2022-11-12 · 3 min read · NBA/Basketball
Utah Jazz Lauri Markkanen

Jeff Swinger/NBAE via Getty Images | Gerald Herbert | Associated Press

Every year in the NBA, there’s always a few disappointments, and there’s always a few surprises.
Like the very impressive Cleveland Cavaliers, though I think the general consensus heading in is that they’d be a playoff team at the very least.
But one team far surpasses any other as the biggest surprise, and it’s the Utah Jazz. For a team projected to be competing for the worst record in the league to be leading the western conference is pretty remarkable.
Yes, we’re all aware of what’s being said: “They WANT to tank, it’s early, they’ll trade everyone by the deadline and fall right to the bottom where they belong.”
Valid, though we’re already hurdling towards the quarter way mark of the season, and as teams like Houston, Detroit, Charlotte and sadly, the Lakers all continue to plummet, at 10-3 if Utah wants to be any near the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes, they’ll have a lot of ground to make up if they continue to win games.
Now, may I point out that a certain team from Washington started last year 10-3 and was leading headlines and podcast segments by mid November, and within three weeks they were never heard of again. Point being; there’s still a ton of basketball to be played.
Still, if you’ve watched this Utah team play at all so far, it’s hard to ignore how impressive they look, and equally as hard to envision them falling into the NBA proverbial toilet given how hard nosed and cohesive their brand of basketball is.
So, with all that said I have two burning questions about this Utah cinderella story.
Question one: How are they doing it?
Well, the simple answer is Lauri Markkanen (22.7 ppg, 8.8 rpg. 2.5 apg) and Jordan Clarkson (18.6 ppg, 5.2 apg, 41% 3fg) are both playing at an Allstar caliber level right now.
But it goes deeper than that. Utah has 9 competent rotation players that they can throw at you in waves. Gone are the days where having a couple stars with no supporting cast can get you by. With the amount of talent in the league right now, you need to have a bench to win. Don’t believe me? Just ask the Lakers or Nets.
The Jazz move the ball and get better shots than almost any other team in the league. They rank 3rd in the league in 3 pointers made and 4th in assists. They’re one of those island-of-misfit-toys kind of rosters that was completely thrown together, but nearly everyone on the team has a chip on their shoulder for one reason or another.
It’s really quite impressive to watch them play, and first year coach Will Hardy is quickly becoming one of the brightest young coaches in the league.
It’s not like Utah is just beating up on bad teams either. They’ve already beaten Portland, Atlanta, Denver, New Orleans and Memphis twice.
Which brings us to question two: Is what they’re doing smart?
It’s easy to criticize Utah, who essentially traded their two best players for draft capital and a chance to get the number one pick in a draft with the best prospect in 20 years.
And as I mentioned earlier, President Danny Ainge might force his hand by trading Clarkson and Mike Conley and whoever else to ensure that does in fact happen. But at this point, is it worth it to forgo a chance at Wembanyama and ride this out?
I think it mighty be. The West is wide open right now. The Clippers are sleep-walking through the year with Kawhi Leonard completely disinterested in being a part of any of it, the Warriors are a mess right now, Memphis and Denver have been sort of up and down.
Not to mention, even if Utah somehow plummets down to the NBA’s worst record, they’ll only have a 14 per cent chance at actually landing the number one pick, at best.
At this point, should they, or more importantly, will they actually keep winning and compete in the west?
That remains to be seen. One things for sure though, it’s a fun story so far.
Sports Tree Profile

By: Eddie Huband


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