The Ringer latest to pin Utah Jazz as potential No. 2 team in West

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - FEBRUARY 14: Donovan Mitchell #45, Joe Ingles #2, and Rudy Gobert #27 of the Utah Jazz against the Phoenix Suns on February 14, 2018 at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - FEBRUARY 14: Donovan Mitchell #45, Joe Ingles #2, and Rudy Gobert #27 of the Utah Jazz against the Phoenix Suns on February 14, 2018 at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images) /

A recent article from The Ringer had some high praise for the Utah Jazz, applauding their chances at finishing second in the Western Conference.

Although the Utah Jazz typically tend to fly under the radar in terms of national praise and media coverage, it was hard for even the most obstinate to ignore Utah’s incredible 29-6 finish to the 2017-18 season that culminated with a beat-down of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the playoffs.

Considering that the Jazz had such an incredible finish and will be bringing back a team that should only be much-improved from last year due to internal development and continuity from a conservative offseason, several NBA experts have expressed high belief in the Jazz. Many have them pinned in the top half of the Western Conference quite easily.

Others have gone out on even more of a limb, including ESPN’s Kevin Pelton, as was reported earlier on The J-Notes, who projected the Jazz to be the No. 2 team in the West earlier this summer. It was a pretty bold conjecture on his part, but considering the valid supposition that the Houston Rockets may take a step back in 2018-19, it’s entirely possible.

And Pelton is no longer alone in his prediction that the Jazz could be the number two team in the West. A recent article from The Ringer written by D.J. Foster presented the very same argument.

Quite frankly, the piece is a must-read for Jazz fans, as Foster fantastically covers some of the many spectacular achievements the Jazz had last year and some of the strengths they could very well use to their advantage this upcoming season to pick up where they left off and dominate the Western Conference. While the whole thing is incredible, I’ve included my two favorite segments below.

The first discusses Utah’s ability to match up with the Golden State Warriors and compares the effectiveness of some of their lineups–

"What happens when Golden State grows tired of playing with its food and goes small? Utah’s downsized lineup of Mitchell, Ingles, Crowder, Ricky Rubio, and Rudy Gobert can more than hang. That unit posted a plus-27.4 net rating during the regular season with an offensive rating (114.8) and defensive rating (87.4) that would rank first in the league in both categories. For what it’s worth, Golden State’s famed Hamptons Five lineup had a worse net rating (plus-8.4 regular season, plus-24.8 postseason) than Utah’s “small” lineup did last regular season"

The next is one of the best descriptions of playing against the Utah Jazz that I have heard–

"That’s the goal of this Jazz team: How not-fun can we make this for you? Fly into the city, everything is closed. Come to the arena, the fans are right on top of you. Game starts, there’s a defender climbing inside your jersey and a C.O.U.S. (Center of Unusual Size) waiting at the rim for you. Shootouts in Houston can be fun. The rock fights in Utah never are."

After reading this article from The Ringer, I’ve got to say that my belief in the Jazz finishing second has grown. It will certainly be an uphill battle and will require something that Utah unfortunately hasn’t had the last three seasons – health. The Jazz have had some phenomenal performances in recent years, but have never quite matched their season-long potential due to a constant onslaught of injuries.

But if they remain healthy, their chances at second place in the West will be extremely high.

There’s only one problem with that. At the end of the day, Utah’s ceiling will still be exactly what I just stated – second best. As long as the Golden State Warriors remain intact (and healthy as well), truly all any team in the NBA can hope to be is the runner-up.

I’ll spare you my boisterous rant about Golden State’s obliteration of what would otherwise be an incredibly competitive and entertaining league, and just state simply that their outright dominance is simply a pity for the other 29 teams. But it also is what it is, and if anyone else wants to join the championship ranks, they’ll have to find a way past them.

The Jazz likely won’t be able to do that, especially if second place is being touted by many as an unlikely mark anyway, but certainly as the highest of ceilings if they do reach it. However, based on Utah’s exceptional play against the Warriors last regular season (they were the only team to beat Golden State three times) it’s entirely possible that the Jazz may have the best odds of competing with them.

Next. Utah Jazz fans have chance to win sweet Kickstradomis city edition shoes. dark

It’s unlikely that Utah will overtake the Warriors this upcoming season, but as this recent piece from The Ringer suggested, the Jazz could very well be the second best team in the West. And considering how young they are and how much room they still have to grow, that’s a great sign for 2018-19 and beyond.