As the NBA season fast approaches, Right Down Euclid will be previewing all 30 NBA teams, breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of each franchise. This preview will focusing on the Utah Jazz, who last year had a record of 43-39 and did not make the playoffs.
Team: Utah Jazz
Coach: Tyrone Corbin
General Manager: Dennis Lindsey
2012-2013 Record: 43-39
Place in Conference: 9th in the West
Leading Scorer: Al Jefferson (17.8 PPG)
Key Additions: Draft picks Trey Burke and Rudy Gobert. Free agents Brandon Rush, Richard Jefferson and Andris Biederins
Key Losses: Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Randy Foye, Mo Williams, Jamaal Tinsley
After spending the past few seasons hovering right around the playoff bubble, the Jazz made news when they did not resign either of their free agent top scorers, Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap. This seemed indicative of the Jazz entering a rebuilding phase, with their rebuilding efforts built around young big men Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors. Both Kanter and Favors were former lottery picks, but both struggled to find playing time behind Jefferson and Millsap. Now that they no longer have to compete with them for playing time, many expect a breakout year for them. The Jazz also got rid of Randy Foye and Mo Williams, both high-volume shooters at the guard position. In the draft, they pulled two deals to get arguably the best point guard in the draft (Trey Burke) and one of the best physical specimens in the draft (Rudy Gobert), generating one of the most successful drafts in the league. With the young talent, plus the fast-developing Gordon Hayward, Utah seems to have found their teams’ identity, and should develop into a good team in time.
I believe that the moves made by the management in the offseason was one of the strengths of the team; they were simply hovering at around average in the West, and with the team they had, they likely weren’t going to move up much. So, they stocked up on young talent by drafting Burke and Gobert. They also freed up spots for the draft picks, (as well as Kanter, and Favors) by getting rid of Jefferson, Millsap, Foye, and Williams. Although they may not be competing for a playoff spot this year, they have built a solid, talented nucleus for years to come. In addition, I believe in getting rid of Foye and Williams, they not only freed up play time for Burke, but also played to the teams’ identity. Now they are building around Gordon Hayward and their big men (Kanter, Favors, Gobert) instead of Foye and Williams are shoot-first guards. Allowing Burke the reigns to the offense allows them to develop a point guard capable of feeding the ball effectively. Hayward is getting better year after year, and seems poised to make a move into the upper-echelon of players in the league. And, if nothing else, Jeremy Evans should dazzle once again at the slam-dunk contest.
When you lose your teams’ top two scorers, you’re definitely going to take a step back. Despite Hayward’s improvement, the Jazz lack a true first-option scorer, and much of the faith in the Jazz’s present and future rests on unproven, young talent. If projects such as Kanter and the ultra-raw Gobert don’t show improvement or get injured, this team could be stuck in mediocrity for a long time. The team is not very deep and the Jazz could find themselves in even bigger trouble if any of their young pieces gets injured. Even if the team stays healthy, with no one in the starting lineup being over 23 years old (I’m presuming it will be Burke, Alec Burks, Hayward, Favors, Kanter) it remains to be seen how such a young nucleus will be able to play together and handle adversity.
2013-2014 Season Predictions
The Jazz probably won’t contend for a playoff spot this year. The Western Conference is strong as usual, and this team is just too inexperienced to contend. However, I love what they are doing in building a team for the future, and I believe that Kanter and Favors are developing superstars. I also believe Trey Burke will contend for the Rookie of the Year award. With that being said, I predict around 25 – 30 wins for Utah and that they will finish 14th in the West.