Best, Worse Case Scenario After Two Weeks of Play

October 31st, 2017 | by Steve Godfrey

Melissa Majchrzak via utahjazz.com

Two weeks into the 2017-18 NBA season, the Utah Jazz have already shown fans both Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. When times are good, like a third-quarter dominance against Oklahoma City, things are really good. But when things go wrong, as they did in a surprising loss to the hapless Phoenix Suns last week, it’s a nightmare that makes Pennywise seem like a teddy bear.

Jazz coach Quin Snyder sees it too. Following the Jazz’s Saturday night win over the Los Angeles Lakers, Snyder answered a string of questions about his players by pointing to things they’re doing well and areas for improvement. Finally, he summed up his team’s personnel situation by saying, “We’ve got all these guys that are half-empty, half-full. I feel like it’s half-full.”

Similarly, fans kind-of-sort-of saw this coming. The Jazz held the potential for things to be good, but we all kind of squirmed in our seats a bit recognizing the possibility of a letdown. With just a few weeks under our belts, the Jazz still find themselves in the beginning of a corn maze. They can turn left and the season can all go right and fine and dandy and be a success. Or, they can turn right and it can all go wrong, loops and loops of confusion, frustration, and failure with freaky costumed dudes jumping out at you. Here’s how it could play out.

How It All Goes Right:

The Jazz will be in nearly every ball game because they play no-nonsense defense built around Rudy Gobert. His length and the famed Gobert-effect will alter shots and plays that give his team a fighting chance, home or away. Better yet, the player most likely to challenge Gobert for his blocks crown plays behind him as Ekpe Udoh can get it done, too1 Knowing guys like Gobert and Udoh lurk in the shadows, Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell, and Joe Ingles will harass and mug guards across the league as they pick pockets better than a teenager stealing their sibling’s Halloween candy. Deservedly, Gobert will make his first All-Star team. While at his first all-star weekend, someone will muster the courage to ask Gobert to help them out in the dunk contest. Instead of letting them jump over him, however, he’ll just keep blocking them at the rim instead.

But speaking of Rubio, Ricky will dress up as Kyle Korver for Halloween but girls across Jazz Nation will ask him to ditch that so-2000s-heartthrob as they now obsess over the Spanish man-bun and rugged-beard 2017 point guard. Loving his new home, and all his fans, Rubio will be the floor general fans are used to. He’ll finish third for the season with an average 10 assists a game (up from 9.1 and 5th in the league last year) while he also thieves his way to two steals a contest, good for top five by the end of the year. Rubio scored 19 points and dished out 10 dimes early this year versus Minnesota, but by the end of the year that won’t be such a rare feat.

Best of all, for the season to all go right, the Gastric Distress bug (which has already claimed Rodney Hood and Ingles as victims this season) will fly away to torment the Clippers instead. The Utah Jazz will find themselves mostly injury free from now on, even Derrick Favors will appear in 76 of 82 games, continuing to play 26-30 minutes a game.

Having it all go right doesn’t translate to 50 wins, but it does lead to an above-.500 record, 46-36, and a playoff berth as the surprise No. 5 seed, giving the world another classic Rockets-Jazz postseason story. Based on a supposed lack of superstar talent and exceeding preseason expectations, Snyder passes Brad Stevens as the darling coach of the league and finishes top five in Coach of the Year voting. In fact, Boston asks Snyder if he’d like to coach the Celtics next year. Snyder takes a couple of extra hours before publishing his blog post to say that he actually wishes to stay in Utah.

How It All Goes Wrong:

In a preseason game, TJ Warren decides to jump over Dante Exum, causing shoulder surgery and another missed year for the 22-year-old Exum. Oh, wait, that already happened. Right before the tip of the first game, listed starter Rodney Hood will suddenly beeline for the locker room with some potty problems. Oh, wait, that already happened, too. Now that is spooky.

The Jazz hope they won’t see too much of this during the 2017-18 season.

Just like how characters in scary movies make poor decisions, we all predicted (correctly) that the Jazz would struggle to find offense, being led in scoring by a different Jazz player every other night2 Consequently, the Jazz will rank dead last in points per game and close to last in offensive efficiency (currently true), making many wonder if the zombies in Michael Jackson’s thriller video could score better (also currently true?).

The D will still be good, but it goes wrong too often when Gobert has an off night and Ingles gambles too much. Plus, teams just know if they can score more than 90, they’ll win on the nights the Jazz can’t reach that threshold. Surprisingly, the Jazz will lose steam down the stretch in too many games that home attendance will falter as fans cannot endure another losing season, another rebuild, another tank that doesn’t bear fruit. The only silver lining will be if Garth Brooks come back to town.

And sadly, by midseason, Jazz Twitter will be in flames with furious debates: “To Tank or Not To Tank.” The Jazz lose to the Suns again, as well as DeMarre Carroll’s Nets and even — gasp — the Lakers. If it does all indeed go wrong, it won’t be pretty.

Fingers Crossed

Let’s hope that the season goes right, or at least somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. The Jazz offered hope for the best-case scenario with their 2-1 start, just a few plays away from 3-0. But their second week was less than stellar with the 1-2 record, including the dud to Phoenix. If they even it out and find more consistency in their roles and identity, I expect the Jazz to hit this thing right down the middle. Yes, there will be some bad nights, but there will also be a lot of good, a postseason berth, and plenty of reasons to be proud to be a part of #JazzNation.

Steve Godfrey

Steve studied journalism and English, and now teaches in Northern Utah. He also blogs at thetorturedfan.com. He joined the Salt City Hoops team at the start of the 2017-18 season to connect with more Jazz fans and find a way to apply his passion for writing and for basketball.

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