NBA League Pass Picks: Utah Jazz at Phoenix Suns

Utah at Phoenix

Time: 9 PM CT (NBA LP)

Spread: UTA -8

Total: 221.5

Odds c/o 5dimes

PHX TEAM NOTES:

The Phoenix Suns are just 16-52 this season, possessing a bottom-third defense that allows 116.3 points per game while the Suns manage to score just 106.5 itself, ranking worst in the Association. The point differential is -9.8.

Phoenix has a few great top talents, but it cannot seem to find much rhythm or continuity on the defensive end.

Devin Booker is averaging 24.3 points per game and 6.8 assists, but his efficiency has been questionable with a PER Of just 18.4 due to his 45 percent shooting and 31 percent three-point shooting.

TJ Warren has rounded into one of the better undersized forwards in the league, but his tough defense has gone unnoticed on a team so poor in that respect. Warren also averages 18 points per game in just over 30 minutes a night.

The Suns have been quite pleased with No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton. Ayton looks seasoned and is a good rim protector. He is averaging 16.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.77 blocks/steals per game. The Suns ideally would like him to swat more shots, but his overall defense has been solid for a rookie.

Outside of that top-3, the Suns start to fall off….

The biggest hole is at point guard where Phoenix recently cut journeyman Isaiah Canaan. And Josh Jackson has fallen out of the starting lineup, seeing just 17 minutes a game to average seven points per contest. The Suns have some nice pieces intact at the top of the roster but need depth, a point guard, and defensive identity, where it currently has none save its sieve identity in giving up so many while scoring so few itself. Phoenix is a disaster entirely, but it will try to build around its two studs– Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton–with yet another high draft pick in 2019.

UTA TEAM NOTES:

The Utah Jazz is 37-29 on the season and has won four of its last six games. The Jazz have lost two straight and three of its last four. It would seem now would be a good time to regain the momentum it had before the postseason begins, but with just a 3.1-point differential, Utah is still searching for more offense to bolster its top defense. Utah holds opponents to just 106.8 points per game while playing a slower more grind-it-out pace than most of the Association.

After Donovan Mitchell’s outstanding rookie season, many were expecting the Jazz to continue to rise in the West, but Mitchell has been mostly the same player, as the Jazz has been mostly the same team, albeit slightly worse than it was a year ago. Utah is still seeded No. 6 in the West and a serious threat, but the team has failed to take that “next step.”

Mitchell is averaging 20.7 points per game, but he has shot just 41.4 percent from the field and just 31.6 percent from behind the arc. Rudy Gobert has seemingly maximized what offensive potential he had, and the center is averaging 14.7 points per game while serving as the Jazz’s defensive anchor. Ricky Rubio is still the same player he has been over his entire career: astoundingly average. The Jazz has a deep and strong rotation, but without Mitchell making a quantum leap over his outstanding rookie season, Utah has remained in mostly the same place it has been: Good, but not good enough, in the Western Conference.

Rookie Grayson Allen has provided precious little and appeared in just 17 games. Georges Niang has done close to nothing after looking like a potential star in the developmental league. Dante Exum never has blossomed and appears to be little more than a career backup with outstanding (yet deceiving flashes). It all goes back to Mitchell, and he is the one with the chance to make an ascent to a star-level player.

Will he? Or will Utah remain in the limbo it appears to be after its strong 50-plus win season a year ago?

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