A Lucky Run or the New Standard?


Courtesy of NBA

When the NBA season started this fall, all the talk in the Western Conference was about the clear contenders for the number one spot: the Clippers and Lakers. Surprisingly, as the All-Star Break draws nearer, neither the Clippers nor the Lakers have the best record in their conference. This honor belongs to the oddball Utah Jazz. On track for a whopping 68 wins, the Jazz are top 5 in points scored and defensive rating as of late February. They have an all-star candidate in Donovan Mitchell, a Defensive Player of the Year front runner in seven-footer Rudy Gobert, and a red hot sixth man in Jordan Clarkson. Watching the Jazz play this year, their team chemistry is evident through their rapid ball movement. The Jazz, unlike other teams in the league, have ignored the new standard of calling isolations on every offensive possession. Because one player is not doing all of the heavy lifting, the Jazz on average has been outscoring their opponents by almost double digits. 

Although the team is on a dominating run, critics are still skeptical about how deep the Jazz will go in the playoffs. For one, the Jazz’s strength could also be their weakness later on. There is a reason isolation has taken over the NBA, for it is one of the best strategies in crunch time. Because the Jazz have been handily beating their opponents, there haven’t been many situations where the pressure is on Donovan Mitchell, the Jazz’s leading scorer, to put the ball in the hoop late in the fourth. In a seven-game series against some of the best teams in the conference, games are bound to be close, and with the Jazz’s playstyle, Derrick Favors has the same chance to take the last shot as their supposedly number one guy.

The Jazz are likely to continue their dominant stretch, but what is in store for them in the playoffs? At the rate the Jazz are playing, their ceiling is a championship win, but they could also easily end up like the 2014-2015 Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks that year had the best record in the Eastern Conference, four all-stars, and great chemistry but got swept by the Lebron-led Cavaliers. Although an unexpected championship contender, the Jazz continue to dismantle each team they face and are showing no signs of stopping.