When the Utah Jazz lost Gordon Hayward in free agency, they were expected to begin a rebuilding phase this season and become a lottery team.
But they have surprised many people and are firmly in the hunt for a playoff place this year, which didn't seem possible at the start of the campaign.
With one of the best coaches in the league at their disposal in Quin Snyder, however, they have remained competitive in a fierce Western Conference and he will deserve serious Coach of the Year considerations if they secure a postseason berth.
The emergence of talented rookie Donovan Mitchell has also been a huge reason for their success this campaign as he's taken on the scoring load left by Hayward.
With the 13th pick in the draft, the 21-year-old is one of the biggest steals in recent years and is quickly developing into a star in Utah.
Unlike many other teams around the league, the Jazz were not prepared to tank the season and have remained an exciting outfit even after losing their All-Star in the summer.
They could easily have looked to bring in future stars via the lottery and sacrificed losing in this campaign but instead, they made the smart decision to trade Trey Lyles to the Denver Nuggets in exchange for the number 13 pick, which got them Mitchell this year.
Rudy Gobert has been another huge factor in their impressive season as he's continued to be a force on the defensive end.
Even after Hayward's departure, the Frenchman was always adamant that they were good enough to make the playoffs and is pleased that the franchise didn't take a step back by tanking.
He believes their approach is the right way to teach young players how to win in the NBA.
“Just try to teach players how to make winning plays, not only good basketball plays but winning plays,” Gobert said in explaining coach Quin Snyder’s system, per USA Today.
“Teach every single one to help the team win games. A lot of teams are very good doing skill work, strength work. But if you want to win, you have to teach a player how to win. That’s why I don’t believe in tanking, all that stuff.
"I believe you learn how to win by winning. You don’t learn how to win by losing on purpose to get a 19-year-old who you’ve never seen.”
Utah currently occupies the fifth spot in the west - the same position they finished in last year with Hayward - with a 40-30 record and are two games ahead of the Denver Nuggets in ninth.
With 12 games to go, they are in a good position to seal a top-eight place and credit must collectively go to the front office, coaching staff and players for overcoming the odds and still enjoying a winning season.
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