Let’s begin by saying the next couple of paragraphs will in all likelihood make me look really dumb come April. But let’s go ahead with it anyway. The NBA Season began on Tuesday night, and the Utah Jazz open up tonight, the 82 game marathon that is the NBA Regular season. Everyone has their thoughts on who the best will be and where the Jazz may wind up in Year 2 of the Quin Snyder Era. So I might as well give you mine too…
The Utah Jazz finished the 2014-15 season with a flurry and have become one of those trendy “it” teams this offseason and in many experts preseason picks. I too am drinking the Jazz Kool-Aid (though I’m not sure if it’s purple or blue). The Defensive Philosophy that Dennis Lindsay brought with him from San Antonio finally took hold last year with the emergence of the “Stifle Tower” (Thank you Jody Genessy) Rudy Gobert. I expect that defense mentality, at least in the front court, to continue to grow this season. Gobert, Favors, Booker, Lyles, Pleiss and Withey are an excellent combination of forwards and guards. Hayward proved me wrong last season, by living up to the contract he was given in the offseason. He may never be a superstar, but he’s proven himself to be a very good wing player. The return of Alec Burks, along with Rodney Hood, gives Utah outstanding options at the 2/3 spots both starting and off the bench. The only thing that gives me great pause with this Jazz team and could potentially sidetrack a run towards a playoff spot this year is point guard play. The loss of Dante Exum is hard to measure right now for this team, let’s just call is huge for now. The Jazz are going to end up starting and playing two guys at the point that are truly starting points guards in the Western Conference and certainly not on playoff teams in the West. Trey Burke and Raul Neto are both complimentary point guards, not 35-minute-a-night starting point guards. This will be Quin Snyder and his staff’s greatest challenge over the course of the season, trying to figure out a rotation and combination of minutes at the 1.
I’ve been less than optimistic most of the offseason on the Jazz chances to make the playoffs, especially after the injury to Exum. But the more I’ve watched the preseason and see the other teams that are competing with the Jazz for that 8th playoff position in the West, the more I’m leaning the other way. In my mind, there are four teams fighting for the 7th and 8th spots: Utah, New Orleans, Dallas, and Phoenix. New Orleans has a legit MVP candidate on their team (we’ll get to that in a few) plus a cadre of good young players. Dallas is old and lacking enough firepower, plus the loss of DeAndre Jordan to LA and the departure of Tyson Chandler are huge losses. Phoenix is a hard team for me to figure out. I like Bledsoe and Knight, but not much else. That leaves Utah, who can defend and has options to score all over the place. So I’m pegging the Jazz in the 8th and final spot in the West, with a (45-37) record.
Here are a few other NBA thoughts….
- Eastern Conference Champs-Cleveland. It’s hard for me to see anyone else in this spot. LeBron, Love, Irving (at some point) plus the role players is a pretty formidable force in a less than scary East.
- Western Conference Champs-San Antonio. One last ride for Timmy, Tony and Manu. I like the additions of Aldridge and West, plus another step in the rise of superstar Kawahi Leonard.
- NBA Champs-Cleveland. The return of the prodigal basketball son becomes complete, and the misery of Northeastern Ohio is finally lifted.
- NBA MVP-Anthony Davis. This is the reason the New Orleans is in the playoffs. There really isn’t anything this guy can’t do and remember his just 22! Also don’t forget, LeBron is still the best player on the planet.
Check back in April and feel free to mock me then….
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