The Utah Jazz were supposed to be good in 2016-2017. For the most part, they’ve been just that. Despite various injuries that include the use of their best five-man unit for only 12 minutes through more than six weeks of the season, the Jazz remain afloat with a 15-10 record. And credit should be handed out across the board.
Quin Snyder’s coaching performance in the early going has been tremendous, as he’s been forced to mix and match his lineups on a nightly basis depending on which of his upper-tier players is unavailable. Beyond that, the sheer presence of big man Rudy Gobert – who happens to be a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate – for the entire body of work is wildly important. The Jazz lean on his talents heavily on both ends of the floor. Finally, it certainly helps that general manager Dennis Lindsey constructed what is arguably the deepest roster in the NBA, putting together a group that can sustain through injuries in a way that most teams in the league simply could not.
Lindsey’s crowning achievement when it comes to the 2016-2017 season is the acquisition of point guard George Hill, who happens to be the most indispensable player on the roster. Yes, you are reading that right. George Hill is the most indispensable player on a basketball team that includes the likes of Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and the aforementioned Gobert.
Heading into the 2016 offseason, it was no secret that the Jazz needed help at the point guard position. Lottery pick Dante Exum missed the entire 2015-2016 campaign with injury, and while Utah added Shelvin Mack midseason to stop the bleeding, the team’s biggest issue was a lack of production from arguably the most important position on the floor. Furthermore, the Jazz posted a 40-42 record despite a positive (+1.6) net rating, and that could be directly traced to disastrous performance in the clutch.
Utah was outscored by a ghastly 17.8 points per 100 possessions across 42 “clutch”-including games during the season and it is not hard to correlate inept closing play to a lack of direction at point guard.