“The strength of the team is the team.”
That’s been the Jazz’s mantra for months now, ever since they found a way to turn around their 2017-18 season and finish with an impressive run to the playoffs.
But this week, Sports Illustrated gave some credence to that claim, thanks to their annual Top 100 player list. In it, all five members of the Jazz’s starting lineup finish among the league’s top 60 players. The Jazz are one of only two teams with five players in the top 60, along with the Boston Celtics.
Point guard Ricky Rubio finished with the lowest rank among Jazz starters at spot No. 57, one better than Jeff Teague, the point guard who Minnesota GM Tom Thibodeau replaced him with last offseason.
Immediately ahead of Rubio in SI’s list at No. 56 is Joe Ingles, who earns his highest-ever ranking thanks to his assortment of secondary skills. As SI says, “If you were to ask a basketball coach to describe their ideal role player, they might unknowingly profile Ingles.”
Derrick Favors finishes as SI’s 51st best player. In his blurb, author Rob Mahoney credits Favors’ versatility, adding value when Gobert is out of the game and making a fearsome duo when both play together.
Second-year player Donovan Mitchell slots in at No. 34, five spots ahead of Rookie of the Year competitor Jayson Tatum, but eight spots below winner Ben Simmons. Ben Golliver compares Mitchell to a young Derrick Rose — who made the All-Star team in his sophomore campaign and was league MVP in his third year. He also asserts “Mitchell might very well become Utah’s most beloved and decorated player since Stockton and Malone.”
Finally, the Jazz’s spot in the top 15 comes from Rudy Gobert. The lanky Frenchman finishes No. 14 overall, one spot ahead of Weber State product Damian Lillard, but one spot behind the Warriors’ Draymond Green. “His presence provides a sense of order, a way of life,” says Mahoney.