The Utah Jazz secured the NBA’s best record last season with their 52-20 mark.
The Jazz sported the league’s best point differential as well, plus-9.2, a full three points better than the second-highest team.
Utah posted the sixth-best Net Rating in league history with their plus-11.2 mark.
Unfortunately for Utah, though, after taking a 2-0 lead on the Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference semifinals, the Jazz lost the next four games in a row.
The worst of the losses came in Game 6, when Utah squandered a 25-point second half lead in the deciding contest.
Without a major roster overhaul, the Jazz enter the 2021-22 season with title hopes intact.
Jazz Determined To Demonstrate Greatness
"They're going to come back with a vengeance to show everybody this wasn't a fluke."@DarthAmin tells @Jumpshot8 why he thinks the @utahjazz will be the best team in the West again next season.#TakeNote pic.twitter.com/8RxLSdDWgE
— SiriusXM NBA Radio (@SiriusXMNBA) August 21, 2021
The second-round loss to the Clippers stands as particularly difficult to accept considering Los Angeles’ missing of Kawhi Leonard.
But it’s not like the Jazz were 100 percent healthy either.
Although the two-time All-Star continued to pour in the points, averaging 32.3 points per game over 10 playoff contests, Mitchell did struggle against double-teams from the Clippers.
Recognizing the value of Conley signaled the trading of Derrick Favors to the Oklahoma City Thunder this offseason.
Shipping Favors off freed up the cap space to sign Conley, who relieves that playmaking pressure off Mitchell.
Mitchell, meanwhile, seems to be entering the prime of his career.
The 24-year-old shooting guard is coming off his second-straight All-Star berth.
His 26.4 points per game averaged ranked 11th in the NBA last season.
And he’s one postseason removed from a 36.3 scoring average which led the league.
Not to be undone, in the series against the Clippers, Mitchell netted the most three-pointers in a single series in NBA history.
Donovan Mitchell made 36 three-pointers vs the Clippers.
That is the most 3-pt FG in a playoff series in NBA history. pic.twitter.com/HFgbsDHYXU
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 19, 2021
Surprisingly, Mitchell was not among the All-NBA honorees last season, which should provide the young guard with a sizable chip on his shoulder.
Mitchell posted career highs in points (26.4), assists (5.2), and three-point percentage (38.6).
He scored over 30 points 19 different times last season.
Utah Added Quality Depth To The Roster
The Jazz didn’t make any major personnel moves, but Utah did tinker with the roster.
The team traded away Favors for cap space, but added Hassan Whiteside in free agency.
Whiteside should be a reliable backup for Rudy Gobert, considering his 13.3 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks career averages.
Utah signed Rudy Gay, who averaged 11.4 points and 4.8 rebounds over 63 games in his 15th NBA season.
Gay provides another floor-spacing option to deploy off the bench.
The Jazz also acquired Mitchell’s childhood friend Eric Paschall, who has posted 12.2 points and 4.0 rebounds per game over his first two seasons in the league.
The team also might have the steal of the 2021 NBA Draft after selecting Jared Butler from Baylor.
The No. 40 overall selection, Butler helped Baylor’s championship run with averages of 16.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 2.0 steals per game.
Despite these improvements, though, the Jazz may ultimately slot in behind both the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference’s pecking order.
While Utah may finish above one of the them in the standings, considering the two are part of the Pacific Division, the Jazz might not be favored against either in a playoff matchup.