Utah Jazz: Ranking the 5 biggest challengers in the West

Utah Jazz (Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports)
Utah Jazz (Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports) /
5 of 6
Utah Jazz
Devin Booker vs Utah Jazz (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) /

So far, we’ve only covered teams that feel unlikely to pose a serious threat to the Utah Jazz. That trend ends here. The Phoenix Suns, fresh off of an NBA Finals appearance, are well-equipped to go toe-to-toe with the Jazzmen.

Perennial All-NBA candidate Chris Paul will be back running the point in his age-36 season. He may be aging, but so far, he’s shown no indication that he’s willing to accept it. Either way, 24-year-old Devin Booker and 23-year-old Deandre Ayton are both young enough that improvement should be expected, even if Paul does regress.

The same goes for 25-year-olds Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson. Bridges could stagnate for the remainder of his prime and earn a sizeable contract: his 42.5% conversion rate from three-point land and 112 Defensive Rating reflect the type of 3-and-D wing that every contending NBA team covets. Meanwhile, the Suns will be hoping that Johnson’s 44.6% three-point accuracy from last season’s Finals run will translate into the best regular season of his young career.

Dario Saric’s absence will undoubtably hurt: he doesn’t project as likely to return from ACL surgery until at least the All-Star break, if at all. Otherwise, valuable rotation players like Jae Crowder, Cameron Payne and Frank Kaminsky will all be returning, and incoming sharpshooter Landry Shamet should prove a valuable addition as well.

The Suns, like the Utah Jazz, boast exceptional roster balance, able to play four-out basketball at all times with a valuable big fulfilling his traditional duties in the middle. The margins between these two teams will be narrow: injury luck may be a huge variable in determining which has a more successful 2020-21 season.