Tonight marks the fourth game in the longest road trip remaining for the Houston Rockets this season. They have a 4-game road trip that is broken up by the All-Star Break, so that’s really a 3-game trip, as well as another 3-gamer in late March. So the days of the team spending a long time away from the confines of Toyota Center are dwindling.
That might be a bad thing since the Houston’s five most recent wins have all been on the road. In fact, the last time the home fans saw the Rockets win at the Yote was at the end of the 7-game winning streak.
The Utah Jazz are 29-15 and sit in fourth place in the Western Conference. When fully healthy, they can hang with anyone in the league. While the generational hate for the Jazz is omnipresent, these Jazz don’t have the same instigators that the 90s teams or 00s teams did. There’s no Andrei Kirilenko or John Stockton on the team. Carlos Boozer isn’t walking through that door.
The Jazz are interesting because you look at the team as currently constructed and you wonder how they can get appreciably better. They have an alpha on offense (Donovan Mitchell) and an elite rim protector (Rudy Gobert) to make up for their so-so- perimeter defense. They have surrounded Mitchell with another ball-handler (Mike Conley Jr.) and shooters (Royce O’Neale, Bojan Bogdanovic, Rudy Gay, and Joe Ingles). They even have an electric sixth man to help guide the offense when Mitchell sits (Jordan Clarkson).
So if you’re Utah, how do you maximize this roster? Every player mentioned has at least one more year on their deals except Ingles. The Jazz don’t necessarily need another ball-dominant player since (when healthy) they have two of those players already. They could maybe use a shooter who gives them a consistent two-way upgrade over the shooters currently on their roster. Getting another big would be a mistake because Gobert is already irreplaceable for them and if he get hurt, the season’s over anyway.
They could really use Chris Paul, but then again everyone could use Chris Paul. And CP3 isn’t available. Barring that, the Jazz seem to be missing dogs. There’s no P.J. Tucker on that team. There’s a reason you’ve seen more speculation about Jae’Sean Tate heading there than Eric Gordon. But Houston isn’t trading Tate for peanuts. They know how valuable he is.
I don’t really have much of an answer, but I think trading Ingles for a “tough” guy could be a solution. Or maybe they just go with what they have. However, if this team fails to get it done, they’re in for a long offseason because they cannot run it back with the same core after that many years of disappointment. This year will tell us a lot about Utah’s championship window.
Anyway, Mitchell is out tonight due to concussion protocols.
Tip-off is at 8pm CT on AT&T SportsNet Southwest