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Mike Sorensen: Jazz, Utes fans might want to temper their optimism a bit at this point

Jazz fans and Utes fans have reason to be excited for next season. Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — There's plenty to talk about in the sports world these days with Wimbledon just wrapping up, Major League Baseball getting back to business after the All-Star Game, the Tour de France in full swing and the British Open golf tournament coming up this week.

All the talk around here for the last month or so, however, has centered on how the Utah Jazz are primed for an NBA Finals run thanks to their recent offseason moves and how the Utah football team is ready for a run for the Roses, as in the Rose Bowl, and the chance for its first Pac-12 title.

What has Jazz fans all agog is the wheeling and dealing the franchise has done over the past month in acquiring Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, Ed Davis, Jeff Green and Emmanuel Mudiay while jettisoning Derrick Favors, Ricky Rubio, Kyle Korver, Jae Crowder, Grayson Allen and Raul Neto.

Up on the hill, the Utes are coming off a Pac-12 South Division title and are being favored by most experts, many of whom see the Utes being better than whoever will come out of the North, with their usual strong defense and a healthy offense featuring a new coordinator.

It's all well and good for sports fans to get excited -- after all, isn't that half the fun of sports, anticipating the good things that might happen in the upcoming season? But Jazz and Ute fans might need to take a deep breath and temper their expectations a bit.

In the NBA, there are another five or six fan bases in the West that are equally excited about their prospects for 2019-20.

You've got the Clippers with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George joining a solid group that already has Patrick Beverley, Landry Shamet, Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. That other Staples Center team has traded for Anthony Davis to join LeBron James and Kyle Kuzma, and then has quietly added some seasoned NBA players such as Avery Bradley, Danny Green and DeMarcus Cousins to the mix.

Houston has been good for years and I'm surprised to hear so many people pooh-poohing their recent acquisition of Russell Westbrook for Chris Paul, saying that Harden and Westbrook won't share the ball. Remember, Harden still passed out 7.5 assists while averaging 36 points a game last year, and Westbrook has averaged between 10.3 and 10.7 assists per game over the last four seasons. Maybe the two, who played together for three years in OKC, will decide a title is more important than individual stats and they'll still have the likes of Clint Capela, P.J. Tucker and Eric Gordon helping out.

Denver is overlooked by many folks, but the Nuggets, who were close to making the Western finals and return all of their main players from last year, got a great pickup last week in Jerami Grant from Oklahoma City. No one's talking about Portland, but all the Blazers did last year was advance to the Western Conference Finals behind Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. And how soon everyone has forgotten about the Golden State Warriors, who still have Steph Curry and Draymond Green and have added D'Angelo Russell.

The Jazz should no doubt be improved this season. But there is some uncertainty at the 4 spot with Favors and Crowder both gone. Can Jeff Green, playing for his eighth team and not known for his rebounding, handle the power forward position? Is Bogdanovic big enough to play there? Will the Jazz go small and start Royce O'Neale along with Bogdanovic and bring Joe Ingles off the bench? One thing is sure, the Jazz need big seasons from Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert to go far.

Turning to football, the Utes on paper appear to be the best team in the South Division with Tyler Huntley and Zack Moss healthy after missing several games with injuries, and they have a solid D-line and backfield returning. But staring them right in the face is the opening Pac-12 game on Sept. 20 against USC in the famed L.A. Coliseum. Do you know the last time the Utes beat USC in Los Angeles? Try 103 years ago.

If the Utes lose that game, they'll already be behind the eight ball with a game against Washington State, a team they haven't beaten since 2012, coming up the following week in Salt Lake. Although the schedule gets easier for a month, Utah still has a game at defending champion Washington and a late-season contest at Arizona. If the Utes lose three of those games, they're not likely to escape with a division title as they did a year ago.

The Utes will be improved in many ways, but still have holes to fill at the linebacker position and the offensive line and will have a tough time replacing their All-American kickers Mitch Wishnowsky and Matt Gay.

Who knows, perhaps the Jazz will come through with a terrific season and bring back memories of long playoff runs of the 1990s. Maybe the Utes will notch their first Pac-12 football title and play in the Rose Bowl.

It may happen.

Just don't make any New Year's Day reservations or cancel those June vacation plans just yet.