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Title track: T95
Fan relations: 32
Stadium experience: 48
Bang for the buck: 70
Change from last year: +28
Utah made an impressive 28-spot climb in our rankings, landing at No. 40. Despite a third-place finish in the Northwest Division, the Jazz didn't make the playoffs for the second year in a row. Still, they improved by double digits in nearly every category in the Ultimate Standings.
Why the Jazz hands, you ask? It could be because Utah finished as the NBA's No. 1 defense and with the sixth-best record after the All-Star break, thanks to a roster filled with promise -- from newbie Dante Exum to veteran Gordon Haywood, who became one of the best small forwards in the league. So they ranked 43rd in the players category, up 44 spots. Or it could be because first-year head coach Quin Snyder led nine rookies to a win total that improved by 13 over 2013-14. And of course, it could be because a top-half arena comes in below the league average in every expense. You'd vote your team 21st overall in affordability, too, if you could get a hot dog for $3.50.
The Jazz's lowest-ranked category is title track, where they're tied for 95th with the Jacksonville Jaguars. That's not surprising for a team that hasn't made the conference finals since 2007 and has gone home before the postseason in three straight years. Last season, its streaky nature (six straight wins here, four straight losses there) kept the team under .500 for the second straight year. Then, just when it appeared there might be plenty of hope for the future, Exum tore his ACL while playing for Australia. As it stands now, the Jazz likely need another season before they're playing in May.
After a year under new coach Snyder, Utah shot up 69 spots in coaching, from 113th to a fresh 38th. As mentioned, the Jazz had the best defense in the league last year -- and that's after just one season under Snyder's leadership. His experience (he has worked for four NBA teams, a European squad and two colleges), smarts (he has a JD from Duke, as well as an MBA) and skill in player development (which he headed up for the Sixers in 2010-11) have already worked small wonders for the Jazz. He led them from fifth to third in the Northwest, and he just might keep them moving up the standings -- and these rankings.