The eternal absence of the third man of the Jazz

On the verge of elimination against the Rockets, the Utah franchise has once again revealed that it lacks the squad to make a leap forward in the playoffs.


A the Jazz are missing something. At least that's the feeling they give in the tie against the Rockets. After a meritorious season with a spectacular final sprint, the team of Quin Snyder had the bad luck to cross with Houston in the first round of the playoffs after the carom that took place on the last day of the regular season. This crossing, which promised to be fun and exciting, is not being too productive for the spectator (3-0 for Houston), and what is worse, it is putting in evidence the problems of the Utah team.

Ya we said before the qualifiers by the title that the project of the Jazz was examined in the final phase of the present campaign. After having formed a competitive team and reached the playoffs (and conference semifinals) the last two years, fans asked a step forward to their players. Last season they had aroused good feelings and elimination in the second round did not particularly hurt in the team: had beaten OKC (4-2) playing very well and with a very young team. In addition they fell in the semifinals against Houston Rockets and with several injuries of importance, reason why it was very difficult to draw negative conclusions of the season. A bright future was expected in the franchise.

Since, this year things are not going as expected, and except capital surprise (has never traced a 3-0), they will be eliminated at the first exchange. The series has been a monologue of the Rockets, who won the first two games easily and took third with the worst Harden of the season. This last duel showed that the Jazz are (still) far from playing the playoffs effectively and with pretensions to go far.

Something is missing from the franchise. Maybe it's a particularity of this Snyder project, but it seems to be more of a tradition. It seems that that something that nowadays shines by its absence, was not before either. Nor has he ever been. Since Jerry Sloan managed to form a really competitive team in the 90s, the feeling in Sal Lake City is that there has always been a third great player to round out a template that has always seemed incomplete.

The clearest example is with Stockton and Malone. It was a team that had among its ranks two of the best players of all time. Two professionals who had the bad luck to cross paths with Michael Jordan and who retired without a ring. They were on the verge of obtaining it in 1997 and 1998, but in both occasions they clashed with the Bulls. There are people who looked at Jerry Sloan for those playoffs (a regular season coach who failed in the playoffs), others claimed that Malone did not measure up in the Finals and some simply blamed Jordan and his magic.

However, in that already seemed to be missing something in the franchise. Malone and Stockton were superlative basketball players and formed on track one of the best couples in history. But they were very lonely. In '98, the Finals in which the Jazz were clear favorite to the title, crashed once more. It was a good team, with compensated people, good counterattack and good defenders. With two veteran stars, but with an undeniable talent. But if we look at the data, we see that beyond the couple, the best player on the team was Jeff Hornacek. Although the escort was not bad (much less), there was much difference between the two stars and the rest of the team, and when Malone failed to attack and Stockton was not fine, there was no partner to take responsibility.

It was a squad that mixed working players but had careers that went unnoticed in the best league in the world with others who accompanied and were good defenders, but who were not decisive in the final minutes. Moreover, of the 14 players who were under Sloan's orders in 1998, six of them did not exceed 10 points per game in any season of their career, and there was one (Shandon Anderson) who only did it once. A curious fact for a team that fought no less than for the championship.

You have to take into account one thing, and that is that the Jazz represent a small market, with many difficulties to attract free agents. It is a city where at dusk there is silence and where there is precisely a festive atmosphere beyond a basketball court in which the inhabitants of Utah are transformed into authentic hooligans. It is very difficult to attract first level players, and the big stars that have left there have been created by the same franchise, as it happened with Malone and Stockton.

Something similar, although saving the distances, happened a decadeués. With the arrival of Boozer from the Cavs and the acquisition of Deron Williams in the draft, the Jazz formed a competitive team that reached the Conference Finals in 2007 and saw them with the Lakers of Kobe and Pau the following years. Again it was a team that, although it did not have stars of the level of yesteryear, had two great players who played the All Star and were in the best quintets at the end of the campaign, but without that third man who completed a real big-three that would allow to be competitive in the postseason. The project, full of talents (Brewer, Kirilinko, Korver, Okur ...) ended in 2011 with the departure of Sloan after a lifetime, and later, with that of Deron Williams.

With Mitchell and Gobert the story is repeated

Now the story seems to be the same. The Jazz have exemplified very well in recent years how a good reconstruction should be done and they have succeeded in replacing Hayward with a Mitchell who is running as the franchise player of the future. But, once again, it seems that they lack a third man to help the escort and Gobert to make a truly fearsome team. It's a franchise still young and compensated, and has useful players that can accompany, but les has missed a point when facing the big ones: 4-0 against the Warriors two seasons ago, 4-1 before the Rockets last , and 3-0 this year in a tie that goes the same way.

The third missing player was about to arrive in February. Mike Conley was able to arrive via transfer and come out Ricky Rubio of the Jazz. It was a movement that favored both franchises, but ultimately it did not happen. The Spanish base finishes contract this summer and could move of the equipment. Last season he made the best numbers of his career in several statistical sections, and of course it's not the problem in Utah ... but neither is the solution. Ni certainly, that third man who needs the set and who could come, why not, in the base position.

In one way or another it seems that the Jazz season is not far from finishing, and opens a Reflection period in the franchise. They have a young team and plenty of time to avoid repeating mistakes of the past and finally completing a round template. But they know that their market is small and that the city has little to offer the great free agents. Let's see what they invent to make the leap forward they need. It is clear that, for now, will improve depending on how Mitchell and Gobert evolve. It only remains to see if these players will be alone or not in the process.



Photos from as.com

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