The Utah Jazz have an opportunity to open a lot of people’s eyes this season. The team is going extremely young, starting five guys all under the age of 23. They have no one outside of the organization giving them any hope. They are looking to prove doubters wrong.
As an avid Jazz fan, I have taken a lot of flak for what the team has done this offseason. If any of you watched the weekly edition of the Hoops Habit Hangout on Sunday night, you can see a sample of it. To prove some of my points on why the Jazz won’t be as bad as people think, I have a list of why you shouldn’t doubt them so much.
1. The Bigs
Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter should be two BIG reasons why you shouldn’t doubt the team. Both players have been key role players off the bench for the last two seasons and have been given the starting jobs this season, thanks to management letting veterans Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson leave via free agency. Most fans would argue that this should have been done awhile ago.
Favors averaged 9.4 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game coming off the bench last season. He played eight games as a starter and saw his numbers come up to 10.1 points, 10 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. Even as a starter for those eight games, Favors only saw his minutes increase by five per game. Playing 35 minutes a night, he could see an even bigger increase in his stats.
Kanter saw his numbers come up last season as he averaged career bests in points and rebounds at 7.2 ppg and 4.3 rpg. He only got two starts last season, but he made the most of them. In those games last season, Kanter averaged 20.5 points and 15.0 rebounds. One main reason was because in one of those games, Kanter scored 23 points and grabbed 22 rebounds. He did not see many minutes this season either. He only saw the floor for 15.4 minutes a night. The games he started and got the minutes, he produced.
If Favors and Kanter can develop and take charge of the post, that will help the Jazz’s chances of succeeding.
2. The Wings
Per 48 minutes, Hayward’s averages are 20.0 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game as a starter. Per 48 minutes off the bench, his number go up from there, mainly because he is depended upon to be the scorer, which is what he will be needed to do this season.
Hayward has the potential to be a great player in this league and he will have an opportunity to prove what he can do this season.
Alec Burks will also get the nod as a starter this season and should be able to produce. Although, his production will increase, it will not be as significant as the others. However, Burks does a lot of things very well.
Burks is improving on his shot and that was apparent in Orlando during Summer League. He also is great at slashing to the basket, getting to the rim and getting to the free-throw line. If he can come off of a hard screen and find his way to the basket, he could play a significant role in what the Jazz are trying to do.
3. Trey Burke
Burke is coming off of a season at Michigan which saw him average 18.6 points, 6.7 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game. It was also a season that we saw him win National Player of the Year. Winning Player of the Year in college doesn’t always mean great results, but in Burke’s case, I think he will translate to the NBA just fine.
The NBA is all about stats. Here are Burke’s stats at Michigan last season, compared to another point guard that played for the Jazz, Deron Williams, in his last season at Illinois.
18.6 points, 6.7 assists, 3.2 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 2.2 turnovers, 46.3% fg, 38.4% 3pt, 80.1% ft
12.5 points, 6.8 assists, 3.6 rebounds, 1 steal, 2.8 turnovers, 43.3% fg, 36.4% 3pt, 67.7% ft
Burke compares quite well on the statistical side of things to arguably one of the better point guards in the NBA. While stats are a big thing, people say that he is too small and not quick enough. Here is a look at his measurable’s compared to another smaller point guard, Chris Paul. These are measurements based on Pre-Draft, courtesy of DraftExpress.
Height w/no shoes: 5’11.75″
Height w/ shoes : 6’1.25″
Weight : 187
Wingspan : 6’5.5″
Standing Reach : 8’1.5″
Lane Agility : 11.20
3/4 Court Sprint : 3.16
Height w/no shoes : 5’11.75″
Height w/shoes : 6’1″
Weight : 178
Wingspan : 6’4.25″
Standing Reach : 7’9″
Lane Agility : 11.09
3/4 Court Sprint : 3.22
If you look at his stats and measurables against two of the top point guards, he matches up very well with what they were before the draft. Burke should be just fine. Also, he is being given the keys to this team. He knows his role and he knows that he needs to be a leader. When a player comes in and knows what his role is going to be on a team, it makes a huge difference in a player’s mind.
4. Veteran Mix
The Jazz went out and added veteran players this off season to help mentor the young guys. Not only are some of these guys just here to mentor, they are here as a try out for a long-term contract after the season.
According to an interview on 1280 The Zone, Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said that he was going to sit down with each one of the newly signed players to discuss what their role with the team will be. Brandon Rush and Andris Biedrins, who came over in the Golden State trade, are here to become part of a bench that could be used beyond this season.
Lindsey sitting down with each player to discuss what their role will be is a big deal. Like mentioned before with Burke, when you know what your role is going to be and you know when your minutes are going to come, you can prepare for those minutes and have a clearer mind. It makes a big difference for a player.
5. Home Cooking
The majority of people show the Jazz winning about 25 to 28 games for the whole season. One thing that the “experts” need to take into account is that the Jazz play exceptionally well at Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City.
I compare the projections of this season to the projections of the 2003-04 Jazz team. The starting five for the Jazz that season was Carlos Arroyo, Raja Bell, Andrei Kirilenko, Matt Harpring and Greg Ostertag. The “experts” had the Jazz projected to win a total of eight games that season. Eight whole games.
That season, the Jazz finished with an overall record of 42-40 and, thanks to a home-court advantage, the Jazz went 28-13 at home.
Utah plays well at home and I don’t suspect that this season will be much different. The Jazz could have an opportunity to win at least 25 games at home alone.
The team is not as bad as people think. They will surprise a lot of people. When the ball gets tipped Oct. 30 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Jazz will start to prove doubters wrong.