The NBA’s return plan is a big, fat ‘L’ for the Utah Jazz

(Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /

The Utah Jazz will be back in action on July 31, but given the league’s new format for a return to play, they won’t find themselves in a favorable position.

Adam Silver and 22 of the NBA’s 30 teams are expected to be back in action on July 31 at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla. The Utah Jazz are one of them

. From both conferences, all 16 current playoff teams made the cut, as well as the following “bubble” teams …

From out West:

  • The Phoenix Suns
  • The Sacramento Kings
  • The San Antonio Spurs
  • The Portland Trail Blazers
  • The New Orleans Pelicans

And from the Eastern Conference, the lowly Washington Wizards. Seriously, they were the only team within sixth games of the eighth seed, which is why they too get the nod from Mr. Silver.

The above 22 teams will play a shortened eight-game regular season before the start of the playoffs, consisting of the next eight games on their pre-COVID schedule that include Disney-invited teams. Once complete, if the No. 9 seed is within four games of the No. 8 seed, a double-elimination play-in tournament will take place to determine who locks up the final playoff spot.

On the surface, this might seem like good news for the Jazz. After all, they — along with every other team in the league — won’t have played in an actual NBA game in four-plus months …

It’s not, though.

In fact, of all the teams in the league, the new format arguably hurts the Jazz more than any other franchise. Before the start of the hiatus, assuming the standings stayed put, the Jazz would’ve found themselves with the fourth seed, home court advantage (whatever that ends up looking like now) and a favorable, first-round matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Or as Jazz fans like to call it, “Anybody but the mother-flipping Houston Rockets.” Utah hasn’t seen a postseason not run through Houston since 2017 with the Rockets kicking them to the curb in both 2018 and 2019. With playoff seeding back up for grabs, yet again, that possibility exists.

One more curveball: Bojan Bogdanović, the team’s second-highest scorer and third-best player? Yeah, thanks to a last-minute surgery on his right wrist, he won’t be participating in any of this. Bogey’s 20.2 points per game will certainly be missed, but only that much more with the Jazz a mere 2.5 games in front of of Luka Dončić and the Dallas Mavericks for the seventh seed …

Keep that in mind as you review the Jazz’s opponents for the next eight games:

  • vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder
  • vs. the New Orleans Pelicans
  • vs. the Memphis Grizzlies
  • vs. the Los Angeles Lakers
  • vs. the Los Angeles Lakers
  • vs. the San Antonio Spurs
  • vs. the San Antonio Spurs
  • vs. the Dallas Mavericks

Given the up-and-down nature of this year’s Jazz team, falling to the seventh seed is well within the realm of possibility. And should something as devastating as that take place, they’d likely avoid the Rockets, instead, having to take on the freakishly-talented Los Angeles Clippers.

Even without Bogdanović, if for some reason the Jazz manage to get their act together and play consistent enough basketball to maintain their place in the four-five matchup, Houston has eight games to get back in there, too. Record-wise, they’re already there with the Thunder.

Pick your poison, right?

Let’s hope the Jazz’s quality of play (and some serious luck) picks correctly.

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