The Golden State Warriors are currently in third place in the Western Conference.
If the playoffs ended right now, they’ll be taking on the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets would be a welcomed first-round opponent. Even the Luka Doncic-led Mavericks may be an ideal matchup for Golden State.
The Warriors have been in a long-term downward trend, and matching up with the Utah Jazz in the first round could make things go from bad to worse.
While difficult, the Dubs match up better with Denver or Dallas than they do with Utah. The Jazz are in 4th place right now, but there’s potential that, given the 3 and 7 seeds sit 5.5 games apart, teams could get shifted up or down a few spots as the season draws to a close.
The Warriors can put together a death lineup, one that includes players like Andre Iguodala, Otto Porter Jr. and Jonathan Kuminga, but they’re going to be abused on the boards if they are forced to take on Utah.
Even with starting center Kevon Looney in the game, it’d be difficult for the Warriors as he stands just 6-foot-9.
The Jazz have two legit 7-foot centers, both of which play instrumental roles in their rotation. Rudy Gobert is among the best rim protectors in the NBA, and then when the Jazz go to their bench, Hassan Whiteside can come on and fill his place seamlessly.
Utah hasn’t fully put it together this season, but they still sit atop the league in offensive rating and rank fifth in offensive rebounding rate and seventh in defensive rebounding rate.
The Jazz are elite offensively and a dominant rebounding team. If there’s one thing the Warriors may struggle with in the playoffs, it’ll be keeping teams off the glass. The Jazz sit 5th in second-chance points.
Golden State is currently 10th in opponents’ second-chance points, so against most teams, they can keep their offensive rebounding at a minimum. However, against Utah this season, the Warriors have allowed 14.3 offensive rebounds per game.
Golden State is 2-1 against Utah this season, so it has been successful.
But, with guard Donovan Mitchell healthy having helped the Jazz soar up the standings, stopping the Jazz while elite perimeter defender Royce O’Neal on two-time MVP Stephen Curry is easier said than done.
When it comes down to first-round matchups, I’d prefer seeing Golden State take on Denver or Dallas. With all four teams in the mix as the season winds down, any and all options are possible for the Dubs.