Utah Jazz Quietly Doing All The Right Things
The Utah Jazz are quietly hitting all the right buttons in 2016-17, and could be on the verge of securing a top three seed in the West
After a four-year playoff drought, it seems as though the Utah Jazz have all but punched their ticket to the playoffs this season.
The Jazz are currently comfortably positioned in 5th place in the Western Conference standings. Ranking just a half game behind the Los Angeles Clippers for the 4th seed and just three games behind the 3rd place Huston Rockets in the loss column.
With the Clippers consistently struggling with injuries to their star players, it is becoming easier and easier to see the Jazz finishing the season with one of the top 4 records in the Western Conference.
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Health has long been an issue for this Utah squad, and this season has had its share of troubles as well. However, with the All-Star break coming up quickly, the Jazz are finally starting to look healthy, and we can expect to see them continue to improve as everyone returns to full strength.
Rudy Gobert has continued to be an exceptional defensive anchor and has led the Jazz to the second ranked defense in the NBA. Gobert is currently leading the NBA is both Defensive Win Shares and blocks per game, with 3.7 and 2.6 respectively.
Top of the line defense has made it possible for the Jazz to quietly climb the standings of the Western Conference, even with just a league average offense.
The continued improvement of Gordon Hayward has been something to witness this season as well, ultimately resulting in his first All-Star selection. Hayward has established himself as the top scoring option on a solid, playoff-caliber team. Averaging a career-high 21.6 points per game, while shooting 38.6 percent from distance, the 26-year-old Butler product has truly embraced his role and has done so with a great deal of success.
Perhaps it’s time to realize that the Utah Jazz have taken the next step and recognize that they are starting to reach their potential. The trade for George Hill and the Joe Johnson signing have both proved to be major wins for the organization. Their veteran leadership combined with the constantly improving young core in Utah has resulted in a vastly improved team compared to years prior.
While it can be easy to overlook a small-market team in Utah, the Jazz have been very successful playing their brand of basketball and have quietly positioned themselves among the best teams in a top-heavy West.
Not to mention the fact that they are getting healthy as the Clippers struggle with injury and Houston facing a bit of a slump having lost seven of their last 12 games. In the coming months, I would expect the Utah Jazz overtake the Clippers for the 4th seed and continue to gain ground on the 3rd seed Rockets.