Can the Utah Jazz make it to the 2021 NBA Finals?
It’s been a long time since the Utah Jazz played in the NBA Finals. In fact, they haven’t even been part of the NBA’s version of the “Final Four” since Deron (DARE-in) Williams was their star point guard.
But before we talk about how long it’s been since the Jazz were even playing in the Western Conference Finals, let’s first discuss this ridiculously awkward interview between Shaq and Donovan Mitchell.
I’m not sure why Shaq would even do this on-the-air. It’s hard to accurately describe, so let’s just cut to the interview: (I will insert the interview’s footage here. Don’t talk).
Wow. That was awkward. I can’t believe that Shaq was allowed the freedom to basically throw Mitchell under the bus like that. He probably wasn’t allowed that amount of freedom from his producers, which means the former MVP decided to throw some shade at Mitchell’s game on a whim. I don’t agree with Shaq’s interpretation of Mitchell as a non-superstar since Mitchell is still very young, but make sure to comment below if you agree with Shaq interviewing the star two-guard the way that he did.
But regardless of how you feel about Mitchell, Mike Conley, and Rudy Gobert (goh-BEAR), you can’t deny how successful the Jazz have been this season in the Western Conference.
But are the Jazz simply the regular season darlings? Will the Los Angeles Lakers or Clippers take care of the Jazz in the playoffs once the Lakers or Clips are fully healthy? Let’s take a closer look at the Jazz and see what myths versus facts are prevalent with the current best record in the West.
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Anyway, let’s get the meat and potatoes of this video: Are the Jazz good enough to play for the NBA’s version of the national championship? Comparing players to other players is such a subjective thing to do, and although next-level analytical stats like Player Efficiency Rating and True Shooting Percentage can somewhat predict how good that professional b-ball player is, this advanced form of calculation still isn’t an exact science.
But with all of that in mind, let’s see how the Big 3 of Mitchell-Conley-Gobert compares to some other notable “Big 3s” in the Western Conference.
The first one that comes to mind is the Lakers. This is a hard Big 3 to detect since Dennis Schroeder (SHREW-dur) is technically third on the team in Points Per Game, but Montrezl Harrell (MAWN-trez HAIR-ull) is third on the team in Player Efficiency Rating. He’s also .7 P-P-G away from Schroeder, so he’s basically the same level of scorer as the Lakers starting point guard.
If the Jazz played the Lakers in the Western Finals, can Utah compete with LA’s Big 3? In one word? Yes. When the Jazz traded for Mike Conley, they didn’t just do it to win a couple of playoff games. The success was already there when they had Mitchell and formerly Gordon Hayward. Rather, the Jazz wanted to become a dominant force in the Western Conference. You don’t take on Conley’s overpaid salary unless you’re thinking NBA Finals appearances and championship rings.
And in his second season with Utah, Conley has definitely delivered. His 19.91 Player Efficiency Rating is second on the team according to his minutes played, and his 5.8 Assists Per Game are very similar to his last season in Memphis prior to the deal. His field-goal percentage and three-point percentage numbers are also up from last year’s disappointing campaign.
The question is, though, Can the Jazz’s dynamic backcourt go toe-to-toe with the Lakers frontcourt of LeBron James and Anthony Davis? I don’t see why not, especially if Gobert’s excellent defense forces LeBron and A-D away from the painted area. The problem is some NBA analysts, notably Shaq and Charles Barkley, don’t believe that Mitchell can knock down key isolation buckets in big-time moments in order to put away the Lakers and Clips.
I’m not sure if Shaq and Sir Charles even watched last season’s Western Conference Quarterfinals between the Jazz and Denver Nuggets. I’m being hyperbolic of course, but this is what I mean: When the Nuggets led Game 7 of the series 55-to-36, Mitchell scored all nine of his team’s points to cut the lead back to a respectable 10-point deficit. By the way, Mitchell averaged over 36 points per game during that series, so I’m not sure why Shaq is calling out the Spider during postgame interviews.
But is Mitchell a superstar? It’s fair to not entirely be on the Mitchell bandwagon since his Jazz have never advanced to the Western Conference Finals, but he’s still only 24 years old. Simply put? He’s not overrated. He’s just super young. Let’s just see what the Jazz can do these next couple of years before we start labeling him the next ringless Steve Nash.
The other thing to keep in mind is Damian Lillard has never gotten close to the NBA Finals. The only time his Portland Trailblazers advanced to the Western Conference Finals, the Golden State Warriors easily took care of Dame Time and the Blazers.
So if Lillard has never been to the NBA Finals, what’s the rush on Mitchell getting a ring? There simply isn’t a rush to get a championship ring, and even still, the Jazz are playing exceptionally decent team basketball in 2021. They somewhat compare to the 2014-15 Atlanta Hawks, but unlike that 60-win Atlanta team, the Jazz have a guy in Mitchell who can consistently create his own shot.
If we go by traditional statistics, at 5 PM February 16th, the Jazz were fourth in Points Per Game; Third in Points Allowed; first in Rebounds; fourth in blocks; and first in point differential.
The other thing that people need to realize is the Jazz don’t need to play isolation basketball because everybody is contributing on the floor. If we go by NBA.com’s isolation numbers, Mitchell isn’t even in the Top 50 when it comes to isolation frequency rate. The Jazz don’t need isolation basketball because they can set up pick-and-roll between Conley and Gobert, and when defenders surround the paint, the Jazz can then kick it out on the perimeter to Joe Ingles (ING-ulls) and Bojan Bogdanovic (BOY-an bohg-DAWN-oh-vitch) for the three-point shot.
The Jazz want to shoot the three anyway, as evidenced by their abnormal 42.4 attempts per game this season.
Can this abnormal way of shooting the 3 shoot themselves out of the playoffs? I don’t think so, especially since the Houston Rockets almost won a title when they did this back in 2017-18. Remember: Chris Paul injured his hamstring during Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals with the Rockets up 3 games to 2. A healthy Paul could’ve easily led to the Rockers winning the West and in essence the whole enchilada.
Therefore, the Jazz Big 3 of Mitchell-Conley-Gobert can go up against any Big 3 in the Western Conference. The Clippers have a great 1-2 punch of Kawhi (kuh-WHY) Leonard and Paul George, but after them, I don’t see Marcus Morris being a consistent No. 3 option in the playoffs. I might be wrong, but I honestly think that the Clippers really miss Harrell’s presence on the team. A blockbuster trade deadline deal for former Clipper Blake Griffin is still on the table, but until he starts playing home games for the Clips, I just don’t trust the Clippers in the playoffs.
Also, don’t forget that Anthony Davis is still having Achilles tendon issues. This is nothing to take lightly, especially since Achilles injuries are known to drastically change a player’s career, and obviously not for the better. Don’t be surprised if head coach Frank Vogel limits his minutes during the playoffs in order to prolong his Hall of Fame career.
Besides the 2 LA teams, I don’t see anyone else who can compete with the Jazz. The Phoenix Suns and Trailblazers are very fun teams to watch, but I just don’t trust them. CP3 is well known for his disappointing playoff outings, and Devin Booker struggles with his turnovers and overall efficiency (He’s not even Top 50 in the NBA for Player Efficiency Rating). Furthermore, the Blazers are well known for their troubles on defense during the 2021 season.
So can the Jazz make it to the NBA Finals? They can. It would definitely help them if Davis continues to have Achilles problems (not that anybody prays for injuries). But regardless if Davis is healthy or not, expect the Jazz to be playing in the Western Conference Finals for the first time in a long time. And we’ll see what happens after that.
But what do you think? Can the Jazz make it to the 2021 NBA Finals? Make sure to comment below and subscribe to Sports Broadcast Solutions.