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Jazz still haven’t proven they’re more than a second-round playoff team

Until Utah proves it can make a deep run in the postseason, it will continue to be questioned

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Four Utah Jazz fans wearing “Clarkson,” “Mitchell,” “Millsap” and “Favors” jerseys watch pregame activities for Game 5 of the NBA playoffs between the Utah Jazz and the LA Clippers in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, June 16, 2021.

Utah Jazz fans watch pregame activities for Game 5 of the NBA playoffs between the Utah Jazz and the LA Clippers in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, June 16, 2021.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

This article was first published as the Jazz Insiders newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox each Thursday.

Last Tuesday, Marc Stein (formerly of The New York Times) released his preseason NBA power rankings and it ruffled the feathers of some Jazz fans to learn that the Utah Jazz were seventh on his list, which ranked the Milwaukee Bucks, Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks ahead of the Jazz.

But I thought it was a pretty generous ranking.

If we break that into conferences it means that Stein would have the Lakers, Suns and Jazz in the top three spots, respectively, in the Western Conference, while the Eastern Conference’s top four in order would be the Bucks, Nets, Heat and Hawks.

Let’s go through this logically considering what we know about each of these teams.

The Lakers were bounced in the first round of the playoffs last season, but they were the reigning champions, and two of the best players in the world in LeBron James and Anthony Davis were injured when the postseason began. It’s understandable to believe that healthy they will be one of the best teams in the league. The Suns were the team that beat the Lakers and then went on to play in the finals. Those are the two Western Conference teams listed ahead of the Jazz in Stein’s rankings. That’s pretty good.

In the East, Stein has the current champion Milwaukee Bucks (which is only fair), followed by the Brooklyn Nets, Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks.

You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks a healthy Nets team with James Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving isn’t going to give every team in the league a run for their money. As for the Hawks, they played in the Eastern Conference finals against the Bucks last season. The Jazz can only say that they made it to the second round of the postseason.

The only team that I might push back on is the Miami Heat. They already had Jimmy Butler and a bunch of young snipers and have added Kyle Lowry, P.J. Tucker and re-signed Victor Oladipo. It should be a good team, but that team as constructed has not proven anything. On the other hand, even without the new additions, Butler took Miami to the finals in 2020. That’s not something the Jazz can argue against.

The most fair and thoughtful part of Stein’s rankings was his explanation underneath the Utah Jazz header.

“For all of Utah’s regular-season success and the various individual honors won by Jazz players, no one outside of Salt Lake City is going to take notice of anything these guys do unless/until it happens in the playoffs.”

That’s the bottom line. Until the Jazz prove they are more than a second-round playoff team, they will continue to be perceived and treated as such.

New with the Jazz

Stat of the week

We’re only 40 days away from the beginning of the 2021-22 NBA season and 19 days from the opening of training camp.

This week on ‘Unsalvageable’

Check out “Unsalvageable: A Utah Jazz Podcast,” hosted by Deseret News Utah Jazz beat reporter Sarah Todd and lifelong Jazz fan Greg Foster (no, not that Greg Foster). This week, the crew recaps the new Netflix documentary, “Untold: Malice at the Palace,” with special guest Jabari Davis.

New episodes come out every week. You can listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast and anywhere else you stream podcasts.

From the archives

This week in Jazz history

On Tuesday, Donovan Mitchell celebrated his 25th birthday. Mitchell has been in Miami working out with teammates Royce O’Neale and Eric Paschall.

Extra points

  • The 2022 NBA Free Agency might be a bit of a bust (The Ringer)
  • Rudy Gobert unveils new court at upcoming Rudy Gobert Academy in France (KSL Sports)

Around the league

Pacers guard Edmond Sumner is out indefinitely after tearing Achilles in offseason workout.

LaMarcus Aldridge coming out of retirement to join the Brooklyn Nets.

Key dates for the 2021-22 NBA season.

Up next: NBA preseason

Oct. 4 | 6:30 p.m. | Utah Jazz @ San Antonio Spurs | TBD

Oct. 6 | 6 p.m. | Utah Jazz @ Dallas Mavericks | TBD

Oct. 11 | 7 p.m. | Utah Jazz vs. New Orleans Pelicans | TBD

Oct. 13 | 7 p.m. | Utah Jazz vs. Milwaukee Bucks | TBD

*Broadcast information for preseason games to be announced at a later date.