The Utah Jazz are going into the All-Star break with Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell representing the Jazz once again. It’s been a successful season so far for the Jazz’s two stars. But how has the team looked overall this season? Have they lived up to expectations? Heading into All-Star weekend, it’s a good time to take a step back and assess where the team is and if they’re doing as well as we thought they would be in our season preview.
Looking at my best case, worst case, and most likely scenario for the Jazz this season
In my season preview, my prediction for the Jazz’s best case scenario was to make the Western Conference Finals. For a lot of teams in the league that might be a lofty expectation but there isn’t a Jazz fan out there that wouldn’t agree that Utah should make the Western Conference Finals. Anything less is a failure for a Jazz team that has gone all-in for the last 3 years. That prediction seems to be holding up well. It seems not quite as likely now, but still the best case scenario.
My worst case scenario for the Jazz was a first round exit. Like I said in the preview, Rudy Gobert provides a high floor for the Jazz and, even though this season hasn’t exceeded expectations, it hasn’t been below expectations either. Like always, Rudy Gobert is probably the highest floor raiser of any player in the league. Put any team around Gobert and they’ll become a top ten defense. The question that hasn’t been answered this year ... again ... is whether Gobert provides a ceiling to the Jazz. The Jazz haven’t changed their perimeter defense much this year except for more minutes for Trent Forrest, adding Danuel House, and playing Eric Paschall more. But it’s not clear if those moves will do much because the starting unit is the same one it’s been for three years. This prediction looks like it’s about right. If anything, this is scenario is inching towards most likely in a scary way.
The most likely scenario I made was that this team would be a second round exit. Look, I didn’t know that I’d be patting myself on the back so much with this article but here we are. Utah has looked no better than last year, but also no worse. This season has been maddeningly predictable and Utah likely makes it to the second round but no further.
Am I just as excited about this season as I was before the season started?
Just like the Jazz are playing the same as last year, I’m also feeling the same. There’s been some exciting development with Trent Forrest and Eric Paschall who have become really good rotation players. Danuel House’s addition has also been one of the must undertold successes this year. But as nice as those additions have been, the Jazz haven’t adjusted their starting unit and there’s only so much bench players are going to turn the needle. Personally, I feel about the same. It will be fun to see the Jazz make another playoff run, but my expectations are for nothing beyond the 2nd round.
How good were my preseason predictions for the Jazz record and seeding?
Before the season started I predicted the Jazz would be at minimum in the top 3 in the Western Conference. I figured they would rest Conley and would lose more games because of it. The Jazz sit at 4th as of today and so I was technically wrong but this is pretty close considering the unforeseen injuries and issues from January. Utah had a horrible loss to the Lakers recently, but before that, they were on a 6-game win streak that showed signs of them having a strong finish to the season. That still seems likely as the All-Star break will give the team a chance to get some much needed rest.
Updated end of season win/loss prediction
Utah is almost fully healthy and will finish strong hoping to avoid the play-in tournament. The Jazz sit at 36-22 going into All-Star break and I predict they’ll stay around the same winning pace, even with a difficult schedule. That means about 14 more wins if they win 60% of their remaining games which would mean a 50-32 record. That win pace won’t be good enough for home-court advantage in the playoffs and the Jazz will probably end this season as the 5th seed. I think there is a scenario where the Jazz do catch fire in the playoffs and we finally see a fully healthy Jazz team throughout the playoffs. It’s why I like the Jazz at +650 to win the Western Conference. That might just be the fan in me, but this team hasn’t had a fully healthy team in the playoffs. Maybe this is the year and everything works as the team hoped.