Last season, the Oklahoma City Thunder started the season off better than anyone expected. They went 5-6 early despite being seen as a tanking candidate. That early goodwill they gained from playing hard and winning a few games allowed them to feel like they could tank without abandon in the latter half of the season, where they started players named Jaylen Hoard, Vit Krejci, and Zane Gilbert Jr. I made up one of those names, and you have no clue which one it is.
Anyway, the Utah Jazz’s offseason was defined by trades of their two superstars, Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. Utah’s return for Gobert was so high that it basically shut down the trade market for months and is a good reason why Kevin Durant is still a Brooklyn Net. The Jazz were supposed to be rebuilding, but early in the season, it appears that no one told them.
Utah is 3-0 with wins over the Nuggets, Timberwolves (the Gobert Revenge Game, or whatever), and New Orleans. The latter two came on the road. Now the Jazz will make the short flight to Houston to play the Rockets on a back-to-back. The two teams will then head to Salt Lake City to complete the home-and-home.
The Jazz start Mike Conley Jr., Jordan Clarkson, Jarred Vanderbilt, Lauri Markkanen, and Kelly Olynyk. Off the bench, they bring in Rudy Gay, Walker Kessler, Collin Sexton, Malik Beasley, and Talen Horton-Tucker. They can also call on the services of Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Ochai Agbaji. So while there isn’t a bonafide superstar on this team, there is a good mix of veteran and young talent. There are solid role players, guys who can score, and dudes who can do a bit of everything. This is a team we all expect to tank, and they’ll find their way to the bottom of the standings after some more trades, but right now they’re too good to fail as spectacularly as OKC and San Antonio will.
Tonight’s game is set up to be a schedule win for Houston, and if they don’t take one of these two against Utah they may not have another real shot for a couple of weeks, at least by Las Vegas.
Tip-off is at 7pm CT on AT&T SportsNet Southwest