Hot Take: The Utah Jazz may be the NBA’s most disappointing team

The Jazz have failed to meet championship expectations

By Alexander Chan

  • Following their acquisitions of Mike Conley Jr. and Bojan Bogdanovic in the 2019 off-season, many NBA commentators expected the Utah Jazz to contend for a championship this season. However, Utah has not met the hype. The Jazz’s record is currently 38-22, but they have lost nine of their last 15 games. If the playoffs started today, the Jazz would be the fifth seed in the Western Conference just like they were last season. They are nine games behind the Los Angeles Lakers in the loss column.
  • While teams such as the Philadelphia 76ers and the Portland Trail Blazers have also experienced disappointing seasons, what makes Utah’s season stand out in terms of underachieving is just how healthy the Jazz have been all season. The Jazz have struggled despite Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, and Bogdanovic missing a combined four games.
  • The Jazz’s defense regressed this season. In the 2018-2019 season, the Jazz had the second-best defensive rating in the league. This season, the Jazz are only ranked 12th in defensive rating.
  • Conley has been a bust for the Jazz. Conley is only averaging 13.5 points per game and shooting under 40% from the field. The Jazz have played better when Conley has missed games due to injury, as they’ve gone 17-6 without him.
  • Bettors should not expect the Jazz to turn the ship around against good teams for the remainder of the season. Keep your eye on NBA picks from BetQL to see when the experts recommend picking the Jazz. The Jazz are 10-14 straight up against teams with a winning percentage of over .500. Ten of Utah’s last 22 games are against winning teams.

No, the Utah Jazz Have Not Met Expectations

All indications were that the Jazz had a great off-season in the summer of 2019. Their young star duo of Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert was returning with an additional year of experience under their belts. Utah had signed sharpshooter Bojan Bogdanovic and traded for Mike Conley Jr. to replace their previous point guard Ricky Rubio.

The Jazz appeared to have a roster that was built to compete and the NBA public betting was all over the Jazz to win the championship. Many experts considered Utah to be credible challengers to the Lakers in the Western Conference. Don’t get us wrong, they’re winning and well-positioned in the standings dancing between fourth and fifth place.

The season has not played out in the way that Utah Jazz fans and bettors have expected. There have been positive moments for the Jazz. Mitchell and Gobert were selected as all-stars for the first time and the team brought back popular throwback jerseys from the Malone-Stockton era. The Jazz also had a steak in December and January where they won 19 out of 21 games.

Since that run, the Jazz have not looked like the same team. They have lost nine of their last 15 games. Six of those nine losses occurred in Salt Lake City. The Jazz lost four straight games at home following the all-star break and were effectively blown out by weak opposition like the Spurs and Suns in those games.

What makes the underachievement of the Jazz even more startling is just how healthy they have been all season. Their three best players, Mitchell, Gobert, and Bogdanovic, have missed a combined four games all season. So the Jazz’s problems can’t be traced to any injury to a key player.

Other teams, like the 76ers and Trailblazers, certainly can compete with the Jazz for the title of the NBA’s most disappointing team but at least the 76ers and Trailblazers can claim that injuries are what derailed their seasons while the Jazz do have such an excuse.

The Jazz are currently nine games back in the loss column from the Lakers. If the playoffs started today, Utah would face the Houston Rockets in the first round. The Rockets have ended the Jazz’s season in the last two postseasons.

Problems on Offense and Defense

The Jazz have not been anywhere near as strong defensively this season as they were last season. The Jazz had the second best defensive rating in the league in the 2018-2019 season. This season, the Jazz’s defensive rating has fallen to 12th best.

Rudy Gobert is averaging fewer blocks per game this season than he did last season even though Gobert is playing more minutes on average this season. Gobert’s defensive rating is also worse this season than his rating from the previous season.

The Jazz have improved offensively from the 2018-2019 season. The Jazz now have a top-ten offensive rating. However, the Jazz’s improvements offensively have not been enough to offset their regression defensively. One reason why the Jazz’s offense isn’t performing even better this season is the play of Conley.

In his first year with the Jazz, Conley has arguably been worse than Rubio. Conley is averaging 13.5 points per game on 39.8% shooting from the field with a player efficiency rating of 13.07. In his last year with the Jazz, Rubio averaged 12.7 points per game on 40.4% shooting from the field with a player efficiency rating of 14.01.

Any advantage that Conley has over Rubio’s performance from his last year as the Jazz’s starting point guard has been inconsequential. The Jazz have played their best basketball this season in games that Conley has missed. When Conley does not play, the Jazz are 17-6. When Conley does play, the Jazz are 21-16.

Looking Ahead

The Jazz have struggled all season against the teams that currently have a winning percentage of over .500. The Jazz are 10-14 SU against these teams. During Utah’s run of 19 wins in 21 games in December and January, only three of those wins came against teams currently with a winning percentage of over .500. 10 of Jazz’s final 22 games is against a winning team.

Bettors should be wary about betting on the Jazz for the rest of the season against a team currently with a winning percentage of over .500. However, even though they have fallen well short of their championship expectations, the Jazz are still a credible team for bettors to wager on at least for NBA moneyline bettors. On Monday, the Jazz won and covered a double-digit spread against the hapless Cleveland Cavaliers.

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