Ranking the Jazz’s Off-Season Priorities

May 6th, 2019 | by John Keeffer

Tobias Harris could check a few boxes for the Jazz (via Clippers.com)

For the second year in a row, the Utah Jazz had a lackluster start to the season, followed by a dominant second half. I don’t use that word lightly either. Over the second half of the last two seasons, they are a combined 61-21, with the number one net rating in the entire NBA.

Despite that second half success, it has never been enough to translate into deep postseason runs. While it is impressive that the Jazz have made it to the playoffs in three consecutive seasons, and even made it to the second round twice, that is not the ultimate goal of any team. In each of those playoff runs, similar issues have reared their ugly head, and they are issues that the Jazz will have to address this off-season.

It’s hard to check off all the boxes needed for improvement in one off-season, but if the Jazz are going to take the steps necessary to become true contenders, they need to prioritize the following needs:

  • Isolation scorer
  • Shooting depth
  • Reliable stretch four
  • Average point guard

Which comes first though? Which needs are going to trump the others? The other necessary hurdle to clear is which ones are more realistic than the other. They would love another isolation scorer to pair with Donovan Mitchell, but getting more shooting could be more obtainable.

Let’s start by simply ranking the off-season priorities for the Jazz this summer, and then we’ll throw out a few names that would be interesting targets.

1. Isolation scorer

This was a well documented topic this past season, and was especially prevalent during the series against the Rockets. It goes beyond that however. The Jazz have not had multiple isolation scorers for many years now. I would say the last time was when both Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer were on the team. It was supposed to be the case with Gordon Hayward and Rodney Hood, and then Hood and Mitchell overlapped for part of the latter’s rookie season. This past season, we just accepted that it would be Mitchell alone. It’s hard not to imagine what a Hayward-Mitchell pairing would have looked like. *sigh*

Mitchell’s usage rating was an astounding 29.3% as a rookie, which was in the 90th percentile of the entire league. In his second year, he took on an even greater load, finishing the season with a 32.2% usage rating. In all honesty, this worked most of the time during the regular season, because the Jazz have an offense based on heavy ball movement and screens. Consecutive years of playoff series against the switching defense of the Rockets made it painfully obvious that that will only get you so far.

With that in mind, the Jazz should be looking to find another player with the ability to create his own shot. They have the roster flexibility that this could come from literally any position other than center.

The nice thing about this need is that you can fulfill it while also checking off some of the other boxes. If the Jazz were to target Tobias Harris like they’ve been linked to, you’d not only be getting a player with the ability to create his own shot, but you’d also be getting the stretch four you’ve been looking for. Nab Kemba Walker and you also address the upgrade at point. Walker is obviously one of the most creative one-on-one scorers in the game today. He also had some of the best pick n’ roll numbers in the NBA, and he did that with sub-par bigs. Imagine pairing him with Rudy Gobert.

The final big time name that has floated around for a couple of years now is Khris Middleton. Middleton has a player option for the final year of his contract, but after becoming an all-star this past season, it is more than likely that he will decline that $13 million option to cash in as a free agent. Even with being an unrestricted free agent, I would be surprised if the Bucks didn’t keep him in their fold.

If the Jazz were to strike out on all of those players, there are still a few interesting players out there that could provide a spark off the bench. Terrence Ross, Jeremy Lamb, and Kelly Oubre Jr. jump out as capable scorers in the right role.

2. Stretch four

In my opinion, the need for a legitimate stretch four trumps the need for an upgrade at point guard. Over the last few seasons when the Jazz have played with a non-traditional power forward, they have consistently been better on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Per Cleaning the Glass, the Jazz are 4.6 points per possession better on offense, and 5.8 points per possession better on defense when Jae Crowder is at the power forward.

Now imagine that those Crowder minutes were given to someone of Harris’ talent level next season.

I enjoy Crowder, but his 33% 3-point shooting leaves a lot to be desired. Harris, on the other hand, has shot roughly 40% from three over the last two seasons. He is also more versatile with the ball in his hands, and has shown an ability to post up smaller players. The offensive benefits would be massive for a team like the Jazz. 

Even if you think a stretch four may hinder the dominant defense of the Jazz, that is why you have Rudy Gobert. His defensive brilliance can afford the Jazz the opportunity to take on one or two offense first players.

A few more names to keep an eye on that may fit this bill are Nikola Mirotic and Marcus Morris. 

3. Upgrade the PG position

The Ricky Rubio experience seems to have run its course here in Utah, and as much flak as Rubio gets on social media, let’s not forget that there were good moments. In his first year with the Jazz, Rubio had a career year. Over the second half that season, Rubio averaged 15.6 points, 6.1 assist, 5.3 rebounds, and shot 42.6% from three. Only two other players in the entire NBA averaged over 15, 6 and 5, while also shooting over 40 percent from three: Nikola Jokic and Kyle Lowry. We thought he might carry that second-half success over to this season, but it just never happened.

The problem with Rubio was consistency, and throughout his second year with the Jazz, he just didn’t have it. Per NBA.com, Rubio finished the season with a negative net rating this season, and a plus/minus of -2.6.

The two names you are going to consistently hear as being linked to the Jazz are Walker and Mike Conley, although the latter is under contract and would have to be brought in via trade. Both would be immediate upgrades at the position, and would provide relief to the heavy load that Mitchell is carrying offensively.

An interesting wrinkle to this is that the Jazz could experiment with moving Mitchell to the point guard position, and look to bring in another combo guard. A name that I am keeping my eye on for them is Malcolm Brogdon. At 6-foot-5, he has the ability to play both guard positions. He has increased his scoring in each of his first three seasons, and finished last season averaging 15.6 points, while shooting 42.6% from three. He is also a terrific defensive player, who would fit the culture of the Utah Jazz. 

4. Shooting depth

The shooting woes of the Jazz verses the Rockets was well documented. Overall during the regular season, the Jazz were a solid shooting team from deep. They attempted the ninth most threes per game during the regular season, and made just under 36% of those attempts, which was tenth in the NBA. During the playoffs, that number dropped down to 26%. 

Many people will say, “Oh, well that’s just because of the Rocket’s switching defense, which made it hard for Utah to run their offense and get effective looks.” That wasn’t the case however. Per Second Spectrum, the Utah Jazz had the best shot quality in the first round of the playoffs. They just routinely missed wide open shots. After game 4, they were shooting just 19% on wide open threes. League average is 38%.

Despite the regular season success, I don’t think anyone would look the Jazz roster up and down and say, “Wow! Look at all those shooters!” Kyle Korver, Joe Ingles, and perhaps Georges Niang are the only players I would say are high-level three point shooters. Everyone else falls into the average to below average range. The Jazz were an effective shooting team because of a brilliant offensive system that consistently generates open looks. Even average to below average shooters can typically make wide open shots at a decent rate…just not in the playoffs.

The Jazz will need to target more bench shooting during this off-season, and some of the names to keep an eye on are Danny Green, Ross, Trevor Ariza, Lamb, Bobby Portis, Wesley Matthews, Reggie Bullock, Wayne Ellington and Seth Curry. There are absolutely some solid options out there, and they will need to be aggressive in bringing in more reliable shooting.

The Jazz have proven to be a very good team over the last few seasons, but simply running it back is not going to get them from good to great. A lot had to happen for them to face the Rockets in the first round of the playoffs. It was the worst possible matchup for them. Against any other team minus the Warriors, the Jazz have a good chance of winning in a series. Maybe it was for the best though, because they exposed major weaknesses in Utah’s armor, and this summer is the time to address them.

John Keeffer

John is a Multimedia Journalism major at Utah's Weber State University, where he has been a sports reporter for The Signpost. He also has previous writing experience at his own blog, The Wasatch Front, as well as at The J Notes. John moved to Utah at a young age, just in time for the Jazz's back-to-back Finals runs.


  1. Gene Robl says:

    Another option: Get Mirotic for Stretch-4, keep Favors, let go of Rubio and get someone like Beverly for PG, also trade first round pick + Exum for backup guard like Danny Green or Jeremy Lamb. I’m sure that I’m not the first one to come up with this.

  2. Rick S says:

    My thoughts are in line with this.

    #1*Keep Favors,
    Marcus Morris would be a great fit ($6+Mil)
    Jeff Green is another ($2Mil)
    JaMychal Green ($8+Mil)

    #2 * Get a sharp shooter SG/SF ????
    Reggie Bullock ($2.5Mil)Maybe

    #3 *PG; I think Mitchell would be great here, but the pressure of scoring and
    facilitating others is too much, he needs a side kick like what McCollum is
    in Portland. I’m a Patrick Beverley fan for PG and a trade for Landry
    would be great also.

    My soap box issue is cut our loses with Exum, trade him! The opportunity cost is killing the Jazz for both time and money

  3. Larry Revels says:

    What about the kid from Duke? Played one game and hit for 40 some pts. Seems like he should be given a chance.

  4. Spencer says:

    My Picks:

    Malcom Brogden-Brogden is the most efficent shooter in the NBA this last year and for his career is on a great trajectory. (Similar percentages to Curry actually) I think we can get him for less because of injury and not a freak athlete. (20 mil)
    JaMychal Green-Actually shot over 50% from three in the playoffs. over 40% during the season. A very good defender who can switch and makes free throws. 10mil

    Keep Favors as he is a major part of our main offensive advantage which is rim scoring and pressure.

    If there is a way to get Beverly for anything near the MLE then get him and turn Brogden or Ingles in to your bench offensive guy.

  5. Spencer says:

    Another guy I love is George Hill. Is he gettable at anything reasonable?

  6. Derrick says:

    5. Rudy Gobert
    4. Tobias Harris
    3. Khris Middleton
    2. Donovan Mitchell
    1. Mike Conley

    I doubt the salary cap would work out for that specific lineup, but any one of those three guys would be a fantastic upgrade and a huge improvement in those positions. Particularly Middleton and Harris.

    The Favors loyalty is funny. I love Favors too but we need more scoring. The Association has changed. We’re seeing over/unders hertofore only seen in all-star games. It’s not uncommon now to see teams go off for 120+ points a night. Favors is a great player but he isn’t a phenomenal scorer and more importantly he doesn’t stretch the floor—and that’s what the Jazz need if they want to win playoff games. Utah fans are so funny, we get so caught up in the identity of our team. We will live and die with average to below average players for the simple fact that they play for Utah. I have a buddy who still owns a C.J. Miles jersey for example. Ronnie Price was a joke—yet universally beloved. Ronnie Brewer same story. In the early 2010’s you couldn’t take a stroll through a Utah Walmart parking lot without spotting twelve Al Jefferson jerseys.Trevor Booker was a fan favorite and from the way he was talked about you’d have thought he was in discussions for the MVP. And don’t even get me started on the hype built around Devin Harris and Randy Foye. My point is, Favors is a fine player, but if he had spent the last eight years in Brooklyn and the Jazz were just trading for him now, Jazz Nation would be in an absolute uproar. Just because he’s familiar doesn’t mean that he’s the right fit.

  7. Pingback: Eyeing PG Options Not Named Walker | Salt City Hoops

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