All-Star weekend is a great time for an NBA team to look at itself in the mirror. It gives players much needed rest (in the Jazz’s case, 9 full days without a game) and some time to look internally and make preparations prior to the home stretch of the NBA season.
After their loss to the Warriors on Tuesday, the Jazz sit at 32-25 and sixth place in the Western Conference. If you would have told most Jazz fans that their record going into ASW was 32-25, they would probably be okay with that. Maybe a little disappointed, given the strong expectations coming into the season, but being sixth place in the bloodbath of the Western Conference is not a terrible thing at all. Last season the Jazz were 30-28 heading into the All-Star break, and we all know how things finished for them last year.
Considering where the Jazz are currently, where do they go from here? If playoffs is the goal, that is nearly a lock. FiveThirtyEight gives the Jazz a 99%+ probability rating to make the playoffs, which is practically a lock according to their metrics. Their projections have the Jazz finishing the season 49-33 (which is over their preseason Vegas o/u of 48.5 for you gamblers out there) and finishing as the fifth seed. That would require them to go 17-8 over the final 25 games of the season. Here’s the Jazz’s remaining schedule:
The five games following the break are pretty brutal, but after that things open up A LOT. There’s a stretch during March that the Jazz will probably be favored in 14 straight games, which is crazy. Considering their remaining games, what’s best-case/worst-case scenarios for the Jazz? Best case appears to be in the 52 to 53 win range, which should put them into the fourth spot and home-court advantage. Worst-case scenario would be missing the playoffs, which would have to require an injury to either Rudy Gobert or Donovan Mitchell.
The Jazz played their best basketball during January, thanks to a cupcake schedule and playing the majority of their games at home. Donovan Mitchell had himself an incredible January, but has come to Earth so to speak with his efficiencies since then.
The Jazz stood pat through the trade deadline after they could not come to terms with the Grizzlies for Mike Conley. Ricky Rubio and Derrick Favors, who were the main players involved in trade talks, will stick with the Jazz through at least the end of the season, which the rest of the players on the Jazz were happy with. This team unit that has incredible chemistry will be sticking together, at least for now, but is that really the best thing for the team going forward? It’s been quite the discussion point among Jazz fans and has caused a fair amount of discord on Twitter and casual conversations at the office. With nearly the exact same personnel as last year, are the Jazz any better this season? Do they pose any more of a threat to Golden State? Only time will tell if team chemistry is enough to match last year’s success in the playoffs and being able to reach the second round in what will be a tough matchup even without knowing what team they face.
So what are us Jazz fans going to do during this 10-day period with no Jazz basketball? That’s the real question. If you are a fan of All-Star Weekend, like me, there will be plenty of things to watch this weekend including the legend Dirk Nowitzki in the three-point contest. Jazzman Donovan Mitchell will be participating in the Rising Stars challenge on Friday night, which should be fun especially after the crazy dunks/passes he had in last year’s game.
Rudy Gobert didn’t make the All-Star Game, and it still remains a ridiculous snub. If you can bear watching the game without him, it might be fun to tune in on Sunday and watch team Giannis vs Team LeBron in the All-Star game. Maybe not. If you want to boycott the game in spirit of Rudy’s snub, that would be a very honorable and brave thing to do. Whatever you do, rest up, and come back ready for some Jazz games as they make their final run before the playoffs.