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Utah Jazz Listed Among Top Tier In NBA Heading Into Season

Utah Jazz players Joe Ingles, left, and Mike Conley laugh as they answer questions during Jazz Media Day at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Monday, Sept. 30, 2019. (Steve Griffin, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz are less than one month away from the start of their regular season and the hype continues to build around the organization.

ESPN NBA writer Zach Lowe released a different type of power rankings. Rather than ranking the teams, he listed them in tiers and has the Jazz in the top tier, which includes “top title contenders.”

The entire article can be found here.

Top Tier

Lowe named five teams and a provisional status team among the top tier that he thinks will contend for an NBA title. Along with the Jazz, Lowe has listed the Los Angeles Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers. The provisional status team is the Houston Rockets.

Here is what Lowe said about the Jazz in his article:

“Small pet peeve: any assumption that time is propelling Donovan Mitchell on a path to soon becoming prime Dwyane Wade. Prime Dwyane Wade was a freaking monster. The collective memory of this is fading because Wade passed the baton early to LeBron and spent prior seasons toiling on mediocre teams-in-waiting for LeBron. Prime Wade had a claim to the “greatest active shooting guard” throne. He shot between 51% and 55% on 2s every season, dished six or seven dimes per game, lived at the line, and lurked as the greatest shot-blocking guard in history.

The gap between Mitchell and that player is enormous. Mitchell closed some of it with a post-All-Star surge before struggling from the field for the second straight postseason. Good news: The entire point of acquiring Mike Conley is that Mitchell has to close only a little more of the Wade gap for Utah to become a serious contender.

Mitchell has hit 40% of his career catch-and-shoot 3s. He should get more next to Conley. Quin Snyder will find new ways to get Mitchell the ball on the move. Mitchell should be able to reserve more energy for defense. If he fulfills his potential on that end, the Jazz are going to be nasty.

The other pole of the Mitchell discussion — the one emanating from analytics-heavy places — is that he just isn’t very good. Don’t buy that. He just turned 23. His efficiency hasn’t matched his Q factor, but he can do special things and has a certain ineffable quality — courage, guts, toughness — you need to win at the highest level. Maybe he’ll never be Prime Wade, or some analytics darling, but I’d bet on Mitchell improving in ways that matter.

With Conley and Bogdanovic aboard, Utah should not fall victim to the Twilight Zone shooting slumps that torpedoed them in recent playoff defeats. Bump up their shooting, and the Jazz could sniff the top five in points per possession. That two-way balance nudges them a hair above Houston and Denver.

The Jazz might face some size and rebounding issues splitting power forward minutes between Bogdanovic, O’Neale (don’t be shocked if he starts) and Jeff Green. They can dangle Exum to trawl for an extra big man if need be.”

Other Tiers

The next tier for Lowe was titled “Strongish playoff teams/The East stinks again. Those four teams included the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Brooklyn Nets and Orlando Magic.

For the borderline playoff teams, he put the Indiana Pacers, Toronto Raptors, Detroit Pistons, Chicago Bulls, Golden State Warriors, Portland Trail Blazers, Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs, New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings were mentioned in that category.

The next tier was the “netherworld of the west,” which had just the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Oklahoma City Thunder listed.

The final tier was “the rest,” with the New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Washington Wizards, Phoenix Suns, Memphis Grizzlies and Charlotte Hornets.