What Is The Utah Jazz Ideal Playoff Bracket?

May 7, 2021, 3:58 PM | Updated: 4:00 pm

Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz passes against the Denver Nuggets during the first quarter in...

Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz passes against the Denver Nuggets during the first quarter in Game Three of the Western Conference First Round during the 2020 NBA Playoffs at AdventHealth Arena at ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on August 21, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – With just six games left in the regular season, the Utah Jazz have an eye towards the postseason. However, with the top 10 teams in the Western Conference still fighting for playoff seeding, what is the Jazz idea playoff bracket?

In the latest episode of the Jazz Notes podcast, Ben Anderson addresses that question in depth.

You can listen to the entire podcast in the player below.

What Is Jazz Ideal Playoff Seed?

Anderson: This is the question on everybody’s mind, so I will try to take a stab at it through a few different perspectives.

First and foremost, health looks like it’s going to play an enormous role in this postseason as several teams are still trying to get healthy before, or know they’ll be shorthanded throughout the postseason.

That includes the Jazz who are still awaiting the return of guards Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell, the Los Angeles Lakers who are continuing the monitor the ankle of LeBron James, and the Denver Nuggets who will be without Jamal Murray for the remainder of the season.

If for some reason James can’t return to full health before the first round of the playoffs, it’s more ideal to face them early in the postseason than it would be in the later rounds.

That may be the case even if James does return healthy before the end of the season as the Lakers’ issues seem to stretch beyond healthy bodies. However, some of those issues could subside with more games played together and they could include as the playoffs advance.

Additionally, while many fans are more focused on who they draw in the first and second rounds in the playoffs, they shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the Jazz are far and away the best home team in the NBA and would seem to gain a bigger advantage than most teams by opening and closing every series in Utah.

The Jazz have been nearly unbeatable at home this season, sitting 29-4 at Vivint Arena, a full four games better than any other team playing at home this year.

But it isn’t as if they are squeaking out close wins at home due to the crowd noise or friendly hometown whistle, the Jazz are simply obliterating opponents in Salt Lake City.

The Jazz net rating in Utah is 13.8, nearly five points better per 100 possessions than the second-highest ranked Phoenix Suns. Their 117.7 offensive rating ranks second in the league behind only the Los Angeles Clippers, and their 103.9 defensive rating tops in the league, beating the second-place Lakers by 2.3 points per game.

The team’s four losses this season have come by a combined 25 points with only one loss coming by double-digits. On the flip side, the Jazz has only had five wins in Utah decided by fewer than 10 points.

That means a staggering 24 wins at Vivint Arena have come by at least 10 points. Of those 24, 15 have come by at least 15 points, seven have come by 20 or more, and four have come by 30 or more.

So while some may prefer an easier first or second-round matchup, I do think there is a particularly strong value to the Jazz knowing they’ll have home-court advantage in every series.

With that in mind, let’s take a stab at this.

  1. Utah Jazz
  2. Phoenix Suns
  3. Los Angeles Clippers
  4. Denver Nuggets
  5. Dallas Mavericks
  6. Los Angeles Lakers
  7. Golden State Warriors
  8. San Antonio Spurs

Play-In Tournament

First, let’s start with the play-in tournament and how it affects the Jazz. If the Jazz own the top seed in the West, they won’t know who they’ll face in the postseason until all three play-in tournament games have been completed.

In the play-in tournament, the teams that finish with the seventh and eighth seed at the end of the regular season will face off with the winner earning the seventh seed.

The ninth and tenth seeded teams will face one another with the winner earning the right to play the loser of the game between the seventh and eighth seed.

The winner of that final game then ends the eighth seed.

Ideally for the Jazz, the toughest possible opponent wins the matchup between the seventh and eighth-seeded games and would face the second seed with an outside chance of upsetting them in the first round.

That would clear the Jazz of a significant hurdle in the Western Conference Finals if they were to make it that far.

Then, the Jazz would want to face their easiest matchup in the first round of the playoffs among the teams that qualify for the play-in tournament.

Right now, the teams that would compete in the play-in are the Portland Trail Blazers, the Golden State Warriors, the Memphis Grizzlies, and the San Antonio Spurs.

However, Friday’s game between the Trail Blazers and the Lakers could go a long way to determining which of those teams earns the sixth seed, and who ends up in the play-in tournament.

On one hand, it might be advantageous for the Lakers to end up the play-in tournament against the second seed again with the idea of potentially eliminating a team as good as the Suns in the first, but there’s more on the idea of keeping the Lakers out of the play in that I will address in a moment.

Of the teams currently set to appear in the play-in tournament, the Jazz have had the easiest time with the Spurs who they have beaten in all three matchups by an average of 21.3 points per game.

The Jazz also swept the Grizzlies this year, though the average margin of victory was just 7.6 points per game.

Both the Warriors (1-1) and Trail Blazers (2-0) have games left against the Jazz, and the Jazz are a combined 3-1 in those matchups, but the idea of facing either Steph Curry or Damian Lillard for a seven-game series is daunting, especially if the Jazz backcourt isn’t fully healthy.

So, the Jazz best scenario would likely be to face the Spurs, then the Grizzlies, then the Trail Blazers, then the Warriors in that order.

Opening Round

Elsewhere in this scenario, the Suns would draw the assignment of having to beat Curry four times in seven games while he’s playing at an MVP level. The Suns would be heavily favored, but any extra energy spent against a very experienced playoff team would be good for the Jazz as the playoffs wear on.

In the battle between the three and the six seeds, the Jazz would know that one of the Los Angeles Clippers or Lakers would be eliminated in the first round, clearing either LeBron James and Anthony Davis, or Kawhi Leonard and Paul George out of the playoff picture long before the Jazz would have to face either duo.

As mentioned, there is also value to the Lakers slipping to the seventh seed and having to face the Suns in the opening round if the Jazz were to earn the top seed, but even the chance that the Lakers could lose the first play-in game, and win the second to face the Jazz in the opening round should make this scenario I laid out more advantageous.

Finally, the fourth and the fifth seed matchup would put the Nuggets against the Dallas Mavericks, with the winner facing the Jazz in the second round. The idea of facing either Nikola Jokic or Luka Doncic in the playoffs should be frightening as both players proved how lethal they can be in last year’s postseason.

Second Round

The Jazz went 2-1 this season against the Mavericks, and have gone 1-1 against Denver, but likely won’t have a good read on what a playoff matchup would look like as they won’t have either Mitchell or Conley in their matchup tonight.

Denver has had a better season than Dallas, and Jokic has probably been the best player in the NBA, so there is logic to preferring to see Dallas in the second round.

On the other hand, the playoffs often come down to the ability to generate points on the perimeter which Dallas can do with Doncic, and the Nuggets might struggle to do without Murray.

With that in mind, the Jazz are likely picking their poison between who they would want to face in the second round, but my gut tells me Denver is the easier draw.

While the Jazz would be dealing with either Denver or Dallas (assuming they make it past the first round), the other side of the postseason bracket would likely pair the Suns against the Clippers with either Leonard and George or Chris Paul and Devin Booker getting eliminated before the Conference Finals.

The Clippers have been a bad matchup for the Suns so far this season, winning the opening two games of the series when all four All-Stars were playing.

Conference Finals

If the Jazz were to advance to the Conference Finals, which of those two teams they’d prefer is probably a toss-up. The Jazz are 2-1 this season against the Clippers, including a win early in the season when both teams were at full strength.

However, the Jazz lost the latest matchup in Los Angeles with both rosters healthy.

The Jazz were swept by the Suns his year, though one loss came very early in the season in Utah, one loss came on the road in overtime, and one loss came while the Jazz were without either Mitchell or Conley.

Who of those two the Jazz would want to face could be determined by how either team looks in the opening two rounds of the playoffs.

So, that’s a long answer for you, thanks for the question.

You can subscribe to the Jazz Notes Podcast at the link here.

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What Is The Utah Jazz Ideal Playoff Bracket?