Hive Awards highlight top performing Utah Jazz players this season

by Harry Porter | I wanted to give the Jazz faithful a quick breather since Utah fell to the Denver Nuggets in a heartbreaking game seven loss. Rather than dwelling on an early postseason exit, Jazz nation needs to celebrate the team’s strong season. While colleague, Daniel Olsen, previously highlighted the top Jazz moments of 2020, I wanted to focus on the top performing individuals throughout the season in the Hive Awards for the Jazz.

MVP: Donovan Mitchell

Even for the casual Jazz fan, Donovan Mitchell was clearly the best player on the team all season long. En route to earning his first career All-Star selection, Donovan averaged career highs (24p/4.4r/4.3a) in three separate categories. After the regular season, Donovan took his offensive game to new heights in the playoffs and truly became a Jazz legend with two 50+ point performances in the first round. Donovan was by far the best player on the team and will continue to lead the offense next season despite the return of Bojan Bogdanović.

Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert

In my humble opinion, Gobert was robbed of his third consecutive Kia Defensive Player of the Year award this season. Gobert’s defensive impact for the Jazz cannot be understated as he was voted to his fourth consecutive NBA All-Defensive First Team. He was among the league leaders in almost every major defensive category and tied for 3rd in rebounds (13.5) and fifth in blocks (2.0). The Jazz gave up the 6th lowest amount of opponent rebounds per game (42.7) and 9th lowest amount of opponent points per game (108.8) and Gobert played a large part in that.

Sixth Man of the Year: Jordan Clarkson

Jordan Clarkson was an offensive firecracker this season after the Jazz acquired him via trade. Since arriving from Cleveland, Jordan Clarkson played in 42 games for the Jazz and averaged 15.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 24.7 minutes per game. By the playoffs, Clarkson effectively became the only reliable scoring option off the bench where he increased his scoring output to 16.7 points per game in the first round series.

Most Improved Player: Royce O’Neale

The Jazz had some serious roster turnover from the 2018-2019 to the 2019-2020 offseason. The players who ended up on the roster at the end of both seasons were Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Joe Ingles, Tony Bradley, Royce O’Neale and Georges Niang. While Mitchell and Gobert both improved their performance, O’Neale’s improvement was clearly noticed by the Jazz in the form of a four-year, $36 million dollar contract extension. O’Neale went from the second unit contributor to a consistent primary defender and starter. He received almost 29 minutes per game and starting over 87% of the games he played. The most important improvements came in his offensive and defensive IQ, which translated through Snyder’s ability to trust him in crunch time situations throughout the regular season.

Rookie of the Year: Juwan Morgan

The Rookie of the Year race really came down to Juwan Morgan and Rayjon Tucker. Nigel Williams-Goss, Justin Wright-Foreman, Jarrell Brantley and Miye Oni all appeared in ten games or less during the regular season. While Tucker flashed some offensive scoring ability, Morgan became a reliable, high-energy rebounding and effort option towards the end of the season. Quin trusted Morgan to start game one of Utah’s first round playoff series because of his ability to do the little things that make the Jazz successful by fighting for loose balls, making the effort hustle plays and providing excellent offensive spacing. I’d look to see Morgan’s minutes grow towards 20 minutes per game if he can improve his three point shot over the offseason.

Featured image credit: NBAE/Getty Images | Copyright: 2019 NBAE


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