The Utah Jazz are betting big this season. As has been discussed at length, Utah’s future depends mightily on the development of their “Future Five” (Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter) and a handful of other promising youngsters like former Slam Dunk Contest champ Jeremy Evans, undrafted rookie Ian Clark, and historically huge Rudy Gobert. Though what hasn’t been talked about enough is how much the Jazz depend on coach Tyrone Corbin developing as well. Sure, there has been plenty of talk about how questionable some of Ty’s coaching decisions are and how he needs to get better, but the ideal situation for the Jazz is that Ty has his breakout year along with his young stars. Since the Jazz aren’t set up to be a playoff contender, it will be extremely important for Ty to show improvement tactically and improve his minutes distribution, among other things. What the Jazz really need Corbin to do is develop a system, a style of play that is unique to the team and its skill set that the group can build around going forward. This gives the entire organization a sense of direction so everyone, from front office to players, knows what to expect and what is needed from them.
Utah is coming into a season where most of their most depended upon players from last year are no longer on the team. This means that there is bound to be some rough spells for the group, especially offensively. When you combine that with the fact that the team will have a rookie running the bulk of the offense, it seems likely the Jazz will have a really hard time in a half-court offense. Ty’s playbook has been relatively bare over the last two seasons, which hasn’t been a disaster because he had Big Al Jefferson surrounded by good shooters. The playbook may not grow too quickly this season and that may not be a bad thing. Corbin’s best bet may be to give the young core relatively straightforward offensive sets, relying heavily on pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop combinations. Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter both have the potential to be ferocious off pick-and-rolls and Trey Burke thrived off of the play at Michigan. With Karl Malone being hired as a player development coach and Gordon Hayward able to run the PnR or spot up for 3, Utah has all the ingredients to make an incredibly delicious pick-and-roll pie.
The other half of Utah’s system needs to be a defensive scheme that is built to create lots of transition opportunities. Sometimes called “Swat Lake City” by fans and media, Utah is built to be a solid defensive team. Derrick Favors has All-Defensive capabilites, Enes Kanter has proved to be a capable defender, Gordon Hayward has been known to host a one-man block party on occasion and Alec Burks has the physical ability to be a good defender as well. Utah also has Rudy Gobert and his record-setting length, Ian Clark–who was Defensive Player of the Year for his college conference multiple times–and Andris Biedrins, who has had a solid NBA career as a defensively sound big man. If the Jazz can use this defensive potential to create a very transition-based offense, they could find themselves in a much better situation than most would have thought by season’s end.