Last Thursday in my “Where do the Jazz go from here” piece, I said the Jazz were at a low-point of their season. Welp, since then, they went 1-3, still don’t have Donovan Mitchell back from concussion protocol, and have Rudy Gobert missing several games with a strained calf. So, if we are measuring this like a graph, this season definitely continued to plummet even further since last week.
The Jazz have now lost 9 of their last 11 games, which is by far their worst stretch of Jazz basketball in the last half decade. There have been many obvious factors that have contributed to this, some of which are out of the Jazz control. Injuries have started to riddle the Jazz, with pretty much everyone on the roster 1-7 missing time over the last stretch of games. Covid had it’s first run-in with the Jazz recently, getting Joe Ingles, Rudy Gobert, and Hassan Whiteside in the NBA’s health and safety protocols. The Jazz haven’t been “full strength” in almost a month, and that’s a big reason they’ve struggled to win games.
The Jazz have fallen to 30-19, sitting in fourth seed in the West. They trail Memphis by 2.5 games, and have a 2 game lead over five-seed Mavericks, and 3-game lead over six-seed Nuggets. The scary thing is, the Grizzlies, Mavericks, and Nuggets are all playing pretty good basketball, All of them are 7-3 over their last 10 games. The even scarier thing is, the Jazz only have a 5-game cushion from being in the play-in game as a 7 seed. Looking at the Jazz’s schedule, they play @Memphis, @Minnesota, Denver, Brooklyn, New York, and Golden State in their next six. If the Jazz still don’t have their guys back full strength, that might be a brutal stretch against teams that are closing in behind them in the standings. Coach Quin Snyder has made it clear that their priority is getting guys healthy and playing their best basketball entering the playoffs. That’s what everyone wants, but the Jazz also need to try and win games now to avoid slipping any further in the Western Conference standings.
538 NBA has the Jazz finishing as the four seed behind Memphis with a 52-30 record. That would mean the Jazz go 22-11 in games from here on out, which isn’t anything crazy. But given how the Jazz have played lately, and the lack of availability to their main players, it’s also not crazy to see them continuing to slide. 538’s projections have the Mavericks finishing 48-34, and Nuggets 47-35, Timberwolves 43-39. Looking at these projections, it seems like the Jazz have plenty of cushion and relatively low risk of falling out of the top four in the West. But the eye-test definitely says otherwise. Nikola Jokic is an MVP frontrunner, and you have to think he wills the Nuggets to going more than a 21-14 record over the close of the season. Although, maybe the Jazz are making a big brain move and intentionally falling out of home-court advantage because they play better on the road?? Chess, not checkers. 538 still is giving the Jazz a 21% chance to make the NBA Finals, and an 11% chance of winning the Championship, which is a little surprising.
Along with the injuries, Covid, and other struggles this team is facing, they are dealing with rumors surrounding the NBA trade deadline. The Jazz have been one of the more popular teams in NBA trade talks, especially since their struggles as of late. Many Jazz fans have started to come to terms that this Jazz team simply isn’t built to win a championship as the roster stands right now, or at least at the current production levels they are getting out of said roster. As always, time will tell with the Utah Jazz and their trade rumors. Will they be aggressive and shake up the roster? Or will they trust in their team, that when everyone is healthy they are true contenders? As always, time will tell, both in what the Jazz do at the trade deadline, and how they finish the 2021-22 NBA season.