Editor’s note: First of a three-part series: What would a playoff series between the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder look like?

SALT LAKE CITY — If the season ended today ...

It’s a hypothetical that has been uttered by nearly every sports fan at some point. Now that hypothetical could be a reality. We may not see the rest of the 2019-20 NBA season, but there is still hope that we could see the playoffs.

If the NBA playoffs start based on the conference positioning when the league shut down in mid-March, the Utah Jazz will be facing the Oklahoma City Thunder. So, let’s keep rolling with that hypothetical scenario and take a look at what a series might entail.

Today we’ll look at the Jazz offense.

Feeding on Thunder weaknesses

The Thunder, while having a slightly above-average defense, have some definite weak spots on the defensive end that the Jazz would look to take advantage of.

There’s no doubt the Thunder would look to limit the Jazz’s two biggest threats, Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, with two of their best defenders, Luguentz Dort and Steven Adams.

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) hammers home a dunk over Oklahoma City Thunder forward Mike Muscala (33) as the Jazz open the 2019-20 season with the Thunder at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

First and foremost that is going to be something the Jazz are just going to have to contend with by making Mitchell more of a playmaker and utilizing Gobert to create space through screens. Also, it goes without saying that no matter the situation in any playoff matchup that Mitchell and Gobert will have to be dominant at their respective positions in order for the Jazz to succeed.

Outside of living with the fact that the Thunder’s plan would be to obviously limit the Jazz’s biggest threats, the Jazz could utilize their speed and screen-heavy offense to create mismatches against Thunder players that are less adept on the defensive end.

Targeting Danilo Gallinari is the obvious first step for any team facing the Thunder. His reaction times can be a little slow, whether that’s defending in isolation, on a switch, or on a closeout and he’s just flat out not great on the defensive end.

Creating any sort of mismatch or pulling the defense out on a high pick-and-roll is something that the Thunder seem to have trouble recovering from. That would give Mitchell or Joe Ingles ample opportunity to initiate a pick-and-roll with Gobert, then when OKC’s center is pulled out of the paint by a high screen, the Jazz could feast in the paint where the Thunder allow 48.7 points per game (17th in the league).

If the Thunder’s big man falls back on a high screen and/or the defense collapses into the paint, the Jazz — the league’s best 3-point shooting team — would have the advantage from long range for a corner three or a kick-out pass to the top of the arc.

The play below shows just that type of situation. An Ingles-Gobert pick-and-roll is thrown off by nearly all of OKC’s defense collapsing into the paint. But Gobert passes out to Royce O’Neale, who passes to Ingles, who passes to Bojan Bogdanovic, who hits an open 3-pointer because the defense isn’t able to recover from the threat of Gobert inside.

The biggest problem for the Thunder’s defense is that their best wing defenders are abysmal on the offensive end, and with a shortened rotation in the playoffs, OKC is going to have to sacrifice some of the defensive prowess they were getting from their underdeveloped young players.

That lack of wing defense would be where the Jazz would want to feast. With a plethora of wing scoring options the Jazz should be able to capitalize with the likes of Mitchell, Bogdanovic, Mike Conley, O’Neale, Ingles, and Jordan Clarkson.

Operating in transition

This season the Jazz are scoring a league-worst 14 points off turnovers, and the Thunder are holding opponents to a league-best 10.5 fast-break points per game. That’s not exactly the best combination for the Jazz if you’re looking to score in transition.

But, the Jazz have the personnel and the speed to capitalize in the open court and in a playoff series against the Thunder they’re going to have to.

While the Jazz have the best 3-point shooting percentage in the league, the Thunder have the 18th. That means more rebounding opportunities for the Jazz, who will need to push the pace and convert those misses on the other end.

In the two matchups against the Thunder this season O’Neale did a great job of getting out and pushing the pace, catching the Thunder defense off guard and leaving other players open for a trailing three.

On a team with Bogdanovic and Ingles, who are great at knocking down the trailing shot, there’s no reason for the Jazz not to look for that opportunity as often as possible.

Conley, Clarkson

This series would likely be a battle of offensive firepower, and while a lot is expected of Mitchell and Gobert, who will carry a ton of responsibility, big performances will be needed from the Jazz’s supporting cast.

Bogdanovic and Ingles will probably draw the attention of some of the Thunder’s better defenders at times, whether that be Chris Paul or Dennis Schroder, but they’ll need to be ready to knock down shots and work in the paint when the time comes.

Conley is more likely to be guarded by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who is an incredibly dynamic offensive player but leaves much to be desired on the defensive end, which is good news for Conley. The veteran guard will be able to pull from his years of experience in order to playmake and find his open spots at a higher rate than some of the other Jazz guards.

Because the Jazz have yet to play the Thunder with their newly formed rotation, which includes Clarkson, he has a chance of being a bit of an X-factor. Proving on many occasions to be a huge boost for the Jazz’s bench, Clarkson will be relied on heavily in his minutes.

This would be a completely different role in the postseason than either Conley or Clarkson have ever experienced. Conley won’t be operating as the first option, and Clarkson will have more responsibility thrust onto him than ever before, and their performances in those roles could decide the outcome of this series.

Time will tell

As stated, this series would be one chock full of scoring power and it’s very possible that the better offense in this series will win out.

The teams opened up the season against each other on Oct. 23, resulting in a Jazz win. In the last game between them, on Dec. 9, the Thunder won, without some of their key players, including Gallinari. But, the Jazz were still playing with Jeff Green, Dante Exum and Ed Davis.

A lot has changed for both teams since their two regular-season contests. Even more could change between now and a possible salvaging of the NBA playoffs.