5 things that must happen for the Utah Jazz to be title contenders

Jared Woodcox , 2019-06-20 02:52:17
Utah Jazz Tickets

MEMPHIS, TN – MARCH 8: Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz charges towards the basket during the game against Mike Conley #11 of the Memphis Grizzlies on March 8, 2019 at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Utah Jazz made massive strides by trading for veteran point guard Mike Conley. But there’s still work to be done if they want to become true title contenders.

The blockbuster splash that Utah Jazz fans have been waiting for finally happened. Though it was somewhat foreseen, the announcement still came as a shocking surprise when it was revealed on Wednesday that the Jazz had traded for Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley, sending away Jae Crowder, Kyle Korver, Grayson Allen and a pair of first-round picks in the process.

In so doing, the Jazz made themselves a significantly better team. No disrespect to Ricky Rubio, but the Jazz fan detractors of the trade out there likely don’t understand just how good Mike Conley is and how much of an upgrade he is over Rubio. Setting the mere numbers to one side (which are strongly in Conley’s favor as well, I should mention), Conley is a grittier defender, a more prolific offensive threat with an expansive repertoire, a solid shooter from all ranges and a grizzled veteran with an extensive playoff acumen.

In other words, despite what some uninformed naysayers may try to spout, the addition of Mike Conley absolutely makes the Jazz a legit squad. Adding him to the mix not only gives the Jazz a third star-caliber player to pair alongside Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, but it gives them a second playmaker in the backcourt who can beat opponents off the dribble, get into the paint and break down opposing defenses, all while being a significant scoring and passing threat from anywhere on the floor.

Oftentimes, we’d see opposing teams leave Ricky Rubio wide open on the perimeter, just daring him to shoot the ball. Sometimes he’d make them pay, but that occurring was few and far between. With Conley, though, teams likely won’t even give him that kind of opportunity which will open up the floor extensively. And if they do, he’s almost certain to make them suffer for such a careless mistake.

So with Mike Conley in the mix filling so many voids the Jazz have had the past few seasons, there’s no denying that Utah has the potential to become a title contending team. Yes, Jazz fans, he’s that good, his fit is that seamless in Quin Snyder’s system, and he should have that great an impact.

However, the Jazz are not there yet, and I don’t just mean because the season hasn’t started. They’re not there because they are still lacking a few things and have much to prove once the 2019-20 campaign does get underway before we can officially declare them as in the championship contending mix.

But Conley at least gives them their first realistic shot since the Deron Williams days, and maybe if we’re being honest with ourselves, since the John Stockton and Karl Malone days. In order for it to actually become a reality, though, the following five things will also have to occur seamlessly in conjunction with this blockbuster Conley trade.

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Five things that need to happen for the Utah Jazz to make the playoffs

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SALT LAKE CITY, UT – JANUARY 20: The Utah Jazz celebrate during the game against the LA Clippers on January 20, 2018 at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

In order for the Utah Jazz to qualify for postseason action come season’s end, it will be vital that the following five things fall into place.

Following the Utah Jazz’s impressive win over the Golden State Warriors back on January 30th, just a trio of games into their now mind-blowing 11-game winning streak, I predicted that for Utah to make the playoffs, they would need to go 20-12 from there. Doing so would put them at a record of 42-40, which I believed would be enough for the eighth seed in the West.

At the time, it seemed like a pretty tall order. A win percentage of .625 over the course of 32 games for a team that still sat well under .500 at 22-28 appeared as though it would be much easier said than done.

However, since I wrote that piece, the Jazz have gone 8-0, elevating their record all the way to 30-28 in what’s felt like the blink of an eye. With that being the case, if my original prediction of 42 wins being enough for a playoff spot holds true, then Utah now needs to go just 12-12 to close out the season in order to reach that mark.

A perfectly balanced .500 record over 24 games following the All-Star break sounds much more manageable, especially when looking at Utah’s schedule during that stretch. In other words, while a playoff berth once seemed pretty far-fetched, it now feels like a near guarantee.

Nevertheless, there’s still plenty of work to be done for the Utah Jazz. The season is far from over and a playoff spot is far from a sure thing. If Utah is to pull off what seemed like an impossible task just a month ago and qualify for the playoffs come season’s end, the following are the five things that are going to have to happen.

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