The unfair comparison between the Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz

Phoenix Suns, Chris Paul. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns, Chris Paul. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images) /

After years of regular season success that ultimately led to very little from a playoff perspective, the Utah Jazz have hit full rebuild mode this offseason. With the Phoenix Suns remaining in contention on the other end of the spectrum, can the Utah pathway provide a cautionary tale for Phoenix?

The simple answer is yes, though that’s not to state that the Suns are in the same scenario as the Jazz were. While there are clear comparative facets, it’s not a major indication that the Suns are heading for the same kind of unfulfilling and disappointing journey.

Comparisons between the Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns are valid on the surface, yet further analysis would suggest the latter are in a much better position.

Zach Lowe and Chris Herring made note of the Suns-Jazz comparison in a recent episode of The Lowe Post, identifying the similarities of regular season success and dreadful playoff exits.

"“They (Phoenix) took a really nasty punch that they didn’t respond to with the season on the line…it’s kind of like what the Jazz had record wise the year before that”, Herring said."

In response, Lowe took the subject a step further which, in doing so, may lead Suns fans to a sickening gut feel given the way Utah’s era finally played out.

"“The parallels are interesting even further…I thought the Jazz, as we knew them, died in the Clippers series in 2021…I felt like that series was going to linger forever, that it was going to break and fracture their team in some fundamental way. I don’t know if that Mavs game and/or series did that to Phoenix, but it did something and we’re going to learn more about the something that it did when this season starts, when adversity hits."

Phoenix Suns, Donovan Mitchell
Devin Booker and Donovan Mitchell, Phoenix Suns (Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) /

In reflecting on the respective situations, there’s clear reason for optimism if you’re a Suns fan. Firstly, the Suns are already way better than Utah ever were. The Jazz never won 60+ regular season games, and more significantly, they never made it to the Western Conference Finals let alone the NBA Finals.

But that’s history right, so let’s look at the future. Four of Phoenix’s five best players, outside a 37-year-old Chris Paul, will head into 2022-23 at 26 years of age or under. Heading into last season, four of Utah’s five best players entered at 29 years or older (Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, Rudy Gobert and Jordan Clarkson).

While Phoenix should be looking at a roster upgrade ahead of the season, the internal development is there in a way that it never was in Utah. The situations are similar yes, but the capacity to respond is not.

dark. Next. 5 optimistic (but possible) statistical subplots for the Phoenix Suns season

Sure, the Suns have ‘ran it back’ in a similar way the Jazz did prior to last season, but armed with a younger roster and the experience of going deeper in the playoffs, this team is much better equipped to bounce back in a more positive fashion.