What NBA Return Means For The Utah Jazz
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The NBA appears set to return. On Thursday, Adam Silver will make a formal proposal to the Board of Governors to finish the season. The Utah Jazz are one of the 22 teams Silver will ask to come back to finish the year at Orlando’s Disney World Resort. Each team will play eight games to finish the regular season, with potential for a play-in tournament to determine the final playoff seed. What does the return of the NBA mean for the Jazz?
First, the playoff seeding has yet to be determined. Had the NBA opted to skip straight to the postseason, the Jazz would have faced one of two teams. If the NBA chose to reseed the playoffs 1-16, the Jazz would have faced the Houston Rockets. Had the league opted to maintain the current conference standings, the Jazz would have matched up against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Silver’s proposal, including a potential play-in tournament, likely means the playoffs will continue to be separated by conference.
Potential Playoff Matchups
Currently, the Jazz are 8.5 games back of the Los Angeles Lakers for the West’s top seed. The Jazz are 9.5 games ahead of the West’s eighth-seed. With only eight games left to play, the Jazz can’t claim the West’s top or bottom seed.
Considering the Jazz can’t climb to the top seed, that also limits their potential playoff matchups. The Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, New Orleans Pelicans, San Antonio Spurs, and Phoenix Suns will all finish their seasons in Orlando. However, none of those teams can make up enough ground to overtake the seventh-seeded Dallas Mavericks. Meaning, the eighth seed is the highest possible playoff position those teams could claim.
As a result, even if the Jazz were to climb to the West’s second seed, they wouldn’t face any of those teams that hope to play their way into the NBA’s postseason.
That leaves the Lakers, the Thunder, the Rockets, the Mavericks, the Los Angeles Clippers, the Denver Nuggets, and the Memphis Grizzlies as the seven teams the Jazz could potentially face in the first round of the playoffs.
The Jazz odds of facing the Grizzlies or Lakers are also slim.
The eighth-seeded Grizzlies sit seven games behind the seventh-seeded Mavericks. Unless Memphis was to win the remainder of their games, and Dallas were to lose out, the Jazz couldn’t face Memphis in a 2-7 matchup.
Similarly, the Clippers sit 5.5 games back of the Lakers for the top seed. The LeBron James led team can clinch the top seed in the West with any combination of four Lakers wins or Clippers losses.
The third-seeded Clippers and seventh-seeded Mavericks are separated by just 5.5 games.
According to Vince Goodwill of Yahoo Sports, teams will continue their previously scheduled games in Orlando. If teams that aren’t invited back to Orlando were scheduled, returning teams will move to the next available opponent.
The Jazz were scheduled to face the Thunder, Pelicans, Grizzlies, Lakers twice, the Minnesota Timberwolves, and Spurs twice to finish the season. Of those, only Timberwolves won’t be welcomed back to Orlando. As a result, the Jazz would face Dallas in the final of their eight regular-season games.
A complete list of the proposed Western Conference schedule can be found here.
The Jazz and the NBA Return
The Jazz will look dramatically different when the NBA does return. Bojan Bogdanovic underwent season-ending wrist surgery in May and will be unavailable in Orlando. That will likely push Joe Ingles into the team’s starting line, with Royce O’Neale moving to power forward.
Bogdanovic is the team’s second-leading scorer behind Donovan Mitchell, and one of the league’s best floor spacers despite the injury. Bogdanovic is one of four players this season to average better than 20 points per game while shooting above 40 percent from three.
Furthermore, the Jazz must address the fractured relationship between Mitchell and center Rudy Gobert. Mitchell was frustrated with Gobert’s cavalier attitude towards COVID-19. On March 11, Gobert was the first NBA player to publicly test positive for the virus. The next morning, Mitchell also tested positive.
Though the team is confident the players will move on, the two players will have to show it when they return to the floor in Orlando.
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