The New Orleans Pelicans welcome the Utah Jazz to the Crescent City Friday for their first and only preseason game at home. After an uneven performance on Wednesday against the Chicago Bulls that ended in a come from behind victory, New Orleans will look to work out the kinks on both sides of the basketball — specifically on defense.
Unfortunately, the Jazz won’t make things any easier for NOLA, as they rarely do. Utah comes into the season as a sleeper NBA Finals contender out of the loaded Western Conference for some, after back-to-back eliminations at the hands of the Houston Rockets. Due to several praised acquisitions, however, Utah will be right back in the mix of things, and have a chance to go further with depth and hopefully good health on their side.
For more on Utah however, we welcome SLC Dunk’s contributor Taylor Griffin. Griffin has been writing with SB Nation since 2016 and if you aren’t already, be sure to follow him at @griffdunk
Hope you enjoy another preseason installment of Outsider’s Perspective.
1. The national consensus for Western Conference supremacy may be Los Angeles based, but the Utah Jazz could be the last team standing when the dust settles. Is there a feeling throughout Jazz nation that this is the year Utah returns back to the Finals? Is it championship or bust with how wide open the NBA is again?
There is definitely a different feeling in the air for Jazz fans. The past few seasons Jazz fans have known they have a good team, but a championship was something pretty far away and not necessarily expected at all. This year is different.
I think a lot of Jazz fans actually believe they can win an NBA championship, and I think they are right for having that belief. The league is more open this season than it has been in years, and the Jazz have the most firepower on their roster since the Stockton and Malone days. I wouldn’t go as far to say that’s its “championship or bust” but anything less than the WCF will be a disappointment for this Jazz team.
2. The Pelicans have had an underrated guard for years in Jrue Holiday. The person normally listed right next to him is Mike Conley Jr. Talk about how huge the Conley addition is to Utah and what his presence will do for Donovan Mitchell.
The Jazz have never brought in a player from free agency or trade as big as Mike Conley. Underrated or not, he’s the highest profile player the Jazz have been able been able to acquire. He seems to fit the mold exactly in Utah, in a guy that just wants to work hard and win a championship.
So many of us Jazz fans can’t wait to watch Conley suit up for the Jazz this season, it’s going to be awesome. Conley is going to make life much better for Donovan Mitchell. So many times the past two seasons Mitchell was asked to carry the load offensively night in and night out. Conley will take pressure off Mitchell as a scorer, and we should see his efficiency boost up this season.
3. The Pelicans made a slew of acquisitions over the off-season that received attention, but one of the biggest was Derrick Favors. For those that haven’t watched Utah over the past few years, what is NOLA getting in Derrick?
Derrick Favors means so much to the Utah Jazz. If you want a guy on your team that works harder than anyone, is unselfish, does whatever the team needs him to do, and absolutely punish guys on floor, Faves is your guy. Pelicans fans will be surprised to look at the box score during games and say “holy crap, Derrick Favors has 12 points and 10 rebounds??” he gets work done in a manner that flies under the radar. He’s also a great guy, and an amazing teammate.
4. What’s the biggest misconception about the Utah Jazz?
I think there is a narrative out there that pushes the idea that Utah is not a place where NBA players want to live or play. Even though it might be true for some players, I don’t think it’s the general consensus, especially for players that actually have played in Utah.
Most who come through Utah have nothing but good to say about the organization, fans, and Utah as a home. It’s been fun to see Donovan Mitchell break down some of the small market barriers and get tons of exposure for someone playing in Utah.
5. Give us your outside perspective on the Pelicans.
I’m really excited to watch the Pelicans this season. Zion Williamson is going to be an absolute show every time he gets on the floor. I’m also really excited to see if their young core can play well enough to somehow snag a playoff spot in the west. I think they will have a lot of people rooting for them, including lots of Jazz fans rooting for their boy D-Faves.
That will do it for our time with Taylor. We’ll see you for our next sit down, and be sure to enjoy the game tonight.