Roundtable: Are the Jazz for Real?
A few of us gathered around the FanHouse Roundtable to discuss Utah's recent surge, and to see if, in the grand scheme of things, it means anything at all. Matt Moore, Tom Ziller, and I get together for some serious Jazz talk, after the jump.
Matt Moore: I'm curious to know how high you guys think the Jazz can climb in the seedings. I for one am on the edge of my seat wondering if they'll lose to Denver, Portland, San Antonio or LA in the first round.
Tom Ziller: With a marginally healthy Boozer and AK-47, they can beat Denver and Portland. Okur is out of his mind, Williams is Williams. How can you hate a team that uses the D-League as well as anyone outside of San Antonio and Detroit?
MM: I don't hate them. They're a small market team with D-League ties. I love them in a way.
But this talk about them being any sort of contender is based off of what? Their ability to beat Golden State after one of the most historic upsets in NBA history? Their time-tested ability to beat Tracy McGrady?
Portland, yeah, they can take. If Nene's okay (MRI today, by the way), it's over in five. Maybe the Jazz will make a run and land a top seed so they can get Houston or New Orleans, though. Then they get to be vanquished from the Earth once more by the Lakers or Spurs in six (if they're lucky). I don't have anything against them, but everyone talks about "good solid playoff basketball" and then talks about Mehmet Okur. I love Memo, but he's a big man that likes to hang on the perimeter. NOT A GOOD MATCHUP.
TZ: Say whatever you want about matchups, but they made the Western Conference Finals two years ago. Williams is better, Brewer (!), Kyle Korver's here ...
Boozer isn't the defender Duncan is, but ... who is matching up with Memo in that series this season? Bonner? Oberto? Jazz-S.A. would be a great, close series. Maybe it ends in six, but it's hardly a crime losing to the Spurs in six.
MM: Why does everyone say "They made the Western Conference Finals!" without considering the fact that they went through freaking Golden State? It's not like they toppled a top seed. They got lucky because Dallas drew the only team that season that had their number and then fell apart. It's not like they overcame a series of great teams to get there. They drew a favorable path and rolled in before being dismissed again by an elite team.
Williams is better, Korver is here, but they still rely on the human block magnet and AK to keep his head. And if you like Memo, San Antonio answers with Bonner. If you try and get big, they counter with Kurt Thomas. They're a good team. A nice team. They're not living past game 6 of the conference semis. They're just not. I think Millsap's been awesome, which is why it will be sad when Boozer takes his minutes.
TZ: Why does everyone say "They made the Western Conference Finals!" ...
Because they, um, made the Western Conference Finals?
Of course it comes with context. But even with the salt, it's a heck of an accomplishment. And again, the team has improved. I would state that (due in part to the aging of Bruce Bowen) S.A. has not gotten better.
MM: Woohoo! We were lucky enough to be the team that got the biggest upset of the last fifteen years after we got a team that we have a huge tactical advantage against! Crown our asses!
I'm sorry, but until they prove they can beat, nay, hang with a team that's not Houston or a freaking 8 seed, they've accomplished about as much as the Magic have, in more time.
You think...hold on... you think the Jazz can beat San Antonio? In the playoffs? When they're trying and stuff? Did Brad Miller give you his stash before he split town? SA hasn't gotten better. Which will make the beatdown they might deliver Utah all the stronger evidence of Utah's fraudulent existence as a "contender."
TZ: You think...hold on... you think the Jazz can beat San Antonio? In the playoffs? When they're trying and stuff?
I think it's within the realm of possibilities. Utah can't hang with the Lakers (no one in the West can if Lamar Odom keeps this up), but they could end up being the second-best team in the conference still. No amount of question marks or references to how lucky they were to make the WCF two seasons ago will change that.
MM: If I were to write an encyclopedia entry for the term "Regular Season Team," I would include this chart. They're 6-11 against teams with a "good" Net Points stat and 7-13 against teams with good defensive field goal percentage allowed.
They could become the second best team in the conference, but then, so could Atlanta. I'm not exactly holding my breath, here.
Crikey their upcoming schedule blows, though. They could rattle off 10 straight and not break a sweat. Excellent, this will make betting against them in the playoffs much more profitable.
Brett Pollakoff: Here's the thing about the Jazz: At home, they're really tough. That crowd is like an older, more moral, less tech-savvy version of what goes on in Golden State. It's bonkers. Few teams are up to the regular season task of winning there. The New Orleans game, though? The Hornets had no shot in that one, playing less than 24 hours after losing an overtime game in L.A. that (admittedly) they should have won. They were dead on arrival.
Fact is though, Utah beat the Lakers and Celtics there in the past week, and seem to be getting contributions from just about everyone -- which, as we know, is the key to advancing in the playoffs. When Boozer comes back, in whatever capacity, there will be an adjustment period. And it won't be pretty while that's happening. But it's totally possible that they could creep up to the second or third seed in the playoffs, and with Ginobili's on-again, off-again injury status, the Spurs are not better than they've been in previous seasons. In fact, they might be ripe for an earlier than expected upset.
TZ: Wait, you're telling me that the Jazz play better against bad teams? Surely that is an extremely rare phenomenon!
Oh wait, no it's not.
MM: Fair play.
Sign 'em up for the Finals!
I mean, really going .500 against good teams and going 6-11 are really the same.
BP: Getting to the Finals is not a fair measurement of a solid team, especially in a season where no one in the West is going to take out the Lakers. Last year, everyone crowned the Hornets after getting to Game 7 -- of the second round. Utah is certainly capable of that this season, and somehow they suck? That doesn't make any sense. And speaking of New Orleans, there's a team that could totally lose in the first round this season.
MM: This is just opinion, but I really feel like that Hornets team (not this one, Jesus they fell apart like a flan in a cupboard) was better than any Jazz team of the past four years.
"But they went to the Conference Finals!"
Give the Hornets the Golden State freaking Warriors or hell, even just have Game 7 not be the night they decided to have a horrific shooting night and the Hornets are there too.
The Hornets could totally lose in the first round this year. There are two really great West teams, and the Spurs only fit that description when they show up.
But to quote that Nike commercial, Portland/Denver/San Antonio's better is better than Utah's better. And the Lakers better is best. So unless Utah can figure out a way to bend time and space to not have to play any of those teams and only play weaklings like they will in the first round (and even then I think Houston could jump up and just sweep the hell out of them, same with Dallas), Utah's going to be the same team it's been. A good team that has great fans that's not good enough to advance past the second round without historic levels of help.