The 2020-2021 NBA season has parts that nobody expected into the start of the season. From the New York Knicks making the playoffs to James Harden joining Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn. Now the playoffs have begun, and the end year standings were not what the experts expected them to be. The Utah Jazz have shocked the entire NBA community, and turning out to be a favorite to go to the finals.
Before the season began, the Jazz were seventh in the preseason power rankings. During the season, the Jazz kept building a culture and provide to be a team not to mess with. Heading into the postseason, the Jazz are the first seed in the Western Conference. Also, the Jazz have the second highest odds to win the NBA finals at +400 according to Fanduel Sportsbooks.
The Jazz has taken over the league by storm and has an excellent chance to make the finals. NBA fans have been wondering which team in the pas is like today’s Jazz. The 2020-2021 Utah Jazz are today’s modern-day 2004 Detroit Pistons championship team. Here are the factors on why the Jazz are similar to the 2004 Detroit Pistons.
Rudy Gobert: The Modern Day Ben Wallace
As many of my coaches have told me in the past, “defense wins championships.” Just like the Pistons, the Jazz are a defensive team. The Jazz has an emphasis on playing tough and strong on the defensive side of the floor. The Jazz is the fourth most efficient team on the defensive team rankings. Back in 2004 , the Pistons were ranked number two on being the most efficient team on the defensive end. Also, the Jazz has the most impactful defensive player on the floor, Rudy Gobert. Gobert has the impact on the defensive end just like Ben Wallace did for the Pistons.
Gobert plays the old-school way of being a center like Wallace compared to the modern-day centers. Compare to the modern centers, Gobert focuses on being a locked-down defender at an elite level. He makes other players scared to go down in the paint with his ability to block shots and fights to win the rebounding battles. Gobert is providing to the entire league that the old-school center style of play can still be effective in today’s game.
According to Eric Woodyard of Desert News, Gobert in France would watch Youtube videos of Wallace due to the country not having access to games live. Gobert was amazed by Wallace’s approach to the game on the defensive side of the ball.
Wallace was asked to give on piece of advice in an interview to Gobert. Wallace stated, “Embrace what you bring to the game and have fun with it. Just because they said it’s no defense and this is a scoring league or whatever, don’t fall for that trap. Somebody is going to have to play defense for them to win. It’s your niche, have fun with it.”
Leadership at the Guard Position
Both teams had team leaders at the guard position. For the Jazz, Donovan Mitchell is the primary leader for the team. Mitchell is not only known for his high-intensity play on the floor. But as well as a respectful leader in the locker room as well. Jazz’s forward Bogan Bogdanovic stats on Mitchell, “He’s our leader and best player,” per Sarah Todd of Desert News.
Mitchell is compared to having leadership skills like Pistons guard Chauncey Billups. The two players play two completely different styles. Billups was more of a traditional guard who is all about passing and shooting the ball efficiently. Mitchell plays at a high intensity with his flashy dunks and passes.
Even though the two players play two different basketball styles, the two are more known for being the foremost leaders on their teams. Billups and Mitchell are all about the team rather than themselves. The box scores do not matter to them at the end of the day. The two players only cared about winning each game for the team rather than themselves.
Roles Players Are Key to Success
Both teams have role players that drove the success of the group. For the Pistons, players like Tayshaun Prince and Rip Hamilton made an impact at the starting level. Also, the Pistons had critical players like Lindsey Hunter, who gave huge sparks on the bench in the middle of games.
These players are very similar to today’s Utah Jazz. Guard Mike Conley plays the role of Rip Hamilton, and Bojan Bogdanovic plays the role of Tayshaun Prince. The 6th man player of the year, Jordan Clarkson, gave a boost off the bench as Hunter did for the Pistons.
The role players are keys to win games on both teams.Even if the main starters are not playing the best, the role players can bring in that boost that the team’s needs. Mitchell and Gobert are not doing all the work for the entire team. It takes guys like Conley, Bogdanovic, and Clarkson that help teams win close games. It was about the entire team working together as one rather than focusing on individuals. That’s why both teams are successful in the way they are structured to perform as one unit.
It’s About the Team, Not the Individual
Both the Utah Jazz and the Detroit Pistons play at the idea that it’s about getting the one team involved. It is not about just one superstar doing all the work for an entire team. Both teams are focused on working together as one unit rather than focusing on themselves as individuals. It’s a brotherhood and family atmosphere that few teams have in NBA history.
One NBA scout commented and compared the 2004 Pistons to today’s Jazz. The scout stated, “You kind of go back to the old Detroit team that won it,” the scout said. “They just had a lot of really good players. I thought Utah needed another star, but I’ve changed on that,” per ESPN’s Tim Bontemps.
The main question to all of this is can the Jazz win a championship like the Pistons? The Jazz have a good chance of making it to the finals. Especially with the Western Conference being a dog fight this postseason. The Jazz could make a run, just like the Miami Heat last year when the team had no superstars and made it to the finals. The Heat would lose to the Lakers in the finals but still prove it does not take one player to win games in the playoffs.
It comes down to teams working together as one unit and focusing on the job of winning. The Jazz got something to prove to the entire league and could prove the haters wrong.