SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz are a top-10 team.
No. 9 to be exact.
That is where the Jazz stand in ESPN’s latest NBA Power Rankings, which were compiled by a group of national sportswriters following the craziness that was the opening weeks of NBA free agency.
Among the group of writers were Malika Andrews, Kevin Arnovitz, Tim Bontemps, Tim MacMahon, Royce Young and Ohm Youngmisuk, but it was MacMahon who took a Jazz-centric view.
His opinion? Utah is a “bona fide contender.”
“The Jazz might be equally as good offensively and defensively, which would make Utah a bona fide contender,” MacMahon wrote. “Poor shooting prevented the Jazz from making their playoff series against the Rockets competitive, as Utah went 26-of-110 (23.6%) on wide-open 3s, as defined by NBA.com as no defender within 6 feet. That won't be a problem after they traded for Mike Conley and signed Bojan Bogdanovic, who should take pressure off Donovan Mitchell to create offense and open up the floor when the young star guard has the ball in his hands. It's up to Rudy Gobert, the two-time Defensive Player of the Year, to make sure the Jazz remain elite on that end of the floor.”
Ahead of Utah, among others, were a quintet of Western Conference foes, including the Denver Nuggets (No. 2), LA Clippers (No. 3), Houston Rockets (No. 5), Los Angeles Lakers (No. 6) and the Portland Trail Blazers (No. 8).
After a busy opening to the offseason, the Bucks stand atop our latest NBA Power Rankings ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/zY2enOytvw— ESPN (@espn) July 15, 2019
The rankings should be taken with a grain of salt, however, considering the results of the same poll a year ago.
This time last year the Jazz were considered the No. 6 team in the NBA, while the winningest team in the NBA, the Milwaukee Bucks, came in at No. 11.
The Bucks weren’t the only miss, either.
Denver, the eventual No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs, was ranked No. 12, while the Minnesota Timberwolves (No. 16) came in ahead of playoff participants like the Detroit Pistons (No. 17), Clippers (No. 19), Brooklyn Nets (No. 23) and Orlando Magic (No. 28).
With cheese on it
An old interview with Shaquille O’Neal has been making the rounds of late, with gag-inducing results.
In it, the Big Diesel vows, following the Los Angeles Lakers’ back-to-back-to-back-to-back Finals appearances from 2000 to 2004, that that particular feat, four Finals appearances in five years, would never happen again.
“If a coach takes a team to the Finals four out of five years, I’ll kiss his feet on 'Fear Factor,' with cheese on it,” O’Neal said in the clip. “I will. It will never be done again.”
As it turns out, two current NBA coaches have accomplished said feat since Shaq’s declaration: Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra and Golden State Warriors headman Steve Kerr.
Kerr, who is on Twitter as opposed to Spoelstra, was recently made aware of Shaq’s vow, much to his chagrin.