Utah Jazz: ranking the team among Northwest Division rivals

Utah Jazz (Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports)
Utah Jazz (Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Utah Jazz
Nikola Jokic vs Utah Jazz (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports) /

If not for that pesky Jamal Murray injury, the debate between the Denver Nuggets and the Portland Trailblazers for the third spot in these rankings would be nonexistent. Instead, we’d be torn between the Nuggets and the Utah Jazz for the top spot in the Northwest Division.

Unfortunately, the mercurial Canadian combo guard projects to miss most, if not all of the 2021-22 NBA season, which makes this something of a gap year for the Nugs. They’ll be banking on a career season from Michael Porter Jr. if they hope to even sniff title contention.

In some ways, the stakes are lower for the Nuggets this season than they’ve been in some time. Murray’s absence provides them with a baked-in excuse for any underperformance this season. The Utah Jazz have no such convenience: anything short of a conference finals appearance would be a disappointment for the boys in Salt Lake City. The Nuggets carry no such expectations without Murray in the fold.

There is still talent on this roster. Last season’s trade deadline acquisition of Aaron Gordon still bodes well for their short term success, Will Barton’s nickname is the Thrill for (non-rhyming) reasons, and solid depth pieces like Monte Morris and JaMychael Green populate this roster.

Plus, the void left by Murray may present an opportunity for the Nuggets to finally unleash Bol Bol. NBA twitter may finally explode if Bol Squared finally gets the opportunity he (probably) deserves, and it would make the Nuggets must-watch TV.

It would probably not, however, make them the second best team in the Northwest Division. That’s a height this team is just unlikely to reach without Jamal Murray, which lands them third in these rankings.