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4 UTAH JAZZ

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A MODEST PROPOSAL...

LOOSEN UP THE OFFENSE

During Quin Snyder's four-year tenure, the Jazz have figured out how to maximize their strengths as well as any team. With Rudy Gobert's growth into the NBA's premier interior defender and a solid rotation around him, Utah has gone from 12th to second in defensive efficiency under Snyder. They've also been among the league's most plodding teams, playing at the slowest pace three seasons in a row before the arrival of electric rookie Donovan Mitchell nudged them from 30th to 25th. As Mitchell ascends to stardom, it's time for Snyder to abandon his conservatism.

The Jazz get intelligent ball movement from Ricky Rubio and Joe Ingles, and they were highly effective last season when Jae Crowder spelled Derrick Favors at the four. Whether it's using Crowder and Ingles together or trying Dante Exum in three-guard looks, there's room for Utah to evolve offensively while keeping Gobert on the court as a defensive cheat code.

Contrary to their style, the Jazz were actually a top 10 team in transition efficiency while far less polished (27th of 30) running pick-and-roll, according to Synergy data. With more half-court creativity, 50-plus wins could be the reward.

STARTING 5

COACH QUIN SNYDER

2017--18 RECORD: 48--34

PREDICTION: Lose 2nd round

PG RICKY RUBIO (57 [SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING])

5.3

APG

SF JOE INGLES (56 [SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING])

44.0

3FG%

PF DERRICK FAVORS (51 [SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING])

7.2

RPG

C RUDY GOBERT (14 [SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING])

2.3

BPG

20.5

PPG

SG DONOVAN MITCHELL (34 [SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING])

Rookie of the Year runner-up Mitchell had the second-highest scoring average by an NBA newcomer since 2003--04. (Only Blake Griffin, in '10--11, was better.).

BENCH

SF JAE CROWDER

PG ALEC BURKS

C EKPE UDOH

(#) SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING

ENEMY LINES

A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP UTAH

THEIR ENTIRE rotation is back. They have unbelievable continuity. If anyone is going to be a surprise top-two seed, it's them.... They'll be a top five defense easily. Even when RUDY GOBERT is hurt or off the court, DERRICK FAVORS can play a similar style defensively.... Gobert is a special talent. He's the top rim-protector by a mile.... DONOVAN MITCHELL was the real Rookie of the Year to me. He went through the true rookie experience of growing into the NBA game rather than redshirting like Ben Simmons. I like the Dwyane Wade comparisons for Mitchell, when he gets in the pick-and-roll with his explosive scoring and attack mentality.... Think about this: They wouldn't trade Mitchell to get Gordon Hayward back in a million years. How crazy does that sound compared with when Hayward left? ... RICKY RUBIO plays right into their defensive identity, and the fit with Mitchell is perfect. Rubio can guard the better perimeter player.... JOE INGLES is starting to get his due. Plus player on offense and defense. Quin Snyder gave him a perfect role, using him as a secondary playmaker and spot shooter.... Their bench is full of coach's pets: EKPE UDOH,ROYCE O'NEAL,JAE CROWDER. Smart coaches find spots for all of those guys. I could see Crowder having a big bounce-back year. He's solid and fits exactly what they want.... Their real weakness is they can't go to a five-out look. I'd be interested in seeing them play three guards, a wing and then Crowder as a small-ball five.... Don't give up on DANTE EXUM yet. At times, he looks like a young Rubio.