(We’ve got another contributor offering an interesting take on the Utah Jazz this year. Even though I think they’ll be the worst team in the Northwest division, Steven Lebron has a different take on the team from Utah.
You can follow Steven Lebron’s Tumblr and Twitter accounts, and make sure to check his site this week for his own NBA previews featuring a bunch of writers you may know from around the web. Without further ado, here is Steven Lebron.-Ed.)
In some ways, the compressed schedule and shortened season has made the upcoming four months comparable to those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books I used to read as a kid.
You know, the ones where every reader has the same starting point, but depending on what they choose, can end up taking the story to whatever ending that they decide.
For the league, it means that several variables that may not matter over a longer schedule suddenly become potential strengths and weaknesses to teams over the short term. It means that when you pull together these variables, it’s possible to create an alternate ending that you otherwise may not have expected.
That was a long-winded thesis to say that I expect the Utah Jazz to surprise most pundits this season.
Consider the following: It’s been commonly accepted that with out-of-shape players and a two game pre-season schedule for teams to get acclimated, that the quality of basketball may not be the greatest to start.
In this type of environment, the Jazz have the necessary pieces to win those games, where defense and size may dictate the outcome. You can find better individual front court players, but you can’t not be impressed by the combination of Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors, Mehmet Okur and Enes Kanter. These five provide the Jazz wit a continual inside presence for the Jazz for forty eight minutes.
Furthermore, continuity—a word which we once associated with this organization—is another key factor for getting off to a fast start. For Utah, they had the final stretch of the season under a new head coach and won’t be working in too many new players into their system.
Also, check the schedule for January. After three of their first four games on the road, Utah will play 12 of their 15 games at home. Their opponents include New Orleans, Milwaukee, Cleveland, New Jersey, Minnesota, Toronto and Sacramento. The schedule of course eventually balances out. But while all teams will start the sprint at the same speed to begin the season, stamina and durability figures to be another variable that’s going to be more important under this 66 game arrangement.
The Jazz have a young core and can go ten deep with their rotation. If they can take advantage of their early schedule, those young legs may compensate for a tougher schedule as we roll into the later months. Put it all together, and I see this as the surprise team of the West. While Dallas, Oklahoma City, Memphis, San Antonio and both teams in Los Angeles figure to be in the playoff mix, I’ve talked myself into the Jazz as the leader in the next tier.
Now it’s up to them to take the variables I mentioned above and carry that to the ending that I’ve chosen.
PHOTO: (Jeremy Harmon | The Salt Lake Tribune) VIA