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Even Erik Spoelstra recognizes insanity of Utah Jazz schedule thus far

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Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra offered some wise words about how difficult the Utah Jazz schedule has been thus far and how good they can still be.

The start of the 2018-19 season hasn’t gone nearly as swimmingly as Utah Jazz fans had hoped it would coming into the year. 29 games in, the Utah Jazz still find themselves below .500 at a mark of 14-15. Worse still than the record has been the fashion in which the Jazz have lost some of their games. A few have been major blowouts and Utah has largely struggled at home (just 5-6 on the year) where they’ve typically thrived.

Such results have led to some fans growing frustrated and highly concerned about their Jazz team. In some ways, they’re absolutely justified to do so. I won’t even try to argue the fact that Utah has looked downright awful in a number of contests.

However, in many other ways, the 14-15 mark isn’t nearly as bad as it may appear and actually isn’t all that far from reasonable expectations for the team. The reason I say so has entirely to do with how incredibly difficult the Utah Jazz schedule has been up to this point. Between constant travel, an endless string of daunting foes, disjointed scheduling of home games and the most road games of any team in the league up to this point, the start of the ’18-19 season has been a gauntlet.

I covered my thoughts on such in detail for your reading pleasure in the link in the tweet below, but believe me when I tell you that the discrepancy between Utah’s schedule and that of the rest of the NBA has been insane.

And it’s not just Utah homers or in-depth analytics that feel that way. Classifying the Jazz schedule as ridiculously hard is nothing but fact, after all. But in case you were looking for perhaps a potentially less biased opinion on Utah’s start, look no further than the comments from Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.

With his squad in town on Wednesday to take on the Jazz, Spoelstra had the following to say about Utah’s 2018-19 season thus far–

“With Utah, I just think everybody’s overlooking something that nobody wants to hear about: Their schedule has been outrageous. They’ve basically lived in a hotel for the first six weeks of the season. Come talk to me in two months and we’ll see what their record is. I think they’ll be climbing up that Western Conference pretty quickly.”

That’s some awesome praise from a guy who’s acclaimed as one of the wisest and most experienced coaching minds in the game. There’s really two big things that stand out to me there.

First, his describing of the schedule as “outrageous”. There’s really no other way to put it. And while setting up an 82-game schedule for 30 teams is an unenviable task, you almost have to wonder what the schedulers were thinking. I know that life isn’t fair, but this early stretch feels about as unjust as could be for any team.

Secondly, I love how he stated that he believes the Jazz will be climbing up the Western Conference standings quickly. In other words, he knows what we should already know (even if recent play has made it easy to forget), that the Utah Jazz are a formidable squad that shouldn’t be trifled with. They shot up the standings in the latter part of last year, and once this ‘outrageous’ schedule eases up, it’s very much reasonable to believe that they’ll do so again.

A 14-15 mark and 12th in the West isn’t where anyone hoped the Jazz would be at this point. But all things considered, it’s not a bad spot at all. As Spoelstra so succinctly pointed out, the Jazz are a much better team than their record shows, but their full capability has been clouded by an overwhelmingly ridiculous schedule that has had them on the road and basically living out of various hotels.

That’s not a fun situation for anybody, even incredible NBA athletes. The Jazz aren’t crying ‘woe is me’ or making excuses, but the fact of the matter is that their early struggles can definitely be attributed to the rough schedule.

Next: Utah Jazz: Tony Bradley is missing out on much needed opportunity

I hope that Erik Spoelstra’s words will serve as yet another wake-up call to Jazz fans that all is far from lost and that this team is in a better spot than they appear. If an opposing head coach still feels the Jazz are a top squad that will soon climb the standings, that should instill confidence in their fanbase as well.

I agree with his analysis one hundred percent. The start of the season has been challenging, but the rest of the league better watch out. It won’t be long before the Utah Jazz start to really take the league by storm and prove just what a formidable squad they are.

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The strength of Utah Jazz daunting schedule can't be ignored

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The Utah Jazz have gotten off to a worse start than most fans had hoped. And while there’s no room for excuses, the difficulty of their schedule simply can’t be ignored.

Considering the high hopes and expectations placed on the Utah Jazz this offseason, no one would have been thrilled to hear this summer that 28 games into the season, the team would sit at just 13-15. Especially considering the emphasis that was put into the team’s continuity, which many thought would help them overcome any semblance of a slow start, such a disappointing commencement to the year was considered highly improbable.

Yet nevertheless here we are.

While some of the Jazz’s worst performances have been undeniably head-scratching, those that paid close attention to their early schedule probably aren’t that surprised by the sub-.500 start. Utah has had it absolutely brutal to start the year, with a number of tough opponents and a ridiculous amount of travel.

True, that’s no excuse for some of their dismal showings when focus and effort have been lacking and correct execution has been few and far between, but at the same time, the strength of the Utah Jazz schedule simply can’t be ignored. At the end of the day, these guys are human, and outside factors are going to have an impact on them, even if we wish they could be simply perfect basketball players each and every night.

And in case you were wondering just how tough Utah’s schedule has truly been compared to the rest of the league, it would be worth your while to take a look at TeamRankings’ NBA Strength of Schedule Rankings and Ratings from thus far in 2018-19. I’ve included the link here as well as below in the tweet from The Athletic’s Tony Jones.

These figures are calculated by a number of factors, including quality of opponents and travel, both of which have been very much out of the Jazz’s favor. For that reason, you’ll find the number in that rankings to be absolutely insane. Utah is number one on the list at a strength of schedule of 2.4. In second place is a tie between over a half-dozen teams, all of which come in at a mark of…wait for it…0.7.

In other words, Utah’s schedule up to this point has been over three times more difficult than the second hardest schedule in the NBA. Wow. That’s literally mind-blowing. And it certainly should stand as a signal to Jazz fans to shy far, far away from the panic button. In some ways, considering how ridiculously difficult that schedule has been, the fact that they’re close to .500 at all is a miracle in and of itself.

And when taking a deeper look at their schedule itself, it’s not hard at all to see why it’s been so difficult. 19 of their first 28 games have been against teams in the much more daunting Western Conference. The Jazz have played 18 road games so far this season. That’s three more than the next closest teams.

Utah also has yet to face a single one of the bottom five teams in the NBA – the Knicks, Hawks, Cavs, Bulls or Suns. Not once! Meanwhile, of their 28 games thus far, 17 have been against teams currently in the playoff mix, and several others have been against teams right on the cusp of what’s still a very early and unclear playoff picture.

Last of all, not only do they lead the league in road games, but their travel schedule has been simply insane. Their home games haven’t even felt like home games, which is something I touched on earlier in the month in extensive detail. But just to briefly reiterate, because Utah has had so many single home games instead of home stands, at one point during the year they literally played a stretch of 13 games in a different arena every night.

Sure, there were a few home games spattered in there among the road trips, but with such heavy travel in between, those felt much more like stops along the way rather than a homecoming. Essentially from November 12 to December 4, the Jazz were on a 13-game road trip.

Are you starting to see where that 2.4 SOS (Strength of Schedule) rating came from? Does it make a little more sense as to why this insane stretch has the Jazz at a schedule that’s three times harder than the next closest one? Does 13-15 look quite so bad now? Especially with an upcoming two-game stretch against sub-.500 foes giving Utah a great chance to get back to .500 by the 30-game mark?

Hopefully you’re picking up what I’m putting down here. Essentially what I’m saying is that, while there’s been surprising disappointments and undeniably poor stretches of play that need to be corrected, Utah’s lackluster start also has a completely justifiable explanation. The NBA schedulers did Utah no favors to start the year and essentially put them in a situation where they were almost guaranteed to fail due to circumstances outside of their control.

So, once again, before hitting the panic button, Jazz fans should instead take a step back, look at the facts and realize that, while no excuses should be accepted, the strength of schedule discrepancy is a real thing. Utah’s poor start can be directly related to a nearly impossible situation. And with how tough things have been and due to the toll such travel takes, it’s miraculous that Utah is even where they’re at.

But the good news from all this? As you’ve probably heard multiple times, Utah’s schedule in the back half of the year lightens up considerably. Sure, they have some tough times ahead still until then, but if they can keep grinding and remain in reasonable striking distance as they are now, they’re almost assuredly going to be in great shape.

Next: Utah Jazz: Donovan Mitchell treats Dwyane Wade to ‘Last Dance’ dinner

The daunting schedule has been an unbelievable disadvantage for the Jazz and a very real factor that absolutely cannot be overlooked when evaluating their disappointing start. Fortunately, they’ve shown nice signs of turning things around as evidenced by their recent stretch of winning four of five games. And once the schedule comes back down to a more reasonable mark, I’m still expecting big things for this Jazz squad.

Hope is far from lost, and the Jazz are a lot closer to a good team than a bad team, despite what the early record might lead some to think. My message to Jazz fans is to hold fast, keep patient and to not give up. This ridiculous stretch would shake any team that had to go through it, but I’m confident the Jazz have the swagger and determination to fight their way through and emerge in a great spot come playoff time.

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Schedule Ups and Downs: The Jazz Embark on a Tough Early Slate

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Congratulations, Jazz fans! You have endured the offseason and been intrigued by the preseason, but now it’s time to get your game face on. The regular season is upon us.

Now that the start of the real season is imminent, let’s take another look at the ins and outs, ups and downs of the 2018-19 Utah Jazz schedule. I took a deeper look at what lies ahead over the next six and a half months. What stood out? Glad you asked.

Graphic gripe

The color of confusion

Why must the Jazz’s printable schedule show the home opener in a different color than all other home games, and in a dark green that is nearly indistinguishable from the navy blue road games? It’s confusing. My general rule of color coding: if the game isn’t really any different (a home game is a home game) and if it only applies to one game out of 87 on the calendar, it doesn’t warrant its own color1.

Despite the complaint above, kudos to the graphic designers for distinguishing the preseason games from the regular season, using an outline instead of a filled format. That didn’t happen last year, which made it hard to tell when the games changed from meaningless to meaningful.

Back-to-backs and more

One of the first things fans look for in an NBA schedule is the number of back-to-back games their team plays. In the past, Friday-Saturday back-to-backs were a common occurrence, due to the fact that few teams play on Thursdays and the Jazz don’t play home games on Sundays. This factor alone usually propelled the Jazz toward the high end of the back-to-back rankings, and some fans complained of a conspiracy to wear the Jazz out.

This season, the team will play 14 sets of back-to-back games (and only seven of the Friday-Saturday back-to-backs), which is about par for the course around the league. Only three teams will play fewer back-to-backs than Utah, and every team plays between 13 and 16. There’s no reason to complain about just 14 back-to-back sets2.

As in the past few seasons, the four games in five nights schedule is gone. Thank league commissioner Adam Silver for this, and for other related schedule changes, like a shorter preseason and the earlier October 16 start to the regular season.

Give me the bad news first

If you loved how the season started last year, with tough games, road games, and tough road games aplenty, you are going to love this season.

Five out of seven October games and ten of sixteen November contests will be played outside the friendly confines of the Viv. In fact, the season will barely be two months old when the Jazz play away game number 21 of 41, passing the road schedule’s half way mark before Christmas. A couple of weeks later, road game 25 coincides with game 41, or the halfway mark of the season.

On top of difficult a road schedule, the early season also features a slew of games against projected top teams. Based on averages of several preseason projections, six teams will win 50 games or more: Golden State, Houston, Utah, Boston, Philadelphia and Toronto (Oklahoma City’s average lands just below 50). That gives the Jazz 13 games against the top teams in the league, and 11 of them will be played in the first half of the season (the first 38 games, to be exact).

The Jazz will do the bulk of their work against elite teams early in the season.

If anything can redeem that early season schedule, it’s that 10 of the road games (plus five at home) are against projected sub-.500 teams. Those 15 games (and especially the 10 at home) will be very important. Every team drops a few contests against potential cellar-dwellers, but the Jazz can’t afford missteps, as it will be challenging to make up for those losses against winning (or elite teams), especially with that travel schedule.

When does it get better?

In short, right after the tough stretch above.

After playing their 21st road game in two months, the Jazz will have nearly four months to play the remaining twenty. And after the 25th away game (at the end of a 2019-opening, four-game eastern swing), the final 16 will be played over a three-month period (January 16 to April 10).

When the road-heavy first half of the season ends in game 41, the home-road discrepancy starts evening out immediately in game 42. That game kicks off a big home stretch from January 9 to February 9, when the Jazz host 12 opponents while only hitting the road 3 times. If the record is suffering at all from the difficult schedule to this point, this is where the team can make up for it. On the other hand, if the record is good or better at the season’s midpoint, it will be time to get really excited.

If the Jazz can remember how to drive to Vivint SmartHome Arena by this point, they’ll get some much needed respite at home.

Starting the very next game (February 12 at Golden State) the Jazz play an even home/road schedule, with 13 home and 13 road games remaining. During this stretch, there are only three multi-game road trips: a four-game eastern swing and a pair of two-gamers. The remaining eight road games are all single game trips, which generally means just a single night in a hotel.

That’s decent news, but the best news is the strength of the opponents to close the season. The schedule softens again later in the year, and you may recall how the Jazz took advantage last season3.

So how soft is the stretch run? If you were paying attention earlier, you know that the Jazz play 11 of 13 games against expected 50+ game winners during the first half of the season. Anyone with a limited knowledge of story problems should be able to calculate that only two games remain after the halfway point: a home game against the Rockets, and a trip to the Bay Area to face the Warriors.

After those two contests, the schedule bottoms out. During the final 25 games of the regular season, the Jazz don’t play a single game against a team projected to win 50 games or more. About half of those games are against teams expected to be over .500, but that leaves 13 games against lottery-bound teams.

The downhill stretch.

In addition, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a lighter month than February 2019, when the Jazz will play only 9 games. By contrast, last season included an 11-game February slate. If guys are banged up, this will be a good time to get healthy. Prepare yourself for articles alternating between “rest is good” and “we’d just as soon play every other day.”

Put simply, the second half of the season should be a good time to be a Jazz fan.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

There’s even more good news on the schedule. With a nod to the recently deceased Aretha Franklin, the 2017-18 Jazz seem to have earned some well-deserved respect from the league and its broadcast partners.

The Christmas Day game is the surest sign that the Jazz are being noticed. Of course the league needed a Pacific or Mountain time zone location for the nightcap, which limited the options. The headline team (Warriors) and headline market (LeBron James’ Lakers) were likely already on the schedule. That left Portland, Utah and Denver as potential hosts, because let’s just say the Kings, Clippers and Suns are not ready for prime time. Still, it’s good news: the league could have easy picked a solid matchup like Denver @ Portland or San Antonio @ Denver, but went with Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell and your Utah Jazz. Plan ahead to get those presents unwrapped, stuff your face, sleep off the food coma, and wake up in time for that 8:30 p.m. MST tip off.

Still seeking a sign of respect?

  • The Jazz were scheduled for five real national broadcasts4 last season, but get 11 in the upcoming season. That’s nothing compared to the top draws, but doubling the national presence indicates the league believes in the product the Jazz put on the floor.
  • The home opener was considered enough of a marquee match up to garner an ESPN broadcast and a pre-announcement before the rest of the league’s schedule was made public.
  • While not a marquee match up, the Mexico City game against the Orlando Magic is still a high-visibility event in which the Jazz are lucky to participate.

What’s missing?

The rotating conference schedule, which allows each team to “skip” a fourth game against certain conference foes, works in the Jazz’s favor this season. The headline is the Jazz only playing the defending champion Warriors 3 times, with 2 of those contests in Salt Lake City. When the schedule allows you to skip a game in Oakland that could easily be a loss, that’s a big deal. There’s also a skipped road game in San Antonio that could be helpful, although the Spurs feel less scary now than in the past5.

The Jazz will also skip home games against the Pelicans and Clippers, so local fans will only get one chance to see Anthony Davis and whoever is the face of the Clippers play in person this year.

Given that three of these four teams are expected to post winning records, this improves the Jazz’s win projection marginally.

Bottom line

How will the schedule affect the 2018-19 Jazz?

The first half of the season is similar to last year’s, and it will certainly take a toll in one way or another. That said, the team should have the opportunity for a better record, despite the schedule. Based on preseason play, it feels like Dante Exum should help the team add a few wins, and the same can certainly be said if Rudy Gobert avoids another lengthy injury absence. Last year, Ricky Rubio struggled in the first half of the season, so any improvement should also help in the win column, although in fairness Rubio hasn’t looked his best in the preseason.

The second half of the season should be an opportunity to improve playoff positioning, but it’s unrealistic to expect another 29-6 finish (a 68-game winning pace), and insane to expect an improvement. Massive improvement will need to come in the first half of the season, because it’s tough to improve on only six losses.


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Utah Jazz drop full broadcast schedule for 2018-19 season

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Fans will be able to watch Donovan Mitchell and the 2018-19 edition of the Utah Jazz in more ways than ever before this season.

This isn’t exactly breaking news, but with Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert at the helm, the Utah Jazz have established themselves as one of the NBA’s legit must-see squads entering the 2018-19 NBA season. In turn, the Jazzland masses will be able to watch their team in more ways than ever before, too.

Ahead of their preseason debut against the Perth Wildcats this weekend, the Jazz have announced their full broadcast schedule for the coming year. As per usual, AT&T SportsNet will be the local TV provider for games, while The Zone Sports Network will continue to be the team’s exclusive home on the radio.

In total, 76 regular season games will air on AT&T SportsNet, as well as three preseason contests. Strangely enough, Saturday night’s Jazz-Wildcats affair won’t be one of them. Nor will Utah’s other bout with an Aussie team, on October 5 against the Adelaide 36ers.

Oct. 2 vs the Toronto Raptors, Oct. 7 at the Portland Trail Blazers and Oct. 11 at the Sacramento Kings will be the exhibition games making airwaves.

Now for the big news — for the first time, fans in the intermountain region will also be able to stream games to their mobile devices and/or home computers.

Provided your TV subscription includes AT&T SportsNet — which is available in Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and parts of Nevada — you can either download the AT&T SportsNet app or go to attsportsnet.com to stream live games. If you’re a cord-cutter, like myself, however, there’s still not a great streaming option for people in the Salt Lake media market.

One day, right?

The Jazz are also slated to make 17 appearances on national TV this season, which is probably the biggest indication of their growing profile league-wide. They’ll have three games on TNT broadcasts, eight on ESPN and six on NBA TV broadcasts, although those games will be blacked out locally (where they’ll air on AT&T SportsNet).

Next: Utah Jazz rank ’18-19: Alec Burks hits the list at No. 11

The broadcast teams largely remain intact from recent seasons with a handful of changes. Firstly, on select nights, former Jazzman Thurl Bailey will join Craig Bolerjack on TV broadcasts in Matt Harpring‘s place. Also — Michael Smith, who played college basketball at BYU and spent time with the LA Clippers broadcast team after his playing career, will join the Jazz as part of the team’s pre-game, post-game and halftime shows for select games.

For the full Jazz broadcast schedule, go to UtahJazz.com.



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Ingles' netball future, SLC Stars drop '18-19 schedule

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Renae Ingles, wife of Utah Jazz swingman Joe Ingles, has decided her netball future. Also — the Salt Lake City Stars have released their 2018-19 schedule.

Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles isn’t the only member of his family preparing for a return to the court. His wife, Renae Ingles, a star athlete in her own right, isn’t quite ready to call it a career.

Just three weeks after wrapping up her comeback campaign with the Melbourne Vixens, Ingles appears to be making a return to the Suncorp Super Netball league next season.

Per an announcement from the Vixens, Ingles is one of seven players who will be sticking with the squad for the 2019 season. Said Ingles —

“Obviously the first thing people are asking is ‘why again?’ and it’s just because I’m enjoying it so much.

“I’ve loved coming back into the Vixens environment. I love what the Vixens are about, and I feel that we have more that we can achieve as a team.”

Following the 2017 season, Ingles essentially retired from the sport. However, she re-joined the Vixens, her hometown team and a club she’d previously played with from 2008-11, in May. She was initially pegged as a training partner, but quickly joined Melbourne’s regular team of 10.

The two-time Grand Final-winning Vixens finished with an 8-6 record last season.

A 15-year veteran of the domestic netball scene in Australia, Ingles also rejoined the national team — the Australian Diamonds — this summer.

Stars release 2018-19 schedule

The Salt Lake City Stars, G-League affiliate of the Utah Jazz, released their schedule for the 2018-19 season on Monday.

Head coach Martin Schiller’s team will tip-off its third season with a road bout against the Iowa Wolves on November 2. They’ll be back within the friendly confines of Bruin Arena at Salt Lake Community College four days later against the Texas Legends.

In total, the Stars will once again play 50 games; 24 home games, 24 road games and two games as part of the league’s annual NBA G-League Showcase event. The full schedule can be found HERE.

SLC will look to improve upon its 16-34 record last season. To that end, they’ll have the No. 1 pick in the upcoming G-League Draft.



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Utah Jazz Podcast: Schedule release extravaganza!

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Jared Woodcox and John Keeffer team up to talk everything relating to the Utah Jazz schedule for Episode 40 of the Three-Point Threat Podcast!

The Three-Point Threat Podcast returns as John Keeffer and I put on our first ever podcast in the same room with one another! I know! It doesn’t get much more epic than that!

All jokes aside, though, this is one you won’t want to miss. Of course, August isn’t known for being an exciting month in the basketball world, but one of the best things about it is the NBA’s schedule release. Now that we know when and where the Utah Jazz are playing who, John and I decided it was high time we talked about it in detail.

And that’s exactly what you’ll get with Episode 40(!) of the Three-Point Threat. For Point 1, we give our thoughts on the positives of the Utah Jazz 2018-19 schedule. Fortunately, there’s not a stretch that’s as bad as last year’s December, and overall the pros outweigh the cons.

But for Point 2, we’ll still address those self-same cons. Nothing can be perfect, and that definitely goes for the Jazz schedule as well. We also got off on a bit of a tangent about the Western Conference landscape, but I think you’ll enjoy it within this context.

Last of all for Point 3, John and I give our final reactions to the schedule as well as highlight some of the matchups that we’re most looking forward to.

The podcast is available below as well as on Spreaker:

 

Make sure to catch the Three-Point Threat live on the Nothin’ But Net Channel on Dash Radio on Tuesdays at 8:00 PM MT. If you have any questions or suggestions for the show, be sure to hit either of us up with them in the comments below or on Twitter @john_keeffer and @jaredwoodcox.

Next: Utah Jazz Podcast: NBA trades, Summer League recap, PF focus

Also, be sure to keep up to date with the Three-Point Threat Podcast via Twitter, iTunes, Google Play, Spreaker and TheJNotes.com!



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Predicting '18-19 Utah Jazz record following schedule release

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With the Utah Jazz schedule officially released, let’s dive in and take a stab at predicting how many games they’ll win this upcoming season.

Now that the NBA schedule has been officially released, it’s starting to feel real that we’re on the downward slope towards the start of the 2018-19 campaign. The Utah Jazz exceeded expectations last season, and now the bar will be placed even higher as they aim to make some noise in the loaded Western Conference.

About this time last season, I did a deep dive of the Utah Jazz 2017-18 schedule in an effort to predict how they would fare that year. My three varying projections had the Jazz between 42 and 46 wins. Ultimately, they outdid even those marks by finishing an impressive 48-34 on the year.

I’ve decided to mimic that same exercise in an attempt to make a similar projection once again for 2018-19.

First, I’ll start by grouping each of Utah’s opponents in different categories based on their probability of beating each foe on a level playing field – 25%, 50%, 75% or 100%. As I explained last year, just because a team is in the 100% category doesn’t mean I think the Jazz will necessarily beat that team every time they meet, but it does mean that I think the Jazz very well could beat them each time.

Likewise, even in the case of the 25% teams, the Jazz could very well do better than win one of four contests against them. Yet, the fact of the matter is that the squads in this category will certainly present the biggest challenge for Utah.

**Note – last year I had a 0% percent category which was occupied solely by the Golden State Warriors. However, I feel the Jazz have proved that they can compete even with them and other elite teams, so I’ve gone ahead and eliminated that category this time around.

Here’s how it shakes out leading up to 2018-19–

25%

  • Golden State Warriors
  • Houston Rockets

50%

  • Boston Celtics
  • Denver Nuggets
  • Indiana Pacers
  • Los Angeles Clippers
  • Los Angeles Lakers
  • Milwaukee Bucks
  • Minnesota Timberwolves
  • New Orleans Pelicans
  • Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Philadelphia 76ers
  • Portland Trail Blazers
  • San Antonio Spurs
  • Toronto Raptors

75%

  • Charlotte Hornets
  • Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Dallas Mavericks
  • Detroit Pistons
  • Memphis Grizzlies
  • Miami Heat
  • Washington Wizards

100%

  • Atlanta Hawks
  • Brooklyn Nets
  • Chicago Bulls
  • New York Knicks
  • Orlando Magic
  • Phoenix Suns
  • Sacramento Kings

If you compare this to last year, you’ll see that overall I’m pinning the Jazz as having better odds over a higher number of teams. A few have shifted in the opposite direction, and it should be noted that on a few last year I was dead wrong, but initially I like these groupings nonetheless.

From here, let’s take each team in their respective percentage groups and simply calculate the number of wins the Jazz will get by multiplying that percentage by the number of games they’ll play against each one–

25%

  • Golden State Warriors – 0.75 wins (3 GP)
  • Houston Rockets – 1 win (4 GP)

50%

  • Boston Celtics – 1 win (2 GP)
  • Denver Nuggets – 2 wins (4 GP)
  • Indiana Pacers – 1 win (2 GP)
  • Los Angeles Clippers – 1.5 wins (3 GP)
  • Los Angeles Lakers – 2 wins (4 GP)
  • Milwaukee Bucks – 1 win (2 GP)
  • Minnesota Timberwolves – 2 wins (4 GP)
  • New Orleans Pelicans – 1.5 wins (3 GP)
  • Oklahoma City Thunder – 2 wins (4 GP)
  • Philadelphia 76ers – 1 win (2 GP)
  • Portland Trail Blazers – 2 wins (4 GP)
  • San Antonio Spurs – 1.5 wins (3 GP)
  • Toronto Raptors – 1 win (2 GP)

75%

  • Charlotte Hornets – 1.5 wins (2 GP)
  • Cleveland Cavaliers – 1.5 wins (2 GP)
  • Detroit Pistons – 1.5 wins (2 GP)
  • Memphis Grizzlies 3 wins (4 GP)
  • Miami Heat – 1.5 wins  (2 GP)
  • Washington Wizards – 1.5 wins (2 GP)

100%

  • Atlanta Hawks – 2 wins  (2 GP)
  • Brooklyn Nets – 2 wins (2 GP)
  • Chicago Bulls – 2 wins (2 GP)
  • Dallas Mavericks – 4 wins (4 GP)
  • New York Knicks – 2 wins (2 GP)
  • Orlando Magic – 2 wins (2 GP)
  • Phoenix Suns – 4 wins (4 GP)
  • Sacramento Kings – 4 wins (4 GP)

Total – 53.75 wins

Those marks would bring the Jazz to a solid 53.75 wins. Not a bad spot to finish or a bad prediction whatsoever. But, of course, there’s no such thing as half or quarter wins, so let’s go ahead and adjust all the decimals so they’re rounded either up or down to ‘whole wins’ based on factors such as back-to-backs, matchups, historical results, etc. and see what we get.

I’ve included a brief description on why I went a certain direction with each one of the following that had adjusted win total predictions–

25%

  • Golden State Warriors – 1 win (3 GP): Warriors are known to coast during regular season, and especially based on last year’s results, Jazz should get at least one victory
  • Houston Rockets – 1 win (4 GP)

50%

  • Boston Celtics – 1 win (2 GP)
  • Denver Nuggets – 2 wins (4 GP)
  • Indiana Pacers – 1 win (2 GP)
  • Los Angeles Clippers – 2 wins (3 GP): Jazz fared well against LAC last year and have ample rest before two of three games, last game of season for both teams will be wild card
  • Los Angeles Lakers – 2 wins (4 GP)
  • Milwaukee Bucks – 1 win (2 GP)
  • Minnesota Timberwolves – 2 wins (4 GP)
  • New Orleans Pelicans – 2 wins (3 GP): 2
  • Oklahoma City Thunder – 2 wins (4 GP)
  • Philadelphia 76ers – 1 win (2 GP)
  • Portland Trail Blazers – 2 wins (4 GP)
  • San Antonio Spurs – 2 wins (3 GP): No back-to-backs, two of three contests at home for Jazz
  • Toronto Raptors – 1 win (2 GP)

75%

  • Charlotte Hornets – 1 win (2 GP): For some reason Jazz always seem to struggle in Charlotte
  • Cleveland Cavaliers – 2 wins (2 GP): Cleveland is a bit of a mystery, but Jazz should fare well against them
  • Detroit Pistons – 1 win (2 GP): Jazz have played well against Detroit in recent years, but one of these is back-to-back during long road trip
  • Memphis Grizzlies 3 wins (4 GP)
  • Miami Heat – 1 win  (2 GP): The Heat gave the Jazz some issues last year
  • Washington Wizards – 2 wins (2 GP): Jazz have dominated Washington in recent years

100%

  • Atlanta Hawks – 2 wins  (2 GP)
  • Brooklyn Nets – 2 wins (2 GP)
  • Chicago Bulls – 2 wins (2 GP)
  • Dallas Mavericks – 4 wins (4 GP)
  • New York Knicks – 2 wins (2 GP)
  • Orlando Magic – 2 wins (2 GP)
  • Phoenix Suns – 4 wins (4 GP)
  • Sacramento Kings – 4 wins (4 GP)

Total – 55 wins

After making those adjustments to land at a whole number, the Jazz went up 1.25 wins to land at a solid 55. This may sound high, but if the Jazz are to finish second or third in the West as several models have predicted, it’s absolutely feasible.

Last of all, let’s go ahead and look at some of Utah’s second nights of back-to-backs that I’ve calculated as wins here, and take those into consideration as potential so-called “schedule losses.” That would include October 28th in Dallas, a home game against Indiana on November 26th a home game against Dallas on February 23rd and an away game against the Hawks on March 21.

Finally, since the Jazz play both Denver and OKC on back-to-backs twice, let’s add two more losses there just to be conservative. Taking some of those tough scheduled games into consideration after our last model, this would place the Jazz at 49 wins. I feel like that’s low for their potential, especially considering they managed 48 wins last year, but a projected range of 49-55 wins feels really on point.

Not to mention, the reason the games are played is because it’s impossible to predict what will happen for certain. Teams (including the Jazz) could get hot or go on slumps, injuries could occur or a number of other obstacles could appear.

Next: Utah Jazz may get off to tough start, but should finish ’18-19 on fire

However, based on the skill of this Jazz team and taking into consideration some of the intricacies of their schedule, I believe a range of 49-55 wins is absolutely justified. My initial guess prior to this exercise was 53 wins, so I’m happy to see my projection landing near the middle of that range.

Last year, I picked the Jazz’s range as 42-46 and they outdid me, though. Can they do so again? That’s anyone’s guess for now, but I sure hope that they do.



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David Griffin Joins To Talk Schedule Release

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Former NBA General Manager David Griffin joins via phone call to break down the Warriors’ back-to-back-to-back championship possibility and other 2018-19 schedule release notable teams.

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Kings' 2018-19 schedule has fewer back-to-backs, but start is road heavy

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Basketball season is just around the corner. Well, maybe not. We’re still nearly five weeks away from the opening of training camp for the 2018-19 season and the regular season doesn’t begin until mid-October. 

On Friday afternoon, the NBA announced the 82 game schedule for all 30 teams, including the Sacramento Kings, who will open the season at home on October 17 against Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz.

Here are some of the nuts and bolts from this season’s campaign.

•    For the second season in a row, the Kings play only one set of five-games in seven-nights and it comes at the tail end of March and into early April. This is part of the NBA’s new plan of allowing players more time to rest. The league has eliminated the dreaded four-games in five-nights grouping from the schedule as well.

•    Sacramento has 14 sets of back-to-backs, two shy of last season’s total of 16 sets. Of those 14 sets, one is home-and-home, seven are away-and-away, two are away-and-home and four are home-and-away.

•    After a balanced November and December schedule, the Kings hit the road for their longest trip away from home in mid-January, stopping in Charlotte, Detroit, Brooklyn, Toronto, Memphis and Los Angeles (Clippers) from Jan. 17-27. 

•    The Kings’ longest homestand is six games comes on the heels of their longest road trip. From Jan. 30 thru Feb. 10, Sacramento will host the Hawks, 76ers, Spurs, Rockets, Heat and Suns at Golden 1 Center. 

•    Sacramento plays seven of its first 10 games away from Golden 1 Center. With plenty of new faces expected to see time in the rotation, the young Kings will have to learn on the fly while traveling around the NBA landscape.   

There are plenty of games to look forward to as well, beginning with opening night. There are old faces in new places and plenty of intrigue to look forward to.

•    Sacramento matches up with the two-time reigning world champion, Golden State Warriors, four times this season. The initial battle is set for Nov. 24 at Oracle, with a follow up three weeks on Dec. 14 at Golden 1 Center. The two teams will meet again on Jan. 5 at Golden 1 and then finish the series in the first game coming out of the All-Star break on Feb. 21. It likely won’t happen early in the season, but at some point, former Kings big man, DeMarcus Cousins, will make his debut as a member of the Warriors, which should be fun to watch.

•    The Kings face off with the new-look Los Angeles Lakers four times as well, beginning on Nov. 11 at home. The Lakers have made substantial changes to their roster, including the addition of LeBron James. These two teams play each other again twice in late December before completing the series on March 24 in LA. 

•    Isaiah Thomas joined forces during the offseason with former Kings head coach Michael Malone in Denver. Sacramento will play the Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on Oct. 23 and then again on Jan. 3 at Golden 1 Center and Feb. 13 back in Denver.

•    The Kings will have to wait until Dec. 4 to get their first look at No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton when they travel to Talking Stick Resort Arena to face the Suns. They’ll see No. 3 overall selection, Luka Doncic, on Dec. 16 when they stop over in Dallas for a game against the Mavs. 

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Five must-see games on the new NBA schedule

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The NBA released the full schedule on Friday afternoon, and before we get to the five must-see games on the 2018-19 slate, let’s quickly walk through some of the changes to the league’s 82-game season.

Once again, no team will play a stretch of four games in five nights, and the NBA this year eradicated strings of eight games in 12 nights. There has also been a sharp reduction in the number of back-to-back games, with the average per team dropping to 13.3 this season — from 14.4 last season and 19.3 during the 2014-15 campaign. The league also significantly lowered the number of so-called “rest advantage” games times in which a rested team faces a team on the second night of a back-to-back.

Here’s the full list of number of back-to-back games for each team:

Now, on to the fun games:

LeBron comes home
Los Angeles Lakers at Cleveland Cavaliers, Nov. 21 (ESPN)

The last time LeBron James returned to Quicken Loans Arena after taking his talents elsewhere, he was booed by a Cleveland crowd furious that he’d skipped town through a nationally televised announcement that ripped the hearts out of an entire region. This time, though, he’ll do so after having come back to fulfill a promise, delivering the Cavaliers’ first-ever NBA championship, breaking the city’s 52-year title drought, carrying the Cavs to four straight NBA Finals appearances, and building a damn school in Akron. One suspects the fans will be a little more forthcoming with the praise this time around. (Doesn’t mean rookie point guard Collin Sexton won’t try to flex-D him up, though.) Dan Devine

Hayward’s year-delayed return to Utah
Boston Celtics at Utah Jazz, Nov. 9 (ESPN)

Gordon Hayward fractured his ankle six minutes into his debut season on the Celtics, so he’s never played as a visitor in the city he spent his first seven NBA seasons. Hayward developed from a back-of-the-rotation rookie to an All-Star during his tenure with the Jazz, but confusion surrounding his free agency departure soured teammates, fans and media members in Utah. The season-long injury and emergence of rookie Donovan Mitchell softened the blow of Hayward’s departure, so it will be interesting to see the reception the 28-year-old receives on his first trip back to Salt Lake City. Heck, it’ll be interesting to see how Hayward plays anybody early in the season after such a scary injury. Ben Rohrbach

A rivalry renewed
Lakers at Celtics, Feb. 7 (TNT)
Celtics at Lakers, March 9 (ABC)

Every generation of Celtics and Lakers fans has renewed reason to hate the opposition, and after a downturn in the rivalry saw the retirements of Paul Pierce and Kobe Bryant, there’s fuel to reignite this fire. There’s LeBron James in L.A. and Kyrie Irving in Boston, two ex-teammates on the 2016 championship Cavs whose relationship soured to the point Irving demanded a trade from LeBron’s team, and James reportedly belittled him on his way out the door. There’s also former Celtics star Rajon Rondo playing sidekick to James now. Both teams picked 2-3 in the 2016 and 2017 drafts, with fanbases arguing who’s better — Brandon Ingram or Jaylen Brown, Lonzo Ball or Jayson Tatum. Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley, Marcus Smart and Marcus Morris are involved. It’s going to be wild. — BR

The West’s best get back at it
Golden State Warriors at Houston Rockets, Nov. 15 (TNT)

Last season, the Rockets responded to what looked like the dawning of a Golden State dynasty by doing absolutely everything in their power to topple the champs … only to come up one hamstring injury and one historically frigid shooting display short in a seven-game slugfest. (That’s not how the Warriors saw it, naturally.) After the Dubs steamrolled to their second straight title, Houston swapped in Carmelo Anthony and James Ennis for Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute, while the Warriors replaced JaVale McGee with … wait, it says here “DeMarcus Cousins.” That can’t be right.

I have been informed that it is right, which, wow, but also that Boogie likely won’t be available when these two squads first resume their unpleasantries. In the meantime, we’ll have to settle for finding out how ‘Melo will hold up in Houston’s defense against the Warriors’ brutally efficient offense (I have my doubts) and whether James Harden and Chris Paul can continue to keep a slightly shuffled Rockets roster within striking distance of the league’s top guns. — DD

Tony Parker returns to San Antonio
Charlotte Hornets at San Antonio Spurs, Jan. 14 (NBA TV)

After 17 mostly glorious years in silver-and-black — a tenure that included six All-Star selections, four All-NBA nods, four NBA championships and 2007 Finals MVP honors — the greatest point guard in Spurs history will return to AT&T Center in visitors’ colors for the first time, after agreeing to a two-year, $10 million deal to back up Kemba Walker with the Charlotte Hornets. Given his significant role in one of the greatest periods of sustained success for any franchise in NBA history, and how effusive he was in his praise for San Antonio’s players, coaches, executives and fans on his way out the door, you’d imagine this’ll be some kind of lovefest. I will now resume my summer-long hope that Manu Ginobili will once again be on the court in a Spurs uniform to properly celebrate the occasion. — DD

More from Yahoo Sports:
• Eric Adelson: 4 Jaguars skip anthem, offer more questions than answers
• Yahoo Sports’ Premier League XI predictions
• King Felix demoted to Mariners’ bullpen
• Pete Thamel: Will Lane Kiffin be a Power Five head coach again?



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