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NBA Odds: The Utah Jazz are incredibly weird

Improving on last season’s surprise will be a tall task

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Utah Jazz Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

The play of Lauri Markkanen was one of the biggest storylines of last season. A career 15-point-a-game scorer up until 2022-23, the seven-foot stretch forward broke out for a career-high 25 points per game on nearly 50/40/90 shooting splits. This resulted in a Most Improved Player award and a surprisingly competitive season from a team that was thought to have been tanking. Rookie Walker Kessler pitched in an excellent defensive season and Jordan Clarkson and Collin Sexton were spark plugs on the offensive end. After exceeding expectations a year ago, Utah now looks to prove that their near play-in berth was not a fluke.

Utah Jazz (Over/Under 35.5 Wins)

Key Adds - Taylor Hendricks, John Collins, Keyontae George, Omer Yurtseven

Key Losses - N/A

The Jazz have the most eclectic jumble of big men in the league. Between the stretch nature of Markkanen and Kelly Olynyk and the defensive anchor-minded guys like Kessler and Omer Yurtseven, Utah has options for who they can roll out on the front lines. They’re not a traditional collection of players at all, but they seemed to work last season. In a conference with great big men such as Anthony Davis, Nikola Jokic, and Karl Anthony Towns, the Jazz will match up well inside on most nights.

On the outside, however, they just need more. Clarkson and Sexton are great secondary playmakers but neither can carry a perimeter load on a legitimate playoff team. George and Hendricks should be exciting rookies, but it is unlikely either will be super impactful right away. The Jazz lack superstar power on the outside and that is hard to win with given the current state of the NBA.

Collectively, Utah is just a little bit below the play-in threshold as a team. They feel thrown together and messy. They’re going to have to play almost perfectly every night to win and will suffer from the increased talent in the Western Conference. They could still have a competitive season but it is not realistic to expect them to keep pace with what they did last season. The 37 games they won a year ago included a flukey 10-3 start, as they went 27-42 the rest of the way. 82 games at that pace would put them at 32 wins, well below their line on the books. The Jazz are going to regress in the win column even if their talent continues to develop.

PREDICTION - Under 35.5 wins