On-Ball Defense Will Plague Utah Jazz Amid Title Hopes

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The Utah Jazz once again looks like one of the best teams in the NBA. The Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns are the only two teams in the league that have a better record than them.

The Jazz have the best average point differential in the NBA and are stellar on both ends of the court rating-wise.

Utah has the best offensive rating in the NBA at 117.4. They are fifth in defensive rating at 107.4, giving them a net rating of +10. That is the best mark in the league as well, just ahead of the +9.9 the Warriors have.

However, when taking a deeper look into things, it is fair to question if the Jazz is as good as their statistics would lead to believe. As Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune pointed out, they could be a little misleading.

LATEST NBA NEWS: 3 Key Trade Targets For Jazz To Consider At The Trade Deadline

While Utah has found plenty of success this season, they have struggled when facing opponents on their level. As Larsen shared, the Jazz is 1-5 thus far this season against teams in the top eight of the NBA.

Their only victory against a current top-eight team in the NBA came against the Milwaukee Bucks on Halloween. However, that victory might as well come with an asterisk, as the Bucks were without numerous key players. Giannis Antetokounmpo did play, so it’s not a huge asterisk, but Jrue Holiday, Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton were all sidelined.

LATEST NBA NEWS: 3 Key Trade Targets For Jazz To Consider At The Trade Deadline

Pinpointing what the issue is that plagues Utah isn’t overly difficult. When you look around at the other top teams they struggle with, the Jazz has some similarities. They have a go-to scorer in Donovan Mitchell. They have elite rim protection with Rudy Gobert. Shooters galore with Bojan Bogdanovic, Mike Conley, Jordan Clarkson and Joe Ingles. Glue guys such as Royce O’Neale.

What the Jazz are missing though, however, is that lockdown, on-ball defender, especially on the perimeter. Donovan Mitchell and Bojan Bogdanovic are not great defenders, which leaves Utah vulnerable in crunch time and make things all the more challenging for Rudy Gobert.

It also hurts them when opposing teams go small. It is a big reason the LA Clippers pulled off a huge upset without Kawhi Leonard in the 2021 NBA Postseason. They went small and the Jazz couldn’t match it.

LATEST NBA NEWS: 3 Key Trade Targets For Jazz To Consider At The Trade Deadline

Utah is in the market for a defensive-minded wing that they can insert into the starting lineup and with good reason. Without addressing that need, it could be another early exit from the postseason for the Utah Jazz despite what is shaping up to be another very strong regular season.

Building a package to acquire that type of player is easier said than done. Ingles and a first-round pick could be the most Utah is willing to part with as they do not want a drastic overhaul, just someone they can plug and play into their starting five as a defensive stopper.

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