clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

NBA Power Rankings: The penultimate regular season ranks

New, comments

Where do the Utah Jazz stack up as they come down the stretch?

NBA: Washington Wizards at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The bottom half of the Western Conference playoff seeding is starting to come into focus. Kind of. The Utah Jazz have put a little bit of distance between themselves and the 7 and 8 seeds, meaning it’s probably down to 5 or 6, with an outside chance at 4, depending on how Portland does down the stretch with their injuries.

The Jazz went 3-0 last week, with wins over the Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers and Washington Wizards. So, not exactly a murderer’s row, but there’s something to be said for Utah continuing to take advantage of a soft closing schedule.

Some of the media have been more swayed than others by the Jazz winning 9 of their last 10. While all the outlets we’ve tracked this season have Utah entrenched in the top 10, a couple of rankings now have them breaking the top 5.

NBA Power Rankings

Publication Preseason Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8 Week 9 Week 10 Week 11 Week 12 Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17 Week 18 Week 19 Week 20 Week 21
Publication Preseason Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8 Week 9 Week 10 Week 11 Week 12 Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17 Week 18 Week 19 Week 20 Week 21
ESPN.com 7 7 7 6 5 6 7 12 12 13 12 11 9 6 5 3 8 9 7 9 12 7
CBS Sports 6 6 9 13 7 8 8 12 13 12 12 8 6 3 4 4 10 8 6 10 13 6
SI.com 6 6 9 13 8 8 11 11 12 12 12 11 9 7 6 6 8 7 7 8 8 8
NBA.com 5 7 7 11 7 8 10 12 13 12 13 8 6 3 3 3 7 7 6 9 9 6
Rotoworld 7 7 7 9 7 5 6 12 12 12 12 7 7 3 4 3 9 8 7 9 12 7
USA Today 4 4 4 6 5 7 9 12 12 12 11 9 4 3 3 3 9 6 6 12 12 9
FiveThirtyEight 5 6 8 7 5 6 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 5 4 4 5 6 5 11 11 10
SLC Dunk 4 4 6 7 4 6 8 11 13 12 11 8 6 3 3 3 8 6 6 10 10 8

ESPN.com

Small forward Joe Ingles’ steady progress as a playmaker has been a significant factor in the Jazz’s success, particularly considering Utah’s problems with their point guards’ health. Ingles is averaging a career-high 5.6 assists per game and has dished out more dimes each month this season. He has averaged 7.7 assists per game in March, when the Jazz are 11-4 while keeping their hopes alive of getting home-court advantage in the first round. -- MacMahon

CBS Sports

As expected, and as predicted in these Power Rankings as early as December, the Jazz are rolling through the second half of their season. They’ve won four in a row, and nine of their last 10. A slump by the post-Nurkic-injury Blazers combined with a nice finish to the season could gift the Jazz home-court advantage in the first round. The most important player in a playoff series for the Jazz is, of course, Donovan Mitchell. An efficient Mitchell can win the Jazz a playoff series, maybe two. An inefficient Mitchell who plays hero ball -- or who is forced into playing hero ball because of a lack of production from his teammates -- can get the Jazz knocked out in the first round.

SI.com

Fourth Team All-NBA: Rudy Gobert

Rudy Gobert is just different on defense.

There’s a chance in the playoffs he gets schemed out of being as successful as he can like how the Rockets were able to last year, but there is also a really good chance he shows just how amazing he is on that end and finds a way to make that a non-issue.

The numbers and name recognition Karl-Anthony Towns possess will likely boost him over Gobert in the end for third team All-NBA like the All-Star Game, but if I was starting a team, I’d snag Rudy over KAT.

He’s not the shooter or pure offensive threat of Towns, but he plays his role and can elevate team on defense in a way only a handful of guys can.

This postseason, he should show just how much he has grown this year and how much better he was since he won Defensive Player of the Year. The focus will go to Donovan Mitchell, but Gobert will be the difference if this team makes the Western Conference Finals.

NBA.com

The Jazz continue to T.C.B. (take care of business). They’ve won nine of their last 10 games (with Brooklyn the only opponent in that stretch that was playing for anything), leading the league in both offensive and defensive efficiency over those 19 days. Joe Ingles’ 3-point percentage (38.0 percent) is still way down from the last two seasons (44.0 percent), but he’s 23-for-47 from beyond the arc over the last two weeks and has also been flashing his playmaking skills. He has more games of 10 or more assists in the last two months (6) than he had through the first 4 1/2 years of his career (4). The Jazz are in the driver’s seat for the 5 seed and still have a chance for home-court advantage in the first round, because they’ll likely hold the (division record) tiebreaker over the fourth-place Blazers.

Rotoworld

The Jazz have won four consecutive contests, which is the longest active win streak in the NBA. During this current four-game run, Joe Ingles has remarkably effective and efficient, averaging 14.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 9.0 assists, 2.5 3-pointers and just 1.8 turnovers.

SLC Dunk

This jockeying for playoff position might get interesting down the stretch. Personally, I would do everything in my power to stay out of the Golden State Warriors side of the bracket. That’s the only path to a possible Western Conference Final appearance for this team, and I think they could get there, if they can just work their way into a possible second round matchup with the Denver Nuggets. We’ll see how it plays out, but in the meantime let’s enjoy the soft schedule before we start playing playoff teams every night.