The Utah Jazz have made drastic strides of recent and it seems like everything is coming together for them. All players are clicking and improving, Utah is 34-21, 4th in the Western Conference and stunning the NBA with their terrific defense. It is unbelievable to come from being a a 9th seed in the West into a dangerous squad that could beat any team on any given night.

The Jazz are a dangerous weapon ready to compete for a championship, here are all the reasons why they could be champions.

Gordon Hayward’s Rise

The time was 2014, and Gordon Hayward was struggling on a below average Utah team. Nobody laid a single eye on him although makings of a star were clearly there.

Here we are in 2017 and this is Gordon Hayward’s year. He is in his absolute prime now (an All-Star) and the Jazz are taking full advantage of it. Hayward is putting up 22.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists on 47% shooting.

In key matchups against other star forwards, he has come out victorious and has held his own, especially during crunch time. Despite his astounding play, the word underrated still pops up many times. Hayward deserves more respect, so as long as he will be in the league more greatness will have to be proven.

Bench Depth

The team that made the best decisions in free agency was without a doubt the Utah Jazz. They picked up a starting point guard (George Hill) that was desperately needed in their lineup. Not only is their starting squad deadly, they have a ton of depth. The Jazz’s key bench players are:

Joe Johnson –

Although Joe Johnson isn’t the star he used to be on the Atlanta Hawks, the sixth man role has grown on him awfully well. His 41% three-point shooting is outstanding for a veteran at the age of 35. It is amazing to see how well the Jazz have been utilizing Johnson and later his versatility could pay off.

Boris Diaw –

Can a power forward be more all-around? Boris Diaw is such a great passer for his position it is hard to tell if he is a point guard or power forward. He also shows amazing determination. He’s the first one to enter the gym and has the last one to leave mentality. A player like Diaw could really help a team during a deep playoff run: Utah has to hold on to him.

Other mentionable players: Dante Exum, Joe Ingles.

Defense

Is it insane to say the Utah Jazz are the best defensive team in the league? Maybe yes, maybe no. Their lineup starts off with lockdown defenders George Hill and Rodney Hood, above-average defender Gordon Hayward with defensive machines Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert. Other teams can barely get into the paint or shoot wide open threes, so contested mid-range shots are the best available looks more than often.

Stats definitely are on Utah’s side. They only allow 95 points per night which is by a long margin the fewest amount of points given up. As historic coach Paul Bryant said “Offense wins games, defense wins championships.” This might be the case for Utah, and if they can keep up their stunning defense good things are to come.

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