All Eyes on the Utah Jazz



A basketball falling into a hoop.

The Utah Jazz have taken the NBA by storm this season. With a current record of 27 wins to 9 losses, they are leading both the Western Conference and the NBA as a whole. This has been quite the shock for most of the sports world, as this is the first time in over 20 years that the Jazz have been a top 2 team in the NBA. In all but one of their games, the team has scored at least 100 points. Their losses have all been within 12 points or less.

The success of this team is thanks to it’s great players. Donovan Mitchell, in his fourth year on the team, has averaged 33.9 minutes per game and 24.7 points per game. He currently has a three-point percentage of 38.2%, which, when compared to other guards in the league, is pretty high. Arguably the best shooter of all-time, Steph Curry, currently has a 41.1% three-point percentage, so Mitchell is doing exceptionally well. Rudy Gobert, the Jazz’s center, averages about 14.2 and 13.1 rebounds per game. One of the main assets of the team has been Mike Conley, a guard that was traded from the Grizzlies in 2019. He has been picking up about 16.1 points per game this season. Royce O’ Neale, the power-forward, has been averaging about 7.6 points per game. Bojan Bogdanovic, a three-pointer machine, has a three-point percentage of 40.5%. The Jazz also have what most other NBA teams do not: a strong bench. Jordan Clarkson is one of the most valuable “sixth men” (players who do not start but are the first substitution) in the entire NBA. He averages 17.9 points and 4 rebounds each game.

Despite the excitement of Utah fans, the Jazz’s success has not been met with much enthusiasm across the league. Few analysts and experts are even considering the Jazz winning the championship, even though they have the best record in the NBA. Controversy and tension was sparked when Shaquille O’Neal, former player and now current sports analyst for TNT, proclaimed that Donovan Mitchell is not “all-star material”. During an interview with Mitchell, after a game in which Mitchell had scored 36 points and kept his team in a 7 game winning streak, O’Neal confronted the player and tried to get a response from him. “I said tonight that you are one of my favorite players, but you don’t have what it takes to get to the next level,” O’Neal said. “I said it on purpose. I wanted you to hear it. What do you have to say about that?” Mitchell simply replied, “Aight.” He continued by saying, “Shaq, I’ve been hearing that since my rookie year…I’m just gonna keep getting better and do what I do.” This honest response has garnered Mitchell with a lot of respect within the NBA and its fans, who seem to agree that O’Neal went too far with his comment.

With the All-Star Game (in which Mitchell, Gobert, and Conley all participated) behind us and the second half of the NBA season in full swing, it will be really exciting to see where the Jazz go from here. Will they have what it takes to make it all the way to the championship or will they choke at the finish line? Whatever happens next with the team, it is not an understatement to say that eyes are on the Utah Jazz.