Ben Anderson: ESPN, Las Vegas disagree on Jazz season projections — but not by much

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz went into the offseason as one of the NBA’s hottest teams. Despite losing to the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference semifinals in just five games, the Jazz have one of the league’s most promising young rosters.

Right now, the Western Conference appears to belong to the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors for the next few seasons, and the Jazz will have to position themselves well competitively to stay relevant in the talent-laden West.

One of the keys for the Jazz will be to continue their postseason success like they have the last two seasons. In both seasons, the Jazz won the first round series against higher-ranked teams. To do that, though, they will likely have to avoid both Golden State and the Houston Rockets in the first round of the playoffs, which likely means avoiding the seventh and eighth seed in the West.

In the past week, both ESPN’s Kevin Pelton and a Las Vegas Sports Book have released their season projections for the Jazz for the upcoming season, and both should be encouraging for Jazz fans.

The ESPN model

ESPN’s model is far more flattering for the Jazz. It has them gaining five more wins from last season’s final, and finishing with 53 wins in the regular season. That would be the most wins for the Jazz since 2010, the last full season with Deron Williams on the roster.

More impressively, Pelton has the Jazz finishing with the second best record in the West — 0.4 wins ahead of the Rockets. The Jazz would matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans in the first round before a likely rematch with the Rockets, should the Jazz once again advance past the first round.

This type of season would keep the Jazz in the league’s limelight, going into a stacked 2019 off-season where the Jazz are primed to be major players in free-agency. Realistically, Pelton’s projection might be the best-care scenario for the Jazz next season.

The Las Vegas model

The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has a less rosy projection for the Jazz. Vegas set the Jazz over/under at 48.5 wins, which is tied for the fourth best record in the West. It would pit the Jazz against the LeBron James-led Los Angeles Lakers in the playoffs.

While this projection might lower the Jazz's odds of advancing, it would give them a high profile opponent to match up against in the playoffs. A first-round victory over James would make the Jazz even more attractive. But, as most Eastern Conference teams would say, betting against James early in the playoffs is simply a bad idea regardless of the experience of his teammates.

The Jazz didn’t make any major changes this off-season, minus replacing Jonas Jerebko with Georges Niang, who was on the roster last year to end the season, and adding Grayson Allen through the draft. Despite these minor tweaks, projection models still favor the Jazz to have a successful 2018-19 season, and competing for home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

![Ben Anderson](\.jpg?filter=ksl/65x65)
About the Author: Ben Anderson ------------------------------

Ben Anderson is a sports contributor for Follow him on Twitter @BensHoops. Listen to him 2-6 p.m., Monday through Friday with Kyle Gunther on ESPN 700.

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