By no means do preseason results predict regular season success. In previous seasons, the Jazz have gone undefeated in the preseason only to miss the playoffs, and had losing records during the eight exhibition games only to make a deep run in the playoffs.
However, this season’s success does garner hope for Jazz fans, not because of the results of the first few games, but because of the visible improvement of the players themselves. After being swept out of the playoffs last season, the Jazz players worked in the offseason like they had something to prove.
The question is whether that work will translate into wins. As always, the West is loaded with quality teams. Sure, some teams are better than others, but every night the Jazz face a quality opponent which, if taken lightly, will defeat them. But will the Jazz be consistent enough to earn their second consecutive trip to the playoffs?
One of the many bets you can make in Vegas is win totals, where bets are calculated based on total season victories. One reputable book there predicts Utah will finish with 42.5 wins during the 82-game season, a slight percentage drop over last season’s team. Overall, this would give the Jazz the eighth-best record in the West according to the sports book, so the gamblers predict the Jazz will be in the exact same spot as last year.
Is this a reasonable expectation for the Jazz? Should the team expect a higher number of wins this year, or should fans prepare for a fall from the playoffs and back into the lottery?
The best way to look at the Western Conference is to group the teams together based on their season expectations. By looking at who is competing for which spots we can see just who the Jazz are competing with for a playoff spot, and what a reasonable expectation for the season is.
First, we can eliminate certain teams from playoff contention. Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, New Orleans and Houston all have major flaws that will keep them away from the playoffs. Phoenix lost future Hall of Famer Steve Nash, Portland is depleted from the failed Brandon Roy/Greg Oden saga, Sacramento is as dysfunctional as ever, New Orleans is young and raw, and Houston is depleted of talent. Eliminating these five teams leaves ten teams fighting for eight postseason spots.
Oklahoma City and the Lakers are the cream of the West, will win their divisions, and are fighting for the two top seeds in the West. The only other team that could drop one of them a spot is the Spurs, but San Antonio will likely not push for the top spot with the number of veterans it has on the team. Following the cream of the crop are the Clippers and Memphis, both excellent teams with flaws that keep them out of elite contention. That leaves five teams, including the Jazz, fighting for three playoff spots.
for more information check out the Oct 18 edition of Davis Clipper.