January 6, 2012; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; The Utah Jazz team during the National Anthem at EnergySolutions Arena prior to a game against the Memphis Grizzlies. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE

Utah who?

It seems like every year articles get posted on season projections for every NBA team.  Last year to begin the season many experts had the Jazz finishing dead last in the Western Conference.  Well we didn’t finish dead last, we made the playoffs and surprised the entire NBA.  Now this year I keep reading how the Jazz overachieved last year and they don’t expect them to do as well this year.  Well we don’t know how the Jazz are going to do this year in a stacked Western Conference but the Jazz on paper are a better team than last year and these young players are getting better.

A couple years ago reading all these articles doubting the Jazz would tick me off, the Jazz have consistently made the playoffs for 20+ years minus a year here and there.  This year though I have a completely different attitude and I think it should be how all Jazz fans take this criticism.  Bring on the doubt, hate and lack of faith in this team.   If last year showed us anything it’s that this core can compete and they can play with the best in this league.  One thing that is being discounted more than anything else is how these young players should progress this season.

Media day on Monday was such a breath of fresh air after waiting all off season and dying for Jazz news, we finally got tons of it. Enes Kanter showed up to camp dropping 51 pounds in 2 months during the off season and looks like a completely different player.  Alec Burks looks to have bulked up a bit and after his great performance in the Orlando Summer League it will be great to see how much he has improved.  Derrick Favors is the guy everyone is buzzing about and every Jazz fan expects great things from him.  Lastly Gordon Hayward now has 2 seasons behind him and will probably take on a bigger roll this year, his attitude and drive to win is also something that should help him.

Paul Millsap, Mo Williams and Al Jefferson are also playing for a little something extra this year, money.  They all have contracts that expire after this season so they need to sell themselves to other teams to grab as much cash as they can this coming off season.  Pretty much every player that showed up to camp looked to be in great shape and excited to get this season going.  It’s all going to depend on how they play together and if this team can mesh and win some games.

ESPN put out their first power rankings of the season out recently and had the Jazz 16th overall in the NBA.  They also had 8 Western Conference teams ahead of the Jazz in the Lakers, Thunder, Spurs, Clippers, Nuggets, Mavericks, Grizzlies and Timberwolves.  This means ESPN doesn’t think the Jazz will make the playoffs.  No surprise.  We should love this knowing that a season ago they ranked us dead last in the Western Conference and we finished 8th.  This season we would love to finish higher than 8th and see this team progress.  I believe that if this team can build chemistry early that they will finish higher than 8th in the standings.  I don’t think it will be too long this season before people stop saying “Utah who?” and start saying “You need to watch this Utah Jazz team.”

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