Home Court: Get ready for the Utah Jazz’ season opener

Jordan Clarkson. Photo: Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

The Utah Jazz tip off their 2022-23 season Wednesday night on the road against the Denver Nuggets.

Catch up quick: This Jazz is officially in rebuild mode. After winning 49 games last season, the team lost in the first round of the playoffs to a Dallas Mavericks team that played the first three games without its superstar Luka Dončić.

  • During the offseason, head coach Quin Snyder stepped down and the team traded its top two players — center Rudy Gobert and guard Donovan Mitchell — and key rotation guy Bojan Bogdanović.
  • The biggest question left for the team is just how much will they commit to tanking for a high draft pick next summer.

Yes, but: The Jazz have a chance to pull off a win (and upset) to start the season.

Here are three reasons why:

  • Underrated talent. No one has seen this group share the floor before in meaningful games. Players like Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen and Talen Horton-Tucker are still young and have a lot to prove in this league.
  • Jordan Clarkson. The reigning Sixth Man of the Year is still around. And he is a walking bucket — meaning points will be abundant anytime he steps on the floor. Expect him to play a bigger role in crunch time as the Jazz could turn to him to take and make big shots.
  • Run, run and run some more. On paper, the Nuggets are clearly the better team. But Jamal Murray missed all of last season with an ACL injury. And Michael Porter Jr. played in just nine games. If the Jazz turn this into a track meet and test the conditioning of those two plus big man Nikola Jokić, they may have the slightest chance.

The other side: Our colleagues at Axios Denver seem to think the Jazz have no chance. Axios’ John Frank gives us his reasons why the Nuggets will win.

  • Here in Denver, we keep our stars, and Nikola Jokić will show you how that looks. He averaged 27 points a game last season.
  • The Nuggets score 113 points per 100 possessions, making them the most efficient offensive team in the league for the last five seasons, per NBA.com. Meanwhile, the Jazz ranked second in the league for points allowed over the last five seasons.
  • The Nuggets are the team of now with a healthy Murray and Porter Jr. The Jazz are the team of the distant future, their fortunes tied up in their 18 first-round draft picks in the next seven years.

The takeaway: Nuggets will stand atop the Western Conference at the end of the season, thanks to a mountain of victories this season against the Jazz (at least John thinks.)

Of note: The Nuggets are only favored by 8 points. Doesn’t sound like the oddsmakers have too much faith in them just yet.

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