Is The Utah Jazz’s Time For The Playoffs Now?


With Western Conference teams making massive moves thus far in the offseason, what do Utah’s playoff chances look like heading into next season?

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I say, they’re looking pretty good.

First, let’s see how this offseason can translate into a Utah Jazz playoff run. Although the Jazz haven’t had any signings in free agency, their competitors currently have holes in their rosters.

The Dallas Mavericks have no competent point guards. The Los Angeles Clippers have lost DeAndre Jordan, are cap strapped and have no centers. The Trail Blazers are likely to lose LaMarcus Aldridge, have lost Wesley Matthews and Arron Afflalo, and their moves to change the team, though fairly good, will not move them to be a better team.

The remaining teams that are as close to a shoe-in as you can get in the West are the Warriors, Spurs, Houston, Memphis, Thunder and the Pelicans (I’m banking on Anthony Davis and Alvin Gentry here). This leaves Utah, Clippers, and the Mavericks as the remaining teams that will be fighting for the playoffs. And hey, I think Utah are going to be better than those two teams.

Previously, I’ve written why the Jazz were better than their record showed last year. Now, with the Western Conference shaken up and some of the previous top teams weakened, the Jazz have no excuses not to make the playoffs.

The Jazz have purposely not been active in free agency; GM Dennis Lindsey has even said the return of Alec Burks would be their best free agent option. Although I personally believe delving into the free agency would have helped the Jazz, the current core of the team is definitely a fantastic group.

With Tibor Pleiss and the two rookies drafted, the Jazz may have their rotation filled out already, assuming they retain players like Joe Ingles and Elijah Millsap. This leaves very little the Jazz could do this remaining offseason, which is not surprising considering Lindsey’s stance on the roster.

The belief in the core of the team has been a common theme from Lindsey. It’s reminded me of two recent teams: the Oklahoma City Thunder and Golden State Warriors. The respective drafted cores of each team and decision to bring them along slowly with hopes of internal improvement is definitely what Lindsey is looking to mirror. However, there are two specific instances where these teams made a step that improved, or in the Thunder’s case, regressed the team.

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The S&T of Andre Iguodala proved vital to the Warriors’ title hopes. An experienced veteran and one of, if not the best perimeter defender in the league, Iguodala was named Finals MVP this season after proving to be a crucial part of the Cleveland series.

However, the trade of James Harden signaled the Thunder’s rise of a possible championship contender on hold. Numerous injuries have also derailed the Westbrook / Durant combination. The result is that OKC hasn’t sniffed the Finals since.

I believe that the “next step” is coming soon for Utah. The current core is very talented, but I believe they’re one good player away (and maybe one or two years) from really making noise. They should look at the 2003-2004 Detroit Pistons (who, not by accident, became championship contenders with an in-season trade for Rasheed Wallace) as an example. Both team’s defenses are outstanding and they both lack a transcendent player on their rosters.

Here’s where it gets dicey for those two teams: the point guard position. The Jazz’s point guards were among the least productive in the league. Dante Exum and Trey Burke are both very young, so there’s a ton of time for improvement. Chauncey Billups won the Finals MVP for the Pistons and was regarded as one of the bigger shot makers in the league. They can speed up that improvement with another season under their belt.

And, maybe, just maybe, they can grow into the playoffs with the rest of the team. It’ll be fun, challenging and exciting. Most of all, it will be difficult for this young team. But I’m ready to watch it all unfold. I’m sure the rest of the Utah Jazz will be ready too.

Next: Tibor Pleiss Is More Than A Rumor

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