Saturday, May 12, 2012

Utah Jazz - 2012 Season in Review

This past season was an interesting one for the Utah Jazz. The expectations weren't very high at all as they had just came off a terrible ending to the 2010-2011 campaign that provided little hope for the future. The season started off on a great note for the first few weeks, but then got rather rocky as the team started to play as bad as most people expected. However, due to an interesting turn of events and a late push by our young team, the Utah Jazz snuck into the playoffs with the eight seed. As a lifelong Jazz fan, this made me happy by giving me hope for the future. However, a disappointing showing in the playoffs against the Spurs left much to be desired for as the Spurs showed the world that the Jazz are nowhere near elite yet by pulling off a rather easy 4 game sweep. Yes, I predicted this as seen here, but that didn't make it any easier to swallow. But with that the season has come to an end for the Jazz and now its time to look back and review this past season. In order to do that, I will evaluate the team player by player in order of position. Let's begin!

Al Jefferson, C/PF- Statistically speaking, Jefferson was the best player for the Jazz this past year with 19.2 PPG and 9.6 RPG, but I don't feel like Jefferson's heart is in the game at all times and he also is quite lazy on occasion, especially when it comes to defense. He's one of those players that is good at putting up numbers, but isn't a standout team leader. And in talking about Jefferson it brings up a concern that the Jazz need to solve and that would be the logjam in the front court. The Jazz on their roster have Jefferson, Kanter, Favors, and Millsap all on their roster. Now an even rotation of those four gives the Jazz potentially the best, or at least one of the best, front courts in the league. Now I wouldn't complain if we brought all four back, but with so many other needs on the team, keeping all four would hinder our progress because we could get rid of one of our big men via trade in order to bring in more help and not miss a beat in the front court. The young guys (Kanter and Favors) aren't going anywhere, so that leaves it to Jefferson and Millsap. Of those two, Jefferson is the most expendable. We could package him up with our trade exception and/or another player and bring in a stud guard or small forward and possibly a draft pick since we have no first round picks in this upcoming draft.

Enes Kanter, C- Kanter is the type of player that the Jazz have been looking for for a long time. Having a true center that actually knows how to play basketball could've been the remaining puzzle piece that would earn the Jazz a championship in the 90's, but alas the best we could come up with was Greg Ostertag and that was sad. Now Okur was a decent center for a few years, but wasn't your typical center. Jefferson has done a decent job recently, but I wouldn't call him a true center. He's more of a power forward that can play center when needed and has done so for the Jazz because we've had no other option. So the last true center was Mark Eaton and his number has been hanging in the rafters for quite some time now. However, Kanter was just a rookie last year and it did show. He's not ready to take over as starting center, but I feel that some time in the next year or two he will have a breakout year and become the stud center we have been looking for.

Derrick Favors, PF/C- Now here is a player that I am super excited about. I was among the few Jazz fans that was bitter about the D-Will trade, but the more I watch our team, the more I realize that we didn't trade D-Will for Devin Harris, we traded D-Will for Derrick Favors. The other players we got were just extra bonuses. D-Fav this year showed us that he is going to be a star in this league, with many moments of brilliance. Had Corbin been smart and started him alongside Jefferson and Millsap instead of Josh Howard and DeMarre Carroll, he could've been even better. And with all due respect to Jefferson and Millsap, D-Fav is our future at the power forward position and not either one of them.

Paul Millsap, PF- Even though on paper Al Jefferson had better stats, Paul Millsap was the star of this team this past season. However, he is also caught in the logjam at power forward. Millsap has had so many big moments and is the most clutch player for the Jazz right now, so keeping him on board is the smart idea. But like I said, despite how good Millsap is, Favors is our future at the position so the Jazz have some decisions to make. Now the benefit to trading Millsap is that we would get more out of him and if Derrick Favors stepped up even more it might be worth it, but in the end I think Millsap is a player that the Jazz need to keep around. Yeah, I know I've said differently in the past, but hey. I'm allowed to change my mind. That was more or less me brainstorming anyways.

Jeremy Evans, PF/SF-  The human pogo-stick provided the Jazz with one of the greatest moments of the season as he won the slam dunk contest during all star break. He's definitely a fun player to watch when he is out on the court, but unfortunately that is about it. He's not as nearly as good as our other forwards and I don't think he'll ever be more than a spark off the bench, but he's been fun to have around. He's a restricted free agent this summer, so we'll see if the Jazz decide to bring him back.

Gordon Hayward, SF/SG- I really feel like Gordie came into his own this season. Both him and Favors having fantastic sophomore campaigns really gives the Jazz some hope for the future. Unlike Favors, Corbin was smart with Hayward and gave him the starting job for most of the season and I feel that is a huge reason why he was so successful. He was also one of three Jazz players to average over 30 minutes per game, so Hayward was given the opportunity to shine and made the most of it. I don't know if he will reach all star level, but I feel he still has a lot of room to grow and thus it will only get better for Hayward.

DeMarre Carroll, SF- For a person who the Jazz just picked up in the middle of the season, Carroll did surprisingly well. He started off really slow, but towards the end he actually had made some good strides and contributed decently for us. Now the questionable call comes with the decision to give Carroll the starting job when players got hurt. Sure he was decent, but the Jazz shouldn't have started him when you have players like Favors and Burks that deserved more minutes. The Jazz could bring back Carroll, but he's nothing special. Just a temporary fix when we started to get injury prone.

Josh Howard, SF- Once upon a time, Josh Howard was a great player. He even made an all star appearance if I remember correctly, but he is one of those players who's career hit a brick wall. That happened because he couldn't stay healthy. There are a lot of fans that expected big things out of him this year, but I wasn't one of them. Many fans now consider him to be a huge disappointment here, but he actually played better than I thought he would. He's a free agent, though, and we have no reason to bring him back. He's 32 years old and entering into his 10th season. He'll never be the same again.

CJ Miles, SF/SG- After seven long years, the CJ Miles experiment may finally be over. If you can call it an experiment. I call it a disaster. I have no idea why the front office and coaching staff loved this guy enough to keep him here for so long. He shows flashes of being a great player, but that's it. If you look up the word inconsistent in the dictionary, you will find his name there. On occasion he can hit a three pointer, but when he does he somehow gets in the mindset that if he can make one he can make twenty and doesn't stop shooting threes, most of which he misses. He gives me a headache every time he steps on the floor. Now he is a free agent and I will get on my knees and beg the Jazz to let him walk and not bring  him back.

Raja Bell, SG- Raja was one of my favorite players on the Jazz when he was here before and I was sad when he left for Phoenix. After a few good years in Phoenix, he started becoming old and started to fall apart because he couldn't stay healthy. Then he ended up with us again these last two years, which kinda made me happy. But the sad thing is that he is done. He is in his mid 30's and this second time around he hasn't done a whole lot. Then this year he managed to get in Ty's doghouse towards the end and with his recent comment towards Coach Corbin, he probably won't be coming back. He really did bring good memories to this team, but it is time to be done with him.

Alec Burks, SG- I have been really impressed with Burks this season. As was the case with Kanter, he had a lot of rookie moments, but also like Kanter I feel that he can be really good for the Jazz. He is a great slashing guard that really has no fear at all. Sometimes that gets him in trouble, but for the most part he gets major kudos. He still has a lot to learn, but I think he can develop into a Shandon Anderson or even a Bryan Russell type player for the Jazz. Someone who isn't a star and won't make an all star game, but is a very important role player for us. When Raja, CJ, and Howard all went down with injury, he should've gotten the start instead of DeMarre, but what is done is done. In Ty we trust! ...sometimes. But not really.

Devin Harris, PG- This is an interesting story here. Devin Harris. I was never a fan of Devin Harris coming here. He was good in Dallas, but only as a role player. He was never asked to step up into a leadership role. Then he gets his opportunity to lead in New Jersey and falls flat on his face. Three years of epic failure for the Nets. And now we think its a good idea to dump the best point guard in the league for this guy? I was very unhappy when we traded for him. He played like dirt at the end of last season for us and continued to play like dirt in the first half of the season and I wanted him gone. However, the interesting part of this story comes with the fact that I was actually semi impressed with his performance in the last half of the season. He wasn't great, but he was good enough. Now I would be content with us bringing him back for next season whereas in the past I was demanding us get rid of him. However, I still think we need to get a young point guard to either step in to be the starter or to train as our future starter. Devin Harris is still just an average point guard and not our future point guard. He's a decent shooter, but not a leader and as a point guard I think he should be getting more than his average this past season of 5 assists per game.

Earl Watson, PG- He's the man!! Due to his play, Earl Watson has earned the nickname, Earl "The Man" Watson. The dude is a stud as a backup point guard and I will be more than happy to keep him on board the Jazz train. Now he's just a backup point guard and he'll never be more than that, but that's a position that is very good to have. One of the better backup point guards we've had. He's like the Howard Eisley of today's team and well liked by Jazz fans at that. His season kinda crashed towards the end, but hopefully he will pick it back up next season.

Jamaal Tinsley, PG- Now Jamaal was a pleasant surprise this season. At one point he was a rising star, but he crashed rather hard and was out of the league the previous season. Shortly after being drafted number one overall in the D-League draft, the Jazz signed him on and when his time came to step up when Harris and Watson were both out, he shined like a star. He's easily the best pure point guard on our roster, but he's also in his mid 30's and a free agent this summer. We need to get a great young point guard to lead this team and thus can't afford to keep Harris, Watson, and Tinsley on the roster, so despite how impressed I was for how he performed in a limited role for us, he will probably be the odd man out this summer.

Blake Ahearn, PG- This guy is not a thing. He's a D-:Leaguer who we picked up out of necessity with all the injuries we had. He looks like he is 50 and plays like he's 10. I don't know why we thought it was a good idea to bring him up from the D-League out of all people, but he needs to go back to the D-League where he belongs, which is exactly what he will do.

Tyrone Corbin, Head Coach- I was among the crowd that wasn't quite pleased with the choice of Ty as our head coach. And I guess its not that we picked him, its how we picked him. When Jerry Sloan retired mid-season, we should've hired Ty as the INTERIM head coach and then start a coaching search when the season ends. If after all the searching we find that Ty was the best man for the job, then so be it, but that's not what happened, so I feel that we missed a key step in replacing the legendary Jerry Sloan. I think the front office had a little too much faith in Ty by hiring him as the immediate full time head coach. With all that said, has he done a bad job? No, honestly he hasn't. He managed to lead this team to the playoffs in his first full year despite all the odds against him and that is impressive. However, if I'm being perfectly honest, he was far from great this year and has a lot of improvement to make in order to convince me that he is our coach of the future because right now I view him as a temporary fix. His rotation strategies have been quite poor. He stubbornly thought it was a good idea to play players like Josh Howard, CJ Miles, and Raja Bell a lot more than our young stars and I feel that Derrick Favors and Alec Burks should've gotten a lot more playing time. Now towards the end of the season, the two of them did, but I feel it was only because Ty had no other option as Howard, CJ, and Raja all went down with injuries and even with that, Ty thought it was a good idea to start DeMarre Carroll instead of Burks or Favors and shifting the lineup accordingly. Towards the end of the season, it was rather obvious that when we had Jefferson in at center, Favors at power forward, and Millsap down at small forward, it was a huge intimidating lineup that most teams had a rough time stopping. That should've been a lineup that started every game with Hayward and Harris as the guards, but that didn't happen until game four against the Spurs, our last game of the season. Coincidence that we gave the Spurs a run for their money in that game? No. Howard came back at the end of the season and despite everything Favors and Burks had proven, Howard was immediately inserted as the starter until that last game. Things like this showed that Corbin was a rookie coach that only did an average job. I'd give him a year, maybe two and if he doesn't step it up, I'd look elsewhere for a head coach. For a long time, I thought Jeff Hornacek would make a great head coach for us and look where he is. On our bench as an assistant head coach. I would approve of us firing Corbin and hiring him if Corbin doesn't make huge strides in the next couple of years.

In wrapping this up, the Jazz have a good young corps of players in Favors, Hawyard, Burks, and Kanter that provide a lot of hope for the future. We have a strong front court and decent coaching. Our areas of concern come in the guard and wing spots. Hayward does a great job covering both the shooting guard and small forward spots when he is needed and I feel Burks is ready to break out and help there as well, but we need more help. Josh Howard, CJ Miles, DeMarre Carroll, and Raja Bell just don't cut it. All of them need to go and we need to bring in players that can help us be great. The logjam at the power forward spot needs to be solved and as I stated we can use one of our big men as trading bait to bring in a stud shooting guard or small forward to help us. We also need to somehow find a great young point guard. There are a few options in the draft this year that would fit, but unless a miracle happens, the Jazz will get no picks this year and so we need to find someone in free agency like a Goran Dragic type player or trade back into the draft and grab a Damon Lillard or Austin Rivers. So we have some work to do, but there is hope. Let's go Jazz!!!

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