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2011-2012 Utah Jazz Season Preview
Posted By HOOPSWORLD On December 24, 2011 @ 4:00 pm In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
These are not your parents’ Utah Jazz. With Carlos Boozer in Chicago, Deron Williams and now Mehmet Okur in New Jersey, and Coach Jerry Sloan retired, the Jazz is looking to find a new identity and minimize a rebuilding process with a solid mix of promising young talent and sage veterans. The trade of Williams netted the team Devin Harris, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, but is that enough for Coach Tyrone Corbin to take the Jazz back to the playoffs, somewhere they have gone four of the last five seasons?
HOOPSWORLD takes a look at the 2011-2012 Utah Jazz.:
|Five Guys Think…|
Considering what they lost over the course of the last year, the Jazz couldn’t actually be much better off. There’s a tremendous mix of young and veteran talent that is quite intriguing. The only question is how well they can play together. For instance, inside they may need to get rid of a veteran or two to free up time for the younger guys. At the point guard position, though, they could be just fine if they stand pat. These are all decisions that the Jazz management need to make in the near future. In the meantime, they’ll get a good idea of what they have in Ty Corbin at head coach from watching how he deals with the situation. A third place finish isn’t very realistic for this team in the Northwest Division, but they should set their sights higher.
3rd Place, Northwest Division
- Yannis Koutroupis
The Jazz are definitely a team in transition, still picking up the pieces after the unexpected retirement of Jerry Sloan and the subsequent trade of Deron Williams. There are question marks at basically every position in Utah, from the enigmatic Devin Harris to the collection of inconsistent front court players. At best, the Jazz are the fourth-best team in their division, but if the Timberwolves catch fire under Rick Adelman, the Jazz would find themselves on the bottom looking up.
4th Place – Northwest Division
- Bill Ingram
While the Deron Williams trade did “net” the Jazz some nice pieces, this is still a very young team that currently has a bit of an identity crisis. This will be the first full year without miracle worker Jerry Sloan, and the team doesn’t seem like they’re ready to start immediately proving doubters wrong. The frontcourt rotation is very, very solid—Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors, Al Jefferson, and Enes Kanter form a very interesting combination of experience and potential. After that, though, things get weird. Devin Harris’s single All-Star appearance in 2009 is starting to seem like it was a fluke, and instead of embracing their ostensible youth movement by letting their kids play, Utah went out and signed guys like Jamaal Tinsley and Josh Howard. There is talented youth here (Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks come to mind first), but will they get the opportunity to play? Will having the veterans make that big a difference in the win column, anyway? I’m not so optimistic.
5th Place, Northwest Division
- Joel Brigham
The Utah Jazz has assembled an extremely talented frontcourt. Veterans Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap have proven they have the ability to put up solid numbers throughout their careers. In addition to the veterans, second year forward Derrick Favors and rookie Enes Kanter have showed flashes of potential in their own right. The Jazz will feature a solid mix of veteran leadership in the backcourt with Devin Harris and Raja Bell. Look for rookie shooting guard Alec Burks to work his way into the rotation eventually. The postseason will be out of reach but there is talent in Utah, especially in the frontcourt, which may be used to acquire additional pieces.
4th Place, Northwest Division
- Lang Greene
The Utah Jazz are stockpiling young talent and may be a very scary team in a few years. Until then, don’t expect the Jazz to compete in the stacked Northwest Division. Utah is heading in the right direction, with talented young players at every position. Their roster features plenty of lottery picks who have potential including Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks. Favors could be poised for a breakout season, especially considering how impressive he looked during the team’s first preseason game. He finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds, showing his ability to take over a game. The Jazz will be an exciting team to watch, but they have some growing to do before they’ll make a playoff push.
4th Place, Northwest Division
- Alex Kennedy
|Top Of The List|
Top Offensive Player: Al Jefferson – If the NBA was only about offense then Jefferson would have been an All-Star by now. He averaged 18.6 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocked shots while shooting 50% from the field last season, but despite the blocked shot numbers he gives up nearly as many points on defense. He has a nice short-range jumper and the ability to create space to get off shots in just about any situation. At 76%, he also posted the best free throw shooting percentage of his career in 2010-11.
Top Defensive Player: Raja Bell – When your best defensive player is 35 years old, there is a problem. Utah has plenty of players capable of defense, but few who dedicate themselves to playing it well. Defensive effort is what Bell has made a career with (thought the 41% three-point shooting doesn’t hurt) and it’s going to be his job to push his younger teammates to exert the same amount of effort on that end of the floor as they do on offense.
Top Playmaker: Devin Harris – Last season between New Jersey and Utah Harris dished out 7.1 assists a game, the highest single-season average of his seven-year career. One of the league’s quickest up and down the floor, Harris can produce a tempo to match the athletic talent the Jazz have amassed with Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward and now Alec Burks. He controls the game and has shown the ability to lead players to spots on the floor where they can be successful.
Top Clutch Player: Gordon Hayward – Surprised by the choice? How about if you knew he shot 49% from the field and 47% from three-point range last season? If the Jazz needs a deep jumper to pull closer, force a tie, or take the lead, there is no better player on the roster to take that shot than Hayward.
The Unheralded Player: Paul Millsap – Every year Millsap’s game gets a little better and more well-rounded, but still he doesn’t seem to be really appreciated. With the Deron Williams trade last February it became clear Derrick Favors was going to get every opportunity to excel and Millsap may start this season on the bench – after starting all 76 games he played last season. He’s not going to complain, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be happy either and his name is going to be in trade rumors all year long. His reasonable contract could return the Jazz another rookie scale talent, but he’s also a very valuable asset.
Best New Addition: Alec Burks – The Jazz added some veterans in Jamaal Tinsley and Josh Howard, but it’s the rookies Burks and Kanter that have people talking. Of the two Burks is much more likely to have an impact out of the gate. Last season with the Colorado Buffaloes he posted 20.5 points and 6.5 rebounds, though his shooting percentages took a dip from his freshman campaign. Utah has had a hole at shooting guard for a few seasons now and Burks has all the tools to take the position and make it his for many years to come.
- Jason Fleming
|Who We Like|
1 – Derrick Favors: As a rookie Favors was all over the place. He averaged 6.8 points and 5.3 rebounds while shooting 52% from the floor, but he wasn’t consistent. Rookie mistakes and lapses on defense routinely led to good games followed by limited minutes, both in New Jersey and in Utah. This season he’ll get more of a chance to shine and be allowed to play through some mistakes, even if that playing time comes at the expense of other players. If Favors improves as many expect, Jefferson could find himself on the trade block sooner rather than later.
2 – Harris: Last season after the Williams trade Harris got a bad rap. His game was routinely criticized, more so than he deserved. No, he’s not perfect, but he’s also not horrible, and if that’s the scale he’s a lot closer to the perfect side. Harris’ problem is he is being forced to replace an All-Star in Williams and the simple fact is he’s not on that level. Utah has been spoiled for decades with John Stockton and Williams, but the presence of Harris simply means other players will have to do more. If the proper expectations are in place, Harris should find success.
3 – Paul Millsap: Last season Millsap posted by far the best numbers of his career. He started all 76 games he played and recorded career-highs in points, assists, steals, free throw percentage, and even shot 39% from three-point range in limited attempts. Coupled with solid numbers for rebounds, blocked shots, and 53% shooting from the field overall, he was the team’s most valuable and most consistent player in a season of upheaval.
4 – General Manager Kevin O’Connor: O’Connor watched as stars like LeBron James and Chris Bosh let their franchises twist in the wind with their pending free agencies, then leave for nothing but a couple draft picks and a Traded Player Exception. Then he saw Carmelo Anthony force himself out of Denver with demands he absolutely had to go to New York. With star point guard Deron Williams moving closer to free agency he saw the writing on the wall, so he flipped his star to the New Jersey Nets for a solid point guard, good young talent, and draft picks in a pre-emptive strike. Just this past week he flipped Okur, also to Jersey, for a Traded Player Exception that pulled the Jazz from the edges of the luxury tax. Okur deserved a much bigger role than Utah had plans to give him with the youth movement; Utah wasn’t going to get $10.9 million in production from him this season. O’Connor’s moves have been shrewd and calculating, and if his youngsters pan out the Jazz will poised to rebound quicker than some expect.
5 – Coach Tyrone Corbin: Very few would envy the task Coach Corbin has in front of him. He leads a team with limited defensive prowess and focus, a team young and athletic, a team lacking in balance on the roster, and through all of that he has to deal with expectations that the Jazz will go to the playoffs. Whether they do or not, Corbin’s influence on the roster should be evident by improved play from Game 1 to Game 66.
- Jason Fleming
Last season the Jazz pulled down 39.5 rebounds per game – tied with Atlanta for 27th in the league – their rebounding differential of -1.4 placed them 23rd in the NBA. With an improved Favors, as well as the additions of Howard and Burks on the wings look for rebounding to quickly become a strength of the team instead of a weakness. They also boast one of the best groups of outside shooters in the frontcourt of any team in the league.
- Jason Fleming
Defense, defense, defense. Harris and Bell are solid in the backcourt if they end up the starters, but the frontcourt is barely passable. Somehow the Jazz has managed to put together a roster capable of having multiple players grab 10 rebounds in a game, but also give up lots of easy baskets. Utah also needs to understand where their scoring is going to come from. Who can they rely on every night? Will it be Hayward stepping up? Harris driving the lane? Jefferson will get his points, but until one or two other players become consistent threats they will be too predictable to defend.
- Jason Fleming
|The Coach’s Chair By Anthony Macri|
I’ll be honest, I’m not sure of the direction of this group right now. Do you really believe you can be competitive with the best teams in the Western Conference? I think we can be. I believe we have one of the deepest and most productive frontcourts in the league when everyone is clicking. Enes, we drafted you believing you are ready to compete from Day One. You have to turn that faith into function on the court. Devin, the ability to get the frontcourt moving in the right direction is your responsibility. It can’t be about you and what you do for yourself, it has to be how you can help out others. We can make it into the playoffs if we do what we’re supposed to do, but it’s all about our direction.
- Anthony Macri
|The Burning Question|
How long will it take to rebuild?
It’s going to be a tough journey back for the Jazz. The Oklahoma City Thunder and Portland Trail Blazers figure to be at the top of the Northwest Division, the Denver Nuggets seemed to have redefined themselves quickly, and the Minnesota Timberwolves are much improved. Right now, given the fact Utah has gone all in with the youth movement with Favors, Burks, Kanter and Hayward, it’s tough to see them finishing higher than last in the Northwest in 2012. Looking forward the Thunder and Wolves have better young talent and the Nuggets and Blazers don’t seem likely to take a step backwards. If the Jazz can be competitive every night, the Northwest Division could quickly become the toughest in the NBA.
- Jason Fleming
How do you see the Jazz this season, leave your comments below…
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