The Utah Jazz ended with a flourish, winning seven of the last eight games to head into the all-star break with a 26-26 record. While they are in position to make a playoff run, injuries have held the Jazz back from reaching the lofty expectations that many had for the up-and-coming roster early in the year.
But what those injuries have done, is it has given plenty of other players the chance to prove themselves and show us what they can do at the NBA level. With those opportunities, we have seen huge strides taken and great growth for the young Jazz roster.
This break in the action gives us the time to grade exactly how each Jazz player has performed so far this year and hand out mid-season awards.
Burks was having plenty of success coming off the bench until he got bit by the injury bug yet again. Before he went down, he was a consistent scorer, reaching double figures in 21 of 28 games and never having less than eight points. While his outside shot has improved, he still needs to up his overall percentage to be the big-time scorer he can be. His best outing came in a four-point loss to Cleveland when he had 24 points on 7 for 13 shooting from the floor, including 4 for 5 from 3-point land and 6 for 6 from the free-throw line. He added three rebounds, three assists and a steal in 30:11.
So far this year, he is averaging 14.3 points on 40.9 percent shooting with 3.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 27.1 minutes.
While his overall numbers are at a career-low, Burke is having his most effective season in the Association. His jump ineffectiveness is thanks to posting career highs in field-goal percentage, 3-point percentage and effective field goal percentage. While his defense still needs some work, he has proven to be a solid scoring option with the second unit. His best outing came in a 13-point win over Portland when he totaled a season-high 27 points on 12 for 19 shooting from the floor, including 2 for 5 from beyond the arc. He added three assists, a rebound and a steal in 29:22.
So far this year, he is averaging 11.8 points on 42.3 percent shooting with 2.6 assists and 2.0 rebounds in 23.6 minutes.
Lyles didn’t start out the season well. He looked lost most of the time he was on the floor and didn’t even make a shot until his fifth game. While it took a while, he has figured things out and earned more minutes because of it. He has posted seven double figure scoring games in the new year and become a big piece of the rotation on most nights. One of his best showings came in a 27-point win over the Los Angeles Lakers when he 17 points on 6 for 10 shooting from the floor, including 2 for 4 from beyond the arc and 3 for 4 from the free-throw line. He added nine rebounds, two assists and a block in 30:28.
So far this season, he is averaging 4.6 points on 41.9 percent shooting with 3.9 rebounds in 17.1 minutes.
While his numbers will never blow you away, Ingles is the kind of glue-guy that every team needs. He can handle the ball, knock down the open jumper and find the open man. His best outing came in a five-point loss to the Los Angeles Clippers when he registered 14 points on 5 for 10 shooting from the floor, including 4 for 8 from beyond the arc. He added three rebounds and an assist in 25:40.
So far this season, he is averaging 4.0 points on 41.9 percent shooting with 1.6 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 14.3 minutes.
Millsap was in the middle of a brutal shooting season when the Jazz let him go. He had made just 11 of 39 shots from the floor and only 1 of 12 from 3-point land. While his defense was still valuable at times, it’s impossible to keep a guy on the roster if he is such a liability on one end of the floor. His best game came in a nine-point loss to the Magic when he had eight points on the strength of a 5 for 6 shooting night from the foul line to go along with four rebounds and three assists in 15:51.
On the season, he appeared in 20 games and averaged 1.8 points on 28.2 percent shooting with 1.8 rebounds and 1.0 assists in 8.7 minutes.
Johnson has done some nice things in his spot minutes on the floor. While his shot in very inconsistent, he provides plenty of energy off the bench. One of his best games came in a 15-point win over the Miami Heat when he finished with 14 points on 6 for 9 shooting from the floor, including 2 for 3 from 3-point range. He added four rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals in 31:02.
So far this season, he is averaging 3.0 points on 37.1 percent shooting with 2.0 rebounds in 11.9 minutes.
Pleiss has struggled at both ends of the floor during his rookie season. While his does have a nice shooting touch, his adjustment to the NBA has been slow, to put it nicely. To be fair, it’s very hard to find your footing when minutes are few and far between. His best showing came in a 5-point win to over the Memphis Grizzlies when he had six points on 3 for 4 shooting from the field. He added six rebounds and an assist in 17:08.
So far this season, he has played 12 games and is averaging 2.0 points on 44 percent shooting with 1.4 rebounds in 6.8 minutes.
While He is having the worst shooting season of his career, Booker is a huge piece for the Jazz because of his work on the offensive glass and the energy he brings off the bench. One of his best games came in a 14-point win over the New Orleans Pelicans when he registered 13 points on 5 for 8 shooting from the floor and 3 for 3 from the free-throw line. He added 15 rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals in 38:04.
So far this season, he has appeared in 50 games and is averaging 5.6 points on 45.8 percent shooting with 6.3 rebounds and 1.0 assists in 22.4 minutes.
Green earned a call-up from the Reno Bighorns after tearing up the D-League at a clip of 26.2 points a game. Since joining the Jazz, he has had some nice moments in limited chances. His best showing came in a four-point loss to the New Orleans Pelicans when he had five points on 1 for 2 shooting from the floor and 2 for 2 from the free-throw line. He added a rebound and a steal in 4:13.
O’Brien saw his first shot on an NBA roster produce six minutes of action. He went scoreless while taking just one shot in games against the Los Angeles Lakers and the Brooklyn Nets before he returned to the Idaho Stampede of the D-League. On the plus side, the Jazz won both games he played.
Withey has been a massive contributor for the Jazz since signing in the off season. He was able to step in when Rudy Gobert went down and provide solid rebounding and rim protection. His best game came in a five-point win over the Memphis Grizzlies when he had 12 points on 5 for 9 shooting from the floor and 2 for 4 from the free-throw line. He added 10 rebounds, four blocks, two assists and a steal for one of his two double-doubles on the year.
So far this season, he has played 38 games and is averaging 4.8 points on 54.5 percent shooting with 3.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 14.7 minutes.
Neto earned the stating role from the start of his rookie season and provided some important minutes filling in for the injured Dante Exum. His isn’t an elite scorer or a great shooter, but his does a nice job running the show and playing defense. One of his best games came in a 15-point win over the Miami Heat when he totaled 13 points on 50 percent shooting from the floor and 2 for 2 from the free-throw line. He added five assists, three steals and two rebounds in 33:09.
So far this season, he is averaging 6.2 points on 42.3 percent shooting with 2.5 assists and 1.5 rebounds in 20.5 minutes.
Hood’s growth from his rookie season has been a key to the success the Jazz have had. He has shown the confidence to not only take, but also make big shots while turning into one of the best young scorers the Jazz have ever had. One of his best outings came in a seven-point loss to the New York Knicks when he had 29 points on 11 for 21 shooting from the floor, including 5 for 10 from 3-point land and 2 for 2 from the free-throw line. He added six rebounds and five assists in 41:31.
So far this season, he is averaging 14.9 points on 42.3 percent shooting with 3.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 31.4 minutes.
While a spot on the Western Conference all-star team was just out of reach, Hayward is in the middle of a terrific season. He is the go-to guy on the offensive end and one of the better wing defenders the Jazz have. One of his best games came in a five-point loss to the Charlotte Hornets when he finished with 36 points on 50 percent shooting from the floor, including 6 for 12 from beyond the arc and 6 for 6 from the free-throw line. He added nine assists, five rebounds, two steals and a block in 48:26.
So far this season, he is averaging a career-high 19.9 points on 43.4 percent shooting with 5.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.1 steals in 36.1 minutes.
Favors was on his way to the best season of his career when he was slowed by back issues that sidelined him for a third of the year. In fact, his player efficiency rating of 22.3 is 18th best in the entire league. He can rebound and defend at a high level and has continued to improve his offensive game. One of his best outings came in a three-point win over the Indiana Pacers when he had 35 points on 14 for 24 shooting from the field and 7 for 9 from the free-throw line. He added 13 rebounds, a block and a steal in 43:32.
So far this season he has played 35 games and is averaging a career-high 16.6 points on 51.6 percent shooting with 8.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks in 32.4 minutes.
Gobert is turning into one of the best centers in the league when he is healthy. He is a good rebounder on both ends of the floor and a quality defender. He can finish at the rim and also shows excellent instincts passing the ball. One of his best games came in a 27-point win over the Los Angeles Lakers when he totaled 18 points on 6 for 8 shooting from the floor and 6 for 7 from the free-throw line. He added 18 rebounds and five blocks in 30:25.
So far this season, he is averaging 10.3 points on 60 percent shooting with 10.5 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and 1.7 assists in 33.3 minutes.
The NBA is a weird animal. Coaches get far too much love when a team is doing well and way too much blame when they struggle. But make no mistake, a great coach can make all the difference for a young team. Although injuries have ruled most of the first half for the Jazz, Quin Snyder has had his players prepared just about every night. While there have been some tough losses to some bad teams, he has helped this team progress at an impress rate.
Most valuable player
This might have been a tougher decision if the Jazz hadn’t been so banged up. Hayward has been the constant during the injury-riddled start to the season. He is a gifted scorer and passer who has become one of the best wings in the game today and one of the best in Jazz history.
Most improved player
Hood showed flashes of how good he could be at the end of his rookie campaign, but has stepped up his game even more in year two. He is a valuable scorer thanks to his ability to knock down the outside shot and also get to the rim and finish. What makes him that much more impressive is his improvement at the free-throw line where he is 87.9 percent.
Most surprising player
Very few people were even sure if Withey would earn a roster spot when he came to camp, but he proved that he is much more than a third center. He filled in more than adequately in a starting role with five double figure scoring games and three double figure rebounding games while totaling 21 blocks.
Best defensive player
To say Gobert is an elite defensive player is an understatement. He is a great rim protector and the backbone of the defense. He is one of the best shot blockers the Jazz have ever had and a great help defender.
While Lyles has made a push in the new year, Neto is the clear choice so far. While no one expects him to be the regular starter once Exum returns, Neto has done enough to keep the Jazz in the playoff hunt.