With one game left before the All-Star break, the Utah Jazz own the best record in the NBA at 27-8. Utah sits 3.5 games clear of its closest competition and has put up fantastic numbers thus far, while leading the league in point differential (+9.3). After this phenomenal first half, the Jazz would seem to be clear NBA title favorites but, according to the odds they aren't. So don't people believe this team can win a championship?
The Jazz are led by a pair of stars in Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. The duo has worked out its differences after a feud bubbled up last year. Both guys signed big money, long-term extensions over the offseason and will likely be tied together for a long time. So far this season, they've shown they have gotten past their differences -- at least on the court.
Gobert and Mitchell lead a squad that currently boasts six players averaging double figures in points each night. The Jazz also have four major contributors hitting better than 40 percent from 3-point range, while both Mitchell (38.0 percent) and Jordan Clarkson (37.2 percent) are hitting at a decent clip as well. This team can shoot and the defense is anchored by Gobert, one the the NBA's best rim protectors.
The Jazz currently have a great top eight to complement Mitchell and Gobert. Mike Conley is 33 but showing how valuable he can still be in the NBA. Bojan Bogdanovic -- who missed the Orlando bubble with a wrist injury -- has been solid. Joe Ingles is hitting a career-high 45.5 percent of his 3-point shots. Clarkson is averaging 18.2 points per game and is a Sixth Man of the Year contender. Royce O'Neale is having a career-year and Derrick Favors has been solid in his return to the franchise.
Perhaps most impressive, the Jazz currently rank third in the NBA in offensive rating (117.0), and second in defensive rating (107.9). Most importantly, net rating of 9.1 leads the league by a wide margin. So if that's the case why are they not usually considered among the four top NBA title contenders? The Los Angeles Lakers, Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks still often get listed above the Jazz as title favorites on oddsmaking sites.
There are reasons to believe the Jazz may not be able to take home the title this year. All of those other teams listed have more dynamic stars than Utah does. The Lakers, Clippers and Nets also boast leaders with championship experience, while the Bucks have Giannis Antetokounmpo, who some would argue is the best player on the planet. It's also worth noting, the Lakers would likely be challenging Utah for the best record in the Western Conference if Anthony Davis was healthy. When (or if) he comes back, things might change.
The Jazz are a really good team, but we've seen good teams dominate the regular season and fall apart in the playoffs countless times throughout NBA history. Mitchell is a no-doubt All-Star, but he's never elevated himself to that superstar level. Leading Utah to a title would likely do that, but we just haven't seen it before.
Until this roster has success in the postseason, it will be doubted. The Western Conference is loaded with stacked contenders, so regular season success won't convince anyone of anything.
The Jazz could certainly win an NBA championship if they play the way they have during the first half of the season. It will be exceptionally difficult to do so in the Western Conference.