ESPN’s Kevin Pelton slates Utah Jazz as second in the West

SAN ANTONIO, TX - FEBRUARY 3: Derrick Favors #15 and Ricky Rubio #3 of the Utah Jazz celebrate a win against the San Antonio Spurs on February 3, 2018 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX - FEBRUARY 3: Derrick Favors #15 and Ricky Rubio #3 of the Utah Jazz celebrate a win against the San Antonio Spurs on February 3, 2018 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Utah Jazz recently received high praise from ESPN’s Kevin Pelton as his preseason projections had them finishing second in the Western Conference.

Being overlooked by the national media has become a common occurrence for the Utah Jazz. In fact, just yesterday I reacted to some foolish comments made by Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd who slandered the Jazz in ridiculous fashion.

Being counted out, forgotten or doubted is nothing new for the Jazz or their loyal fans. It’s become pretty much expected at this point. But every once in a while, they’ll receive some unforeseen love or praise from a big-time news source, and it will rock the boat a little bit, exciting Jazz fans to no end while bringing out the haters in droves.

Such an event took place just last week when ESPN’s Kevin Pelton released his 2018-19 projections using real plus-minus and his own minutes estimates. The article itself is an ESPN Insiders piece, so you’ll have to subscribe in order to check it out in its entirety. However, ESPN revealed a nice graphic on Twitter that showcased the seeding order as Pelton projected it.

Simply put, Jazz fans ought to be extremely giddy about the results. Check them out for yourself below–

Nope, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. That’s the Utah Jazz sitting at second place in the Western Conference.

That’s ahead of the powerhouse Houston Rockets that were the top seed in the West last year and knocked Utah out of the playoffs. Ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder, who many have predicted will leapfrog the Jazz thanks to the departure of Carmelo Anthony and their continuity heading into next season. And ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers with the newly added LeBron James.

While preseason projections mean next to nothing – teams have to prove themselves by actually winning, after all – it’s still impressive to see the Jazz placed in such an incredible spot. Second in the West would be an amazing feat, especially for the lone playoff team that didn’t boast an All-Star last season. Considering all the star-studded powerhouse teams out West, it’s an incredible compliment to think the Jazz could even possibly reach those heights.

To be honest, I think the second seed is a little overly optimistic. Don’t get me wrong, I adore the Jazz and have full confidence in their ability to shine and thrive. They’re undoubtedly an elite team in the West and are far better than casual fans and uninformed observers such as Colin Cowherd realize.

Not only that, but I could entirely see the Houston Rockets taking a step backwards. They were able to take a leap this past year because their defense became nearly as dominant as their prolific offense. However, losing renowned defenders Luc Mbah a Moute and Trevor Ariza while replacing them with known defensive liability Carmelo Anthony could very well cause some damage. Melo failed to fit in while in OKC, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar outcome in Houston.

But still, there’s enough talent in the West that the Jazz are going to have their work cut out for them. I’m fully aware that the Jazz just beat the Thunder in the playoffs, but if they have Andre Roberson back and remain healthy, they could be a scary squad. The New Orleans Pelicans were phenomenal to end last year, and a full season with the tandem of Anthony Davis and Nikola Mirotic could be frightening.

The Rockets also still have Chris Paul and James Harden, and that alone will make them terrifying. The Denver Nuggets will be much improved, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Portland Trail Blazers can’t be overlooked and, oh yeah, the Los Angeles Lakers now have LeBron James. And that’s not even mentioning the predicted top-seeded Golden State Warriors.

You thought the West was a blood bath before? Just check it out now. Yikes.

dark. Next. Colin Cowherd claims Joe Ingles can’t defend a bar stool (among other Utah Jazz slander)

Still, the fact remains that the number two seed is certainly within Utah’s potential. That would be a best case scenario that would require massive improvements across their young roster and incredible fortune that would allow them to reach their ceiling.

But being recognized by a nationally renowned figure such as ESPN’s Kevin Pelton is just one more bit of proof that the Jazz are for real. Whether they ultimately finish second or not, they’re going to be an absolute force to be reckoned with in the Western Conference.

Could October get here already? It’s going to be a fun ride for the oft overlooked Utah Jazz.