by Daniel Olsen
With one game to go, the Utah Jazz still have work to do against a depleted Sacramento Kings team. They already took care of the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night. With the 2020-2021 regular season reaching a finale this weekend, it’s time to see where this Jazz game would rank all-time in a 72 game season.
If the Jazz beat the Sacramento Kings tonight, their record will be 52-20 on the season. That gives them a 72.2 winning percentage. That would put them on pace to win 59 games in a normal 82-game season.
The Jazz have eclipsed this winning percentage four times in franchise history. Each of these seasons were in the 1990’s which is the best decade in team history. They won 60 games in 1994-1995, a record 64 games in 1996-997 and 62 games in 1997-1998. They won 37 games in a 50-game shortened season the following year. That was due to the NBA Lockout.
This Jazz team set a franchise record for the best start through 26 games at 21-5. They faded a bit down the stretch due to injuries but still kept pace for one of the best seasons in franchise history. The Jazz have won 52 or more games only 12 times in franchise history. Keep in mind that most of these were 82-game seasons.
When it comes to overall record, this should be regarded as somewhere between the third or fourth best season ever. If the Jazz secure the top seed, it should be third. Despite a higher win percentage, the 1994-1995 Jazz team finished third in the Western Conference.
The 1998-1999 team also shouldn’t be regarded as better because it was just a 50-game season. If the Jazz backcourt in Conley and Mitchell played more down the stretch, perhaps they would have secured a better winning percentage and had a case to eclipse the 1997 and 1998 teams.
The Jazz have a case as the best team outside of the two Jazz teams that appeared in the NBA Finals. At worst, they are a top five team in terms of wins and losses.
The Jazz will finish at the top of the Western Conference if they beat the Kings tonight. The win would put them at the top of the Western Conference standings for the first time since the 1997-1998 season.
Since they have a better record than any Eastern Conference team, this would be just the second time in NBA history that the Jazz finish as the top overall seed. They won the tiebreaker over the Chicago Bulls in 1998 after defeating the Bulls in the regular season.
The Jazz can add another division title to the banner. They now have 10 titles to their name. They have been a member of the Northwest Division since the 2004-2005 season. This is their fourth title in this division. They won six titles in the Midwest Division prior to that. The current members of this division to join the Jazz are the Oklahoma City Thunder, Denver Nuggets, Portland Trailblazers and Minnesota Timberwolves.
This is the best Jazz team since they joined the Northwest Division. The teams of the Deron Williams era in 2007 and 2008 may have somewhat of a case as far as the postseason goes. However, the Jazz were more dominant in this season as far as the overall standings go. The only winner of this division to appear in the NBA Finals was the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012. No team from this division has won a championship. The Jazz hope they can be the first.
By the numbers
This is the best Utah Jazz offense in team history when looking at the stats. This team has been ahead of the curve in the era where the three-point shot has never been more important. With an offensive rating of 117.6, this Jazz offense is just over three points higher than the second best Jazz offense. The 1994-1995 Jazz team was second with a rating of 114.3.
The Jazz aren’t quite as dominant on the defensive end as far as history goes. However, they are still one of the top defenses in the NBA this season. They allow the third fewest points per game with 107.3 points per contest. In this era, offenses are scoring more on average so this is still a defense the Jazz can be proud of.
Accuracy has certainly helped the Jazz. If they can avoid a poor shooting performance tonight, they will set a franchise record for highest regular season three-point percentage at 38.8 percent. The next best was 38.5 percent in the 1999-2000 season.
The Jazz also currently have the second best team free throw percentage in team history at 79.8 percent. The only time they were better was when they had 80.9 percent in the 1979-1980 season. That was the year they first moved from New Orleans to Utah.
Field goal percentage is a little lower but that is to be expected when the team is shooting the fewest field goals in franchise history. Even though the Jazz have an average field goal percentage of 46.8 percent, they still boast one of the best offenses due to their points per shot being much higher.
They seem to be one of the first teams to discover that three points is more than two. If the Jazz put up at least 30 shots from downtown tonight, they will finish the season with 300 more three-point attempts than they ever have in franchise history. It’s ok to live and die by the three when the Jazz more often than not are thriving from deep.
The Jazz are a top five team in terms of record and overall finish in the standings. They are also the best offensive team in franchise history. Behind the two-time Defensive Player of the Year in Rudy Gobert, the Jazz have enough defense to get it done.
The jury is still out on how the postseason will go but it is safe to say this might be at best the third best regular season team in franchise history. At the very worst, this is a top five team. It’s important to appreciate seasons like this. They don’t come around every year.
Stats courtesy Basketball Reference.
Featured image courtesy Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports