Right now the Utah Jazz are in that "no-man's land" where a team isn't good enough to compete for a title, but not overtly bad enough to get lucky in the draft. The good news is that our current "no-man's-land" is better than the one we had with Al Jefferson, Mo Williams, and Paul Millsap. Why do I say that? It's obvious. Those three guys are at their peak or post their peak in terms of physical ability. With them as the primary players the team wasn't going to improve by itself. With our current core led by Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert, and others the average age of this team is 23 years old. We're younger, and doing just as well for the most part. And because the team is younger they still have years ahead of them for organic growth and development. A younger core is likely to get better. And that's why Dennis Lindsey did what he did in free agency all those years ago.
So where are the Jazz now, besides "no-man's-land"? Well, they aren't competing for a title right now, and they may also be too far out to overtly tank.
Western Conference Standings:
Last night all of the teams better than the Jazz all won, and all the teams worse than the Jazz all lost. I suppose that we're going to see this a lot over the next few weeks. While the Jazz are "in the same neighborhood" as SAC and DEN, I think our team is already better than them, and has more of a reason to say to play better as well. (Coin flip: The other two teams have more reasons to want to lose.)
Sadly, the Jazz are not really in striking distance of the Suns or Pelicans either. In a way in the West, the Jazz are the best bad team, and not the worst good team just yet. We'll check in on this for the rest of the season and I am sure the Jazz team will be the one who ultimately decides where they stand.
For those who don't make the playoffs, there's always the lottery. The trick here is to not ALWAYS be in the lottery, though. Some franchises, like the Kings and Timberwolves always seem to be there, but never low enough to get a player who is a difference maker.
Utah looks to be a team picking at the end of the lotto, especially if one or two teams jump up ahead during the lotto. It's fun to see them right next to the Celtics again, for the second straight year. It would take a monumental effort for the Jazz to make some ground on the Bottom 5 teams (NYK, PHI, MIN, LAL, ORL) -- we'd have to lose more than they do. And I don't see that happening at all.
Can the Jazz get into that group with the Nuggets, Kings, and Pistons? Probably not. I see our squad being more competitive down the stretch. Detroit may have been a team ahead of us in the real standings had Brandon Jennings not gotten injured. But he did, and a potential East playoff team is now likely to pick ahead of us in the draft. This is going to be the case no matter what as some of these East teams drop out of the race.
But at the beginning of March what we see is that the Jazz aren't in the Playoff chase in the West, and aren't in the Lotto race either. What is good, though, is that we're finally in a place where we no longer have to root to lose. And that really means our team has turned the corner.