Utah Jazz Locked-In as a Top 10 Team Despite Injuries

Despite their skeleton roster and a difficult early-season schedule, the Utah Jazz have cemented themselves as a Top 10 team in the NBA.

Following Tuesday’s win over the Phoenix Suns, the Utah Jazz hold a 14-9 record. That’s good for the ninth-best mark in the league. Ninth-best, as in Top 10 status and a unit that could do some real damage come playoff time.

Considering the litany of injuries that has perpetually beset the club, it’s a small miracle they’ve managed such a feat. Seriously — we’re talking about a team that’s playing without George Hill and Derrick Favors, has lost both Gordon Hayward and Rodney Hood at various junctures and continues to wait on Alec Burks’ return. Even Jazz coach Quin Snyder managed to miss a game.

Nevertheless, the Jazz are establishing themselves as one of the premiere clubs in the Association this season.

As unlikely as that success has seemed, this ragtag squad out of Salt Lake City is no fluke. Diminished though they may be, the skeleton crew that remains has earned their stripes and the national hoops media is taking note.

Before games this week, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann picked the Jazz as a Top 10 squad in his power rankings. They checked in at No. 9, up five spots from the previous week’s rankings.

Said Schuhmann —

After four games back, George Hill is out again (this time with a sprained toe), so Dante Exum went from a DNP-CD on Monday to starting on Thursday and Saturday. Despite that and despite Rodney Hood’s perimeter shooting regressing to the mean, the Jazz have been playing their most efficient offense of the season, scoring 123 points per 100 possessions over their last four games. Gordon Hayward has scored 30-plus points in three straight games for the first time in his career. The defense hasn’t been great, but Rudy Gobert’s rim protection was critical in Tuesday’s win over Houston. The Jazz have the league’s most home-heavy December schedule and begin their longest homestand of the season (five games) on Tuesday.

He’s not the only one doling out props. In a discussion about potential first-time All-Stars in the Western Conference, David Aldridge, Steve Aschburner and Ian Thomsen each mentioned Jazz star Gordon Hayward as a strong possibility.

Things are pretty good in Jazzland.

However, Utah’s status as one of the best in the business isn’t just a matter of conjecture. The numbers bear it out.

In terms of points per 100 possessions, perhaps the best measure of a team’s efficacy on both sides of the ball, the Jazz are Top 10 in each phase of the game. They currently boast an offensive rating of 108.2 and a D-rating of 101.5. Both of those numbers are good for sixth-best in the league.

That’s a net rating of 6.7, the fourth-highest mark in the league.

The fact that they rate so high offensively and defensively puts them in elite company. Only three teams league-wide are Top 10 on both sides of the ball — the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers and your Utah Jazz.

In other words, even as they’re starting games with Old Man France and a shell-shocked Aussie (i.e. Boris Diaw and Dante Exum), the Jazz are trending toward elite status.

Elite status!

Right now, though, the Jazz are 14-9 and that’s good. Not good for an injured team that’s played the most games to this point of any club in the NBA, just good in general. And with that home-heavy December schedule Schuhmann alluded to and (hopefully) some returning players, they’re going to get even better.

Top 10 is cool, but it’s only the beginning for the Jazz band.

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