Utah Jazz 2017-18 season primer: Finding a new identity

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SALT LAKE CITY, UT – APRIL 28: Rodney Hood #5 of the Utah Jazz scores in the first half against the Los Angeles Clippers in Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Vivint Smart Home Arena on April 28, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)

The Utah Jazz may have lost Gordon Hayward, but this remains a well-coached team with a commitment to defense

The biggest news surrounding the Utah Jazz offseason was that of the bad variety, so let’s address the elephant in the room immediately. Gordon Hayward chose to leave Utah and sign with the Boston Celtics via unrestricted free agency.

One can’t blame the former Butler star, as he decided to reunite with Brad Stevens, his college coach, and join what is undoubtedly a better team in Boston. Still, Hayward leaving a Utah group that was on the rise in the Western Conference didn’t feel like a lock at the end of the 2016-17 campaign and surely felt like a punch to the gut for Utah hoops fans everywhere.

Utah is coming off a 51-win season that saw them earn the fifth seed in a very competitive conference. That’s not normally the kind of squad that loses their best player to free agency, though we are seeing more of this trend in the modern NBA. Factor in that Utah’s win total had increased from 40 the year prior, and Hayward’s departure appears to have derailed what was a promising trajectory for the Jazz.

So, the Jazz now enter the 2017-18 campaign with lowered expectations just one year after their first playoff berth in half a decade. The loss of their best player certainly merits this, but the Jazz are suddenly not even a popular pick to make the playoffs. Sure, Utah is a team that never garners much attention on a national scale, and the organization probably likes it that way, but this could lead to the Jazz sneaking up on some people this season.

This remains a well-coached, talented team that is committed on the defensive end of the floor.

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