Tuesday, October 15, 2013

2013 - 2014 Season Preview: Utah Jazz

Times have changed in Utah as the Jazz look to future with a young roster.  Jerry Sloan has returned with the organization. Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are gone.  As is Mo Williams, Earl Watson and every other point guard that was on the team.  New starting guards and new starting big men, the Jazz have finally handed the keys over to the young guys.  Led by Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors and first round draft pick Trey Burke, an average age of 21.5 years old.  The Jazz will not be winning many games this season but that is not the goal. The goal for this team is to develop these 4 players into NBA stars. 

Some veterans, who may or may not be willing to help teach the young guys, will accompany the young guys, such as Richard Jefferson, Brian Cook and Andris Biedrins.  Jefferson and Biedrins came over on a trade with the Warriors. These veterans will see less playing time as Tyrone Corbin is expected to play the young guys full time.  The rest of the roster is compiled over older players still hoping to make an NBA team, which will create a competitive summer camps, preseason and practice sessions. 

Additions: Trey Burke, Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins, Brandon Rush, John Lucas III, Rudy Gobert, Jerel McNeal, Ian Clark

Subtractions: Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Mo Williams, Randy Foye, Jamaal Tinsley, (Still in the league?!), Kevin Murphy, Earl Watson, DeMarre Carroll
This roster will not be winning many games this year.  It is sometimes hard being a fan of a team during a season where you have no expectations while waiting on time to see if your beloved Jazz can be competitive again.  However, you can still enjoy watching a team that is expected to lose a lot of games, not because of talent but because of inexperience.   For the upcoming season watch the following three players individually and root for their success in making progress towards becoming an NBA star.

Derrick Favors

A young promising big man had a rocky start to start his career.  After spending the past few years in Utah coming off the bench, Favors will finally see more than 23 minutes per game.  Derrick has shown a slow increase in production, which coincide with his minutes.  His per 36 minute numbers are encouraging at almost 15 points per game to go along with 11 rebounds and 2.6 blocks.   This is the player that the Jazz are expecting.  They are hoping he becomes closer to a 20-10 big man. 

Alec Burks

Continuing along with the theme of young players getting 30+ minutes, Alec is another player who fares well in the per 36 minute stats, where he is putting up 15.2 points per game in his first two years.  Seeing about 17 minutes per game, Alec is expected to play twice as much in his third year.  A good sized two guard at 6-6 and 195 pounds will make Alec hard to guard.  He will need to improve his three point shooting this season if he expects to make defenses play him tight. We saw improvement from year 1 to year 2 by almost .03 %

Gordon Hayward

The star of the young team, the pressure will be on the starting small forward. Gordon has improved in each of his first three seasons in the NBA.  A career 40% three point shooter is his bread and butter but what Gordon really takes pride in is his tenacity and toughness.  He wants to prove he can be the top scorer and main focus for opposing defenses.  He always wants to show he can defend the opponent’s best player.  Per his 36 minute stats, his scoring has gone from 11 to 14 to 17.4 points per game.  His stealing and block shots statistics have also increased.  This is the season that we are going to see Hayward be the main focus of an offense and maybe defense.

Most Exciting Player To Watch: Trey Burke

I know this is a safe pick but honestly, it is the clear pick.  He will be missed for a couple of months with the finger injury but when he comes in, all eyes will be on him. Selected 9th overall, considered lower than expected, Trey has a lot to prove to the 8 teams that passed on him.  He shined at Michigan as they ran the table all the way to the championship game.  He grew as a passer and as a defender during the tournament.  How he transitions in the professional league is the most intriguing part of the Jazz season for me.

Prediction: 25-28 wins.

It will be interesting to see how the Jazz round out the rest of their roster.  They have a lot of young talent and a lot of growth to look forward to.  No one expects the Jazz to be playoff contenders at least for a few years or until one of the four mention young players turns into an all star caliber player.  The entire organization has work to do as they move forward from the old guard.  I would consider this the first year of their rebuilding process even though they have acquired the young talent over the past few seasons.  This is the year the world will get to see their players make it or break it in this league.  

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