to be his first time facing his old team, but the dislocated left ankle injury he suffered on Oct. 17 has put him on the shelf for what’s expected to be the rest of this season. Still, that won’t prevent his former teammates from playing with a little extra something. As for the Celtics, they have had a tremendous amount of success against Utah at home which can only enhance their chances of winning tonight. 

While the Celtics are playing a ton of games before most teams in the NBA, the Jazz have their own scheduling nightmare to deal with. Specifically, the caliber of opponents that they have ahead of them is pretty daunting. They play the Celtics tonight followed by a road game against Cleveland on Saturday. From there, they face Houston and Oklahoma City on the road, then come home to take on the San Antonio Spurs (who now have Kawhi Leonard back in the mix). Including the Celtics game tonight, seven of Utah’s remaining games in the calendar year 2017 are against teams with an above-.500 record.



WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. Utah Jazz


WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. Utah Jazz

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics host the Jazz at TD Garden. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: Slumping Jazz look to break long losing streak in Boston

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]