2012 NBA Off Season Preview: Utah Jazz

Utah Jazz

2011-2012 Record: 36-30, 3rd in Northwest Division
Stat Leaders: Al Jefferson, 19.2 ppg. Al Jefferson, 9.6 rpg. Devin Harris, 5.0 apg. Al Jefferson, 1.7 bpg.

Depth Chart

C - Al Jefferson, Enes Kanter
PF - Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors
SF - Gordon Hayward
SG - Alec Burks, Raja Bell
PG - Devin Harris, Earl Watson, Jamaal Tinsley (TO)

Unrestricted Free Agents: GF CJ Miles, GF Josh Howard, F DeMarre Carroll, F Jeremy Evans, G Blake Ahearn

If there is anybody that looks like he was born to play for the
Utah Jazz, it is this guy.
The Good: There is a lot to like here if you are a Jazz fan. The team is very young, deep and talented, and thanks to a late charge they were able to make the playoffs a year or two ahead of schedule. Of course, that will show up in "The Bad" also, so read on. Any team would love to have one or two of the big men the Jazz employ. Al Jefferson remains a very efficient and solid offensive player, who will give you 20 points per game with a variety of around the basket moves, and gobble up ten rebounds. Paul Millsap creates a variety of matchup problems on the offensive end. Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors are two great young big men to build around. Favors especially had a coming out party of sorts during the Spurs vs. Jazz playoff round. Gordon Hayward continues to develop offensively and they are bringing along Alec Burks slowly.

The Bad: All I read are people putting a positive spin on making the playoffs and getting swept by the Spurs. They are calling this a "learning experience". Uhh, I disagree. The team probably would have been much better off missing the playoffs and keeping their draft pick, but you can't fault a team for trying to make the playoffs. Still though, that really hurts the development of the Jazz. Not as much as the coin flip last Friday though that awarded the Warriors the 7th overall pick. If they had lost the coin flip that pick would have gone to Utah. Now the Jazz will have to hope one of those teams below Golden St. lucks up and lands a top three pick in the lottery. So Utah went from having two of the top 14 picks in a very deep draft to none. That hurts. As far as on the court problems, Devin Harris continued his descent into mediocrity. He was once considered a great up and coming point guard, but since being dealt to the Nets for Jason Kidd, he has regressed. Now he is clearly the weak link on this Utah team. There is also not much back court depth to speak of. The team could really use another shooter to go along with Gordon Hayward.

Key Free Agents: CJ Miles has been a long time contributor for Utah and is the longest tenured Jazz player. He never developed into the starter the team hoped he would but is a nice player to have as a backup and should be resigned. DeMarre Caroll has bounced around since being a bad first round pick a few years ago. He ended up starting for the Jazz in the playoffs. The team likes his intangibles and will probably want him back. Jeremy Evans has hops, as evidenced by winning the worst slam dunk contest in NBA history, but doesn't have much game. They might want to resign and continue to develop him.

Draft Possibilities: Like I said, say goodbye to a pick in the 12 through 14 range. There is still a possibility they could have a pick at number 8 through 10. If they do land that pick, I think they would look long and hard at back court help. If they want to find their point guard of the future, they will have to reach in the top ten to draft one of them. Damian Lillard and Kendall Marshall are both going to be lottery picks because point guards are at such a premium right now. The same way that guys like Ryan Tannehill and Christian Ponder go in the top 12 of drafts. Lillard is more of a scorer, Marshall more of a distributor. The Jazz should have their pick at 8, depending on which direction they want to go. Jeremy Lamb is also an option if Utah thinks he is the best player available. He will offer more scoring ability then Alec Burks.

Rebuilding, Contending or Status Quo?: I would say status quo. Coming off a playoff appearance, I wouldn't say they are rebuilding, but they need to continue to develop their young guys. I also wonder if this core is good enough to get the job done. There is quite a bit of talent here, but can they play any defense with Jefferson in the middle? Jefferson and Millsap are both offensive guys. I would trade one of them and make Derrick Favors a starter next season. Favors offers more defensive potential then those two other guys. Other then that, they just need to continue to give Favors, Kanter, Hayward and Burks some minutes. The future is very bright in Utah, but not as bright as it could have been had a few things played out differently.

All logos courtesy of http://www.sportslogos.net/

Jonathan Carrano

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