Utah Jazz: Ranking the 5 biggest challengers in the West

Utah Jazz (Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports)
Utah Jazz (Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Utah Jazz
Utah Jazz forward Bojan Bogdanovic (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Western Conference has long stood as the more talented of the NBA’s two conferences, but last season, someone apparently forgot to inform the Utah Jazz. They steamrolled the conference en route to an NBA-best 52-20 finish. The Jazz established their dominance with an elite two-way presence, finishing atop the NBA in Offensive Rating (118.4) and Net Rating (9.48) while maintaining the league’s third best Defensive Rating (108.94).

That reads like the perfect formula for an NBA championship. Unfortunately, Utah’s regular season performance couldn’t quite translate to the playoffs, where they were hoisted by the Los Angeles Clippers. Nonetheless, the Utah Jazz enter the 2021-22 season with high expectations. The solid offseason additions of Rudy Gay, Eric Paschall and Hassan Whiteside should serve to bolster the depth of a team that was already one of the NBA’s deepest.

Meanwhile, any improvement from 25-year-old superstar Donovan Mitchell could spell trouble for the entire Western Conference, and rookie Jared Butler has an opportunity to make an immediate contribution as well.

People are undoubtably optimistic in Salt Lake City right now, but that’s a feeling they share with fanbases throughout the Western Conference. As the number one seed heading into last year’s playoffs, the Utah Jazz will have a target on their backs, and these 5 teams will be some of those taking aim.