To those of you who are reading this, please understand that I am not an analyst, a professional commentator, or any other full-time employee who gets paid for writing. I am, like you, a fan. The following are a few of my initial reactions to the first games of the new-look Jazz.
My very first thought as I settled in to watch the very first game of the 2019-2020 season was that of disappointment. We all had been waiting for some time to watch how the new pieces of this Jazz team would mesh and come together on the court, only to find out that five rotation players would not be playing, including our two big guns, Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. Nonetheless, it was the kickoff of basketball season, and I was still excited to see the likes of Bojan Bogdanovic, Jeff Green, and Ed Davis in a Jazz uniform. Instead of boring you with long, drawn-out commentary, I’ll share with you some snippets from my knee-jerk reactions.
Pleasant Surprises: Jeff Green and William Howard
I have watched Jeff Green over the years, so I knew that he was a solid basketball player. I also felt that he was the sneakiest, best pick-up of possibly the entire NBA offseason, especially considering his salary. What I didn’t know is that he may be our answer to how we consistently get points from the bench, assuming he doesn’t start at the power forward spot. He impressed in both games with his leadership on the court and his consistency.
Juxtaposed to Jeff Green’s veteran savvy was William Howard, who was more of a revelation. Even though he went 0 for from three the second game, he hit 100% of his threes the first game. That’s impressive no matter how you spin it. While he didn’t have the hot hand in game two, he did show off some of his other skills, such as court vision and driving ability. I think he’s shown enough in two games to have the Jazz give him a long, hard look. I’ll be highly disappointed if he doesn’t get one of the last spots on the roster, especially since the Jazz have already bought out his contract from his team in France.
Biggest Disappointments: Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic
There is no way to put lipstick on these two players’ performances and make it look pretty. These two are the acquisitions that have gotten people’s attention, both locally and nationally. They are the ones who are supposed to bring the moxie, the leadership, and most of all, the shooting that is supposed to take the Jazz from pretender to contender. What we have seen from them so far is the exact opposite. Granted, Conley has only played one game, so maybe it was just a fluke. Bogdanovic, on the other hand, has looked less than stellar in both of his games as a Jazz man.
I get it, it’s the preseason. Their performances still make me nervous, though. Maybe it’s due to the fact that I’m not as high on these two as most seem to be. In my limited time watching them play for their previous teams, both have come across as very average. Mike Conley had one notable game against the Jazz over the years. Who doesn’t, though? Even the Sundiata Gaines’s of the world have their day in the sun. Don’t get me wrong, I hope I’m way off on my assessment of these players. I keep telling myself that I can’t be right if all of the experts have a divergent opinion from mine. Fingers (and toes) crossed!
Steady Eddies: Ed Davis, Joe Ingles, and Donovan Mitchell
These three looked to be exactly what we are expecting from them. Once Donovan shook off the dust, he was wheeling and dealing as usual. While Joey wasn’t himself from the three-point line, everything seemed to run smoother when he was on the court. He has become the steady hand of this Jazz team. Ed Davis has performed to expectation, in my opinion. His rebounding and play around the basket will be a solid addition to the bench. While he showed against Antetokounmpo that he’s no Rudy Gobert (or even Derrick Favors), he will be able to hold his own against bench players of opposing teams.
Greatest Misses: Derrick Favors
I don’t know if it’s because he was the longest tenured Jazz player, if it’s because he’s such a solid teammate/person, or if it’s because he’s so good (underrated in my opinion), but Derrick Favors has left a hole in my Jazz fan heart. While I already missed seeing his presence on the court, watching Milwaukee’s size eat us up in the paint made me miss Favors even more. I wish him the best in New Orleans, but I also hope that there’s a chance he comes back to us. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think that a lot of Jazz fans took what Favors did for granted. He was the consummate team player, and was so good defensively and offensively in the pick-and-roll. There is no doubt he will be missed this season.
By the time this article is posted, the third preseason game will likely be upon us. Like all of you, I will watch to see if the chemistry will build between Donovan and Mike, if Bogdanovic can hit the threes like we’ve been told he can, and if the defense of the Jazz can hold strong without the likes of Favors and Crowder. If there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that Coach Q will get the most out of this squad. While I’m hesitant to crown the Jazz with anything, I do believe that this team has great leadership, character, experience, and coaching. Those qualities count for a lot. I, for one, am excited to see how far it will take them. Go Jazz!