The most surprising team in the NBA thus far has been the Utah Jazz.
Over the offseason, the Jazz dove headfirst into a rebuild.
Utah was heading for the bottom of the NBA standings.
And yet, through 13 games, they sit in first place in the vaunted Western Conference.
Ahead of teams like the Phoenix Suns, Denver Nuggets, and Los Angeles Clippers.
They have been the feel-good story to start the year, but are they legitimate contenders moving forward?
Jazz Focused On Future
The short answer is no, the Jazz are not real contenders.
Teams rarely exceed expectations the year after losing one star player much less two star players.
That the Jazz are doing exactly that feels unlikely to be sustained.
Conley and Clarkson especially given they are proven commodities who can influence winning basketball.
Lauri Markkanen may also play himself onto the trade block.
Jazz are the first NBA team to reach 10 wins 🔥
Lauri Markkanen: 32 PTS | 8 REB | 6 3PM pic.twitter.com/yZDppDfUNF
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 10, 2022
He is an early season All-Star candidate, posting per-game averages of 22.7 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 2.5 assists while shooting 52.7% from the field and 34.1% from deep on 6.3 attempts per game.
Markkanen is still only 25 years old, but if the Jazz can fetch a premium return for him, they may do so.
Utah has beaten quality teams but do not expect the winning ways to continue.
Mitchell and Gobert were traded away to win in the future – not the present.
Generational Prospects In The 2023 Draft
One of the reasons why Utah chose this past offseason to begin its rebuild is the 2023 draft class.
There are two players who are atop every team’s draft board – Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson.
In nearly any other draft, Henderson would be a clear-cut top choice.
As a 17-year-old, Henderson averaged 14.7 points, 4.9 assists, and 4.7 rebounds in the G-League.
He has drawn comparisons to Ja Morant thanks to his explosive athleticism and passing chops.
A potential Ja Morant-level player being locked into the two slot shows how talented Wembanyama is.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski labeled him “the greatest prospect in NBA Draft history.”
Nearly all scouts and front-office executives consider him the best prospect since LeBron James.
Best game of the season for future No. 1 pick Victor Wembanyama in France with 33 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks. Completely dominated on both ends to help Metropolitans 92 to a sixth straight victory and stay in second place. pic.twitter.com/xgHMHLQvXw
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) November 4, 2022
Even James himself said Wembanyama is “like an alien”.
The French prospect is 7-foot-2 and 230 pounds but moves like a guard.
He is developing into a talented marksman from deep who can also work in the post and take guys off the dribble.
Wembanyama is also a menace on defense, with the size and anticipation to protect the rim while having the fluidity too defend the perimeter.
He is seemingly a prospect that could turn a franchise around overnight.
The Jazz will do everything they can to ensure they are in a position to grab at least one of those players.