The Jazz have been in turmoil all season long, and Brunson is doing his best to ensure their pivotal offseason is upon them shortly
For much of the 2020-21 season, the Utah Jazz were the best team in the NBA. They went 22-2 shortly after the calendar flipped to 2021 and finished the season as the top seed in the Western Conference. Injuries derailed them down the stretch, and while they flamed out of the playoffs in the second round, expectations were high coming into this season.
Unfortunately for the Jazz, things haven’t gone nearly as smoothly as last season. They struggled to reach the same heights as last season, and there has been an underlying tension surrounding the team that will make for a potentially tumultuous offseason in Utah. Jalen Brunson of the Dallas Mavericks is doing his best to make sure the Jazz enter the offseason sooner rather than later.
Jalen Brunson has emerged as a star for the Dallas Mavericks
Brunson has filled in admirably for the Mavericks’ star point guard, Luka Doncic, to open the Mavericks’ first-round playoff series against the Jazz. Despite Doncic missing the first three games of the series, Brunson has guided Dallas to a 2-1 series lead over a Jazz team that is as healthy as they have been all season long.
“It’s just me being myself, just trying to help my team win. That’s all I’m thinking about right now. I’m not really thinking about it as a coming-out party.”
After a 41-point, five-assist outing in Game 2 helped even the series at 1-1, Brunson controlled the proceedings again in Game 3 with 31 points and five more assists. With Doncic nearing a return and Brunson making a star turn, things are not looking great for the Jazz.
The Utah Jazz are spiraling out of control
While Brunson’s play is a hot topic of discussion right now, it’s also worth noting what this means for Utah. They have their full complement of players available, and it hasn’t mattered. Even with Doncic on the sidelines, the Mavericks have taken a 2-1 series lead early on. To say a first-round exit would be a massive disappointment for the Jazz would be an understatement.
If it wasn’t obvious already, Game 4 is an absolute must-win for the Jazz. If they lose, they would have to go back to Dallas and find a way to overcome a Mavs team that will almost certainly have Doncic back in the starting lineup. But, considering they have been getting torched by Brunson and company so far, that doesn’t seem too likely to happen.
If the Jazz end up crashing out in the first round, what does this mean for the team moving forward? Trade rumors involving Utah’s star point guard Donovan Mitchell have been swirling for some time now, and he is reportedly unhappy with how things have unraveled for the Jazz this season. But, of course, losing in the first round probably won’t ease his concerns.
The backcourt pairing of Mitchell and Mike Conley hasn’t always seemed to work the way it was intended to, which has created some issues for Utah. Add in another ball-dominant guard off the bench in Jordan Clarkson, and you can see where some of the problems are popping up for the Jazz.
There have also been rumors that Mitchell and perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate Rudy Gobert have never gotten along. Their relationship seemed to take a hit when Gobert jokingly touched all the reporters’ microphones during a press conference to show he wasn’t worried about COVID-19 right at the onset of the pandemic. He ended up getting COVID, which forced the league to shut down for some time.
This offseason, it could turn into a Mitchell vs. Gobert battle for the Jazz front office, which would be less than ideal. Of course, if they win their first-round matchup, maybe those tensions will simmer down. But that doesn’t appear likely, and if the Jazz end up fracturing this offseason, Jalen Brunson will have played a large part in making it happen with his first-round heroics.