Nothing exposes the fine line between success and failure quite like the NBA playoffs. One inopportune turnover, and Chris Paul can go from Point God to Point Goat. One unfortunate flick of the arm, and the Warriors can go from the greatest team of all time to the greatest meme of all time. And in the case of the 2022 Jazz, a wide-open three can mean either a bold, season-saving victory or an offseason filled with tough questions.

The Jazz’s season ended Thursday, as Bojan Bogdanovic’s three shots as time expired in Game 6 helped the Mavericks clinch their first-round series. Utah has been a giddy topic of conversation all season. Can Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert really play together? Who can the team get back in trades if they blow it? Is Rudy more consumable? Or is Donovan really the problem? Oh, and is Quin Snyder going to coach the Lakers instead?

In this era of an insatiable appetite for player movement, it can sometimes feel like people are trying to create trades before letting things happen as they should. Remember, in this season alone, anonymous league executives were salivating at the thought of the Celtics splitting Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown…until that duo transformed Boston into if not the best team in the East, possibly the best team in the league.

Which brings us back to Jazz. Can people really be sure that the best way forward is to break up the group? Or is it too much fun messing around with the commercial machine and Photoshopping Mitchell in various jerseys? I don’t want to be flippant. Utah has real issues — like a hefty payroll and hard-to-move contracts — and the road to discord won’t be easy. Especially with teams like the booming Mavericks, Pelicans and Nuggets. But I’m not sure Jazz is completely doomed either.

Just two years ago, the Suns were a team more likely to be the butt of a joke than a title contender. Devin Booker was an All-Star with empty stats. Deandre Ayton was a bust. I’m not saying Utah can do something as simple as go out and acquire Chris Paul. At the same time, their stars can look in the mirror before thinking of looking elsewhere.

For Mitchell, his efforts on the defensive side of the field need to improve. He can’t afford to be called on every switch in the fourth quarter and get fried over and over again. It’s a problem that other stars in his position have already encountered. And while guys like Booker or Stephen Curry might not be in the DPOY conversation, they’ve worked hard enough at that end of the field not to crater their teams late in games.

For Gobert, he cannot rest on the laurels of his rim protection. Ayton is a good example of who he should try to emulate. The Phoenix center was a controversial pick until he honed every little part of his offensive game to become someone who can take advantage of playoff teams. Gobert will not become Shaq overnight. That’s not to say he can’t spend the last hour in the gym this summer working on little sealers, floaters and an elbow jumper.

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And while the parts around Mitchell and Gobert won’t bring back another star, some sort of shakeup could at least provide an injection of energy. Mike Conley’s contract is not fully guaranteed beyond next season. Does that make him a little more mobile? Could Jordan Clarkson – who, to be fair, brought it on in the first round – be moved for a first defensive wing? Bogdanovic, who has been instrumental in the success of this team, is also on an expiring contract and could be a legitimate chip to bring back an impact player. Combine enough moves, and maybe Snyder is emboldened to finally change defensive patterns that have clearly gone stale, at least in the playoffs.

I know these options don’t sound great. Perhaps the hardest thing for a team to do is to go from great to great. Still, the Jazz were a 1 seed last season. And in two of their last three playoff series, their elimination has literally come down to one hit. (Conley’s three misses against the Nuggets in Game 7 of this bubble series is another huge “What if?”) But have we really considered their other options?

You don’t get a similar quality star for Mitchell. The Jazz would trade him for a young prospect and pick in hopes that that player could grow into…someone like Mitchell. While his flaws were exposed against Dallas, he’s a 25-year-old who, while having room to improve, is a permanent All-NBA contender who helped keep the team afloat after the departure of Gordon Hayward. Even if Mitchell is a leak risk, offers will still be on the table, so why move the rebuild sooner than necessary?

Utah must also consider the realities of its market. The Jazz have been lucky enough to go from Stockton and Malone, to Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer, to now Mitchell and Gobert. While each of the duos had their ceilings, the franchise has set a standard of competitiveness for nearly 40 years. Does Utah really want to take a road like the Thunder? Is it better to collect lottery tickets and throw away years of competition when you already have two accomplished players on the team? This plan is entirely based on luck. And as we’ve seen with a team like the Sixers, sometimes even when you pick up generational talent like Joel Embiid, getting out of the second round is no small task.

Honestly, I understand the chances of this team staying together are slim. Ownership didn’t have someone like Danny Ainge idly watching after another early playoff exit. And the idea that just being a really good team that makes the playoffs every year, entertains its fans, and has a chance to get to the third round actually has immense value isn’t going to win me any friends in our league- or- bust of the company. All I know is that if Bojan Bogdanovic hit that wide open three – a shot he hit 40.7% of the time during the regular season – the conversation after Game 6 would have been how the Utah bounced back from a crushing loss and showed incredible determination as they forced Game 7. If the line between success and failure is so thin, maybe the Jazz should give themselves a few more chances to see if the next blow falls in his favor.

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