Two weeks ago I wrote an article titled “Are the Jazz good???” after an impressive opening night win over the Nuggets. This game surprised me, and many others so much. The energy, the effort, the coaching, and the buckets. All of it was just not something that I had expected, after all of the changes and the talk of the inevitable tanking that we thought the Jazz were going to do. Even after that impressive win, it was hard to really take this team seriously. After all, it was just one game. Surely things will work themselves out, or “regress to the mean” for what we thought this Jazz team would be. Fast forward two weeks, and this Jazz team has not slowed down one bit, in fact, they have looked even more impressive than that opening night win. It has me asking myself a different question now; “are they a playoff team??”
The Jazz have a league-leading six wins, and sit at 6-2. 5 of these wins have been against playoff teams from last season, including a sweep of the Grizzlies in a recent two-game mini series (one of which didn’t have Ja Morant). For what was supposed to be the toughest stretch of the season, the Jazz have handled it masterfully, and are winning tough close games in ways that they constantly failed in prior seasons. This team is very different that we’ve seen in the past era of Utah Jazz basketball. They play fast, share the ball, play tough defense and thrive in clutch situations. They look like they enjoy playing together, and having fun.
Even after losing 3x DPOY Rudy Gobert, the Jazz have scraped their way to a top-10 defensive rating, and a top-7 net rating at 108.2.
Jazz fans everywhere are enjoying this new team, this recent success, and these new Jazz players. But what is the overall goal of this season? After many thought we were getting a tank job for Victor Wembanyama or other top prospects in the upcoming draft, this has been quite the opposite. It has some Jazz fans conflicted watching this team win, which is a very interesting dynamic.
Assuming the Jazz are actually trying to win games and make it to the playoffs, do they have a realistic shot? 538 is currently projecting the Jazz to finish with a record of 44-38, and a 67% chance to make the playoffs. This is a better projection than that of the Timberwolves, Clippers, and Nets, just to name a few teams that had high aspirations coming into this season. 44-38 would put the Jazz as the 7th seed in the West, which would be in the play-in games. 44 wins is actually pretty insane to think about, especially after Vegas placed the over/under wins at 24.5 before the season started.
This Jazz team is simply too good to tank. It was clear after the first couple games, that getting All-Star-level production from Lauri Markkanen and Jordan Clarkson would be too much and too good to overcome for the sake of trying to be a bottom-five team. It’s been pretty clear that the Jazz could be making deals at any-given time, which could drastically change the trajectory of this season.
Shams says the Jazz have teams calling every day on Jordan Clarkson and Malik Beasley. And that if the Jazz choose to move guys, there will be plenty of options available to them. pic.twitter.com/CJmNysRGqs— Dunzo (@Dunzod) November 1, 2022
With all of this being said, it’s just such a strange season. The Jazz are a seriously, solid team right now. They can absolutely make the playoffs. They could also trade three players tomorrow and lose 85% of their remaining games. It’s just hard to get a read on what this team is trying to accomplish right now. For now, it might just be best to enjoy the games as they are, and enjoy watching this team with all of it’s misfit toys that are absolutely playing their asses off.