We’ve finally hit the All-Star Break in the NBA. With COVID, this season has been different, but it’s also been eventful. The MVP race is tight, with Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, and LeBron James rounding out the top three of the Kia MVP Ladder (which can be found on nba.com). Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, and Kawhi Leonard have also carried their respective teams to success.
Featured Image from Heat Nation
So, who has the best record going into the break? The Lakers with Bron? Nope. The Clips with Kawhi? Wrong. The Nets with their big three? No again. The answer to that question is the Utah Jazz. They sit at 27-9, which is 2.5 games ahead of the second place Suns in the Western Conference. As a result, Head Coach Quin Snyder will coach in the All-Star game. He’s now regarded as a premiere coach in the league due to his strategic acuity.
The Jazz have dominated pretty much every statistical category this season. Their point differential of +8.8 is by far best in the league. Here’s a table of their stats, their opponents’ stats, and the differential between those two numbers.
As you can see, the Jazz win big on the boards. They’re rebound differential of +5.4 is tied for best in the NBA. That’s no surprise, as they have one of the best rebounding centers in the league, Rudy Gobert. Gobert is averaging 13.1 rebounds per game, which is second in the league. Gobert also puts up 14.2 points per game and 2.7 blocks per game.
As for their score differential, that can be attributed to the star of Utah, shooting guard Donovan Mitchell. He’s far and away the best scorer on the team with 24.7 points per game on a field goal percentage of 42.1%. Mitchell and Gobert will both play in the All-Star Game this weekend.
The rest of Utah’s squad consists of solid role players and defenders. Mike Conley runs the point and leads the team in assists per game (5.7) and steals per game (1.4). 6’7” point-forward Joe Ingles starts when Conley is out, and he distributes the rock at a high level. Then there’s their shooter, Bojan Bogdanovic. They missed his talents in the bubble, but he’s come back with a fire this year.
The most interesting of this group of role players is easily Jordan Clarkson. After being consistent with the Lakers and the Cavaliers, Clarkson has looked the best with the Jazz. He’s a legitimate Sixth Man of the Year candidate. Averaging 17.9 points per game off the bench is no small feat, but that’s exactly where Clarkson stands right now. His stellar scoring has really helped the Jazz this season. Royce O’Neale, Derrick Favors, and Georges Niang round out Utah’s rotation.
Today, the NBA is all about super-teams. Sometimes it seems like a team needs at least two top ten players to win a title. So, seeing a team like the Jazz prosper is refreshing. They play good defense, spread the ball (six players averaging double-digit points per game), and rebound better than any other team. That’s what happens when you have a great coach and a full roster of guys who embrace their roles.