Utah Jazz: Will the Jazz stay competitive in the West?

Utah Jazz forward Royce O’Neale (23), Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45), Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (00) and Utah Jazz guard Denzel Valentine (15) walk off the floor.

Utah Jazz forward Royce O’Neale (23), Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45), Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (00) and Utah Jazz guard Denzel Valentine (15) walk off the floor as the Utah Jazz fall to the Cleveland Cavaliers in an NBA basketball game at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022. Cavs won 111-91.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

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On paper it seems as if the Western Conference is going to be even more competitive next season than it was this season and it was really, really competitive this season.

The emergence of new, young, increasingly improving teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves, the New Orleans Pelicans and the continued rise of the Memphis Grizzlies have added a new wrinkle to the West’s top tier.

But on top of fresh-faced talent, there’s also going to be the return of players like Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., who will make the Denver Nuggets a tougher team. Then there’s the expected return of a Kawhi Leonard, who will make the Los Angeles Clippers once again relevant. The L.A. Lakers could get healthy and be a tough out again, and a healthy Damian Lillard could shake things up if the Portland Trail Blazers are able to make the right moves.

The point is that the West, as it usually is, is going to be jampacked with playoff-worthy teams. So where will the Jazz fit in to all of that? Will they remain a competitive playoff team?

Those are great questions — questions that can only be answered after we see what Danny Ainge and Justin Zanik do for the Jazz this offseason. If the Jazz take even a slight step back in talent or ability it could be enough to knock them out of playoff contention.

But even if the Jazz were to stand pat and not make many changes, there’s a chance that the Western teams around the Jazz could improve and that could cause the Jazz to drop down to a team that is fighting for one of the bottom playoff seeds.

If the Jazz are going to remain competitive in the Western Conference, the front office is going to have to pull off some pretty impressive maneuvering this summer.

New with the Jazz

Stat of the week

Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic, despite having only played in five playoff games this year, is the NBA postseason’s leading scorer at 33.4 points per game.

Rounding out the top five in active playoff scorers are:

  • the Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum (28 ppg).
  • the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo (27.9 ppg).
  • the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry (27.3 ppg).
  • the Miami Heat’s Jimmy Butler (26.5 ppg).

From the archives

This week in Jazz history

On May 8, 1988, the Jazz set a record low for first quarter points scored in an NBA playoff game. The Los Angeles Lakers held the Utah Jazz to just eight points in the first quarter of Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinals series, a 110-91 Lakers’ victory.

How to pass the time in the offseason

Now that the Jazz season has come to an end, it means that I have some time to catch up on the things that I love but don’t have enough time for during the NBA season. A lot of you have asked how I fill my time. Well, I love watching live sports so I’ll be taking in some Salt Lake Bees and Real Salt Lake games, but I’m also almost always reading a book (or two, or three), working on a jigsaw puzzle, watching some sort of binge-worthy TV show and listening to many podcasts. So I thought this would be a good place to suggest my latest way to pass the offseason time and also take your suggestions.

In the first week of the Jazz offseason I read the book “Bone White” by Ronald Malfi. The opening of the book reveals that a serial killer has been at work in a remote, rural part of Alaska. Coincidentally it’s the same place that Paul Gallo’s twin brother was last seen, more than a year ago. From there, a horror/murder mystery work of fiction ensues.

I felt like it would work really well as a movie. It has some perfect jump-scare/creepy scenes that you want out of a horror novel but I have to admit that it left me wanting a little more once it was over, and not in the best way, but I will also be the first to say that I like things tied up in nice bows. Not everyone needs that.

Twitter user @RSLTID78 also mentioned coloring books as a way to pass the time and I think it’s a great suggestion. Coloring books are not just for kids! I like using colored pencils in books with floral pictures or intricate patterns while I’m listening to an audio book or podcast.

Extra points

  • Could Rudy Gobert and Joel Embiid become teammates? (Deseret News)
  • The Utah Jazz should make Quin Snyder an offer he can’t refuse (Salt Lake Tribune)
  • Donovan Mitchell is heading into the most important offseason of his career (The Athletic)
  • Quin Snyder has hip replacement surgery (Deseret News)

Around the league

Ben Simmons, who hasn’t suited up for the Brooklyn Nets since trade from Philly, had surgery on his back.

Memphis Grizzlies forward Dillion Brooks suspended one game for foul that caused Golden State’s Gary Payton II to suffer a broken elbow.

Warriors forward Draymond Green fined for flipping off Grizzlies fans.

Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid still listed as out with orbital fracture.

Up next: NBA playoffs

May 6 | 5 p.m. | Game 3 | Miami Heat @ Philadelphia 76ers | ESPN

May 6 | 7:30 p.m. | Game 3 | Phoenix Suns @ Dallas Mavericks | ESPN

May 7 | 1:30 p.m | Game 3 | Boston Celtics @ Milwaukee Bucks | ABC

May 7 | 6:30 p.m | Game 3 | Memphis Grizzlies @ Golden State Warriors | ABC

May 8 | 1:30 p.m. | Game 4 | Phoenix Suns @ Dallas Mavericks | ESPN

May 8 | 6 p.m. | Game 4 | Miami Heat @ Philadelphia 76ers | TNT

May 9 | 5:30 p.m | Game 4 | Boston Celtics @ Milwaukee Bucks | TNT

May 9 | 8 p.m | Game 4 | Memphis Grizzlies @ Golden State Warriors | TNT

May 10 | TBD | Game 5 if necessary | Philadelphia 76ers @ Miami Heat | TNT

May 10 | TBD | Game 5 if necessary | Dallas Mavericks @ Phoenix Suns | TNT

May 11 | 5 p.m. | Game 5 | Milwaukee Bucks @ Boston Celtics | TNT

May 11 | 7:30 p.m. | Game 5 | Golden State Warriors @ Memphis Grizzlies | TNT