The Factors in the Utah Jazz’s Recent Success (and Whether or Not They Are Legit Title Contenders)

Utah guards Jordan Clarkson and Donovan Mitchell (Image via The Salt Lake Tribune)

The Utah Jazz have been on an absolute tear this season, boasting a 26–6 record (at the time of writing) and claiming the top spot in the Western Conference. Utah was expected to be a great playoff team from the start, but surely no one expected them to be THIS dominant.

In this article, I’ll take a look at what’s been driving the Jazz into such a great rhythm (pun intended) and answer the question of how far they can go in the postseason.

Dynamic Duo in a Sea of Them

This year, the West has been known for many amazing duos, such as Jamal Murray with Nikola Jokic, LeBron James with Anthony Davis, and the Clippers and second-round exits. Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert are certainly no exception.

After the careless actions of the Stifle Tower prior to the league’s abrupt suspension put a fray into their friendship, Mitchell and Gobert have reconciled, and that translated onto the court as well. In 32 games so far, the two have posted an Offensive rating of 117.2, a Defensive Rating of 102.8, and a Net Rating of 14.4.

Strong Play of Jordan Clarkson, Royce O’Neale, and Mike Conley

Aside from Gobert and Mitchell, there have been other players who have stood out this season for the Jazz. Three of those are Jordan Clarkson, Royce O’Neale, and Mike Conley.

Clarkson, in the running for Sixth Man of the Year, has put up 26 MPG, 18 PPG, 4 RPG, and 2 APG in 32 games (no starts) for head coach Quin Snyder. He’s also been shooting 46% from the field, 38% from three, and an absurd 96% from the free-throw line. Most recently, he had 16 points in 23 minutes in a 114–89 win against his former team, the Los Angeles Lakers, on Feb. 24.

O’Neale, Utah’s starting combo forward, is averaging 8 PPG, 7 RPG, and 2 APG in 32 games, while shooting 45% from the field, 42% from deep, and 85% from the stripe. These numbers are a sign of continued improvement from the 27-year-old, who has steadily increased his PPG from his rookie campaign four years ago and been a 3-and-D force for the Jazz this season. He had a career-high 20 points along with six rebounds, two assists, and a block in a 108–94 win over the Knicks on Jan. 26.

33-year-old Mike Conley continues to amaze, averaging 16 PPG, 4 RPG, and 6 APG in 26 games (all starts). He’s also shooting 45% from the field, 42% from three, and 82% from the line. Providing a steady hand on offense, Conley has an assist percentage of 29%, and recorded a season-high ten dimes in a 131–118 win over the Bucks on Jan. 8.

All of these players have been a huge help for Utah, and continue to stay ready when their numbers are called.

Great Lineup Combinations

Snyder has used a plethora of lineups this season, but the one that has seen the most time together has been the starting combination of Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Royce O’Neale, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Rudy Gobert. Those five have played a total of 322 minutes together and post an offensive rating of 117.4, a defensive rating of 102.3, and a net rating of 15.1.

The lineup that has played the most games together has also been very effective. Donovan Mitchell, Jordan Clarkson, Royce O’Neale, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Derrick Favors have played 28 games together and have offensive, defensive, and net ratings of 117.4, 108.6, and 8.9, respectively.

Mitchell and Clarkson have served as Utah’s backup point guards when needed, adding to the Jazz’s offensive success. They boast assist percentages of 26% and 14% and season-high dime totals of 11 and 4, respectively.

Where They Fit in the Playoff Picture

Even though the Jazz have the best record in the West, are they really built for a deep playoff run in a loaded Western Conference?

We’ve seen the story before. Utah does very well in the regular season before losing in the first or second round of the playoffs, and that could very well be the case this year, too.

In my opinion, the Jazz could give the Lakers, Clippers, and Nuggets a run for their money, but both LA teams and the Mile High City would still come out on top. However, I could see them beating Phoenix in a seven-game series, even though the back court of Chris Paul and Devin Booker should not be taken lightly.

If the Clippers’ second-round curse continues, I believe the Lakers can defeat Utah in the Western Conference Finals in seven games. And if they manage to defy the odds and make the NBA Finals, they won’t have much of a chance against the three-headed monster Brooklyn Nets, especially with the upgrades the latter has made over the course of the season.

Conclusion

Overall, Dennis Lindsey constructed a great roster that surprised us all. And even if they don’t bring home a title at season’s end, the Jazz have made moves that bring them closer to putting another banner in the rafters.

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Jordan Pagkalinawan

Top Writer in NBA & Sports. Student journalist & podcaster. Social media manager at PerThirtySix & contributor for Last Word on Hoops & YRMedia. Emerson ’26.