Tony Jones, one of the Tribune’s Utah Jazz beat reporters, will answer questions submitted on Twitter each week in his Jazz mailbag. Here are this week’s questions and answers.
Ricky Rubio is playing as well as he has all season, and Rudy Gobert has returned to his All-NBA self. Rubio’s improvement and Gobert’s health have unlocked everything for the Jazz starters, along with Donovan Mitchell’s excellence and Joe Ingles and Derrick Favors playing their best basketball of the season. The starting five suddenly has clicked. They are giving the Jazz a cushion, and the bench is sustaining leads. It feels crazy because there’s been no gradual improvement here. They simply got it together after losing to the Atlanta Hawks two weeks ago. It will be interesting to see how sustainable this is.
I’ll have more on this in a story Tuesday. But the short answer is the Jazz are playing so well at this point that it actually may affect the direction the front office takes as the trade deadline approaches Thursday.
I still put the chances of Derrick Favors being in a Jazz uniform next season as very very slim. The Jazz see him as a center, and they already have a star at that position. As a result, it just isn’t financially prudent to pay Favors big money. Now here’s the caveat: The free agent market may not have a lot of money this summer. That means the Jazz may be able to get Favors at a relative discount. That’s about the only shot I would give him being with the Jazz beyond this season.
The George Hill ship has permanently sailed.
Joe Ingles hasn’t turned down an invite, he simply hasn’t received one. He’s absolutely one of the top shooters in the league. He also would rather spend All-Star weekend with his family. He wasn’t invited, and the guys who were are all fine choices. But I bet if he were given an invitation, he’d think long and hard about whether to accept.
I’d like to see if Ricky Rubio’s improvement is the result of a hot streak or if he’s truly turned it around. If this isn’t a mirage, then it absolutely can coexist. Rubio has been playing sensational basketball over the past two weeks. And he’s one of the biggest reasons for what has been a stunning turnaround by the Jazz. He’s under contract next season, so the chance the Jazz bring him back is very high.
Ricky Rubio has turned around his season and Rudy Gobert is playing like an All-Star. The Jazz have the best net rating in the league at 10.9 over the past 10 games. They are second in overall shooting at 50 percent and 8-2 — also second in the league. Gobert has a ton to do with this. He’s one of the three best overall defenders in the NBA, and he so significantly affects what the opposition has to do. Take the New Orleans win for example. Most teams have to commit more than one defender to Pelicans star Anthony Davis. Gobert guarded Davis one-on-one and held him to 6 of 16 from the field and 1 point in the second half. Offensively, Gobert causes so much trouble by rolling down the middle of the lane. It either opens up a lob attempt or a 3-point shooter will be open on the weakside. When you add Donovan Mitchell and an improved Rubio, the Jazz are a different team. The hot streak won’t last. Utah eventually will miss shots. But with a healthy Gobert and Mitchell and an improved Rubio, this is a good team.