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(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah's Paul Millsap claps as he and Al Jefferson head to the bench following a time out during a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013.
Kragthorpe: Jazz fans’ guide to what’s ahead
NBA » Regardless of what happens at trade deadline, Jazz need a top-five finish in the West.
First Published Feb 15 2013 01:44 pm • Last Updated Feb 20 2013 04:15 pm

Without knowing the makeup of the Jazz’s roster after next Thursday’s NBA trade deadline — which means Tuesday’s game vs. Golden State may be the last appearance for the current team — it is difficult to project the outcome of the rest of the season.

But here’s a basic outlook for Jazz fans to ponder during the All-Star break as they look ahead to the remaining one-third of the schedule:

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• The Jazz (30-24) stand seventh in the Western Conference. Unless something out of the ordinary occurs next week, it would be equally unlikely for them to fall out of the playoff picture or move into the top five. That would enable them to avoid facing the West’s Big Three — San Antonio, Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Clippers — in the first round of the playoffs.

• Such a jump is not inconceivable, though. The Jazz are only three games behind No. 5 Denver (33-21) and 4.5 games behind No. 4 Memphis (33-18). The Jazz have 15 home games and 13 road games left. Memphis might actually be easier to catch, because the Grizzlies have only 12 home games and 19 road games remaining, while Denver has 16 home games and 12 road games. Then again, Memphis is a good road team.

• Suppose the Jazz make a trade that radically alters their current lineup, in exchange for future benefits. Would they still make the playoffs? Probably, because either No. 9 Portland (25-28) or the No. 10 Los Angeles Lakers (25-29) would have to catch them. The Jazz are 4.5 games ahead of the Trail Blazers and five games ahead of the Lakers.

• If nothing changes between now and the end of the regular season, the Jazz will have their own first-round draft pick (No. 18) and Golden State’s pick (No. 20), via the 2011 trade of Deron Williams to the Nets. Golden State (30-22) has lost five games in a row, but the Warriors have 18 home games and 12 road games remaining, so they’re not likely to fall into the lottery. In any case, the Jazz can tie the Warriors for sixth place in the West with a victory Tuesday.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribkurt




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