NBA: How each non-LA playoff team can win the Western Conference

Utah Jazz Donovan Mitchell (Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports)
Utah Jazz Donovan Mitchell (Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Utah Jazz
Utah Jazz huddle (Russell Isabella-USA TODAY Sports) /

How the Utah Jazz can win the West 

Utah must control its transition defense

The Utah Jazz appear to be in the driver seat to get the 1-seed and clinch homecourt throughout the playoffs. The Jazz have the best halfcourt defense, an elite halfcourt offense, elite best defensive rebounding and the best 3-point shooting offense in the league. But one hole that teams could expose with Utah is their transition defense.

The Jazz is 15th in the league in transition defense, giving up 1.13 points per transition opportunity. While the Jazz only allow teams to play in the transition 15 percent of the time, that number has been climbing a bit over the past month as teams are strategically trying to get the ball up the court before Rudy Gobert can get back to guard the paint.

The Jazz are very undersized at the guard position and is not one described as of the “athletic” teams in the league, which makes them vulnerable for teams with athletic guards to push it up the floor. The Phoenix Suns got the Jazz earlier this month by getting early transition offense, and the Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook-led Washington Wizards cooked the Jazz with pace and guard size both times they played this season.

Utah must keep teams out of the transition (less than 15 percent of the time) if they want to beat out the West. Utah can do this by continued elite rebounding, attacking the offensive glass and eliminating those pesky live-ball turnovers. If teams can’t score on Utah in transition, they might be too tough to beat.

“2020” version of Bojan Bogdanovic must return

Utah’s offense has been all sorts of elite, both with their shooting and one-on-one scoring. Most guys on this team are thriving offensively – everyone except for Bojan Bogdonovic.

The 6-foot-8 wing is one the best offensive scorers in the league and a dead-eye shooter from around the arc. This was on full display last year with the Jazz. During where he averaged 20.1 points per game and shot 41 percent from 3.

This season hasn’t been the same – Bojan just hasn’t been able to find his old form since returning from wrist surgery. While guys like Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson and Joe Ingles have found their niche and are scoring at will, Bogdanovic is struggling to find his spots for scoring. This could be related to his age, the injury, and the fact that teams have decided to take away his early transition 3.

When the playoffs start, defenses will undoubtedly try to shut down the Mitchell/Conley/Ingles + Gobert pick-and-roll by hedging picks and getting weakside paint help from defenders. If they do, Bojan will need to be ready to knock down open 3’s or attack the rim.

When he’s on his game, Bogdanovic really forces teams to “pick their poison” with how they defend Utah. And if he can score at his 2020 efficiency, other teams might not have a chance to keep up.