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
Stephen Curry (Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports) /

The recently-dynastic Golden State Warriors have been a shell of their former selves since Kevin Durant departed for the Brooklyn Nets two seasons ago. It’s difficult to blame them: Klay Thompson has missed the past two seasons with a bevy of injuries. As game-changing as Steph Curry’s talent has been for the better part of a decade, the Warriors have fielded some teams that Hercules himself wouldn’t be able to carry.

That should change this year. Thompson is due back, and Bay Area fans will be hoping that he’s able to seamlessly regain his former form. Meanwhile, the Warriors roster an intriguing blend of young and veteran talent. Sophomore James Wiseman, rookies Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody and 21-year-old Jordan Poole will all be looking to make an immediate impact this season.

Meanwhile, Draymond Green may not make quite the impact he was able to over Golden State’s run as the NBA’s premiere dynasty, but he’s still an elite defender who is capable of providing the Warriors with secondary playmaking. Andrew Wiggins also had a quietly productive 2020-21 season: his 111 Defensive Rating represents improvement in an area that he’s long struggled in.

The Warriors may be geared up for the best season they’ve had since reaching the NBA Finals in 2018-19, but it would require some high quality rose-colored glasses to predict them as a serious challenger to the Utah Jazz.

Such a prediction would have to assume that James Wiseman was prepared to make a tremendous leap in his sophomore season, and that talented-but-raw Jonathan Kuminga was ready to make an instant contribution to an NBA title contender. Neither of those assumptions feel like safe ones.

Meanwhile, the Utah Jazz rely on a deep cast of veterans. Prospects like Jared Butler, Trent Forrest, and Udoka Azubuike are only likely to see the floor in the 4th quarter of blowout games: the Warriors don’t have the depth to afford their prospects such a short leash.

The Warriors should be a fun team to watch this upcoming season, but fun doesn’t compete for championships: the type of well-rounded, veteran talent rostered by the Utah Jazz does.