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An early look at playoff seeding

The season is winding down. Who will the Jazz face in the playoffs?

Dallas Mavericks v Utah Jazz Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

The Utah Jazz have only 22 games remaining in the 2021-22 regular season. They are currently in the fourth seed in the Western Conference. They are 3.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies in third and 2.5 games ahead of the Dallas Mavericks in 5th.

So, where will they end up? Where should they want to end up?

Probabilities

First, let's look at the numbers. Where are the Jazz statistically most likely to end up? I'll include a couple of different sites' playoff seeding prediction tools so we can get the best picture of the Jazz' seeding probabilities (each site has a different set of available data, so we'll do the best we can).

Basketball-Reference:

  • Most likely seed: 4th seed (67% chance)
  • Second-most likely seed: 3rd seed (19.2% chance).
  • Most likely opponent: Dallas Mavericks
  • Odds to win the Western Conference: 20.3%
  • Odds to win the NBA Finals: 14.0%

Inpredictable:

  • Most likely seed: 4th seed (50% chance)
  • Second-most likely seed: 3rd seed (27% chance)
  • Most likely opponent: Denver Nuggets

FiveThirtyEight:

  • Most likely seed: 4th seed
  • Most likely opponent: Denver Nuggets
  • Chance of making the Finals: 16%
  • Chance of winning the Finals: 8%

The Ringer

  • Most likely seed: 4th seed
  • Most likely opponent: Dallas Mavericks
  • Title odds: 11%

Of course, crazy things can happen with 20+ remaining games. One team may win ten straight while another has a significant injury and loses ten straight. These predictions are just mathematical probabilities, and real-life can do unpredictable things. It looks likely that Utah ends up in the 4th seed, facing either the Mavericks or the Nuggets. They have a decent shot at climbing into third, but it would be tough.

Matchups

Dallas Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks v Utah Jazz

Dallas may be the most likely first-round opponent for the Jazz, and for many Jazz fans, they may also be the preferred opponent. Utah recently beat Dallas in Salt Lake City and proved that their defense could truly bother Luka Doncic.

The scary thing about Dallas is how unstoppable Doncic has looked in his two postseason appearances. Over his 13 playoff games, Luka boasts incredible averages of 33.5 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 9.5 assists per game. He's done that while being guarded by some of the NBA's best. Can the Jazz truly slow him down in a playoff series?

Denver Nuggets

Utah Jazz v Denver Nuggets Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Whether Utah ends in the 3rd or the 4th seed, Denver could be their first-round matchup. While Utah swept the season series against the Nuggets this year, they won't be a pushover. Nikola Jokic has carried this team all season long while missing his best teammate and another key scorer. Both Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. are on their way back to the court and are both expected back by the playoffs.

Maybe Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, and the rest of the team want a chance to redeem themselves after choking away a series win multiple times against Denver. Maybe Quin Snyder will have new strategies to help contain Murray and Jokic. Then again, perhaps that's a matchup that the Jazz should fear as much as their fans do.

Phoenix Suns

If Utah wins their first-round series, they'll likely run into the Suns next. Phoenix is the best team in the NBA, and until the last game, the Jazz had been unable to beat them in the Chris Paul era.

Phoenix Suns v Utah Jazz Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Phoenix is coming off a Finals run last year, and they're hungry. They will be the favorites in every series if healthy. One thing to note is that Chris Paul is currently dealing with a thumb injury. If the recovery takes extra time, he could miss playoff games.

Other potential matchups

If Utah claims the 3rd seed and wins their first-round series, they would likely face the Golden State Warriors.

If Utah claims the 3rd seed and the Minnesota Timberwolves made an unlikely run to the 6th seed, they could match up.

Despite being very close in the standings, the Memphis Grizzlies are unlikely to face the Jazz in the first round. The two teams will be fighting each other for seeding between the 3rd and 4th seeds, making it highly likely that one will be in the 3rd/6th matchup while the other will be in the 4th/5th matchup.

In other words, it's almost certain that Utah's first-round opponent will be either Dallas or Denver, and their second-round matchup will be either Phoenix or Golden State. If Utah makes the Western Conference Finals, the Warriors, Suns, Grizzlies, or Nuggets would be the most likely opponents.

Poll

Who should the Jazz hope to face in the first round?

This poll is closed

  • 82%
    Dallas Mavericks
    (257 votes)
  • 17%
    Denver Nuggets
    (53 votes)
310 votes total Vote Now

Stats and probabilities via basketball-reference.com, espn.com theringer.com, and inpredictable.com