As we near the quarter mark of this abbreviated 72-game season, we’re starting to see the tiers of teams begin to take shape. 

Of course in a season as atypical as this one has been (and win continue to be due to Covid), that leaves plenty of room for unaccountable instances, nonetheless those will likely come few and far in-between.

With this in mind, here is a team I deem as “middle of the pack” in regards to them not quite being on the level of the Lakers or Clippers (though able to contend) but expected to finish above the “play in tournament” seeds of 7-10.

As it stands, here are the current ranks in the West

Utah Jazz

Third in the West and currently amidst an impressive six game win streak with noteworthy wins @ Bucks, @ Pistons, @ Cavs, vs Hawks, @ Nuggs, vs Pels, they are the hottest team in the league right now.

Their style of play is of the most risky variety, being high volume attempts from deep which does match for the roster coach Snyder has to deploy.

Shooting 🎯

44% of their shots are 3’s (1st in the league), 41.1 attempts a night. By zone, 32.4% come from above the break (3rd in the league), 11.6% from the corner (2nd in the league), and they’re successful 40.1% of the time overall from deep 3.

On the season four of their main rotation pieces in O’Neale (4.1 3PA), Clarkson (7.1 3PA), Ingles (5.1 3PA), and Conley (6.8 3PA) are shooting north of the elite 40% clip from deep. Shooting 45.6%, 43.0%, 41.2%, and 41.1% respectively 🔥.

Just look at their shooting charts here:

On catch and shoot threes:

Mitchell: 51%

Clarkson 49%

O’Neale 48%

Conley 45%

Ingles 41%

Bogdanovic 36%

Niang 35%

Their best shooter hasn’t even hit his stories yet in Bogdanovic, which is scary.

They play in space and play with solid pace, starting with getting stops then in turn changing ends which then lead to more healthy looks in transition where the three point line is the toughest to defend. Their lethal shooters feast in this scenario.

Speaking of defense…

Defense 🔒

They sport an elite 106.9 defensive rating, good for 5th in the league. That can be largely attributed to Gobert’s presence as players alter their typical shots due to his presence. Their rotations are tight and they’re doing a great job funnelling penetration toward Gobert, which is a win defensively for them more often than not.

Sans 2-time defensive player of the year Rudy Gobert, the return of Derrick Favors (in place of Ed Davis) has been a revelation.

He’s averaging 1.1 BPG and in presence alone he’s a +1.6 defensively, which is a career high. His prior knowledge of Snyders system and subsequent reintegration has put the Jazz right where they want to be.

Beyond the arc defensively, they’re doing an excellent job in 3-point defense.

They’re 5th in the league defending the 3 point line as opponents only shoot 34.3% on just 32 attempts a game, both good for fifth in the league. 

Weakness to look out for

In their losses, their ball movement stagnates or, attributed to their style of play, the shots just aren’t falling from deep. Their assists drop down from 25.8 a game to 17 a game. The reliance on shot making is a risky proposition, but the nature of their shots coming of the catch and shoot variety (and their shooters being as good as they are career-wise) bodes well for them.

Should they keep up an elite defensive effectiveness and productivity, they’ll make for the perfect storm in a playoff series. 

Lastly, their driving force

A lot of which resides in the shoulders of their young stud Donovan Mitchell, and they try to bring his usage down with the presences of Conley and Clarkson, but Spida is clearly the lead of the tune the Jazz will operate at when it’s all said and done.

Coach of the year candidate?

Coach Quin Snyder is doing a job, and his name should be included in the coach of the year conversation yet again (this is a scheduled statement on the yearly basis), and he has his guys playing some great basketball.

He will have his hands full regarding rotations and getting through the inevitable streaks of his shooters, but if they can sustain even half of this level of play, they should finish respectfully and be viable come postseason time.

Conclusion

46-26, third or fourth in the West

That’s +2 from last season as their continuity plus having Favors back,Clarkson’s play integrated, and Bogdanovic healthy makes them more formidable. 

Snyder will have a task on his hands in matching up with the juggernauts of the west, and even teams in the middle of the pack with them (Phoenix, then eventually Denver and Portland), but as it stands they have as good of a chance as any of those teams to make a conference finals appearance.

The continued growth and maturation of Donovan Mitchell will determine the variance of their level of success, as will the streaky nature of being jump shot reliant.

Tonight they host the New Orleans Pelicans on TNT at 10pm EST. Will their hot 3-point shooting streak continue, or will they have to find another way to snag a win? Tune in 🏀

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