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Utah Jazz shafted in ESPN's power rankings, but lauded in The Athletic's

Jared Woodcox , 2019-07-23 12:00:35
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The Utah Jazz received high praise in recent NBA power rankings from The Athletic, but didn’t fare so well in ESPN’s version.

With free agency all but wrapped up and the NBA Draft feeling like an eternity ago, about all that fans of the Utah Jazz and the rest of the NBA have to do for the remainder of the long offseason is speculate and anticipate. We all know the Jazz made some exciting moves this summer, and on paper it would appear that this new-look team is going to be really, really good.

But, of course, the Jazz aren’t the only team that got better this summer as they’ll face stiff competition in the likes of the LA Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets, Portland Trail Blazers and many others. As good as the Jazz are looking, they have their work cut out for them in 2019-20, and all we can do for now is predict and speculate just how high they might ascend.

And fans aren’t the only ones guessing and trying to put in far-too-early projections for how the standings will shake out in the NBA next season. Just recently, a host of ESPN writers got together to compile their aggregate NBA power rankings, and the results might be surprising to Jazz fans.

The ESPN list placed the Jazz at a middling ninth place, behind a trio of Eastern Conference teams in the Milwaukee Bucks (1), Philadelphia 76ers (4) and Boston Celtics (7), as well as the Portland Trail Blazers (8), Los Angeles Lakers (6), Houston Rockets (5), LA Clippers (3) and Denver Nuggets (2) in the West. Now, I know I’m a Jazz homer, but I truly attempt to take off my rose-colored glasses when I look at power rankings such as these, and I find Utah’s placement to be ludicrous.

No disrespect to some of the teams listed ahead of the Jazz, but Utah should be far better than ninth. The Boston Celtics arguably got worse by losing some of their defensive cornerstones and replacing them with big-man Enes Kanter. Not only that, but while Kemba Walker will be a better locker room fit and leader than Kyrie Irving was, there is some concern about an overall decline in talent at the point guard spot.

Meanwhile, the Portland Trail Blazers made significant changes this offseason, but it’s hard to know whether they will truly be for the better. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia 76ers, despite adding Al Horford, are a bit of a question mark as they have a lot to sort out with their new lineup, and the Denver Nuggets are solid, but showed some significant weaknesses in their playoff loss to the Blazers (and didn’t do much this offseason outside of add Jerami Grant, though yes, I recognize they should improve internally).

In short, there are a lot of uncertainties about several of these teams that ESPN ranked above the Jazz, whereas the Jazz did little else but patch up the gaping holes they displayed in their latest playoff loss to the Houston Rockets. They added a versatile, dynamic shot-creator to help shoulder the load for Donovan Mitchell by signing Mike Conley. And they added excellent three-point shooting and a third scoring option in Bojan Bogdanovic.

They also shored up their frontcourt after losing Derrick Favors and Jae Crowder by adding Ed Davis and Jeff Green. We’re talking about a Utah team that was already well established defensively with two-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert in their ranks and has now added significant offensive firepower to fill their biggest areas of need.

If anything, the Jazz are looking far more steady and sure than many of the other teams ahead of them. They may not have the highest ceiling of any team in the league with no All-Stars on their roster, but they could very well have the highest floor as a team that’s almost certain to be competitive with the best of the best and perhaps able to rise above them all.

In other words, while I by no means expect the Jazz to be number one, I definitely would have them at least above the Celtics, Blazers and Sixers at this point. Personally, I’d have them above the Nuggets as well, but I can at least see the argument there. In my mind, based on what we know now, the Jazz should be no lower than sixth on these preseason power rankings.

Of course, every season there are over-hyped duds and under-celebrated breakout teams. It’s entirely possible that the Jazz could be one of those duds and I’ll have to eat crow. But I’d say it’s even more likely that one of the eight teams ahead of Utah doesn’t live up to expectations. And even if the Jazz don’t reach as great of heights as they appear capable of, these power rankings should be based on what we see and know right now.

And everything the Jazz have done this summer and the great fits they added point to them being an exceptional team worthy of a higher slot on these selections.

Then again, ESPN has never been known for being appreciative or attentive towards small market teams. Considering that Utah’s two biggest acquisitions this summer – Conley and Bogdanovic – played for the Memphis Grizzlies and Indiana Pacers, respectively, and are now on yet another small market Utah team, it’s not all that surprising that ESPN would overlook them in favor of the Boston, Philly and LAs of the world.

That said, the comments made in the ESPN power rankings article actually speak quite highly of Utah. Here’s what Tim McMahon, who did the write-up on the Jazz, had to say:

“The Jazz might be equally as good offensively and defensively, which would make Utah a bona fide contender. Poor shooting prevented the Jazz from making their playoff series against the Rockets competitive, as Utah went 26-of-110 (23.6%) on wide-open 3s, as defined by as no defender within 6 feet. That won’t be a problem after they traded for Mike Conley and signed Bojan Bogdanovic, who should take pressure off Donovan Mitchell to create offense and open up the floor when the young star guard has the ball in his hands. It’s up to Rudy Gobert, the two-time Defensive Player of the Year, to make sure the Jazz remain elite on that end of the floor.”

Considering that it’s pointed out here that the Jazz could be just as elite offensively as they’ve been defensively, the description doesn’t seem to match the disappointing ranking whatsoever.

Fortunately, another well-respected sports outlet gave the Jazz a much different treatment than ESPN did. In a recent power rankings compilation from Zach Harper of The Athletic (subscription required), the Jazz were lauded and placed at number three overall on the list, trailing only the LA Clippers (1) and the Milwaukee Bucks (2).

Harper touches on precisely the things I’ve just mentioned – that the Jazz went out and addressed their most concerning weaknesses to become a significantly better team. He speaks of a team that’s equipped to make life miserable for opposing teams with four guys in the starting lineup (Conley, Mitchell, Bogdanovic and Gobert) that are all extremely difficult to game plan for individually and should be a nightmare collectively.

Perhaps most importantly, he talks of the Jazz being built appropriately to go deep into the playoffs which, regardless of playoff seeding, is ultimately the determining factor in where a team should truly sit in the power rankings.

I’ll be honest, I think third in the NBA might be a little too high even coming from this Jazz homer. But I can certainly see it happening and believe Utah has the potential to achieve it. I most definitely agree with The Athletic’s placement of Utah at third more than I do ESPN’s at a lackluster ninth.

Then again, in fairness to all, the Jazz have burned those that believed too deeply in them before. They did so just a season ago in which they struggled out of the gates, finished just fifth in the West, and faltered in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. In many seasons past they’ve had heartbreaking seasons and disappointing results.

Quite frankly, it would take a shocking failure this time around for the Jazz to do that once again this year as they appear in every way imaginable to be a well-crafted team capable of competing at the highest level. But, of course, they still have to go out on the floor and achieve that greatness.

Next: Utah Jazz announce preseason home schedule featuring Aussie engagement

Power rankings are little more than speculation for now. It will be up to the Jazz to disprove the negative and validate the positive predictions being placed upon their heads by putting their money where their mouth is and competing at the level they’re capable of.

If they do so, I’m fully confident that The Athletic’s praiseworthy placement of the Utah Jazz in these far-too-early projections will ultimately prove prophetic.

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Utah Jazz veteran Joe Johnson gets into the paint and no-look assists Rudy Gobert for the two-handed dunk against the L.A. Clippers.


Four power forward options in the 2019 NBA Draft

Josh Padmore , 2019-03-02 18:54:51
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Following up an article I wrote about some point guard options in the 2019 NBA Draft is one consisting of power forward options for the Utah Jazz.

The trade deadline has passed. All-Star weekend has passed. The playoff eligibility deadline has passed. We’re down to the knitty gritty of the 2018-2019 season. The Utah Jazz are focused on the task at hand, making a run in the playoffs. We, as fans, can look ahead. That being said, let’s take a look at some power forward options in the 2019 NBA Draft.

The power forward position is something I think the Jazz need to tighten up. They don’t really have a true power forward on the roster. Derrick Favors is more of a center in today’s game, Jae Crowder is a small-ball four and Georges Niang doesn’t have a definite forward position.

Bear with me, but Trey Lyles was probably the last true power forward the Jazz have had. There’s some quality fours in the upcoming 2019 NBA Draft, so maybe the Jazz can snag one and work on developing him. With Derrick Favors’ contract having a team option for next season, the Jazz could definitely be in the market for a power forward.

Before we get going, I want to say that I don’t think the Jazz need to upgrade this position. Derrick Favors has done an excellent job and Jae Crowder has been stellar off the bench. They simply don’t have a true power forward, in my mind. It’d be nice to have one on the roster, especially one that can shoot threes. You know who can shoot? Eric Paschall of Villanova.

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Five potential power forward targets

Jared Woodcox , 2019-02-06 16:17:21
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MINNEAPOLIS, MN – JANUARY 27: Derrick Favors #15 of the Utah Jazz makes his entrance before the game during the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on January 27, 2019 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

It’s no secret that the Utah Jazz have had their eyes on potential stretch-four options for a while. Could one of these available power forwards fit the bill at this season’s trade deadline?

Of all the positions at which you could argue the Utah Jazz may be seeking an upgrade, power forward might be the first one that comes to mind. That’s not supposed to mean any disrespect to Derrick Favors, who’s honestly a phenomenal player and one of Utah’s best, but unfortunately in the modern NBA, he’s much more cut out for a center role and he’s admittedly a few notches below Rudy Gobert talent-wise.

So Utah’s power forward quandary isn’t so much about talent as it is about fit. For Quin Snyder’s offensive system to truly thrive, they need a playmaking stretch-four that can play the majority of their minutes at that position. That’s why the Jazz have done so well with Jae Crowder inserted alongside the starters, though I’m not entirely sure he’s their best bet as a starting four.

Therefore, if the Jazz are able to nab an upgrade at the power forward slot through trade, they may very well do so. That could come in the form of an already established player or one that has the potential to grow into such a player and would already be a better fit in Quin’s system than continuing to start Favors at the four.

With those thoughts in mind, let’s take a look at five potential trade targets that the Utah Jazz could explore with the deadline looming.

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Utah Jazz bring up the rear in 20-game Northwest power rankings

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Utah Jazz Derrick Favors Quin Snyder

DALLAS, TX – NOVEMBER 14: Derrick Favors #15 of the Utah Jazz reacts after being called for a flagrant foul against the Dallas Mavericks in the fourth quarter at American Airlines Center on November 14, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

We’re already 20 games into the 2018-19 NBA season and the Utah Jazz are struggling to keep pace in the Northwest Division.

Remember when the Utah Jazz were the creme de la creme of the Northwest Division and primed to duke it out with the Houston Rockets for the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference? Those were fun times.

The fun times ended, though, once the regular season tipped off.

Its seems like it was only yesterday that Donovan Mitchell and the Jazz were putting the wraps on an undefeated preseason slate, but we’re suddenly at the 20-game mark of the team’s 2018-19 campaign. Needless to say, the first quarter of the season has not played out as expected for the team or the division at large.

Last year, all five teams battled it out for playoff position. As it stands now, two teams — the Jazz and the Minnesota Timberwolves — rank among the bottom three in the West standings.

After dealing a disgruntled Jimmy Butler, the T-Wolves are definitely living in a new world. Meanwhile, Utah’s preached consistency has looked more like stagnation as they struggle to keep pace with the opposition.

Now, for the million-dollar question: is what we’re seeing real or will the 60-plus games that remain bring about a return to the expected norm? At the quarter point of the season, we may still be experiencing some measure of small sample size theater, but we’re also approaching that juncture where some truths have emerged.

In any case, it’s pretty clear which teams lead the pack currently. Here’s how they shake out in our quarter-mark divisional power rankings…

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NBA Power Rankings: Week 2

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1. Golden State Warriors
2018-19 record: 2-1
The two-time defending champs opened the 2018-19 campaign with a pair of tough tests on the road in their first week. They were able to sneak past the Jazz in Utah courtesy of a Jonas Jerebko tip-in just before the buzzer. However, they fell to the Nuggets in Denver as Damian Jones had his lay-up attempt blocked in the final second. Yes, it’s odd that Jerebko and Jones were players that decided those contests, considering the Warriors had four other all-stars on the court at the time.

2. Toronto Raptors
2018-19 record: 3-0
Kawhi has looked fantastic early on this season, averaging 27.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists over his first two games as a Raptor, including 31 & 10 in a win over the Celtics last Friday. And, despite playing with Kawhi Leonard (who was resting during the Raps third game in four nights), Toronto improved to 3-0 on the season with a victory over the Wizards in Washington on Saturday.

3. Boston Celtics
2018-19 record: 2-1
The Celtics were in danger of falling to the Knicks Saturday at MSG, before Jayson Tatum sunk a back-breaking fadeaway jumper. The super sophomore finished that game with 24 points and a career-high 14 boards. Gordon Hayward was held out of Saturday’s win. Coach Brad Stevens said there wasn’t an initial plan to rest Hayward on back-to-backs, but that Hayward was “experiencing general soreness” and will be evaluated on a game-by-game basis.

4. Denver Nuggets
2018-19 record: 3-0
It was a fantastic first weekend for the undefeated Nuggets. On Sunday night, they knocked off the Warriors at home. On Saturday, Nikola Jokic had a game for the ages. He scored 35 points, pulled down 12 rebounds, and dished out 11 assists. Oh, and he also had four steals and blocked a shot. Oh yeah, almost forgot, he didn’t miss a single shot from the field, knocking down all 11 of his FG attempts, including three 3-pointers, and made 10-of-11 from the free-throw stripe. Coming into this past weekend, there had been only other game in which an NBA player recorded a 30-point triple-double without a missing a shot from the floor. That was over 50 years ago, when Wilt Chamberlain accomplished the feat in 1967.

5. New Orleans Pelicans
2018-19 record: 2-0
The Pelicans offense is humming right now. They lead the NBA in offensive rating, as they are averaging a mind-boggling 127.9 points per 100 possessions. No other team is averaging more than 119 points / 100 possessions. The gap between first and second place in OffRtg is the same as the gap between second and 12th. New Orleans also leads the league in effective field goal percentage (62.7%), True Shooting Percentage (64.5%) and assist ratio (22.2%).

6. Utah Jazz
2018-19 record: 1-1
Utah’s lone loss was to the Warriors in Golden State on the final play of the game. There are no moral victories in this league, but losing to the defending champs at the buzzer in their building is as impressive a defeat as possible… The perennially underrated Joe Ingles is off to a hot start, averaging 24.5 points, 5.0 assists, 5.5 treys and 3.0 steals, while shooting a scorching 70.4 percent from the floor and 64.7 percent from downtown.

7. Houston Rockets
2018-19 record: 1-2
Clint Capela, James Harden, and Chris Paul played 45 games together last season and went 42-3 in those 45 contests, and all three losses were by six or fewer points… Paul was suspended for two games for his part in Saturday’s altercation with Rajon Rondo, which kept him out of Sunday’s matchup with the Clippers, a game which the Rockets lost. Dating back to the start of 2017-18, Houston is just 23-15 without CP3, Harden and Capela together in the lineup.

8. Milwaukee Bucks
2018-19 record: 2-0
New head coach Mike Budenholzer has yet to lose a game with Milwaukee. As he’s finding out, it’s a huge advantage having Giannis Antetokounmpo on your side. The Greek Freak tallied 51 points, 33 rebounds and 13 assists through the Bucks first two games. The only blemish on Antetokounmpo’s resume is that he has yet to knock down a 3-pointer, missing all nine of his attempts from beyond the arc.

9. Portland Trail Blazers
2018-19 record: 2-0
Portland has started off the season strong, knocking off Los Angeles in LeBron James’ Lakers debut, and then blowing out the Spurs on Saturday. You think Damian Lillard is playing with confidence right now? Look at where he launches this 3-point attempt from! Mind you, this was the first possession and shot of the game. Both Dame and C.J. McCollum shot 9-of-15 from the floor in the victory over San Antonio.

10. Indiana Pacers
2018-19 record: 2-1
The Pacers showcased their impressive depth in a 132-112 win over the Nets at home on Saturday night. Indiana had nine players log more than four minutes, and all nine of those players scored in double-figures.

11. Philadelphia 76ers
2018-19 record: 2-1
Joel Embiid didn’t play more than 29 minutes in any of the Sixers first seven games in 2017-18 and logged fewer than 31 minutes in each of their first ten contests. This season, Embiid has played more than 32 minutes in all three games. However, the Sixers may be without Ben Simmons tomorrow. Simmons (back tightness) did not practice on Monday and is listed as questionable for Tuesday’s game vs. Detroit.

12. Detroit Pistons
2018-19 record: 2-0
Detroit canned coach/GM Stan Van Gundy after failing to qualify for the playoffs in a disappointing 2017-18 campaign. With new head coach Dwane Casey at the helm, the Pistons have won two straight to start the new season. Blake Griffin is leading the charge, averaging 29.5 points, 10.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 3.0 triples thus far.

13. Los Angeles Lakers
2018-19 record: 0-2
LeBron has struggled a bit out of the gate for L.A., shooting just 47.4 percent from the floor and making only one of his 11 3-point attempts over the Lakers first two games. Of course, it’s only a matter of time before he gets hot and locks in. However, the Laker will be forced to play without Brandon Ingram this week, as he has been suspended four games for his role in Saturday’s altercation with the Rockets.

14. Charlotte Hornets
2018-19 record: 2-1
Kemba Walker has the NBA’s only 40-point game this season, pouring in 41 against the Bucks on opening night. Kemba was back at this weekend, tallying 39, including the game-winning free-throw in the final second, in a victory over the Heat. Walker currently leads the NBA in total points with 106. Stephen Curry, James Harden, Joel Embiid and Kevin Durant round out the top-5.

15. L.A. Clippers
2018-19 record: 2-1
The Clippers are off to a great start, notching back-to-back wins over the Thunder and Rockets. However, they will face a very stiff test this week when they travel to New Orleans to take on the Pelicans on Tuesday, and then play the Rockets in Houston on Thursday.

16. San Antonio Spurs
2018-19 record: 1-1
The Spurs backcourt was decimated over a five-day span earlier this month. On October 6th, it was announced that Lonnie Walker would have to undergo surgery on a torn medial meniscus in his right knee. On October 7th, Dejounte Murray tore his ACL. On October 11th, Derrick White was diagnosed with a left plantar fascia tear that is expected to sideline him for 6-8 weeks. Through the first two games of the season, the only Spurs with more than five assists are DeMar DeRozan, Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge. Coach Pop is going to have to hope for better point guard play from Patty Mills and Bryn Forbes if he wants to stay near the top of the pack out West. The Spurs have also been shockingly porous defensively, allowing 119.9 points per 100 possessions.

17. Minnesota Timberwolves
2018-19 record: 1-2
The circus in Minnesota has been a distraction all month for the Wolves. Their sloppy play on the court has been indicative of a team in crisis off it. Minny has dropped two of their first three games, and their defense has been deplorable. The Wolves have given up at least 112 points in each, and are allowing 121.8 points per 100 possessions over their two most recent contests.

18. Miami Heat
2018-19 record: 1-2
The Heat have dropped two of their first three games, including a disappointing defeat to Orlando in the season opener. Fortunately, both Justise Winslow (hamstring) and Wayne Ellington (left ankle) are expected to return to the lineup on Wednesday when Miami takes on the Knicks. It’s possible James Johnson (groin) is cleared to return later this week as well. However, Hassan Whiteside (hip/groin) did not practice on Monday, and Dion Waiters (ankle) is still without a timetable.

19. Oklahoma City Thunder
2018-19 record: 0-3
Russell Westbrook didn’t show any signs of rust in his season debut on Sunday night, scoring 32 points (on 13-of-23 shooting) to go along with 12 rebounds and eight assists. Yet, OKC still lost their third straight. This most recent defeat was an embarrassing loss to the Kings. The Thunder have off until Thursday, when they play the Celtics.

20. Washington Wizards
2018-19 record: 0-2
The Wiz have dropped each of their first two games this season, and things might get worse before they get better. Washington embarks on a five-game, West Coast road trip Monday in Portland. They then travel to Golden State, Sacramento, L.A. and Memphis over eight days, before returning home to take on the Thunder. They are hoping starting center Dwight Howard (piriformis) will make his Wizards debut soon.

21. Dallas Mavericks
2018-19 record: 1-1
Luka Doncic put his full, deadly arsenal on display on Saturday night, in his first game in front of the home crowd in Dallas. Luka finished with 26 points on 8-of-16 shooting, six rebounds, three assists, four triples, two steals and one block in 36 minutes. His backcourt mate, Dennis Smith Jr. nailed a jumper in the closing moments to seal the victory for the Mavs. Those two will be fun to watch all year long.

22. Memphis Grizzlies
2018-19 record: 1-1
Memphis was awful last season, but that was an anomaly, as the Grizz had qualified for the playoffs each season from 2010-11 through 2016-17. They now have a healthy Mike Conley back in the mix and are hoping to compete for a playoff spot once again. Unfortunately, they’ll be without JaMychal Green for the foreseeable future. Green suffered a broken jaw after receiving an elbow to the face from an opposing player in Friday’s game against the Hawks. He underwent a surgical stabilization procedure Saturday morning and is expected to miss anywhere between two-to-six weeks, per varying reports. Their first-round pick, Jaren Jackson Jr., who is the youngest player in the NBA this season, will be asked to step in and step up.

23. Phoenix Suns
2018-19 record: 1-1
Deandre Ayton has undoubtedly looked worthy of the No. 1 overall pick this month. He was dominant in the preseason (averaging 20.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 2.5 blocks in 29.8 minutes over the Suns first four exhibition games) and looked terrific in his pro debut during the regular season, making 8-of-11 from the field for 18 points with 10 rebounds, six assists, one steal, one block and no turnovers. However, he tweaked his ankle in practice last Thursday and was slowed down on Saturday night vs. Denver. He gets his first ever look at the world-champion Warriors on Monday night.

24. New York Knicks
2018-19 record: 1-2
The Knicks have played hard, and played well for the most part, but have just a 1-2 record to show for it. New York has scored 332 points this season, while allowing 317. They’ve lost two games by a combined 4 points. On Saturday, they also lost Kevin Knox to a badly sprained ankle. Their prized rookie is expected to miss up to a month. New York will need Mario Hezonja and Allonzo Trier to play well in the extended minutes they’ll receive over the next few weeks.

25. Brooklyn Nets
2018-19 record: 1-2
The Nets got bit by the injury bug early on this season. DeMarre Carroll (ankle) is out indefinitely; Allen Crabbe missed the season opener; and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (personal, groin), Shabazz (right hamstring strain) and Alan Williams (left ankle) have yet to suit up for a regular season game. They also lost Treveon Graham to a left hamstring strain and Rodions Kurucs to an ankle sprain over the weekend. However, Hollis-Jefferson and Napier are both expected to return to the lineup Wednesday at Cleveland.

26. Orlando Magic
2018-19 record: 1-2
The Magic beat the Heat on opening night and then lost by just a point to the Sixers on Saturday. Their issue this season will be point guard play. Starting PG D.J. Augustin is averaging 7.3 points in 26.0 minutes while shooting a horrific 31.8 percent from the floor and 16.7 percent from downtown. Backup Jerian Grant hasn’t been much better.

27. Sacramento Kings
2018-19 record: 1-2
The Kings have had a brutal early-season schedule. The opened up against the Jazz and then played the Pelicans and Thunder on the road over the weekend. Their tough trip isn’t over, as they travel to Denver to take on the Nuggets Tuesday night. However, Sacramento has looked exciting early on, especially in their impressive 131-120 victory over Russell Westbrook and OKC Sunday night.

28. Atlanta Hawks
2018-19 record: 1-2
The Hawks looked awful in their first two games, getting blowout by the Knicks and Grizzlies. However, Trae Young put on a show Sunday night in Cleveland, propelling Atlanta to a 133-111 win over the Cavs. Young finished with 35 points on 13-of-23 shooting, six 3-pointers, 11 assists, two rebounds and one steal. Young is only the seventh rookie over the last 45 years to score at least 35 points and dish out 10+ assists. The other six are Michael Jordan, Jason Kidd, Allen Iverson, Sherman Douglas, LeBron James, and Stephen Curry.

29. Cleveland Cavaliers
2018-19 record: 0-3
Believe it or not, the Cavs aren’t all that competitive without King James in Cleveland. As a reminder, here are the Cavaliers season-average win totals over the last 12 years:
From 2006 thru 2010 (with LeBron on the roster): 55.5 wins
From 2010 thru 2014 (without LeBron on the roster): 23.7 wins
From 2014 thru 2018 (with LeBron on the roster): 52.8 wins

30. Chicago Bulls
2018-19 record: 0-2
Zach LaVine joined some pretty impressive company this weekend. As of last week, only two players in Bulls franchise history had scored at least 30 points in each of the first two games of a season: Bob Love and Michael Jordan. With 30 points on opening night and 33 on Saturday, LaVine joined those two Bulls legends. Nonetheless, Chicago lost both games and has yet to record a victory. However, they will welcome back Kris Dunn on Monday, who was away from the team last week to be with his family following the birth of his first child.

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The J-Notes' post-free agency West power rankings

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Utah Jazz Donovan Mitchell Klay Thompson

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – JANUARY 30: Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz looks to shoot in front of the defense by Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Warriors during the first half of a game at Vivint Smart Home Arena on January 30, 2018 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)

How do the Utah Jazz currently stack up against the best squads in the Western Conference? Will the same roster yield better results?

August is upon us and the NBA’s free agent frenzy is in the rear-view mirror. Of course, if you’re a fan of the Utah Jazz, there was never any frenzy to speak of.

In the end, the Jazz band stood pat. Derrick Favors, Dante Exum, Thabo Sefolosha, Ekpe Udoh and Raul Neto will all be back next season. In fact, the only new face on the team’s 15-man opening night roster figures to be rookie Grayson Allen. Clearly, continuity was the keystone for the team’s offseason plans.

Meanwhile, the rest of the West saw some major changes; none bigger than the Los Angeles Lakers’ move to bring LeBron James into the fold. Elsewhere, in San Antonio, the Kawhi Leonard situation came to a close with the Spurs moving the former NBA Finals MVP to the Toronto Raptors for DeMar DeRozan.

So, given the new landscape of the conference, where do the Jazz sit among the West’s pantheon of teams? For my money, their spot is right near the top.

Here’s how the Western Conference looks to me in the wake of all that went down last month…

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Donovan Mitchell makes B/R's Power 50 list

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Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell made headlines yet again by landing on the recently released Bleacher Report Power 50 list.

At this point it goes without saying, but just in case you were unsure, let me reiterate – Donovan Mitchell is a star.

He proved that by leading all rookies and his Utah Jazz teammates in scoring in his first year in the league. He proved that by winning the Dunk Contest. He proved that by earning the respect and attention of stars league-wide. He proved that by leading his team into the second round of the playoffs. And finally, he’s proved that all offseason long by being adored by fans, receiving the Players’ Voice Award for best rookie and earning the ESPY for best breakout athlete.

But it seems every time we blink, Mitchell is receiving more love from one place or another. This time, it was Bleacher Report that threw some major praise Donovan’s way.

In the debut release of the Bleacher Report Power 50, a list of the most influential people in sports culture right now, Mitchell found himself not only making the list, but also at the very top of the “Glow Up” category recognizing the best breakout stars in sportsdom. The only other NBA player joining him in that category was Victor Oladipo of the Indiana Pacers.

The Power 50 story focused on Donovan Mitchell written by David Gardner praised Mitchell’s rapid ascension from a college athlete who was hesitant to declare for the draft to an almost instant star. More than that, though, the piece focused on how incredibly he’s been able to maintain a humble and positive disposition in spite of obstacles or overwhelming successes that have come his way.

The entire article is a must-read for Jazz fans, but I’ll highlight my two favorite parts here–

The Jazz originally brought him to Salt Lake City for a courtesy workout—an opportunity for him to shake loose the jitters with a team that wouldn’t select him. He blew them away, and as he sat in the back of the car on the way to the airport, he texted his mother a picture of the mountains. He told her he loved Salt Lake City. A month later he was ecstatic as he watched the Jazz trade up to No. 13 to take him.

When a team communications officer texted him the news that Gordon Hayward would be signing with the Celtics in free agency, Mitchell remained upbeat. And his attitude was contagious to the crowds who watched him play in the NBA Summer League and started anointing him an “MVP” before his first regular-season start. “How fans warmed to me, that really opened my eyes,” he said. “I didn’t know how passionate they were. I had no idea. On the night of the draft, my [Twitter] followers skyrocketed. The reception I got was overwhelming. Guys were playing to get contracts, but they were chanting my name.”

And later–

Even with all the attention, he has kept the humble attitude that made him so beloved. In early July, Mitchell made a surprise appearance in Salt Lake City for the Utah Jazz 3-on-3 Tournament. Hundreds of local players participate in the tournament, but on the sidelines Mitchell quickly became the main attraction. Before leaving, he stopped to say hello to several of the kids in attendance. “I just wanted to come by,” he told reporters. “I saw that it was here, and I thought it was pretty cool. If I was a kid, I would die if my hero came to this. I kind of wanted to be able to do that.”

What’s truly impressed me the most about Mitchell is how down to earth he’s managed to stay despite all the fame. Unlike many former Jazz stars, he’s embraced the community, the city and the organization and isn’t ashamed to express how much he loves it. In every way imaginable, he’s become the face of the franchise not only for what he’s managed to do on the court (which is mind-blowing in and of itself), but also what he’s done off to show his love for his fans.

Mitchell was every bit deserving of this recognition based on how quickly he ascended into stardom thanks to his electrifying play that saw him become the lead guy on a formidable Jazz team. But his actions off the court have served to even further solidify his place as a beloved figure in Utah and across NBA fandom.

As I said to initiate this piece, make no mistake about it, Donovan Mitchell is an absolute star. Making Bleacher Report’s Power 50 is simply yet another accolade on a long list that somehow just continues to stack up.

And the best part about it? I have a feeling this is just the beginning. If Mitchell has been able to do all this so quickly after just one season as a professional, imagine the awards, hardware and recognition that will adorn him by the time his career comes to a close.

We’ve got ourselves a great one, Jazz fans.

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Five power forward options in free agency

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Milwaukee, WI – MARCH 20: Jabari Parker #12 of the Milwaukee Bucks shoots the ball against the Utah Jazz on March 20, 2016 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

As the NBA Draft has drawn to a close, all focus can now be placed firmly on free agency. Here are five power gorwards of interest for the Utah Jazz.

With the 2018 NBA Draft firmly in the rear view mirror, we can now shift our focus to free agency and contemplate which established players can best help this Utah Jazz team into contention. The Utah Jazz are on the cusp of breaking through as a true contender, and they are going to face many difficult decisions this off-season.

In preparation for free agency, we at The J-Notes have been doing special pieces focused on the top five free agents at every position. You can read the others via the links below:

Today, we will be focusing on potential power forwards for the Jazz to target in free agency. As far as positions of need go, this may be the most intriguing this off-season. The decision on whether to keep Derrick Favors has been talked about at nauseum over the past few months. If you are going to talk about not re-signing Derrick Favors though, you have to discuss alternative options at his position.

We’ll talk about five players the Jazz should consider at the power forward position for next season, including the option of keeping Derrick Favors.

Let me just add, I am a huge fan of Aaron Gordon, and I think he would be terrific with the Jazz. That being said, I think it will take a max contract (that the Jazz won’t be willing to offer), and I expect the Magic would match it regardless. So I did not include him on this list.

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