Do The Utah Jazz Have A Playoff Run In Them
The Utah Jazz have quietly slid under the radar of the general public during this NBA season. The media focus in the Western Conference has been on the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs at the top, and the MVP battle between Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook and Houston’s James Harden. But the Jazz have clinched their first playoff berth since 2012 and are preparing for what promises to be one of the most competitive first-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Utah has done it in the old-fashioned way—with defense and hitting the boards. They rank third in the NBA in both defensive efficiency and rebound rate. The overall defensive numbers can be attributed to sound team play and the good work of third-year coach Quin Snyder. The rebounding is almost exclusively about one man—Rudy Gobert averages 13 boards per game and has quietly been one of the league’s most significant players this season.
Offensively, the Jazz are pretty good, ranking 12th in offensive efficiency. The biggest thing that stands out in their offensive game is three-point shooting. Gordon Hayward, George Hill and Rodney Hood are the primary shooters from long range and each one is close to 40 percent from behind the arc. The fact they have a rebounder like Gobert to clean up any misses makes three-point shooting even more comfortable.
Utah’s first-round opponent, the Clippers, are—at least in the public eyes—the polar opposite. While the Jazz are the quiet team that’s a lot better than most people seem to realize, the Clippers are the team with high-profile stars, rich in TV commercials, but not in on-the-court wins. On the surface, this would appear to be an ideal spot for the savvy basketball bettor to get involved.
But there are downsides to Utah’s profile and let’s start with the most striking—in spite of being out of the public eye, the Jazz have actually been overrated by those whose opinion counts most—the Vegas oddsmakers. Utah has won only 45.5% of their games this year against the spread. It’s a strange set of circumstances when a team as universally ignored by the media as this is actually overpriced on a consistent basis in Vegas, but that’s the case here.
There’s also the practical issue of playoff experience—not only has it been five years since Utah so much as competed in the playoffs, it’s been seven seasons since the Jazz have actually won a postseason series—or even a single playoff game for that matter. In the NBA, this lack of a pedigree has consistently proven to be a big deal.
So are the Jazz a team to fade, ride or just steer clear of? I have to protect my final decision on that for clients, but I can assure you that wherever I land, it will be after thoroughly doing my homework and carefully evaluating all factors involved in this series. I’m going to be watching how Utah closes the regular season this week against Golden State and San Antonio—two teams with nothing to play for. And I’ll be ready when the playoffs start on April 16.
I’ve had a winning ATS record through the NBA regular season and am determined to be even more successful in the playoffs. I invite you to sign on for my NBA Playoff Package, to be a part of it all with me from now until the end of the Finals in June.