Utah Jazz : In the NBA, it’s common knowledge that a team’s evaluation isn’t complete until after 25 games.
That’s a large enough sample to draw conclusions about what you have and don’t have, as well as what those conclusions imply moving future.
But as the first quarter of 2022-23 draws to a conclusion, there are omens. While some of these may just be random occurrences, others may serve as reliable predictors of the future. You may not recall that the Warriors started the 2016–17 season 11-1, but you surely do remember that the Lakers, um, did not.
However, initial profits might be misleading. Last year, the Boston Celtics made it all the way to the NBA Finals before finally hitting their stride in January. At various points in time, both the Washington Wizards and the Chicago Bulls topped the Eastern Conference. There was no disagreement between them.
To help make sense of this season before we hit the quarter-century mark, I have included my own early evaluations of key aspects of the season as well as an NBA scout’s view on those same aspects, along with a percentage indicating the degree to which his observations align with mine.
There is no doubt that the Utah Jazz are a legitimate NBA team
As the thinking went, Danny Ainge’s goal was to put up a squad that could tank at any time. Stack up the negatives, round up some ping pong balls, and send up a prayer to the basketball gods that the next 7-foot Frenchman to end up in Salt Lake City is Victor Wembanyama.
Instead, the Utes have beaten Denver, Memphis, and both Los Angeles teams on their way to a 10-6 record. The Jazz have an offensive and defensive rating in the top ten, which is almost a need for a title run. Utah traded Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert for a slew of draft selections, but the Jazz still have a squad full with NBA veterans and promising young players.
As said, Lauri Markkanen has been fantastic, while the likes of Jordan Clarkson, Mike Conley, Kelly Olynyk, and Collin Sexton provide great depth.
The Jazz are feared by all of the Western Conference’s other teams, including the waning Lakers, the Clippers (who are still waiting for Kawhi Leonard), and the Warriors (who can’t win on the road).
The opinion of the scouts: 65%
In the NBA, Victor Wembanyama will be the undisputed king
True, the 18-year-old is still playing in the LNB Pro A, so this isn’t exactly an early NBA assessment, but there is a good reason the NBA is broadcasting his games.
The 7-foot-4 miracle worker can make shots, handle the ball, and block shots like he’s playing a computer game. Sometimes it’s hard to believe what he’s doing is genuine, he’s so wonderful.
It’s not too high of praise to compare him to LeBron James. That is not an exaggeration. To whatever NBA club is fortunate enough to get Wembanyama, the game will be forever altered.
The opinion of the scouts: 72%
I give it a good likelihood of happening. He is a fluid player with excellent speed and even more of a perimeter game than Chet Holmgren. However, I’m always concerned that males of that stature may have problems with their lower bodies, especially their feet. Men above 7 feet in height are not designed to move in such a way. I am able to get to 72% because of my focus on health. He’ll be a terrifying monster if he stays in good condition.
In other words, the Lakers are done
The game is over for them. That settles the matter. So, that’s how it seems like the situation pans out.
Anthony Davis’s return to excellent basketball performance has no bearing on this. Alternatively, one might say that Russell Westbrook’s bench performance has been encouraging. Or that, once healthy again, LeBron James is still LeBron. Or that most of their next games are against similarly poor opponents.
The basketball squad is not very good. It’s hardly surprising that they have a 3-10 record, given their character. No, they won’t be in the postseason. They can’t seem to make things better. The Lakers’ season was over before Thanksgiving dinner was prepared, including the turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie. Sorry, Chick Hearn.
They’re already too far into a winning streak to turn back now. It’s likely that they’ll unload some of it, but by this point, they’re almost in our sights.
Confidence level, according to the scout: 95%
Consider the Jazz as a point of reference. The Lakers trail the Jazz by six games. The premise relies on two men playing superheroes every night, but they can’t pull it off permanently. Nothing has gone wrong with Russ [Westbrook]. Fine. However, there seems to be no other options. What’s with all the debate over who should play in the starting lineup? Who are you going to be going? The team is completely empty.
The officials are a genuine problem
Even though the Sacramento Kings are now 7-6, they should be 8-4. Ask Kevin Huerter.
In my time watching the NBA, I have never seen worse officiating than we are seeing right now. The league’s quest and hope for parity is a worthy notion, and it came out of the previous collective bargaining agreement, but it means nothing if clubs without superstars or outside of key cities have to defeat their opponent — and the officials’ prejudice.
Expert opinion: 0%
Even while it has been unpleasant, it is not a serious issue. They’ve had a rough season, but what can the supporters do now, stop coming? … Will Daryl Morey once again submit a manifesto to the league? No … This is not a serious issue.
The Warriors of the Golden State are in peril
Seven away games without a victory is a losing streak. (Remember, this is a squad that won two out of three games in Boston during the NBA Finals.) After having the greatest defense in the NBA last year, Golden State is now one of the worst. Aside from Stephen Curry, the offense isn’t very good.
Klay Thompson is a shadow of his former self, the up-and-coming stars who were supposed to fill the vacuum have generally underwhelmed, and the fallout from Draymond Green hitting Jordan Poole will likely continue to affect the Warriors for some time.
With Curry on board, I’m sure they’ll work it out. However, this is the largest load their legend has ever had to carry, and if his squad doesn’t get better soon, not even he will be able to accomplish it.
The opinion of the Scouting Service: 40%
I don’t believe we have enough evidence to declare they’re in serious jeopardy just yet, but it isn’t looking good. As of late, Klay has been quite awful. Nothing he says or does can ever save his defense. And the foundation of those teams has always been solid defensive play. Those tasks are now within [Andrew] Wiggins’ capabilities. Neither can Klay, but I think he’ll start making more jump shots soon. While they wait for the young lads to mature, do they have a sufficient supporting cast? The answer is now “no.” However, I’m more confident that the starting five is strong enough to weather some of those and get to the playoffs, where it will matter less.
Philadelphia should part ways with Doc Rivers
Joel Embiid, coming off a historic performance, is on their side. James Harden was on the upswing for them until he got hurt. There has been no letdown in Tyrese Maxey’s performance. In the summer, P.J. Tucker, Danuel House Jr., and Trevelin Queen were added to the roster by president of basketball operations Daryl Morey.
Despite this, the Sixers’ record is 7-7; they were 4-5 before to Harden’s injury.
When healthy, Maxey and Harden, together with Embiid’s generational skill, could provide an offense that can challenge for the Eastern Conference title. All of the components are present. However, there hasn’t been any consistency.
Putting all of the club’s eggs in Embiid’s basket won’t work, and the Sixers have looked like a team that should be something special, rather than anything extraordinary, on too many occasions, particularly in recent postseason appearances.
Aside from his championship run in Boston, Rivers has been a consistent disappointment in his roles and has not been hired by Morey. In the past, this coach has guided Sixers teams to disappointment in the playoffs. Also, with earlier Clippers squads. Following that, etc.
It is now time to go on.
Totally agree with the scouts’ assessment
It’s not going to work, sorry. The plan has failed. Things are different now that James Harden is out, but at the start of the year, they were James Harden balls even without James Harden at his very best. On sometimes, words just won’t come out. When this occurs,. From afar, the Minnesota Vikings seem to be the hapless club in the league. The energy is negative. But Doc isn’t particularly competent, either.
A lengthy playoff run awaits the Hawks once again
Two years ago, when Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks made it all the way to the Eastern Conference finals, it seemed like things were headed down a rocky road. They had a promising future since they had beaten the Knicks, beaten the Sixers, and faced the eventual champion Bucks.
The next season, 2021-22, was much worse, as the team’s performance and effort levels were all over the place and their defensive play took a step back.
However, they are now ranked sixth in the league in defensive rating, having found their rhythm, consistency, and defensive strength. After acquiring Dejounte Murray, a club that has been vying for the Eastern Conference’s top spot now has the personnel, bench depth, and, in Young, star power to be a serious contender for the postseason.
Expert opinion: 30%
I was a big fan of theirs and followed them attentively when they made it to the Eastern Conference finals that one year, but I just don’t believe it. While Trae is an outstanding offensive player, he may be challenged by well-prepared opponents (particularly in the postseason). He lacks Steph’s handling and rim-protecting prowess, so opponents with lengthy wings who can trouble him will have an edge.