The Utah Jazz’s regular season is in the books. And though the team continues to play in the post-season, there’s time to hand out some regular season awards to deserving players.
MVP: Rudy Gobert
Gordon Hayward has nailed down the title of “face of the franchise” with so many nails you could make a bed with them. But Rudy Gobert is the arms, limbs and torso of this team. His overlooked greatness (by the rest of the NBA) led the Jazz to 51 wins in yet another injury-ridden season.
Gobert has quietly become the best center in the NBA (yes he is, don’t argue). His defensive prowess in the paint is unparalleled. Opponents shot 43.9 percent within six feet when Gobert was around, the best mark in the NBA for players who played at least 50 games. For reference, the league average for a shot within 10 feet is 56.2 percent.
The “Stifle Tower” also managed to lead the league in blocks per game (2.6), defensive win shares (6.0) and defensive real plus-minus (5.99)
On offense, Gobert was a model of efficiency. He posted a career-high field goal percentage (66.4) and was third on the Jazz in points per game (14.0). Gobert also recorded the second-most games with 15 or more points (36) and third-most 20-point games (11). He was also second in the NBA in offensive rating (129.1)
Most Interesting Man: Boris Diaw
Boris Diaw brought more than his experience and 6-8 250 lb. frame to Salt Lake City. His baggage included a diverse set of hobbies, interests and quirks not commonly seen.
Among his many exploits are: directing a short film (with screenplay written by him on a plane), written a children’s book, gone on frequent African safaris and traveled to dozens of countries in Europe, Africa and Central and South America. Diaw is also an amateur photographer, which has come in handy on the safaris.
Diaw is also a connoisseur of wine and a coffee expert. When playing for the San Antonio Spurs, Diaw went so far as having a cappuccino machine in his locker.
Most improved: Joe Ingles
Last season Joe Ingles was considered an example of how bad the extent of Utah’s injuries were. “We’re down to playing Joe Ingles significant time,” fans said. He was considered a fifth wing at his best. A guy who played spot minutes and garbage time. Now, he’s a starter in the playoffs and a fan favorite.
Ingles finished third in the NBA in three-point shooting percentage and led the Jazz in steals (1.2 per game) in just 24 minutes per game. He was also the team “iron-man,” being the only player on the team to play all 82 games in the regular season.
Ingles has become somewhat of a poor man’s Gordon Hayward (if Hayward grew up in Australia and had a more colorful personality). And despite having the lateral quickness of a freight train, he is one of the better perimeter defenders on the team.
Biggest disappointment: Trey Lyles
This could have been Derrick Favors but his disappointment came from an inability to escape the effects of injuries past and present. Lyles was just a failure. He became the poster child for the sophomore slump, going from starting 33 games (in 80 appearances) his rookie year receiving 11 DNP-CDs (Did Not Play-Coach’s Decision).
From a numbers standpoint, Lyles’ season doesn’t look so bad. He increased his averages in points, assists, steals, blocks and free throw percentage. But that’s where the improvements end.
While Lyles’ raw production stats increased, his efficiency fell through the basement. His field goal percentage dropped from 43.8 percent to 36.4 (38.3 to 31.9 from three-point range). His offensive rating plummeted from 102 to 95 (the worst on the team) and his win shares went from 2.3 to 0.8 (his offensive win share total was -0.8).
Lyles’ defensive stats dropped, but not significantly. Though that’s not much of a saving grace considering one of Lyles’ main criticisms last season was his defense. And, as mentioned, it was worse this season.
Most Injury-Prone: George Hill
It’s only fitting to have this award considering Utah’s season.
George Hill must have done something to anger the basketball gods because he suffered way too many injuries this season. And his weren’t like the lingering or recurring injuries which plagued Derrick Favors, Alec Burks, Rodney Hood and Dante Exum. Hill’s were all over the place from head to toe.
During the season, Hill had six stints of games missed due to injury, missing 33 games in total. The first injury was a sprained thumb, for which Hill missed eight games early in the season. Four games after returning, Hill sprained his toe and missed 13 games.
Seven minutes into the second game after coming back from the sprained toe, Hill took a hard elbow to the face from Phoenix Suns center Alex Len. Hill missed three games due to a concussion and a lip so severely cut he couldn’t eat for several days. Toward the end of the season, Hill sustained a groin injury which held him out for six games.