Western Conference Finals: No. 1 Utah Jazz vs. No. 6 Dallas Mavericks
The Jazz hold serve as the top seed and advance to face the Mavs with a berth in the NBA Finals on the line.
How the Jazz could face the Dallas Mavericks in the conference finals
It would be a miracle for any team to reach the Finals without going through the Los Angeles Lakers, but in this scenario, the Mavericks have the chance to do that. There are only a handful of teams in the league that has the size, offensive capabilities, and defensive chops to go against the Lakers.
Dallas is not one of them. Whenever the Mavs and Lakers matchup, LA overpowers Dallas with their size. They snuff out Luka and his high-powered offense with competent perimeter defenders and elite paint protection.
Luckily for the Mavs, the Jazz do have the personnel necessary to topple the throne. Despite the rumors and drama that percolated from Salt Lake City after Rudy Gobert’s infamous post-game presser, the Jazz look more in tune than ever.
With their ever stout defense led by The Stifle Tower, what has surged Utah from a middle-seed playoff team to a possible contender is their new offensive chemistry and the evolution of Donovan Mitchell.
Spida is often overlooked as one of the best young players in the league. He’s an explosive athlete and volume scorer, two traits that are key for a household name, but playing in a small-market has stuck Mitchell’s reputation with the infamous “underrated” tag.
Still only 24, Mitchell has increased his scoring, assist, rebounding, free throw attempts, and 3-point averages each year. After Gordon Hayward, Utah’s biggest star since the ’90s, left in free agency, most pundits expected the Jazz to launch into a rebuild. Mitchell, however, led his team back to the playoffs as a rookie serving as the primary scoring option.
Despite that fact and his continued growth, Spida fails to garner the respect that his fellow young-star cohorts such as Luka, Jayson Tatum, or even Zion have amassed among fans and colleagues.
Now, surrounded with more consistent scoring options like Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Jordan Clarkson, Mitchell and Gobert are demanding the respect they deserve. Even as they have played their way comfortably into the top seed, the Jazz still have a lot to prove.
Utah has increased their offensive rating from eighth last year to third this year and their net rating from ninth to first. All while maintaining their top-tier defense, and yet they remain a level below the top contenders in the eyes of some experts.
Utah has yet to prove that they are a serious playoff threat. Since drafting Mitchell, the Jazz have failed to advance past the second-round including two first-round exits the past two years.
This is the year for Spida and the rest of the Jazz to earn their stripes in the playoffs. If they are to earn true contender status, they’ll have to get past King James at some point.
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