Projected Record: 26-56 (15th in West)
Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, and Derrick Favors have their work cut out for them in the West. (AP)
Head coach: Quin Snyder
2013-14 record: 25-57
2013-14 ORtg: 100.6 (25th)
2013-14 DRtg: 109.1 (30th)
Players in: Quin Snyder (coach), Trevor Booker, Dante Exum, Carrick Felix, Rodney Hood, Steve Novak
Players out: Tyrone Corbin (coach), Diante Garrett, Richard Jefferson, John Lucas III, Erik Murphy, Brandon Rush, Malcolm Thomas, Marvin Williams
Projected Starting Lineup: Trey Burke, Alex Burks, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter
I’ve felt the same way about the Jazz every year since Deron Williams left: where are they going?
Paul Millsap left for nothing. Al Jefferson left for nothing. Derrick Favors’ annual scouting report still reads: “loads of potential, gets in foul trouble too easily;” a problem that's plagued him since the Nets drafted him in 2010. It's easy to believe that this is the 5th NBA season for DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall, it's harder to say that about Favors. You can’t help but wonder what’s taking him so long.
They added Trey Burke last year, and he could be pretty good down the line. But it might take him another four years. And then who's still around? Favors? Kanter? The Utah Jazz are full of players that any team would be excited for, but their entire team is filled with these players, so they never amount to anything. The roster is a jar full of tasty trail max without any of the superstar chocolate pieces to push them over the edge into deliciousness.
Help, however, may be on the way in the form of Australian guard Dante Exum. If his game translates anywhere close to as well as his current Foot Locker commercials, the Jazz could be onto something. Exum is a big, strong guard that can get to the basket and score with consistency. Consistency, in fact, is an important word for the Jazz in 2014-2015. Without it, Hayward was forced into many 8-for-19 shooting nights en route to 24+ point blowouts.
If Exum can hold his own, Burks takes the next step and the team as a whole stops leaning on Hayward for 25 points a night, then this Utah team could trend in the right direction this year. Of course, that is asking Kanter not to go on cold streaks so long that the coach opts for Marvin Williams and Jeremy Evans instead.
In some alternative universe, the Utah Jazz fulfill their potential, make the Western Conference semifinals, and the most interesting thing about their team is no longer the discrepancy in spelling between Burke and Burks.
But here’s the deal with Utah: I just don’t get them. Hopefully, with the leadership of newly appointed coach Quin Snyder and Gordon Hayward’s near-max contract, along with Exum, Favors, Burke and Kanter, the Jazz can finally start making strides towards becoming a relevant NBA team again. It’s well stated, mainly by Jazz fans themselves, that Tyrone Corbin was an awful coach, marred by poor rotations and an inability to manage games and his young players—so have they finally hit the reset button for the last time?
Having young players with inexperience is no longer an excuse in the NBA, just look at the Phoenix Suns last year, a roster with far less raw talent than Utah, the same one that missed Eric Bledsoe for 39 games, and they almost made the playoffs in the treacherous Western Conference.
They ranked 29th in the NBA in points per game and 25th in points per possession just ahead of a Chicago Bulls team that ranked below watching painting dry on a list of pleasurable activities. Even worse, they were dead last at 30th in points allowed per possession and their pace was slightly slower than the creaky retirement home the Nets ran in Brooklyn.
In the Western Conference, that’s a recipe for disaster.
What the Utah Jazz really need more than anything else is a reliable post scorer to take off the pressure from their young core of Exum, Burke and Hayward. Hey, Al Jefferson would be a perfect fit.
Wait. Shoot. Back to square one. Again.