Culture of Hoops

2013-14 NBA Season Preview: Utah Jazz

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The Utah Jazz lost a mountain of talent (Al Jefferson, Mo Williams, Paul Millsap, Jamaal Tinsley, DeMarre Carroll, Randy Foye and assistant couch Jeff Hornacek) this offseason. But what they did manage to add is two interesting veterans to help develop the young, unpolished and untested lineup: Karl Malone and Jerry Sloan.

Now don’t expect these two guys to take a mound of crude mud and mold it into, say, Mt. Rushmore, but rather something more along the lines of a cartoonish, surreal configuration, a Picasso-esque piece in front of which passersby stop for a brief second and say, “huh?”

The front office is selling the 2013-14 team as an experiment. But will the experiment be worthwhile? The organization is having a lot of trouble attracting any significant free agents and instead made moves designed to position themselves for next year’s draft and future transactions.

Most Important Player: Gordon Hayward… Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors too!
The Jazz typically never have one key player, and this season is no different. Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors will be shouldering most of the load. Last year, Hayward averaged 11.8 points in 30.3 minutes, Favors, 9.4 in 23.2 minutes, and Kanter, 7.2 in 15.4 minutes. Now that Jefferson and Millsap are gone, more time and touches are going to come their way. Let’s see what they can do with it.

X-Factor: Alec Burks … and Trey Burke too!
Alec Burks and Trey Burke. Burks can flat-out score but hasn’t been given the minutes to do so. He’s averaging 7.1 points in 17 minutes of play per game for his career. If he can get some much-needed playing time and confidence from coach Tyrone Corbin, he could boost the Jazz’s cause.

Trey Burke was a wildcard pick by the Jazz. He went 9-for-48 in Summer League play and looks like he’s having a hard time adjusting to NBA size and athleticism. If he can score 12 points a game while shooting efficiently and maintaining a respectable assist-turnover ratio in his rookie campaign, the Jazz will have triumphed in their selection.

Rotations: Expect the starting lineup to be Kanter, Favors, Hayward, Burke and either Marvin Williams or Burks. The key rotation will be in the front court, with Jeremy Evans, Rudy Gobert or Andris Biedrins coming in for Favors and Kanter. Gobert has as much potential as anyone, but the long Frenchman is unpolished and will be learning on the fly with the world’s best. Defensive-minded sharpshooter Brandon Rush will shore up the wing positions, and Burke will be backed up by the also-undersized John Lucas III. Veteran swingman Richard Jefferson is a big question mark. Will the Jazz give him minutes or develop their prospects?

The Jazz let a great talent in Raul Neto return to Spain for the 2013-14 season. The young Brazilian point guard has incredible ball control and court vision and would have fit a need in the Utah rotation. Look for Neto to be a Jose Calderon/Ricky Rubio-type distributor once in the league.

What Needs To Go Right: Everything. Coach Corbin needs to get the Jazz to play hard-nosed, scrappy basketball and force opposing teams to play slop-ball with them. They need a tough defense that scares and frustrates teams into misses, steals and unforced turnovers. If the Jazz don’t hustle and play physical ball, I see them hovering around 21-33 at the All-Star break with no chance at making the playoffs.

It’s Really Bad If: Jerry Sloan and Karl Malone stay any longer. The Jazz need to ditch the past and try something new. Sloan and Malone gave the franchise many years of good ball, but never a championship. Corbin, a Sloan-picked protégé, has notably changed things up on defense but has kept many of the same facets of the old halfcourt offense. It’s not just Sloan and Malone, but the plethora of ex-Jazz players and coaches who work for the organization that are tying the team to the past. Let’s hope this isn’t going to be a case of old dogs teaching the same old tricks.


Trey Burke, PG
Strengths: Ball-handling and speed.
Weaknesses: Size, experience.
Season Prediction: Low field-goal percentage but lots of assists.

Alec Burks, SG
Strengths: Speed, getting into the open court.
Weaknesses: Jump-shot range.
Season Prediction: More shots, more dunks and more highlights from this talented player who has not seen the minutes he deserves.

Jeremy Evans, SF
Strengths: Athletic, high-flyer.
Weaknesses: Depends solely on athleticism, no offensive skill set.
Season Prediction: Expect Evans to finally accept the role he’s cut out for: energy man off the bench.

Derrick Favors, PF
Strengths: Defense, offensive rebounding and shot-blocking.
Weaknesses: Lacks a mid-range jumper and offensive polish.
Season Prediction: Breakout year. More minutes, more opportunities and a chance to grow into a great player.

Rudy Gobert, C
Strengths: 7’1″ and long.
Weaknesses: Raw, untested.
Season Prediction: Too soon to tell, but don’t expect much until his body fills out.

Gordon Hayward, SG
Strengths: Transition offense, court presence, hustle and athleticism.
Weaknesses: Difficulty creating his own shot.
Season Prediction: Improved three-point percentage, more steals. Watch for him to cut and slash much more, looking for layups and dunks.

Richard Jefferson, SF
Strengths: Experience, does a little of everything.
Weaknesses: Rapidly declining skills with age.
Season Prediction: With the team looking to develop young talent, expect a lot of bench-riding for Jefferson.

Enes Kanter, C
Strengths: Low-post moves, physicality.
Weaknesses: Jump-shot and defense need to improve.
Season Prediction: Kanter has to be aggressive and attack, attack, attack. If he does, the Jazz are going to find themselves having to offer a lot of money when his contract is up.

John Lucas III, PG
Strengths: Veteran, takes care of the ball.
Weaknesses: Undersized, won’t wow anyone with his ability.
Season Prediction: 10-13 minutes and 5.1 points per game, just like the rest of his career.

Brandon Rush, SF
Strengths: Defense and three-point shooting.
Weaknesses: Unable to consistently get his own shot.
Season Prediction: It all depends on his health. He’s missed 112 games in the past three seasons, but can be a quality glue guy when on the court.

Marvin Williams, SF/PF
Strengths: Experience, size for his position.
Weaknesses: Limited offensively, unable to capitalize on his athleticism anymore.
Season Prediction: No change from last year. A solid, consistent swingman with the occasional big shot.

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