The Utah Jazz won 20 of its last 22 games going into its matchup tonight (March 17) against Sacramento.
Indeed, it is remarkable. But acknowledge that at the same time, the franchise is backsliding nonetheless.
As of March 17, Utah was 39-30. Last year, the Jazz went 51-31.
It’s two losses (in 13) from impossible that Utah can even match last season’s success.
That’s aside from assessing if the Jazz can advance in the playoffs as they did last year.
So Utah will regress from last season. That means that its management, led by general manager Dennis Lindsey, was wrong to not do everything it could last season to not revamp the team after Gordon Hayward spurned them.
If you’re backsliding, why not blow it up? You may as well not even have a franchise if the National Basketball Association championship is not your goal.
Lindsey did nothing bold after Hayward left. Probably, Lindsey did nothing to help the Jazz because he didn’t obtain a new scorer.
Sure, he got defenders — who were past their prime and more at risk of not being able to play games. He did in cases like Thabo Sefolosha, who missed the rest of a season and playoffs just two seasons before Lindsey signed him, as NBC Sports reported. Sure enough, Sefolosha has been done for this season since January.
And Utah was already top-flight on defense, second in the league last year, according to the NBA website.
The Jazz needed offense and Lindsey got the opposite.
That Utah only signed Jonas Jerebko and Ekpe Udoh and after Hayward left, besides a past-his-prime and injury-prone Sefolosha, should still make Jazz fans wonder what Lindsey was thinking. There was the next-to-impossibility of Utah avoiding backsliding.
The moves were so antithetical to actually recovering from Hayward’s loss that it is worth noting that Quin Snyder has done a job this season that at least asks for Coach of the Year discussions, making it sadder that he wasn’t given the tools to avert regression.
Even if you think that this run will just carry the Jazz into a season next year that is good or better than last’s, reconsider that. Will Joe Ingles continue to score between 15 and 20 points per game? Will Jae Crowder continue to score between 15 and 20 points per game? In a not-as-different-as-you’d-think comparison, will Rudy Gobert? Like those teammates, he’s not averaging that this season, and never has in any season.
Utah is also relying on a rookie for its success at the moment.
But it’s happening, you say. What about sustained success?
At the end of the day, we’re talking 22 games.
And heard of sophomore slumps? You can’t say that there’s no possibility that Donovan Mitchell may naturally experience such a year.
Even saying that seeding this season could be what it was last year, one must acknowledge that going into the game against the Kings, the team (Denver) out of the playoffs, if they started today, is just one game behind Utah.
The Jazz will make the playoffs. But nine of their last 10 games are against teams still fighting for the postseason. Sure, they get a couple of cupcakes after the Sacramento game, but after that, watch out.
So they will not be higher than the five seed, and the five seed is doubtful.
Even overall record aside, that would be only another measurement that they backslid.