We have movement! After a 3-0 week including helping to close the curtains on the Clippers’ season and two wins over the Lakers, the Utah Jazz are a consensus top-8 team (for everyone who did a ranking this week). They’ve also incredibly clinched a playoff berth following an exodus of an offseason from last year’s team. Even more incredibly, they have a shot at finishing the season in the 3 seed of the Western Conference just three months removed from being 9 games under .500. Let’s see what the national pundits have to say one last time before we begin playoff basketball.
*Last week’s ranking carried over. Apparently Sports Illustrated decided to take the last week of the season off.
The Jazz have 18 wins since the All-Star break, tied with the Raptors for third most in the NBA over that span. With Rudy Gobert anchoring its stout defense, Utah has the NBA’s best average scoring margin since the break (plus-9.9). -- James Jackson
Utah clinched a playoff spot on Sunday and pulled itself to within one game of a top-three seed in the Western Conference. However, the Jazz close out the season with games against the Warriors and Trail Blazers. They can catch Portland, but it’s not going to be easy. They should lock up home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
On the morning of Jan. 24, the Jazz were 19-28, having lost to the Knicks and Hawks in two of their first three games with Rudy Gobert back from a month-long absence. Since then, they’ve gone 28-5, outscoring their opponents by a league-best 11.8 points per 100 possessions. Donovan Mitchell has been the offensive star and Rudy Gobert has been the Defensive Player of the Year favorite, but this team has also had the league’s fourth best bench, featuring Jae Crowder and Royce “da 6’6” O’Neale, who rarely stands out in the boxscore, but does things to move the scoreboard in the right direction. The Jazz have outscored their opponents by almost 20 points per 100 possessions in 216 minutes with Mitchell, Crowder and O’Neale on the floor together. They clinched their second straight playoff berth on Sunday and have a chance to catch the Blazers for the 3 seed.
The Jazz clinched a playoff spot on Sunday, holding the Lakers under 100 points in the victory over L.A. Utah has been the NBA’s best defensive team (by far) since Rudy Gobert returned to action following a knee injury in mid-January. The Jazz are 36-18 with Gobert in the lineup this season, and are just 11-15 without him.
As my final Power Rankings note of 2017-18, I leave you with this: This team is in great hands for years to come. Donovan Mitchell is doing things rarely seen from a rookie. Rudy Gobert is the house leader for Defensive Player of the Year despite playing 56 games. Joe Ingles can dunk. Quin Snyder brought this crew together to get to the heights we’re seeing now through his grueling 3-hour practices. And the man behind it all? His name is Dennis Lindsey, and he’s not going anywhere. The future is bright.