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Jazz 2019-20 Schedule: Top Games, Championship Odds and Record Predictions

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistAugust 12, 2019

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) reacts late in the second half during Game 4 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Houston Rockets, Monday, April 22, 2019, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

The Utah Jazz enter the 2019-20 season with higher hopes than at any point since Karl Malone and John Stockton hung up their jerseys in the early 2000s.  

Young star Donovan Mitchell should take a leap as he enters his third year, Rudy Gobert is the two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year, and the front office went about fixing nearly every hole on their roster.

Ricky Rubio, whose skill set never fit in Quin Snyder's system, has been replaced by Mike Conley, a point guard who fits like a glove. Bojan Bogdanovic came over from Utah to space the floor, and Ed Davis signed as an underrated backup big.

The Jazz have all the makings of a great regular-season team. They're deep, have no glaring weaknesses in their starting five and possess versatile talent who bring it every night. There's a legitimate question about how things will hold up in the playoffs when the need for superstar-level talent becomes more of a factor.

The Western Conference is loaded with power couples. The Jazz view themselves as a 2003-04 Pistons-type team, hoping the sum of the parts overcomes the elite talent.

Here's a look at how things should play out after their schedule was released Monday. 

      

2019-20 Details

Season Opener: vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (Oct. 23)

Championship Odds: +1400 (Caesars)

Full Schedule: NBA.com

     

Top Matchups

Memphis Grizzlies (Nov. 15)

The Grizzlies are in the midst of a full-scale rebuild, so this won't carry much intrigue from a basketball standpoint. But Conley was the final holdout from the Grit-and-Grind era in Memphis. He was seemingly headed toward being a franchise lifer before the team's latest iteration at a retooling failed, leaving them with no choice but to send out Marc Gasol at the deadline and Conley this summer.

The reception Conley receives from the Memphis crowd will be nothing short of glowing. He's the only member of that core (assuming we're excluding Rudy Gay) to actually begin his career with the franchise, and he's the Grizzlies' leader in nearly every major category.

Grizzlies owner Robert Pera said earlier this summer that the team plans to retire Conley's No. 11: 

"Mike Conley represented the Grizzlies and the City of Memphis with true heart and class during his 12 seasons. His talent, determination and resilience elevated our team to a perennial playoff contender, and his altruism and sportsmanship helped shape the community-focused nature of our franchise. For his innumerable contributions on the court and in our community, Mike will always be a beloved Memphian. We are proud that Mike's No. 11 jersey will one day be raised to the rafters in FedExForum."

Expect a touching tribute during the game and for Conley to get a rousing ovation every time he touches the ball, even when he goes head-to-head with replacement Ja Morant.

       

Houston Rockets (Jan. 27)

The Rockets have been Utah's playoff nemesis the last two seasons, eliminating the Jazz in a grand total of 10 games. 

That said, these are both far different iterations than their predecessors. These Rockets have moved on from the Chris Paul-James Harden pairing, shipping Paul to Oklahoma City in a blockbuster that reunites Harden and Russell Westbrook.

The Jazz made their aforementioned moves in a roster retooling. Their moves came in part because the Rockets systematically exposed their lack of adaptability each of the last two postseasons.

With Conley in the fold, Mitchell won't be tasked with single-handedly foisting the offense on his shoulders as the shot clock winds. Bogdanovic will solve some of the spacing issues that plagued the offense over a seven-game series.

It's unclear if the Rockets actually got better. The Harden-Westbrook fit seems awkward at best. They're two of the highest usage-rate players in NBA history. Westbrook isn't a consistent shooter, and Harden has become lethal with his off-the-dribble moves, which will be easier to defend with Westbrook on the perimeter.

Watching how the new-look teams fare against one another will be a good barometer of the Jazz's playoff chances.

     

Prediction

While I'm not particularly bullish on the Jazz's playoff chances—I think they're a second-round exit waiting to happen—this team is built for the regular season.

All five of their starters have the capability to be their best player on any given night. There's depth across the roster, a system that breeds consistency in place and a hunger after two disappointing playoff performances.

Winning in the regular season is built on who can bring it night in, night out. The Jazz don't have guys who need to load-manage. Conley should look refreshed after languishing last season in Memphis, and his presence could unlock a new level for Mitchell, who plateaued after a spectacular rookie season. Gobert is a defensive ecosystem to himself and quietly increased his aggressiveness offensively in 2018-19.

The Clippers are the best team in the West, but their two star players (Kawhi Leonard and Paul George) will have their bodies monitored and rested at various points for the playoffs. 

The Jazz are really good everywhere and have a shot at being the top seed in the West.

Record Prediction: 59-23