The 2017-18 Utah Jazz Schedule is out. This is usually one of my favorite days. Where are we going? When do I get to see friends on the road? What cities are we in with great restaurants? While the NBA has done a nice job limiting the brutal stretches (no more 4 games in 5 nights) I don’t feel like this is a great schedule for the Utah Jazz.
When I look at the schedule I look for the following stretches, confidence builders, murderers row, exhaustion, imbalance and who do you play just 3 times?
Toughest Schedule in the NBA
I have to believe the Jazz have the toughest schedule in the NBA. They play in the West. They are not one of the best in the West so they play all of them (Warriors and Spurs can’t play themselves). The killer is this year the Jazz play only 3 games against the Mavericks, Kings, Grizzlies, and Lakers. All four teams are projected below the Jazz in the Western Conference.
Kevin Pelton, ESPN Insider, projected the Jazz to win 44.7 games this year before the schedule came out. Not getting 4 games against the aforementioned four teams could very easily drop the number by 2 or 3 games. The Jazz were projected 8th in the West with the Pelicans 9th at 44.2 and Blazers at 43.8. The imbalance in the schedule may very well be the difference between the playoffs and just out of the playoffs.
Believing you are good is often a large part of the battle. Can you find a part of the schedule where the team can get hot and believe in itself? It is hard to find an extended stretch of confidence builders when you play in the Western Conference.
This season the best stretch might be the opening of the season. The Jazz open the year playing 10 of their first 14 games at home. After the 4th game of the season the Jazz play just 2 of their next 16 games against team Pelton projected to win 48 or more games. The Jazz opening 21 games only 5 of the games are against teams that project to over 48 wins, 3 in the first 4 games.
The Jazz 2nd confidence builder stretch happens from March 3rd to March 22nd. The Jazz play 9 of 10 games against teams that are projected to have losing records by Pelton. The New Orleans Pelicans are the only team in this stretch who is projected to win over 35 games.
The Jazz better take advantage of these two stretches because when it is brutal it is seriously brutal.
The Jazz have two stretches where almost all of their really tough games happen. Looking at games against teams projected to win 48 or more games the Jazz get crushed twice. From Dec 4th to Dec 30th the Jazz play 14 games and 11 of them are against teams projected by Pelton to win at least 48 games. Two of the exceptions are really good, Dec 9th at Milwaukee and Dec 26th at Denver. The Jazz may only be favored in 1 of 14 games from Dec 4th to the 28th.
Unfortunately, the close to the Jazz season will be brutal as well. When some teams are no longer putting out full rosters the Jazz close with 13 games and 10 of them are against teams likely battling for playoff position.
The key stretch of the season will be how the Jazz are mentally after the brutal end of 2017. From Jan 1st to March 22nd the Jazz play only 7 of 35 games against the top teams in the NBA. You can make the NBA playoffs beating the teams you should.
In the midst of the December murderer’s row the Jazz play a 6 game road trip from the 8th of December to the 20th and return home to a back to back v. San Antonio. Before heading back out on the road for a Denver and Golden State back to back after Christmas.
Another tough stretch is the Jazz leave on Jan 4th for a 4 game 8 day road trip. (These used to be shorter but the expanded schedule means more days on the road) then the Jazz come home for one game, go back to Sacramento before home for a home back to back and then leave the next day for a 3 game 6 day road trip. The Jazz will be home for dinner for 3 nights from Jan 4th to the 27th. Then the Jazz play one game for 7 days before going back on the road.
Not that you care, but I miss my daughter’s birthdays and almost all of my kids ski races.
Despite that, I can’t wait to get going. This is going to be a streaky season if the schedule is an indicator. Fun times ahead. By the way, Oct 18th is just 2 months away.