by Daniel Olsen
As Jazz fans, we have gotten our hopes up at least a time or two and were disappointed. With super teams forming left and right, how do the Jazz compete? It is tough but it has proven to be done a few times in NBA history. Let’s take a look and see how the Jazz can replicate the success of other teams that won without a super team.
Take advantage of the shortened season
The lockout of 1998-1999 hurt the veteran Utah Jazz to the point that they would never again eclipse the peak that they had when they made it to two straight finals in prior years. These younger stars in Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert can take advantage of a shortened season as they have young legs that can recover faster after games. They also have been fairly healthy in recent memory. If they continue to be healthy then they should be able to lead the Jazz to victory. Players with recent injuries like Bojan might need some time to get their rhythm back but once they do, look out.
Develop their own super team
Some championships are bought. They are usually in big markets in the states of California or Texas. However, some elite teams are built and not bought. The Pistons won the 2004 NBA Finals despite not having a single player receive All-NBA first-team honors. The same is true for the 1995 Rockets who won the NBA finals as a 6 seed. Because they had underperformed most of the year, none of them were on first-team All-NBA selections. However, they turned it on in the playoffs and became the lowest seed to ever win the Finals. The Mavericks also accomplished this feat with solid team play and a stellar performance from a second-team All-NBA star in Dirk Nowitzki.
There are teams who have created super teams mostly organically. While there are always going to be players signed through a trade or free agency, the star players can come to small markets by drafting wisely and developing those players. The most recent examples are the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors.
Even the Warriors had to add Kevin Durant to win multiple championships but they still won before he got there. The Jazz have made steals in the NBA draft by getting the better end of the deal in trades with Denver for both Gobert and Mitchell. If they can continue to hit on the draft and develop, they could build a championship team just like other great teams before them have.
Peak at the right time
Even at their best, the Jazz just seem to run into a brick wall that is a generational player. There are small gaps in between generational players that the Jazz have not been able to take advantage of. Other teams have taken advantage. The Rockets won in 1994 and 1995 when Jordan retired the first time. When Jordan retired the second time, the Spurs were able to take advantage a few times before the Lakers dominated Western Conference teams like the Jazz with a dynamic duo in Kobe and Shaq. Eventually Kobe dominated the Jazz without Shaq.
Right now LeBron James is the generational player who is nearing the end of his career. While he can’t carry teams by himself anymore, he doesn’t need to with a superstar teammate in Anthony Davis. If the Jazz can at least be the second best team in the West now, they just need to take advantage as soon as the LeBron era ends. At that point their main obstacle could be a super team in the Eastern Conference.
As of now the Nets look most formidable with a Big 3 boasting two MVPs and a star point guard. However, there have been super teams that have failed. Look at what happened when the Nets acquired the Celtics players past their prime for a slew of draft picks a decade ago. This Nets team has a high boom potential but there is also a significant possibility for a bust. KD is the only player on the team to be the best player on a championship team and he is coming off a brutal Achilles injury. Harden is not the best version of himself due to his poor conditioning and attitude on his way out of Houston. Irving has taken several games off. With the loss of depth in the trade, the Nets need to get all three players on the court as soon as possible to outscore teams. While they aren’t an elite defensive team, they don’t need to be if these three players are the cheat codes they have been for a large portion of their careers.
Prediction: 2023 is the year
If Gobert and Mitchell can wind up on the same team in the All-Star game in Salt Lake City, perhaps they could be co-MVPs like another dynamic Jazz duo did 30 years prior. If the Jazz can get All-NBA production from their stars, peak at the end of the LeBron era (he will be 39 at this point), and take advantage of any luck that comes their way, they just might be NBA champions soon.
Make sure to vote on our Twitter poll to let us know whether you think the Jazz can compete with super teams in the NBA.
Featured image courtesy Trent Nelson, The Salt Lake Tribune