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3 New Year Resolutions for the Utah Jazz

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With 2019 here, it’s time for the Utah Jazz to take some New Year resolutions seriously.

At the start of the new year, the team is wrestling with the concept of staying at or above .500 and are at least two and a half games out of a playoff berth. The Jazz need to take this transition head on and find ways to make themselves a threat to the rest of the conference almost out of nowhere.

That being said, Utah will need the core players to have that kind of positive mentality that allows the varying parts of this team to thrive night in and night out. Rudy Gobert said recently that he has a similar feeling right now compared to where this team was at to start 2018.

Cutting to the chase will help the Jazz focus on climbing their way back through the standings. Any way that you look at it, the final push to make the playoffs in the Western Conference is likely to be nothing short of hectic.

Keeping their ultimate goal in view, here’s three resolutions that they can make in 2019.

Photo via Deseret News

1. Quit breaking even when playing at home

Defending their home court is the biggest resolution that will impact how the rest of the 2018-19 season will play out. Utah’s gone 8-8 in Salt Lake City thus far, while winning 10 of 22 games on the road. A handful of games will make tons of difference when it’s all said and done, and going .500 at home the rest of the way won’t catapult them where they need to be once the regular season comes to a close.

For comparison, Phoenix is the only team in the Western Conference that has less home wins than Utah (five).

Winning more at home will help them get must-win games under their belt in the postseason, so that in a series where they don’t get to host a potential Game 7 they can at least excel in front of their home crowd and go until they run out of gas.

This all comes with balance, of course, as the example of what they don’t want to be is the Dallas Mavericks. Sure, Luka Doncic has everybody watching what he can contribute as a rookie and beyond, and to their credit they’ve gone a Western Conference-best 15-3 at home so far.

However, because they cannot play well on the road — they’re 2-16 — they find themselves well out of the top eight.

Being top-heavy will only make the Jazz sink further into the standings, but the resolution stands that playing better at home will inspire them to play well when they’re away. You could argue that their schedule has been so rough up to this point, but that’s just an excuse.

The Jazz are a talented NBA team capable of much more than what they’ve produced so far — it’s time they hold themselves accountable and do something about it.

Photo via USA TODAY SPORTS

2. Dominate divisional opponents in January

I think you’d be surprised what kind of ground the Jazz can make up, even if you just consider what is possible in January.

The month starts off with four road games against Toronto, Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee. The two middle games are absolutely winnable while Milwaukee and Toronto will be a good metric for where they’re at when 2019 tips off.

What’s even more important in the month of January, though, is how it ends. Utah plays their entire division with the exception of Oklahoma City in the span of nine days, including back-to-back games against Minnesota, a pair of games against Portland, and a home game in the middle of the week against Denver.

The games against Minnesota are crucial to finishing strong, but if they can win most of these match ups it will do wonders to their position going into February.

Portland usually gets very hot at this point of the season, and until Golden State or another team shuts them down, Denver is the top dog in the entire conference. Not only would this be a tremendous confidence boost for a Utah team that desperately needs it, but their quality of victories in these cases would be exactly what they need.

With Denver and Portland well ahead of Utah in the standings, any wins that can be mustered against them carry much more weight.

Funny how the timing works, but January can turn things around in the blink of an eye.

Photo via AP

3. Find Dante Exum more playing time

One positive note for the Utah Jazz before 2018 came to a close was the excellent play of Dante Exum in his first career start. It came against the New York Knicks in Salt Lake City, and Exum made sure to put on a show en route to dropping a double-double.

Exum got the nod mostly due to an injury to Ricky Rubio, but the way he handled the pressure and the overall situation showed that Utah should see how much he can be trusted as a core part of the rotations.

The more reliable Exum can be later in the season will determine how much depth the Jazz will have at their disposal should they make the playoffs.

Depth was one of the main issues that got in the way last postseason when they met the Houston Rockets in the second round. If they’re able to get this figured out sooner than later without even having to explore a trade, it would do them plenty of good.

Exum also got a vote of confidence from star teammate Donovan Mitchell, who spoke on behalf of the team when he said “we didn’t feel like there was going to be any drop off.”

All things considered, Exum’s overall development should be something that Utah fans should be thrilled about. If he can make some noise with the more opportunities that he gets in the second half of the season, the team will benefit from it in all areas.

Giving him more playing time and possibly a lot more starts is the only way they’re going to know if they can really start to trust him in that position.

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About Keith Rivas

Keith is based In Salt Lake City and covers the Jazz for TLSM. Follow him on Twitter @mrkeithrivas for all things Utah Jazz.

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