Despite a dominant regular season campaign, the Utah Jazz' year came to an abrupt end as they crashed out of the NBA playoffs in the semi-finals against the LA Clippers. A team many feared and who had a scintillating home record ultimately came up short and struggled to show the defining qualities that earned them the best record in the league.
This article will delve into what went wrong for the Utah Jazz in the 2020-21 season. We will discuss how they can improve for next year when they want to make their first Conference Finals appearance in 14 years.
Five things that hampered the Utah Jazz in the 2020-21 NBA season
A lot went right for the Utah Jazz this year. They featured three players in the All-Star game, Jordan Clarkson won the Sixth Man of the Year award and Rudy Gobert picked up his third Defensive Player of the Year trophy. However, their playoff exit laid bare the flaws that this side still have and which will need to be addressed in the offseason if they are to continue progressing.
#1 Untimely injuries
Utah Jazz fans will wonder what could have been had the team not suffered infuriating injuries just as they entered business at the end of the season. Quin Snyder's side had largely been able to avoid injuries to key players or them being sidelined due to covid-19. Instead, their preferred lineup had started 41 games together during the regular season, had a +/- of 3.1 and shot at 46% from the field and 40% from downtown.
Just a month before the postseason, All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell suffered an ankle sprain and missed 17 straight games, including game one of their first-round series against the Memphis Grizzlies. His backcourt partner and fellow All-Star, Mike Conley, also missed nine straight games in the weeks leading up to the playoffs. Conley was dealing with hamstring problems that would keep him out of five games in their series against the LA Clippers.
The two guards were only able to play together in just over three games together as Conley went off after just 11 minutes in game five against the Grizzlies. Meanwhile, Mitchell was quite clearly playing through pain in his ankle that wasn't fully healed. Had the two been fully fit and playing at their All-Star standard, who knows how far the Utah Jazz could've run in the playoffs.
#2 Lack of bench depth
Beyond Jordan Clarkson, the Utah Jazz had very little to offer off the bench in the playoffs. Even in the regular season, despite having the best record in the NBA, their supporting roster finished eighth for points scored, 18th for field-goal percentage and mid-table for rebounds and assists.
If they want to challenge for a title, the Jazz front office will need to make some serious decisions about who they can bring in to provide help for their All-Star starters. In the postseason, their bench productivity fell. The supporting cast provided just 27 points per game (of which Clarkson had 17), finished bottom for rebounds and were among the bottom-five teams for field-goal and three-point shooting.
There was little hope of them competing when their backcourt stars were nursing injuries and they lacked the squad depth needed.