This is part of an eight part series examining the NBA’s top title contenders. Competition is tough this year as the West has five real threats and the East has three. Out West the Jazz, Suns, Nuggets, Clippers, and Lakers. In the East the 76ers, Nets, and Bucks.
Why They Will
Last year in the bubble the Jazz suffered a heartbreaking exit in the first round of the playoffs. They had a 3-1 series lead on the Denver Nuggets but crumbled to lose in seven. This season the Jazz have come back with a vengeance. They earned the number one seed in the Western Conference with a 52-20 record. Utah ranked 3rd in points per 100 possessions offensively at 118.7 and 3rd in offensive effective field goal percentage at 56.9%. The Jazz are even better on defense ranking 1st in both opponent points per 100 and opponent effective field goal percentage at 107.5 and 50.8%. Off the boards both offensively and defensively ranking 5th offensively at 27.2% and 2nd defensively at 22.7%.
There is no weak spot defensively as they are top 10 in opponent shooting accuracy from all areas. Even when it comes to free throws the Jazz are as they rank 8th in offensive free throw rate – which measures how many free throws a team makes per 100 free throws – at 20% and they were 1st in opponent free throw rate at 15.1%. The Jazz offense doesn’t have a weak spot from an accuracy standpoint other than the long mid but they shoot from that area at the lowest rate in the league. This team loves shooting three’s as they have the highest three point attempt rate and are 5th in team three point percentage.
The Utah Jazz seem to be having a season of destiny as they truly do have a great team as they are led by Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. Mitchell is having his best year averaging 26.4 ppg, 5.2 assists, and 4.4 rebounds while shooting 44% overall and 38.6% from three. Gobert is also having a great year as he’s 15th in player efficiency rating at 23.5 and finished 1st in defensive rating at 100.6. He averaged 14.3 ppg, 13.5 rebounds and 2.7 blocks. His rebound total was 2nd in the league and so was his block average. This seems like the year the Jazz finally hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy because their great at pretty much everything but they’re particularly great at are most important. The only thing that could stop them is themselves.
Why They Won’t
The biggest area of weakness this team has is in regards to turnovers. They’re 19th in offensive turnover % at 14.2% and they don’t generate turnovers as they rank dead last in opponent turnover % at 11.7%. The Jazz are also middle of the pack in team overall field goal percentage as they rank 15th at 46.8%. If the Jazz hit a cold streak from three and continue this trend with turnovers on both ends of the floor they can absolutely be knocked out.
All stats are from Cleaning the Glass and Basketball Reference