Expect the Jazz to build on last year’s playoff experience? not so fast.
PG Mo Williams Earl Watson, Jamaal Tinsley
SG Alec Burks Randy Foye, Kevin Murhpy (r), Shan Foster (r)
SF Gordon Hayward Marvin Williams, DeMarre Carroll
PF Derrick Favors Paul Millsap, Jeremy Evans
C Al Jefferson Enes Kanter
Offseason Recap: The Utah Jazz front office looks to the OKC Thunder model when it comes to building a roster. It’s the hot thing now to let a young group of guys grow together over time. Nevertheless, GM Kevin O’Connor did make a few crafty moves. Moving Devin Harris, whom the team wasn’t sold on, for the more cap-friendly contract of Marvin Williams was nice. Then they used the trade exception acquired in the Okur deal in February to absorb Mo Williams and Randy Foye…PG void solved (for now). Mo is in essence a roster stopgap, the team needed a starting PG. But the former Jazz draft pick is coming off a great year with the Clippers. No matter if he got 5 minutes or 25 minutes, Mo was dialed in on every possession last season. The Jazz also elected to let long-time Jazzman C.J. Miles walk in free agency (to the Cavs). The team would rather give more time to youngsters Alec Burks and Gordon Hayward, who reportedly has added five pounds of muscle this offseason. Of the trades made this offseason by Utah, I’m still annoyed that not one included power forward Paul Millsap. The team played the well-paid Millsap out of position at the ’3′ last season due to the logjam inside (Jefferson-Favors-Kanter). I thought the team should’ve used Paul to get a long-term young PG to replace Harris rather than just a short-term filler. Finally, does anyone have an update on the Raja Bell saga? I mean a real update. He and the team have been negotiating a contract buyout for what seems like 6 months. Bell is wasted on a non-contender. LET-RAJA-GO!
Strengths: Inside. Head coach Tyrone Corbin finished last season starting Al Jefferson at C, Derrick Favors at PF, and Paul Millsap at SF…that’s some beef right there. If Enes Kanter shows any kind of improvement, whatsoever, this group will be tough to stop inside next season. It’s a big reason why Croatian center Ante Tomic decided to stay in Europe this summer rather than come to Jazz camp (he signed a 3-yr deal w/ Barcelona in July). No matter how big the Jazz are inside you can’t just throw the ball down there and watch. The team needs to improve their continuity to avoid becoming predictable and stale. Even though the team was 4th in scoring last year, I think Corbin still has some coaching to do on offense.
Weaknessess: Last season the team gave up 99 pts/gm which is quite a bit considering their strength is inside play. Giving up 100 nightly is usually reserved for uptempo teams, which the Jazz are not. They were also near the bottom in 3-point stats (made, attempted, and %) which really hurt the spacing for their ‘bigs’. Utah must improve their shooting and court-spacing in 2012-13. The addition of Mo Williams will help, but I think not playing Paul Millsap at the SF would be even better.
Prediction: The Jazz took a step forward last year in making the playoffs, earning valuable experience at the hands of the Spurs. But, nothing is promised in the NBA and no one is guaranteed anything in the much improved Western Conference. Sadly, I don’t think Utah will make it in this season. Sure the team is strong inside, but this isn’t your father’s NBA. Today, it’s all about quickness and versatility on the perimeter. The days of the big beefy contenders are over. The Lakers, Clippers, Grizzlies, Mavericks, Nuggets all got better this summer…while teams like the Timberwolves and Warriors only need a little good health and they’re right there. This may come off a bit harsh but I think the Jazz made the playoffs somewhat by default last season. There won’t be that kind of luck this year. But that’s okay. The key for this group is time together…on the court and in the gym.