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Utah Jazz are playoff bound, even if they have to fight for it

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The Utah Jazz start the 2015-2016 season tonight. But before the games start (and they start soon!) we need to jam a little more together about this team. In this Jam session we talk about the Western Conference and where the Jazz will finish. Will they make the playoffs? Who is in their way? And at the very least, who should they beat? Check it out with this four person Jam session with Diana, Yucca, UtesFan, and JuMu. Check it out, and be sure to join in the jam in the comments section!

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1. Is this team better than last season? What are your division and conference finish predictions?

Diana: I hope so. It will be hard though without Dante Exum. But yes overall I think we will improve because we have young players who are constantly developing and improving their own games so as a team we should be improving too right? I think our defense will help us win games even if we can't keep up the level of defense we had at the end of last season (because Dante is out)

I think we will finish 2nd in the division behind OKC.

I hope we finish 7th or 8th in the Western Conference.

YuccaMan: Yes. Rudy Gobert staring the entire year + 2nd year Rodney Hood + 2nd year Joe Ingles + Alec Burks back = better. My prediction is 7th in the West and playoffs.

UtesFan89: Yes, they’re better than last season overall. But so much is dependent on the PG position that, honestly, a black hole there could throw things into a massive disarray. I doubt it happens (especially with Lindsey/Snyder in charge, and seemingly a team full of players who want to be here and work together), but you never know. The PG position is very important. I think 3rd in the division comes down to us and Minnesota. Denver is still probably a season or two away, and Minnesota is probably sick of collecting #1 picks and ready to start winning. Portland is the wild-card – they’ve had a massive overhaul after winning the division. I think they’re still play-off contenders, but maybe I’m underrating how much LaMarcus Aldridge meant to them (I don’t think I am). We should do better than 38 wins. I hope.

JuMu: Yes, definitely better than the pre-All Star Break Jazz last year and hopefully as good as the post-All Star Break Jazz of last year. We're down an Dante Exum and Jeremy Evans, but we're up a Alec Burks, Raul Neto, and Trey Lyles.

I predict 2nd in division to OKC, 7th in West Overall.

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2. Rank the following teams from best to worst predicted finish: Dallas, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Phoenix, Sacramento, and Utah.

Diana: New Orleans Pelicans

Utah Jazz

Dallas Mavericks

Phoenix Suns

Los Angeles Lakers

YuccaMan: Utah, New Orleans, Phoenix, Dallas, Sacramento, LOL

[Ed. Note: LOL = LA Lakers here.]

UtesFan89 New Orleans. Utah. Dallas. Phoenix. Sacramento. Los Angeles. … Completely, 100%, not-confident in this order. New Orleans has Anthony Davis, which is a pretty awesome place to be in. I’m jealous. Dallas has Deron Williams, so I should probably rank them lower. But maybe they’ll be motivated after the DeAndre Jordan debacle. Or maybe they won’t know how to get into or out of any house. Plus they have Wes Matthews. The bottom 3 I feel are a rung lower, though maybe I’m underrating the Kings simply because of Rondo. Phoenix is, quite simply, a mess right now. Hard to predict either way. I think the Morris stuff might finally have blown over, but that has a chance to blow up again at any point during the season. And the Lakers, well we'll have to see what happens with them as the season goes on...

JuMu: I'll go ahead and give my full conference predictions with the teams you listed in bold:

  • Phoenix
  • Dallas
  • Denver
  • Sacramento
  • Los Angeles Lakers
  • Minnesota
  • Portland

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3. Which of those teams are standing in the way of the Jazz, on their path to the playoffs?

Diana: New Orleans and possibly Phoenix. I really hope not Dallas.

YuccaMan: Dallas and New Orleans seem to be the most likely obstacles to me. I think Dallas is going to take a major step back, but in the end you don't really know until it happens or not. I'm not a huge fan of the Pelicans' roster aside from a few guys. Are those few guys enough? Well, when one is Anthony Davis it may be.

UtesFan89 The 14 teams in the Western Conference are all standing in the way. Of the above list, though, I’d have to probably say New Orleans and Dallas. Maybe Phoenix and Sacramento - I feel both those teams are complete wild-cards right now and there is no idea how they progress as a team over the next 82 games.

JuMu I'd say right now many are placing New Orleans (primarily because of Anthony Davis being a top 5 player). But I think injuries and transitioning with a new coach is going to keep them a peg below us. But out of those 6 teams, they are our biggest hurdle and most likely to finish better than us, with Phoenix in 2nd.

Phoenix is a tough team to project, they've got the talent in Brandon Knight, Eric Bledsoe, Markieff Morris (for now), and Tyson Chandler with the respectable coach Jeff Hornacek, but there have been multiple situations indicating some locker-room/front-office issues going on with this team. I wouldn't be surprised to see them finish just outside the playoffs for the 3rd straight year.

Dallas would have a very scary roster a few years ago (with Deron Williams, Wesley Matthews, Chandler Parsons, Dirk Nowitzki), but with most of those players dealing with question marks healthwise lately and with Zaza Pachulia being their best center, I would say it would have to be a stars-aligning moment for Dallas to squeak in the playoffs this year.

The Lakers and the Kings are unlikely to be playoff relevant once again. The California powerhouses from the turn of the millennium are now back to the bottom of the food chain as the Warriors and Clippers fight for success.

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4. If the playoffs aren't in the cards this year, which of those teams do the Jazz HAVE TO finish ahead of?

Diana: Well if we don't make the playoffs I really don't care who we finish ahead of at the end of the season. I will say Sac and LAL because who wants to be worse than them?

YuccaMan: Phoenix, Sacto, LOL

UtesFan89 The Sixers. (Or is that joke old at this point?) I’d like to see them finish better than Deron, and the Lakers (who are supposed to be bad). In a dream world, Houston too, though they're not on the list. … Well actually, in a dream world, better than everyone. But let’s not get too crazy. The fewer of those team that the Jazz finish ahead of, the more disappointing this season is going to be. Because I finally think we're past the "rebuild and grow, taking the losses as expected" and onto the "rebuilding and growing, but should start winning" part of the plan. So if we're in the bottom tier in the West, something went really wrong. (Like, even more wrong than the Exum injury.)

JuMu: If the Jazz finish behind more than 2 of those teams, this season was a failure.

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5. If the Jazz do make the playoffs, but are facing a Top 3 seed . . . you still gotta think they go out in five games, not four, right? #BetterThan2012

Diana We HAVE to be better than 2012's sad #playoffpush

YuccaMan: I'm gonna say that in a playoff series the Jazz will be tough ... even against a top 3 WC team. Quin will have them prepared, and he won't be calling Josh Howard to save the day. I'm going to say they push it to 6 games.

UtesFan89 Sure, I can think that. But I'm also cynical enough that I could very easily see it ending in 4 games - especially with the way this pre-season has made me feel about the team. I don't think they're up to where I thought they were when we started this question set - maybe it was me buying too much into the hype/expectations. Or maybe it was them buying into it. I'm not sure. I'm confident the team will grow as the season progresses though, and hopefully that's enough to at least get us a couple of wins in the 1st round - if not a surprise upset. As for better than 2012 ... hey, they only lost game 4 by 6 points!

JuMu: That will be the start. The first playoff wins for the vast majority of our roster. Then next year, series. The year after, ringzzz!

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Thank you Diana, Yucca, UtesFan89, and JuMu. Follow them on twitter!