2013-2014 Utah Jazz Season Preview
Last season the Utah Jazz were a team stuck between the past and the present. They had great veterans like Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Mo Williams, who were helping them push for a playoff spot, but they also has a young core featuring Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors who really needed more playing time to develop. This summer the Jazz embraced the future, allowing Jefferson, Millsap and Williams to leave via free agency, effectively turning everything over to the next generation. Joining the young nucleus in Utah this season are draftees Trey Burke and Rudy Gobert, who will going to need time to develop with their new team. The Jazz are going to lose a lot of games this season, but they will be better for it long-term.
In & Out
Additions: Trey Burke, Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins, Brandon Rush, John Lucas III, Rudy Gobert, Jerel McNeal, Ian Clark
Subtractions: Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Mo Williams, Randy Foye, Jamaal Tinsley, Kevin Murphy, Earl Watson, DeMarre Carroll
Five Guys Think…
For the past two seasons, the Jazz have been a nasty, hard-working team fighting to get into the bottom of the Western Conference playoff picture, and they have given opponents fits all along the way. This year will be different, however, as the team allowed both Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson to sign with new teams, signaling a shift towards letting the organization’s young prospects get some more floor time in hopes of developing them into something special. That probably means huge years from Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, but Utah is also looking for progression out of Alec Burks and Gordon Hayward. Rookie point guard Trey Burke offers plenty of hope for the future, too, but this upcoming Utah season is probably more about giving this group time to jell than it is muscling themselves into the playoffs. They fell just short a year ago, but they’ll probably fall significantly shorter this year in a tougher, wilder West.
5th place – Northwest Division
– Joel Brigham
The Jazz will look very different this season. Veterans such as Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Mo Williams, Jamaal Tinsley, Earl Watson, Randy Foye and DeMarre Carroll have all left Utah as the team’s decision-makers have decided to hand over the reins to their youngsters. Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter is an outstanding up-and-coming starting lineup, but this team will have to experience some failure before enjoying success. The future looks bright in Utah, but it’s very likely that the Jazz will lose a lot of games during the 2013-14 season. It’ll be tough for Utah to compete with more experienced, veteran-laden teams. With that said, this young core will only get better in the coming years and the team will likely add another top prospect in the 2014 NBA Draft. Jazz fans have a lot to be excited about going forward, but they must stay patient.
5th place – Northwest Division
- Alex Kennedy
This season will be one about showing and proving in Utah. At least six of the Jazz’s players could potentially hit free agency in 2014 and an additional three guys have non-guaranteed deals for the 2015 season. Gone are Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. Both departed in free agency this summer and both guys were highly productive players in Utah’s frontcourt over the years. A big part of the Jazz’s success this season will depend on forward Derrick Favors living up to the potential label bestowed upon him. This will be Favors’ first chance to play extended minutes in his career so the jury is out. Rookie guard Trey Burke will likely be entrusted with the keys to the Jazz’s offense from day one, but he struggled with his shot mightily in summer league play. Veterans Richard Jefferson, Marvin Williams and Andris Biedrins will be there to support the youngsters, but all three have seen their productivity decline steadily in recent years. This is a clear rebuilding year and one that should have zero playoff expectations from its fan base.
5th place – Northwest Division
- Lang Greene
It was clear early on in free agency that the Jazz were not going to walk away with any of the big names available. Rather than making fruitless attempts to try and change that, the Jazz accepted who they are and where they’re at as a franchise right now and embraced a youth movement. They didn’t get a Chris Paul or Dwight Howard, but they enter the 2013-14 campaign with plenty of future financial flexibility, multiple draft picks and a talented young core full of potential. They landed the best point guard in the NBA Draft in Trey Burke and they have Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward – all three of whom seem primed to breakout this season, especially given the opportunity they’re going to receive. The Jazz are going to be the worst team in the Northwest Division because they’re the only team focused more on the future than the present. If their young players develop as hoped, the future will be quite bright.
5th place – Northwest Division
- Yannis Koutroupis
With Al Jefferson in Charlotte, Paul Millsap in Atlanta and Mo Wiliams in Portland, the Jazz will look at Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and rookie Trey Burke to lay the foundation for a strong future. After narrowly missing the playoffs last season, the Jazz—like many of the other lower tier teams in the league—will be content with developing their young players and looking forward to a high draft pick in the 2014 draft. Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks have each shown tremendous upside as well, and this season, both young players will have a great opportunity to show the rest of the league how good they can be when counted upon to do some heavy lifting. With the Minnesota Timberwolves expecting a healthy Kevin Love to return and the Portland Trailblazers with much improved depth, the Jazz are likely to be bringing up the rear in the increasingly competitive Northwest Division. That is, unless, this team is able to overachieve mightily.
5th place — Northwest Division
- Moke Hamilton
Top Of The List
Top Offensive Player: Gordon Hayward. There will be plenty of shots to go around in Utah this season, and it’s entirely possible that one of several players could emerge as the team’s leading scorer. That said, Hayward was third on the team in scoring last season with 14.1 points per game, including 41.5 percent accuracy from downtown. Hayward is the odds-on favorite to lead the team early on, even if someone else emerges mid-season.
Top Defensive Player: Derrick Favors. As the Jazz prepare for what is likely to be a rough season, they’re going to call on everyone to step up. Management’s confidence that their young core is capable of doing so is seen in their decision-making over the summer. Favors led the team in blocks last season as a reserve averaging just 23.2 minutes per game, so it’s logical to expect even more from him in a bigger role.
Top Playmaker: Trey Burke. It’s going to be baptism by fire for Trey Burke, who looks to be Utah’s starting point guard on opening night. Burke made a name for himself at Michigan by being extremely efficient in transition, and the Jazz will want to take full advantage of that strength. Burke is also exceptionally efficient in pick-and-roll situations, which bodes well for a team with solid young big men like the Jazz have.
Top Clutch Player: Derrick Favors. Surprisingly, Favors was actually Utah’s best player when considering games that were decided in the final five minutes. Favors saw action in twenty of those last season, converting 75 percent of his field goals on .2 attempts per game. Kanter was similarly effective, but in just four games that fit the category. It’s safe to say the ball should go through the post when the game’s on the line.
The Unheralded Player: Brandon Rush. Before an injury claimed all but two games of last season for Rush, he was a player on the rise. Two seasons ago he averaged 9.8 points per game, shooting 50 percent from the field and 45 percent from three as a reserve for the Golden State Warriors. For a young Jazz team in need of veteran leadership, Rush promises to be a great addition on and off the court.
Best New Addition: Trey Burke. As mentioned previously, Burke brings a reputation for efficient execution to the Jazz, and that’s something he will have to show he can translate to the NBA level as a rookie. He took his lumps in summer league play, and his size might be an issue, but playing with quality front court players like Utah has in place should help Burke make the transition to the pro game.
Who We Like
1. Jerry Sloan – The former head coach of the Jazz, Sloan piloted the team to unprecedented success during the toughest era the NBA has ever known. They never quite managed to get that elusive championship, but they were contenders nearly every year. With Sloan back in the mix, Utah’s future might turn out to be even brighter than their past.
2. Dennis Lindsey – It’s no secret that most teams who are looking to rebuild are trying to do it in a manner similar to the way the San Antonio Spurs have been able to do it over the last decade and a half. We’ve seen a number of teams hire away their front office talent, as the Jazz did with Lindsey, and he is hoping to instill a little of that blue-collar style that has made the Spurs so successful.
3. Gordon Hayward – In a very short period of time, Hayward has gone from the new kid in Utah to the grizzled veteran and the voice of leadership in the locker room. He’s up for the challenge, however, and the Jazz are hopeful that he will take the next step this season, both on and off the floor.
4. Derrick Favors – As much as this is likely to be the year that Hayward emerges as one of the better up-and-coming talents in Utah, Derrick Favors must become an enforcer in the paint for the Jazz to be competitive. The team let some impressive veterans walk to make room for favors and Enes Kanter in the starting lineup, and with that comes a responsibility that Favors appears ready to shoulder.
5. John Lucas III – One of the NBA’s true journeymen, Lucas always manages to find a place to play ball. The primary reason is that Lucas is a player who can impact a game night in and night out, yet is also happy to play whatever role his coach lays out for him. He is a great locker room veteran, and he will certainly play a major role in helping Trey Burke learn how to lead a team at the pro level.
Offensive rebounding was a specialty of Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors last season, and with their increased minutes that is likely to be a huge strength for the Jazz this season. When Kanter and Favors were in the lineup together last season they turned 45.9 percent of Utah’s misses into offensive rebounds, and given Trey Burke’s limited success at finishing drives to the basket that could play huge for Utah this season.
Lack of experience will obviously be a big factor for the Jazz in 2013-14, as will their lack of a core group that is accustomed to playing together for long stretches. The Jazz will rely heavily on draftee Trey Burke, who struggled to lead the team’s summer league and was often pushed around by bigger guards. With so few veterans left to stabilize Utah’s young core, it could be a very long season for Jazz fans.
The Burning Question
Is Utah’s young core ready for prime time?
By allowing most of their veterans to walk away, the Jazz have put themselves in a low-risk, high-reward situation. If guys like Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks and Derrick Favors blossom this season, the Jazz might be pretty good. If it doesn’t work out that way, they gain a lottery pick in the 2014 NBA draft, which is expected to be the best draft in years. Andrew Wiggins would look awfully good in a Jazz uniform, and Utah’s management knows it.
- Bill Ingram