The Utah Jazz were the West’s No. 4 playoff seed when the NBA clock stopped. That’s as good a read of this team as any.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has stated that the league is expected to be on hiatus for 30 days at a minimum, but has also conceded there is a realistic possibility that the 2019-20 campaign may well be finished altogether.

So, on the one hand, given that the Utah Jazz may have 18 regular-season games yet to play (or some truncated version of that), plus playoffs, it seems premature to make any final pronouncements on this team. On the other hand, with no games on the horizon for the time being, now is as good a time as any to take a look at how this team was progressing toward its goal of winning a championship.

Did all those summer machinations actually get the Jazz any closer to that end result?

Well, on a macro level, you can argue that this season’s team boasts a 64.1 winning percentage, and was in fourth place in the Western Conference on the day the league stopped — slight upgrades over 2018-19, when the Jazz won at a 61.0% clip and finished fifth in the West.

That, in and of itself, however, doesn’t tell us a whole lot. Let’s dig a little deeper and get into the micro of it all.


How this season’s Jazz team compares to last season’s in certain key areas:

CATEGORY • 2019-20 / 2018-19

Off. Rating • 112.1 (8th) / 110.3 (14th)

Def. Rating • 108.8 (11th) / 105.3 (2nd)

Net Rating • 3.3 (8th) / 5.0 (4th)


FG% • 47.5 (4th) / 46.8 (10th)

3P% • 38.3 (T-1st) / 35.6 (10th)

3PM • 13.2 (8th) / 12.1 (9th)

EFG% • 55.2 (2nd) / 53.8 (5th)

TS% • 58.7 (2nd) / 57.2 (7th)

TO% • 14.8 (22nd) / 14.6 (28th)


DReb% • 74.7 (6th) / 75.9 (1st)

Opp pts off TOs • 16.9 (15th) / 16.9 (20th)

Opp FB pts • 12.6 (10th) / 11.4 (2nd)

Opp 2nd-chance pts • 12.0 (5th) / 11.2 (2nd)

Opp FG% • 45.2 (11th) / 45.2 (8th)

Opp 3P% • 35.1 (12th) / 35.5 (15th)

Opp TO • 12.0 (30th) / 13.9 (15th)


EFG% • 57.7 (2nd) / 57.0 (2nd)

Off. Rating • 116.8 (9th) / 115.3 (14th)

Def. Rating • 105.8 (23rd) / 100.1 (1st)


Clutch wins • 25 (3rd) / 15 (25th)

Clutch win% • 69.4 (2nd) / 45.5 (21st)

Plus/minus • 1.3 (5th) / 0.4 (12th)

For starters, on the Jazz’s media day back on Sept. 30, Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Dennis Lindsey said there was a simple explanation for why the organization blew up the surrounding cast around Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert.

“Three years in a row facing Golden State and Houston [in the playoffs] told us the truth — that we just, for whatever reason, couldn’t keep up with their skill level,” Lindsey said. "… Clearly, with [general manager] Justin [Zanik], myself, the management group, coaches, it was fairly unanimous what we needed to do as far as adding some skill, and in particular some [offensive] spacing.”

OK then — so, how have the Jazz fared in terms of giving the offense a boost, primarily as a result of trying to emphasize outside shooting?

Pretty well, actually, with solid increases across the board. Their offensive rating went from 14th in the league to eighth; their field-goal percentage, 3-point percentage, effective-field-goal percentage, and true shooting percentage are all among the top four in the league. Their 3-pointers made per game have gone up a tick, and even their turnover percentage — never really a strength of the Jazz, for the record — has declined a touch.

Donovan Mitchell has stepped up his scoring (24.2 ppg), and has been bolstered by an influx of people with a talent for putting the ball in the basket, with Bojan Bogdanovic adding 20.2 points, Gobert up to 15.1, Jordan Clarkson also contributing 15.1, and Mike Conley now at 13.8 and rising (well, not at the moment, of course). Meanwhile, Georges Niang (41.6%) and Bogey (41.1) are both among the league leaders in 3-point percentage, while Joe Ingles and Royce O’Neale are just a hair under 40% themselves.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, the team anticipated some slippage on defense, but perhaps not as much as has actually occurred.

“Hopefully we’ll still stand on those Jazz defensive principles that we’ve built,” Lindsey said back on media day. “Can we be top-three? Can we be top-five? Can we be top-seven? Who knows?”

It appears they cannot.

While the Jazz appeared early on to be capable of yet more elite defense — posting an eye-popping and obviously unsustainable 93.1 defensive rating through their first five games — those numbers have steadily declined as the season has gone along. Whereas the 2018-19 Jazz ranked second in the league in defensive rating, yielding 105.3 points per 100 possessions, this season’s team has slipped to 11th overall, at 108.8.

Why, though? It’s not been universal regression, but where there has been decline, it’s been telling.

While the Jazz remain an excellent defensive rebounding team, they have slipped from first to sixth there. That, in turn, has yielded a corresponding rise in opponents’ second-chance points (though, admittedly, Utah is still pretty great there — having dipped from second overall to fifth).

Of far greater concern is the transition defense. Coach Quin Snyder has brought that up for most of the season as an area in need of improvement, and the numbers bear it out. After holding opponents to the second-fewest fast-break points in the league a year ago, the Jazz have slipped to 10th there this season. And finally, while forcing turnovers has never been a point of emphasis for Snyder, and thus never a particular forte of this team, the Jazz were at least middling at it a year ago (ranking 15th), and are now worst in the league at it this season.

Despite those seasoning numbers, the team did feel there was defensive progress being made over the course of its four-game road trip and the subsequent home loss to the Raptors.

“The defense, for sure [has improved] — the way we competed, the way we guarded,” said Mitchell. “We did it against Boston, we did it against Cleveland, we did it against New York. And obviously [against Detroit]. That’s big-time. … We’ve got to continue to do the same things.”

“I just think it’s [defensive] effort right now,” added Conley. “We’re picking up the ball a little bit earlier, we’re being a little bit more aggressive on screens, and I think everybody is just kind of feeding off of each other’s energy. When we’re playing that hard and that aggressive while communicating, we can beat some really good teams and have some good stretches of basketball. I think we’re learning that, that we can be that good. We’ve just got to continue to do it.”

For the record, the Jazz’s defensive rating in that five-game stretch actually declined a bit, to 109.5, though their league ranking in that five-game span was up to ninth, for whatever that’s worth.

And if those defensive numbers aren’t yet where the Jazz would like, this team can at least take some solace in the idea that they at least are excellent in close games this season. After notoriously struggling to a winless mark in matchups decided by three points or less a year ago, these Jazz have been quite the opposite — ranking among the NBA’s top five in clutch wins, clutch win percentage, and clutch plus/minus.

What that all means remains to be seen. While the Jazz began the season as a dark horse contender and pundits’ darlings for their offseason overhaul, there’ve been things that haven’t worked at all (Jeff Green, Ed Davis), some things that haven’t been a huge boon but which may yet be (Conley’s fit), and a few things that could not have turned out better (Clarkson’s acquisition, Emmanuel Mudiay’s role). And yet, in spite of everything — the 10-game winning streaks and the post-All-Star Game swoon, the five-game bounceback and the struggles against top competition — many of the same questions still exist.

“Our ultimate goal is to win a championship,” Conley said on media day. “We’re not kidding ourselves that we’ve done anything [yet].”

With the season in the balance, that very much remains the case.