The Utah Jazz’s 2013-2014 season was tough to watch.
After failing to qualify for the 2013 NBA Playoffs, they chose not to re-sign Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, electing instead to tear down the roster and start rebuilding. They ended up with the worst record in the Western Conference and drafted 19-year-old Australian guard Dante Exum. The rebuilding process is always a long one and with next season looking equally grim, how does the future look for the Utah Jazz?
Surprisingly, Jazz fans might only have to suffer for another season before everything starts making a turn for the better.
Here’s who I think are key players for the Jazz: Dante Exum, Trey Burke, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter. Some will argue that Alec Burks deserves to be on this list, along with Rudy Gobert and Rodney Hood.
However, my point is this: the Utah Jazz roster is stock full of promising and young players. Of the key players, Hayward is the oldest at 24 while Exum is the youngest at 19. All these players will be entering their primes at the same time, allowing for an extended run at a championship. These young players will have plenty of playing time and can learn from their on-court mistakes. Having a young core grow together helps improve team chemistry and familiarity with each other.
Many have tried to duplicate the Oklahoma City model for rebuilding, but failed. I think the Jazz have the closest chance of replicating it.
Many will look at the roster and question the potential of the players. Sure, Exum could end up being the only superstar from the group. Even then, Burke, Hayward, Favours and Kanter all project to be productive starters. Burks has sixth man quality, Gobert has incredible physical talents but needs work on his fundamentals, while Hood is one of the best shooters of his draft class.
A roster full of players on their rookie contracts also gives the team considerable cap space flexibility to attract and sign marquee players. The Jazz have been taking in salaries in exchange for draft picks over the past two offseasons. However, none of these contracts are long-term and after this season, Steve Novak will be the only “salary space” rental contract left. It is important to note that the Jazz only have $36.3 million in committed salaries for the 2015-16 season.
Heading into the 2015 Draft, the Jazz will have a first round pick from Cleveland and their own first rounder (which will definitely be a lottery pick). This gives the Jazz another chance to add another future prospect to the already very young and talented roster.
With the right coaching and tactics, this team could establish themselves as a future contender in the West for years to come.