The 2019/20 season does not look like being one that the Utah Jazz will remember fondly, with hopes of competing for an NBA championship fading steadily throughout the campaign. From the challenge of finding the right role for Mike Conley to friction between Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell amid the suspended season, the franchise has faced choppy waters all year.
The Jazz got another dollop of bad news this week, with Bojan Bogdanovic ruled out for the rest of the season after wrist surgery.
Bogdanovic had quietly become one of Utah’s most reliable scorers, contributing 20 points a night and shooting 41% from behind the arc, as well as being a solid presence defensively, despite being dogged by the wrist injury for chunks of the season. With the Jazz offense enduring a rollercoaster year, Bogdanovic brought much needed consistency.
His absence will have several knock-on effects if the NBA returns to conclude the 2019/20 season, shrinking Utah’s spacing and putting more pressure on Mitchell to navigate a crowded paint area. The playmaking burden can be easily juggled between Mitchell, Conley and Joe Ingles, but the Jazz are going to need to rely on their defense more than ever with one less offensive weapon. Fortunately, in Quin Snyder, they have a head coach willing to get creative.
A tough path ahead
As planning continues around when the NBA will be back, including talk of a resumption at some point in late July, it is now even harder to make the case for the Jazz to pull off an upset in a potential playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers, LA Clippers or Denver Nuggets. In a loaded Western Conference, just surviving the first round might be a stretch.
If the NBA chooses to jump straight to the playoffs in the standard format, Utah would face the Oklahoma City Thunder, one of this year’s surprise packages and a team capable of piling up points. That said, the Thunder do not have a wing scorer of the calibre of LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard or James Harden to capitalize on Bogdanovic being sidelined, and the Jazz would expect to be able to slow down Danilo Gallinari with a combination of Ingles and Royce O’Neale.
Of course, if the NBA decides to play out the remainder of the regular season, the standings are subject to change. Utah are within touching distance of the third seed, while the Houston Rockets are tied with the Thunder and just a game behind the Jazz.
More injury woes to come?
There is a good chance that we will see more injury reports like this over the weeks ahead, including surgeries for players on teams that are out of contention. After all, it is a logical step when the offseason before the 2020/21 season might be shorter than usual.
A short training camp before the season resumes would mitigate some of those injury risks, but throwing the players back into action after a four-month break is going to keep team physiotherapists busy. Stay tuned for more updates as the NBA’s plan to return to the court unfolds.