The Jazz received some validation in June when center Rudy Gobert was named to the NBA's All-Defensive Team.
The Jazz have gone to a whole other level in July. They've become their own version of an all-defensive team, adding three free agents who will add depth to a roster that's already built for defense. The issue becomes whether the Jazz can score enough points in the absence of Gordon Hayward, while general manager Dennis Lindsey's personnel strategy is triggering some clever responses from NBA observers. They joke that he's trying to assemble all the defenders in the league, so that nobody would be left to stop his own offense.
It might not be so funny in January, when the Jazz are struggling to score. The Jazz are renovating Vivint Smart Home Arena with padded seats, upgraded food choices and a new entry, all designed to enhance the experience of watching a team that will score 85 points some nights.
But here's the thing about Utah: This is one place where fans appreciate effort and defense — especially when those elements win basketball games. They don't have to be entertained, they just want the Jazz to put a hard-working, winning product on the court.
They won't be boring, necessarily. The rules will force them to shoot the ball every 24 seconds. And if the tradeoff is a victory, even on a night when watching them fail to score is painful, that's fair.
The best way to compensate for a lack of star players is to develop an identity and play to that strength. That's what the Jazz have done since February 2015 when Gobert became their starting center after the trade of Enes Kanter.
And now they're doubling down on defense. The variable is that Hayward is a good defender, besides having been the Jazz's leading scorer, and he'll be missed at both ends. The Jazz won't automatically improve from last year's No. 3 defensive rating in the NBA, although their bench appears much stronger defensively. And as Miami proved last season, it is possible to be a top-five defensive team and miss the playoffs.
Lindsey's approach just might work, though. Hayward's departure, and the time he took before choosing Boston in free agency, left the Jazz without much opportunity to replace his 21.9-point scoring average. So they went the other direction, landing free agents who have some offensive skills but are more oriented to stopping people.
Atlanta forward Thabo Sefolosha, Boston forward Jonas Jerebko and veteran center Ekpe Uhdo, who most recently played in Turkey, are versatile defenders. They will come off the bench and thrive in Jazz coach Quin Snyder's defensive system, which requires a lot of switching.
My orientation is offense. I studied Basketball Coaching Methods under Utah State's Rod Tueller, who believed the way to win games was to outscore the other guys — not hold them to fewer points. When his Aggies once lost 142-140 to UNLV, I recognized the problem was they didn't score 143.
But I'm adjusting, admiring how the Jazz have become a defensive force in Snyder's three seasons after being worst in the NBA. He's also a creative offensive coach, and he'll need every bit of that imagination to manufacture enough scoring with this team.
Rodney Hood must become a more consistent shooter as a primary option, Gobert has to keep developing offensively and Snyder needs to maximize Ricky Rubio's passing skills, while somehow making him a better shooter.
After trading Rubio and acquiring point guard Jeff Teague, Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau said opponents no longer would be able to go under screens on the pick-and-roll. That's how they've played Rubio, clogging the lane.
So the Jazz will have their challenges with this roster composition. Their offense will need some work just to become effective enough for them to remain a playoff team. In the meantime, they're determined to make other people suffer — not their own fans.