Many expected the Utah Jazz to bottom out after trading away Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, and Bojan Bogdanovic during the offseason.
However, while they may not be among the NBA picks today to win the championship, they still find themselves among the Western Conference elite with a record above .500 into December.
Lauri Markkanen has unexpectedly leaped this season after being written off following stints with the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers.
The 6-foot-11 forward is averaging over 22 points on 53.1 percent shooting and eight rebounds per game, as he’s also converting nearly 40 percent of his looks from three and dishing out over two assists per contest.
It remains to be seen how sustainable Markkanen’s success will be throughout the season, but what has always been attractive about his game is his ability to be mobile with or without the ball in his hands and get open to hit the 3-pointer or attack the rim.
Overall, the offense for the Jazz has been big for them, as they’re ranked the fourth-best offense in the NBA through the beginning of December.
They have a ton of shot creators who can get their buckets at will and several guys who don’t need to iso to get on the board.
Jordan Clarkson has been huge for them, averaging 19.5 points and 4.9 assists per game.
Malik Beasley has been a nice addition, averaging 13.6 points per game and providing a 3-point specialist.
Collin Sexton is still trying to find his groove with his new team, as he is also coming off a torn ACL injury that sidelined him for much of last season. However, his burst of speed and ability to attack the rim will blend in with this group once he gets adjusted, as a bunch of guys can space out the floor.
In recent years, Kelly Olynyk has made a name for himself as a jack of all trades offensively at the center position, as he can shoot, score in the paint, pass the ball, and rebound. He’s been exactly what the Jazz have needed.
Mike Conley has fully embraced his role as a mentor on this team, providing some scoring but mostly serving as a playmaker to help the young guns fully develop.
Jarred Vanderbilt has added some much-needed physicality for this team, as he consistently racks up many rebounds, steals, and blocks while contributing to the points and assists categories.
While the Jazz has a ton of talent offensively, their defense still needs a ton of work. They don’t have many wing defenders, and the bigs on their team aren’t necessarily lockdown defenders inside the paint.
The Jazz is off to a surprising start, but it would be no shock if they slipped in the standings as the season continues.
The Los Angeles Lakers still have LeBron James and Anthony Davis leading their team, and with Russell Westbrook thriving in his newfound role off the bench, the Lakers could end up getting to the playoffs this season. Don’t ever count a team with LeBron on it out.
The Dallas Mavericks currently find themselves out of the playoff picture, but with Luka Doncic leading a team that got to the Western Conference Finals just last season, don’t expect the Mavs to be out of the playoff picture for too long.
The primary competition for the Jazz, this season for one of the final playoff spots would likely come from the Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Dallas Mavericks, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Portland Trail Blazers, as all of those teams are better constructed than the Jazz at this time.
The Jazz may not be firmly in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes, but the playoffs may still be out of reach.