Before the Utah Jazz even began their first-round playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks, there were significant questions about their chemistry, viability as a winner, and ceiling. It was no secret that their two superstars, Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, don’t care for one another. The tension between the two goes all the way to pre-pandemic times. Danny Ainge and the Utah front office have surrounded Gobert with a bunch of aging perimeter players who can’t defend.
The 2019 trade that brought Mike Conley to Utah has been an unmitigated disaster. The 34-year-old guard is a shell of the player he was in Memphis and never regained the defensive form that made him such a lethal two-way player with the Grizzlies. Elsewhere, the Jazz roster is filled out with broken players who, judging by their on-court rapport and play, seem genuinely unhappy to be playing in Utah i.e. Rudy Gay, Royce O’Neal, Hassan Whiteside, Danuel House. Only last year’s Sixth Man of the Year, Jordan Clarkson, and sharpshooting big man Bojan Bogdanović played with any joie de vivre.
To put it plainly, this team needs to be broken up. Not just because of an inflated payroll or maximized ceiling, but because the chemistry of this long-contained core has reached well past its expiration. They quit on their city and, worse, each other in the recent series against the Mavs. This was especially evident in games one through three when the Jazz starters were outmatched in effort and joy by a Luka-less Mavericks squad. So, now that the truth has been laid bare, where should the Jazz go next? A total rebuild seems to be the best option through continued investment in draft capital. The draft is how Utah found their two superstars in the first place. It’s time to return to that well. As we can all agree, no one is choosing Utah in free agency.
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