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Can the Jazz still contend for the #1 seed in the West?

After making it through the easier portion of their schedule, can the Jazz will need to improve if they want to repeat as the #1 seed.

Denver Nuggets v Utah Jazz Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

As it stands right now, the Jazz are 13-7. They’ve had some good games, and some very bad ones (looking at you Pelicans). They’ve shown that they can be a dominant team, and they’ve also shown that they have some glaring weaknesses at times. Right now, they are the #3 seed in the West, behind 18-3 Suns (Who have won an insane 17 straight games), and the Warriors who are also 18-3. Both the Suns and Warriors have been tier 1 teams in the West, and honestly the entire NBA so far this season. The Jazz have not played consistently enough to stay near the top of the West, where many experts picked them to finish.

Although 13-7 is a solid record, it definitely could be better. The Jazz have had the third easiest schedule in the entire NBA so far, based on opponent records and winning percentages. They’ve dropped pretty bad losses to Indiana at home, a blown late lead against the Grizzlies at home, and most recently a last second debacle of a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans at home. If the Jazz win those three games, they are 16-4, only one game back from the top spot. They didn’t win those games, and sometimes that’s just how the cookie crumbles.

What the Jazz need to focus on now, is their schedule going forward. Looking at the remaining schedule, the Jazz have the 15th hardest schedule remaining, so right smack dab in the middle.

15th isn’t exactly a “tough” schedule going forward, but compared to the teams they have played so far, it definitely is a lot more challenging. The Jazz have hopefully not played their best basketball so far this season. They still aren’t shooting the ball as well as last season, but the last two games have shown signs of hope that things are turning in the right direction. During the last two games the Jazz have shot a scorching 48% from three. This has helped them get back up into the top 10 in the league in 3P% at 35.7%.

We will get a good taste of where the Jazz are at next week, as they go on a pretty brutal four-game road trip. They will make stops in Cleveland, Minnesota, Philadelphia, and Washington, none of which have a losing record right now. After that, they have a six-game homestand with some good potential playoff teams coming to town. December will be a pretty good challenge for the Jazz.

If they want to hang near the top of the West this season, this next 10-15 game stretch is pretty critical. The Suns might not ever lose another game (seriously). The Warriors have the league’s number defense, and top net rating, and they don’t even have Klay Thompson back from injury. Both teams showing no signs of slowing down.

FiveThirtyEight has the Jazz projected at finishing 55-27, 2nd in the West behind Phoenix. They are giving the Jazz an 22% percent chance of making the finals, and an 11% chance of winning the NBA Championship, both being in the top-five in the league.

fivethirtyeight.com

If the Jazz want to make a run and defend their top seed, they are going to have to ball out. As long as the Jazz stay in the top 4 and retain home-court advantage, that’s a pretty big win. In all honesty, I think everyone just wants to see is if this team can not choke in the playoffs, and make it passed the second round.