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Are the Utah Jazz legitimate contenders?

The Utah Jazz were an up and coming trending team early in the NBA season. This Western Conference darling was even listed as a potential trade deadline buyer after a hot start. Now that jazz has lost five of its last seven, is it falling back to earth?

Are the Utah Jazz legitimate contenders?

exceed expectations

Many thought the Jazz was in rebuild mode when they traded their two superstars. With Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert gone, Utah could find suitable packages for players like Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson and prepare for a loaded draft class. The players in the dressing room, however, had other ideas.

Led by newly acquired players Collin Kuester and Lauri Markkanen, Utah quickly climbed the rankings by winning three straight wins and seven of their first ten competitions early in the season. A 125-119 win over the Atlanta Hawks on November 9 put the Jazz up 10-3 for the year. Fans went from daydreams Victor Webanyama and Scott Henderson to see jazz as a potential landing pad for Myles Turner.

East Coast problems

The Jazz lost momentum almost as quickly, losing three straight games, including a home loss to the New York Knicks. Utah bounced back immediately and clawed out a one-point win over the Phoenix Suns in an electrifying shootout. Devin Bookers 49 points wasn’t enough as Markkanen responded with 38 of his own, a new career high. After split games against the Portland Trail Blazers and the Los Angeles Clippers, the Jazz lost again while hosting the Detroit Pistons.

The 5-15 pistons are in the position many thought the Jazz would be at this point. While their young roster has talent, it’s no secret they’re looking for the best pick of the draft. Utah fans can take solace in the knowledge that Conley is traveling with a calf strain. However, these are the games the Jazz must win going forward if they want to make a real run in the postseason.

The long way ahead

Unfortunately, things won’t get any easier for jazz fans in the coming weeks. Of the next 10 matchups, six are against current playoff teams. The other four? Two against the struggling but dangerous Warriors, one against the Chicago Bulls, and a home game against the Minnesota Timberwolves (who were also frustrating to watch). Looking further ahead, by the New Year the Jazz will be up against 11 teams with a winning record. The good news? It gets significantly brighter for Utan in January in February.

If the Jazz go through the next five weeks with a .500 record or better, they could find themselves in the middle of the Western Conference playoff race. Looking west today, just five games separate the top seeds from the 12th best team. This team could very well make it into the top half of the playoff standings in 2023. The question is, will they survive the holiday season?

Are the Utah Jazz Contenders or Pretenders?

Looking back on Utah’s young season, impressive victories against players like the Denver Nuggets, Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans. If they can turn ship against Eastern Conference opponents, there’s no reason to expect this team to fall out of the playoff picture. Outside the injury of Conley and Rudy Gays persistent finger problem, this team is healthy. Most of the Utah roster is signed for next season, excluding Jordan Clarkson, Gay and Talen Horton Tuckerthere are no players that the front office should feel compelled to play.

This team should win 10-12 of their last 19 matchups in 2022. If it stays that way, will it buy at close, and if so, who will it target? We’ll see what the future brings, but as of now, Utah is legit.

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