Jazz 2018-19 Season Win Total: Can Utah Make the Leap in Mitchell’s Second Season?
Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder gives instructions to Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell.
- The pick: Over 49.5
- Confidence: 4 out of 10
The case for the over: This number absolutely stunned me. Their expected (Pythagorean) win total last season was 55. FIFTY-FIVE! That’s a seven-win differential for a team I held on for a long time last season as thinking wasn’t that good. The metrics absolutely adored the Jazz, and for good reason.
They sport what is probably anecdotally if not empirically the best defense in the league, with certainly the best rim protector in Rudy Gobert and the best phalanx of supporting wing defenders. They have one of the best spot-up weapons in the league with Joe Ingles (no, really), great passers, and Ricky Rubio shot decently well (35% from deep, 42% on jumpers off the pick and roll).
But the big X-Factor is Donovan Mitchell, who is the kind of talent who swings the fortune of franchises. He is able to take games over and confound schemes against him. He delivers time and time again, and there are no apparent holes in his game; his defense is even solid-to-good. If Mitchell improves, at all, that provides insurance against a lot of things that can go wrong.
The case for the under: That number is just so, so high. To lock in a 50-plus win season when they didn’t get there last year, even with that expected win total, is dicey.
I bought stock on Mitchell early, he stands as the last time I listen to the consensus about where to have guys on a draft board. However, he’s a second-year player and the best player on the team.
If there’s any regression, or if an effective scouting report gets out on Mitchell that slows him down to any degree (which can sometimes happen with young stars), that’s a big hit for what they need offensively.
Rudy Gobert is a top three defensive player year in and year out and the NBA’s best rim protector. He’s also super efficient finishing in pick and rolls.
But he can’t create his own offense, he’s not a lynchpin on that end. Which means to believe their offense will maintain its performance last year, you have to believe in another strong Rubio shooting season.
I’m not sold on him regressing, but I’m not sold on him repeating either.
Utah’s success on paper is unquestionable and they are a serious contender to be the team that loses to the Warriors in disheartening fashion in the Western Conference Finals. But there was a lot about their run last season that didn’t feel quite sustainable.
The number’s too high for the over, the team’s too good for the under. Stay off the train tracks.