OKC Thunder – Utah Jazz Series: Round Table Part 1

Jerami Grant, Russell Westbrook, Paul George, OKC Thunder (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jerami Grant, Russell Westbrook, Paul George, OKC Thunder (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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NEW YORK, NY – DECEMBER 16: Carmelo Anthony
NEW YORK, NY – DECEMBER 16: Carmelo Anthony /

Question 2:

In the most bizarre closing day of NBA history, not one series pairing in either conference was established. Because of this fact, two days prior to season end there were seven potential first round opponents the OKC Thunder could play. By end of Tuesday the number was reduced to three (Rockets, Blazers, Jazz). Ironically the first team erased from the list was the squad many hoped OKC would meet the Golden State Warriors. With the bracket finalized the only way the teams will meet is if they both reach the Conference Finals.

Arguably, that meeting will have fans drooling, but to get there the Thunder will need to first get past the Utah Jazz. Varying opinions existed over which team the Thunder aligned best with. So, how happy are you the Thunder drew the Jazz and would you rather play a different team.

Wil Harrington:

Given the options, the Utah Jazz are not a bad draw. They had a pretty hot second half post-All-Star break, but so did the Blazers, who seem to have OKC’s number this season. Utah lacks star-power, with no All-Stars on their squad. Those things do not always matter, but this time of year, they typically seem to. As great as Donovan Mitchell has been – give me the rookie in the playoffs.

Alex Mcewen:

Despite Utah’s 30-8 record since mid-January, this scribe believes the Jazz are a fine matchup for the Thunder. Among the first-round opponents, the Thunder could have taken on the Jazz could be the most favorable.

The reason the Thunder fares well in a matchup with the Jazz is that the two teams play a similar style. Although the teams are constructed vastly different, they are both in the bottom half of the league in pace. The Thunder rank 16th in pace (99.07), whereas the Jazz rank 25th in pace (97.78).

Noah Schulte:

This might be the worst possible match-up the Thunder could have drawn. Not only do the Jazz have the proper personnel to match up the Thunder in a series, but they’re coming in as one of the hottest teams in the NBA, having propelled themselves from the 10th to the 5th seed in a bloodbath of a Western Conference. They have arguably the best defender in the NBA in Rudy Gobert, a rising star in Donovan Mitchell, and a brick-wall defense which could easily stifle the Thunder offensively. Any other team would have been better.

Stephen Dolan:

I don’t think either team is happy with this matchup. The Thunder have a tendency to fall in love with the midrange shot and aren’t good at shooting that shot, while the Jazz have a giant with brooms for arms as their rim protector. Meanwhile, the Thunder have maybe the only center capable of beating Gobert with physicality.

Adams is also a master at defending the pick-and-roll, playing a very aggressive coverage on the ball-handler while also preventing passes to the roller, which mitigates Gobert’s excellent screening. Oh, and the Thunder have two bonafide Playoff superstars. With the exceptions of Houston and Golden State, I’m pretty sure both teams would rather play anybody else.

Jeremy Lambert:

There are no easy teams in the West. Of the seven potential opponents, the Jazz would have been third on my list in terms of who I didn’t want to see. Only the Rockets and Trail Blazers would have ranked higher. Their defense is stifling, Donovan Mitchell is legit, and Joe Ingles is probably the guy I’m most afraid of. This is not an easy matchup and I’d be shocked if it doesn’t go at least six.

Sinjin Snope:

Although playing the Steph Curry-less Warriors would have been a fun and intense playoff series, I think the OKC Thunder drawing the Utah Jazz will end up being the most beneficial outcome for this team. Yes, the Jazz come in to the playoffs on a torrid stream of high level play, but they are still very young and inexperienced when it comes to postseason play.

Ricky Rubio and Donovan Mitchell will be making their playoff debuts against the Thunder, which could end up hurting the young and talented team. Other teams such as the Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets would be a much tougher opponent in my opinion for the Thunder than Utah will be.

Tamberlyn Richardson:

Despite the Blazers swoon to end the season they were my last choice. They simply own the Thunder so avoiding them all together is preferential. As for the Rockets, I believe OKC can match up to them and with Luc Mbah a Moute out for what appears to be at least the first round it made them more vulnerable early.

Still Utah was likely the best option despite blazing post All-Star break. Every team served up some issues and if they had been available I liked the Pelicans matchup.  Ultimately though to win the title they’ll have to beat four teams, so bring on the Jazz.

Jordan Buckamneer:

With everything still up in the air, Oklahoma City went from a possible first-round meeting with the Golden State Warriors to having home court advantage against Utah. Although we all missed out on a homecoming for Kevin Durant, OKC fans should feel relieved (but not safe) for drawing the Jazz.

Instead of playing the defending champions in a series without home court advantage, the Thunder now get to take on a team they beat in the season series 3-1. Utah is a somewhat of a tribute to Quin Snyder, as they’ve made the playoffs in a brutal conference led by rookie Donovan Mitchell and werer without Rudy Gobert for 26 games due to a knee injury.

Still, Utah has the talent to make some noise. Ricky Rubio seems to have found a shooting stroke, Joe Ingles is a quality two-way player and Jae Crowder is a versatile defender off the bench. They aren’t the defending champion super team, but they can play.

Austin Sternlicht:

Honestly, I don’t think the Thunder could have picked a better path to the West Finals. Utah is the ideal team for them to play in the first round. While the Jazz rank second overall in team defense, they are 19th in offense. Other than rookie Donovan Mitchell, nobody on the Jazz really scares you from an offensive standpoint. Every other playoff team has at least one elite offense player. Utah’s lack of scoring will be a major problem, especially if the Thunder play the defense they are capable of.