With the final phone calls done and trades rumors (finally) put to rest, we now know that the Jazz organization feels like the current roster gives them the best chance to win this year. With 27 games remaining in the regular season, the Utah Jazz find themselves just three games behind the 5th seed in the Western Conference.
Will the Jazz be able to make a late season push for a higher playoff seed, or will they miss the playoffs altogether?
Here are just a few of my predictions for the Utah Jazz as we (hopefully) head for the playoffs. Where do you think the Jazz will end up?
Let us know your predictions and opinions in the comments.
Jazz stay tough at home, but tough road schedule leads to a mediocre March.
While Utah's March schedule looks fairly average, the Jazz head on a 4-game Eastern Conference road trip, including games in Chicago and New York.
Utah will play 9 of their 16 games on the road during March.They also finish out the month by playing 5 games in a 7-day span, wrapping up the stretch with a tough home game against the Brooklyn Nets, having played in Portland the night before.
However, look for the Jazz to capitalize on a fairly easy home schedule during the month. I see the Jazz finishing March with a combined record of 9-7. (3-6 on the road, 6-1 at home).
Burks proves too valuable to ride bench, finds more time. Excels in increased role.
Recently, second year Jazz man Alec Burks has been receiving extended minutes due to injuries to the Utah back court. During this stretch of increased minutes, Burks has shown that he has a knack for creating his own shot and seems to be one of those players that can fill out a stat sheet on a nightly basis (9 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds, 2 steals in 30 minutes in a win over the Timberwolves).
As Burks continues to show he deserves more minutes, coach Ty Corbin wont hesitate to add another young talent to the Jazz already deep rotation. As Mo Williams continues to recover from a thumb injury, Burks may give the Jazz some much needed help spreading the floor and creating shots.
Jazz find increased play from players looking for late season leverage heading into free agency.
While no deal was made by 1 pm. MST on Feb. 21, the NBA's trade deadline, many believe that the Jazz have put themselves in a tough situation heading into the offseason. With players like Paul Milsap and Al Jefferson with contracts expiring at the end of this season, many fans believed this year to be somewhat of a "tryout" for the majority of the Utah roster.
It was also speculated that the Jazz would ship one of their two big men at the trade deadline to ensure they get something back before one, or both, of them enter free agency.
However, this scenario gives Utah's front office more time to see who they want to keep around with their young core.
I also predict an increase in play from these players looking to test the market this offseason, with money as their motivation, they could carry the Jazz to a new level in the West.
Mo Williams returns late March. Jazz finish season with momentum.
Reports have surfaced of Mo Williams taking steps to return to the Jazz roster some time soon.
While no body truly knows when Mo will return and how he will play when he does, there is much speculation as to how the Jazz will look during the final stretch of the season.
While it may take Utah's roster some time to adjust to the return of their starting PG, I believe the transition will be an easy one. If Williams can return sometime during mid to late March, I could see the Jazz closing the regular season winning 7 of their last 10 games, including a win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
With a final record of 46-36 (15-12 after the trade deadline), I see the Jazz just a game behind the Houston Rockets for the 6th seed in the West. With the 7th seed, the Jazz will find themselves matched up against the Thunder, I anticipate the younger, less experienced Jazz squad stealing one on the road early but ultimately falling in 6 to the defending Western Conference champions.
March 20th @ Houston - The Jazz will be in a neck-and-neck race with the Rockets for the 6th seed in the Western Conference, this game could end up deciding a lot when in comes to seeding and tiebreakers.
April 7th @ Golden State - While slumping as of late, the Golden State Warriors will continue to pressure the Jazz from the 8th spot, with a win on the road that Jazz can build a cushion heading into the final 10 days of the regular season.
April 9th vs. Oklahoma City - As I stated before, this could very well be Utah's first-round opponent entering the postseason. Win or lose, this contest will help to show us exactly how much noise this young Jazz team can make in the playoffs.