It seems like for the past couple of seasons, the Utah Jazz have been one of the best regular season teams in the NBA. Last year in particular, they finished as the 1st seed in a stacked Western Conference with a 52-20 record.
Their core of Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gorbert, Joe Ingles, etc. have all meshed extremely well together throughout the years. The problem is, they have not been able to put it all together when it matters most in the playoffs.
The biggest question is why have they not been able to get it done?
If we are nitpicking, one can point the finger at Quin Snyder. Even though he has been an excellent leader for them, he has not made the proper adjustments in a postseason series.
You look at last year for example when the Jazz and Clippers were tied up at two games a piece in the Western Conference Semifinals. In Game 4, Clippers superstar Kawhi Leonard went down for Los Angeles and did not return for the rest of the year.
Because of the injury, many picked the Jazz to close out that series especially because they had home court advantage. Instead however, Clippers coach Tyronne Lue somehow pulled off the upset and not only won Game 5, but closed out the series in Game 6.
Clippers star Paul George led the team and put his guys in the right place to win.
Looking back at that series, It is clear that Lue outcoached Snyder which says just as much about Lue as it does about Quin.
Quin Snyder has been a good coach ever since he was hired by the team in 2014. The difference is Lue is a great coach which shows that there are levels to coaching.
Not many people give Lue the proper credit he deserves especially after coming back from a 3-1 deficit against the loaded Golden State Warriors when he was the coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. This past season, he showed his brilliance again by guiding the Clippers to its first ever Conference Finals in franchise history without their best player.
Going back to Utah, one can also attribute their postseason struggles to the Jazz’s inability to surround upper echelon talent around Donovan Mitchell.
The question is, why has this not been a problem in the regular season? After all, they did have the best record in the West last year.
One response could be that teams do not take the regular season as seriously as they should. Veteran teams such as the Lakers and Heat for example finished the year as 7th and 6th seeds. It is clear that they prioritized health over home court advantage which ended up backfiring.
The main difference between the playoffs and the regular season is that stars can navigate their teams to a top record when the stakes are not as big. In the playoffs however, superstars are needed in order to advance and ultimately win it all. Both the 76ers and Jazz lost in the second round as the first seed in their respective conferences.
In order for Utah to finally translate their regular season success into the playoffs, Quin Snyder must make better in series adjustments. More importantly though, they are going to need to surround Mithcell with a second superstar once and for all.
If they are able to do those two things I like the Jazz to be a real championship contender.