Managing Utah Jazz Preseason Predictions and Expectations

At the end of the preseason, we consume team previews and predictions. But what really matters for the Utah Jazz?

Next week the Cleveland Cavaliers will be sporting new rings and raising their first banner. The national tease that is preseason is almost over. Those of us who crave basketball have been eating up every prediction, team preview and post we can get our hands on. Everyone loves their team and is excited to see what comes next.

I’ve done my best to contribute to the optimism that surrounds the Utah Jazz. ESPN’s Zach Lowe predicted 50-plus wins for the team, which prompted my first blog on this site. Now, Five Thirty Eight has run their simulations of the year. They project the Jazz to finish with 51 wins.

I’ve already written about my belief that winning 10-11 more games from last season can be as simple as scoring four more points per game while maintaining last year’s defensive performance.

But no two years are alike and its important to weed out the noise and focus on what matters. I decided to look at Five Thirty Eight and see what last year’s predictions were compared to the actual results. What can team expect when they see the projected numbers?

What I found is a mixed bag.

Team538 RankFinal RankFinal WinsFinal Loss538 Wins538 LossDelta


There are several reasons for the variances between the preseason predictions and the final results.

First off, no one could have ever predicted the historic run the Golden State Warriors were about to go on. Frankly any other year and the San Antonio Spurs would have been considered one of the greatest Spurs teams of all time. Injuries and trades explain some of the sliding from preseason to end of year, but what I wanted to look at was what was predicted correctly.

Team538 RankFinal RankFinal WinsFinal Loss538 Wins538 LossDelta


Narrowing the table down to just the teams that were picked within three wins of their projected totals, you can see several trends.

The first thing I notice is consistency. All of these teams had very similar rosters from the previous year. I imagine one of the harder parts of predicting team successes via simulations is mixing in free agents and high draft picks and not knowing how they will mix in with the existing players.

With the majority of these teams returning their core teams from the year before, the software was able to predict somewhat accurately.

Good news for Utah fans as the core from last year remains intact.

Secondly, coaching in these situations all carried over from the previous year. The exception is the Oklahoma City Thunder. However, it did seem that Scott Brooks wasn’t all to blame for the oft-criticized late-game play calls as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook roughly ran the same isolation plays with Billy Donovan that they ran with Brooks.

Still, consistency is what I notice when I see what teams the simulations can predict most correctly.

It’s important to not get too far ahead of ourselves before any games are played, especially when Gordon Hayward is currently in a splint and unable to catch a basketball. Derrick Favors’ knee could get worse or Boris Diaw’s espresso machine could break. The Houston Rockets were coming off of a trip to the conference finals and chemistry issues brought the team down from within.

There are a multitude of reasons for teams failing to meet expectations. However, the reasons Five Thirty Eight was able to accurately predict the teams I listed above are all the same components that make up this Utah team. Consistent roster, consistent coaching and a natural progression of young players.

The free agent acquisitions add to the stability of the roster and improved flexibility of lineups.

Coaches admit that they don’t play their real game schemes or lineups in the preseason. That makes it difficult to base expectations on play so far. Preseason is the greatest hype machine there is for any sport; everyone is tied for first place. No one is disappointed yet, but that will come. Jazz fans know the heartache of disappointment very well. But the reasoning behind the hype is solid. There is a reason so many people are excited and this is going to be fun. The NBA is as popular as its ever been and I can’t wait for this regular season.