The Second-Round is the Best Outcome for the Jazz

As good as the Jazz have been this season, the biggest news they made was being the team that had the first positive test for COVID-19.  When Rudy Gobert tested positive in early March, it not only canceled the Jazz game that night, but also led to the league suspending play just hours later.  Donovan Mitchell would also test positive soon after that day.   

That situation was a dark cloud on an otherwise bright season for the Jazz as they sit in 4th place in the Western Conference.  After last year’s breakout rookie season by Donovan Mitchell, the Jazz let Ricky Rubio sign with Phoenix and traded for Mike Conley Jr.  They then signed Bojan Bogdanovic to a four-year contract.  

New Players, Different Outcomes

Conley has struggled to match his production in Memphis but was coming into form before the season was suspended.  Bogdanovic, on the other hand, has fit right in scoring a career-high 20.2 point per game, shooting 41% on three-pointers and 90% from the foul line.  Unfortunately, Bogdanovic had surgery on his right wrist in May and will miss the rest of the season.  For the Jazz to move past the first-round this year, they’ll need more from Conley than they’ve gotten thus far. 

A Very Favorable Schedule

Utah may be short-handed but they’ll be favored in six of their final eight games.  Outside of games against the Lakers and Nuggets, they face the Pelicans, Thunder, Grizzlies, Mavericks and Spurs twice.  The Jazz are a game and half behind the Nuggets for the 3rd spot and just a game ahead of the Thunder and Rockets.  It’s likely the games against the Nuggets and Thunder will ultimately decide their seeding.  With the schedule as it is, it’s not likely they’ll move from the 4/5 matchup.   But without Bogdanovic, the Thunder, Rockets and Mavericks would all love to face them in the first round, rather than the Nuggets or Clippers.  I’m guessing they will end up facing the Rockets or Mavericks and wrap up their season with another first-round exit. 

Run it Back Next Year

This team will pretty much return as is next season so they could likely fulfill the potential they thought they had this year in 2021.  The big decisions come after 2021 when Donovan Mitchell will get his max extension and Mike Conley and Rudy Gobert’s contracts expire.  Conley certainly won’t command big money at the tail end of his career but what will they do with Rudy Gobert?  Is the big man still worth big money in a league that is so much more perimeter oriented when he entered the league? The answer will depend on how the Jazz at full strength in 2021 end their playoff run. 

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