After holding the best record in the NBA, the Utah Jazz were eliminated from the 2021 NBA Playoffs by the Los Angeles Clippers in a 131-119 loss, despite holding a 25 point lead going into the second half. The Jazz led the series two games to none before losing two straight. Those losses can be attributed to Utah’s inability to guard the Clippers’ small ball lineup at the three point line, especially in critical moments. In back to back years, the Jazz have been sent home despite holding a favorable series lead. Last year, the Jazz held a 3-1 lead over the Denver Nuggets in the first round before being eliminated in Game 7. This year, history repeated itself but to a lesser degree. That being said, the Jazz ultimately fell short of their expectations which was to compete for an NBA Championship.
To the Clippers’ credit, they exposed some key weaknesses in the Jazz, especially during Mike Conley’s absence due to a hamstring injury. For one the Jazz could use a steady backup point guard instead of playing Donovan Mitchell to his weaknesses. Also, they lack athleticism on the wing and really could have used a defensive-minded wing to guard the likes of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George as well as using them as a small ball five. Additionally, they could use a more mobile big that can at least be passable as a perimeter defender.
The Jazz already have their core set and really don’t need to shake up their roster in any major way, however some minor tweaks can help them overcome the adversity of the past two seasons. Some players the Jazz should take a look into signing consist of:
- Ishmael “Ish” Smith- Unrestricted Free Agent
- Kris Dunn- Player Option ($5 Million)
- Elfrid Payton- Unrestricted Free Agent
- Brad Wanamaker- Unrestricted Free Agent
- Jeff Teague- Unrestricted Free Agent
- Derrick Jones Jr.- Player Option ($9.7 Million)
- Maurice “Moe” Harkless- Unrestricted Free Agent
- Nicolas Batum- Unrestricted Free Agent
- Paul Millsap- Unrestricted Free Agent
- JaMychal Green- Unrestricted Free Agent
- James Johnson- Unrestricted Free Agent
As far as their own free agents are concerned, the Jazz have 6 free agents who consist of:
- Mike Conley- Unrestricted Free Agent
- Georges Niang- Unrestricted Free Agent
- Ersan Ilyasova- Unrestricted Free Agent
- Juwan Morgan- Restricted Free Agent
- Jarrell Brantley- Restricted Free Agent
- Trent Forrest- Restricted Free Agent
The main priority for the Jazz should be to re-sign Mike Conley to ideally, a short term deal given his age (33). Besides that, the Jazz don’t need to make any earth-shattering moves. It’s more about growing from within and overcoming the mental hurdles of their last two postseason exits and it starts with what they do this upcoming offseason.
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