Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Utah Jazz - 2013 Season in Review

The NBA season is now over with the Heat defeating the Spurs in one of the best NBA Finals series that I can remember. While the NBA season is over, the excitement in the NBA hasn't ended yet as the NBA offseason is in full swing with the 2013 NBA Draft is this Thursday, June 27th, 2013, followed shortly by the NBA free agency signings. No, I don't have an NBA mock draft ready at this time, but I did want to look back at the 2012-2013 season of my Utah Jazz before the 2013-2014 season essentially begins with the NBA Draft this week. The Jazz's season ended tragically as they were officially eliminated from the playoffs in the last game of the season, so their season has been over for a while and thus I could've done this earlier, but I do figure this is good timing with all that is about to happen. Like I did last year, I am going to go player by player with this.

*Al Jefferson, C/PF - The Jazz have a huge decision to make this offseason as both Jefferson and Millsap are unrestricted free agents. Statistically Al Jefferson is the Jazz's best player, averaging 17.8 PPG and 9.2 RPG last season, which is a bit down from previous years, but still fantastic. It might seem reasonable to bring him back because of that, but I think they need to look beyond that. First of all, I don't imagine that the Jazz have enough money to bring both back and second I don't think they want to. It's time to usher in a new era with Kanter and Favors and in ushering that era, the Jazz have to decide which player, Jefferson or Millsap, will best integrate in with those two. Or is it better to let both go and draft a backup big men or two? Also, which player would be easier to bring back and cost less? Considering all this, I think the right answer is to let Jefferson walk. First off, I think he is going to be harder to get back. I think he will demand more money and want to be in the starlight. Bringing him back I think will hinder the progress of Enes Kanter specifically. Plus, even though Jefferson puts up the consistent numbers, I don't always see him putting forth his best effort and at times I feel he is lazy, especially at the defensive end. He'll be highly sought over in free agency and I think it is time for the Jazz to let him go.

*Paul Millsap, PF - A lot of my thoughts here, I just barely expressed because the story of the offseason for the Jazz will be who they decide to keep, Jefferson or Millsap. My pick is Millsap because even though there were several times during the season where he disappeared, I think it will be more beneficial for the Jazz to keep him. He has been with us his whole career and he likes it here. Also I see him as less selfish and more of a versatile player, so I think a trio of Kanter, Favors, and Millsap will work perfectly for the Jazz. The big question is whether or not he can take a smaller role if he is asked. Obviously I think that wouldn't be the case initially, but eventually we have to turn the future of the Jazz over to Kanter and Favors and Millsap is not a part of that future, but would work great as a mentor and a sixth man player. But Millsap spent the first four years of his career as a sixth man and after a long time he finally got his time to shine. Knowing the direction the Jazz want to go, is he willing to take that role again? Despite how much he likes it here, he may decide he has a better future with another team and thus making the decision harder for the Jazz. The Jazz do have two first round picks and it may be smart to use one of those on another big man as insurance.

Gordon Hayward, SF/SG - Hayward has improved every year that he has been with the Jazz and that makes me really excited about him and his future with the team. Coach Corbin did an interesting thing for him this year and gave him a Manu Ginobili type of role. Even though Gordie obviously the best small forward on the team and gets the most minutes, which include the minutes that really count at the end of a game, Marvin Williams started at small forward and Gordie came off the bench. I guess I don't have a big problem with that, but I would like to see him in the starting role. Maybe that's just me be a traditionalist, though, and liking to see the best player in each position get the start.

*Randy Foye, SG - I really liked the addition of Foye this year for the Jazz. He's obviously not the future of this team at shooting guard given the fact that he does turn 30 this offseason and is only a decent role player. The thing that I really liked was his 3-point shooting. The Jazz are really good down low, but they could use improvement with the outside shooting. This year having that in Foye was really nice as it helped balance out the team. However, Foye is an unrestricted free agent and I don't know if the Jazz are planning on bringing him back as they have other priorities this offseason. I wouldn't miss him too much as I would love to see Alec Burks take a starting role on this team, but if the Jazz do let him go, they at least need to pick up another shooter to replace him.

*Mo Williams, PG/SG - Outside the situation with Jefferson and Millsap, the point guard position is something that the Jazz really need to figure out. The three point guards on the roster from last season, Mo, Tinsley, and Watson, are all free agents. Even so, the Jazz could've used an upgrade anyways so I would be really surprised if the Jazz brought more than one of them back. The Jazz have the 14th pick in the draft and if they don't use that on a point guard, I will be an angry Jazz fan. I didn't actually mind Mo. I really liked him when we first drafted him back in 2003 and I thought it was a mistake to let him go after his rookie season and I was really excited to have him back this past year. Now he wasn't the long term solution. Just a momentary fix. If the Jazz decide to part ways after just one year yet again, I wouldn't be too disappointed. I also wouldn't be disappointed if we signed him on for another year or two to start while we develop whatever young point guard we decide to draft and thus let Tinsley and Watson walk.

Enes Kanter, C - Kanter is the future at center for the Jazz and I am really excited for that as there were many times this season where I really saw how dominate he can become. After two years of coming off the bench I think it is time for the Jazz to let Jefferson walk and plug Kanter right in as the starting center. If the Jazz do this, I really think Kanter can have a breakout year and be a star for many years to become. He only averaged 15 minutes per game this year and that was mostly due to the logjam at the front court for the Jazz, but if he gets more minutes, his game will improve. The Jazz also made a smart decision by bringing Karl Malone on as an assistant coach to mainly work with Kanter and Favors. That should be huge. Malone may have a crazy mouth, but he was one of the best big men to ever play the game, so he can definitely teach them many things.

Derrick Favors, PF - I could almost copy and paste the last entry on Kanter to this spot as the situation is very similar. It's amazing to think that Favors will be entering his fourth year in the league, but will only be 22 years old this July. This means he has a good 10 - 15 years in the league still and he has shown many times how much of a beast he can be and with Malone on the bench teaching him, he can be even more of a beast and it's time for him to shine. I love Jefferson and Millsap, but it's time for the Favors and Kanter era to begin. Favors definitely should get the start at PF this upcoming season. That will be good for him.

Marvin Williams, SF - The addition of Marvin this season has been nice. He's definitely not the star of the team, but he is a really good role player and when he is at the top of his game, the Jazz play well. He also has received most of the starts at small forward this season and I don't quite like that idea. The Jazz have him on contract for another year, so what they need to do with him is let him become a huge force from off the bench to help the second squad out while giving Hayward the shot at starting more.

Alec Burks, SG/PG - I feel Alec Burks made some pretty big strides this past year. No, I don't know if he'll ever be a star in the league, but he has the chance to be a very good role player at the least. I would like to see his minutes increased more this next year and I wouldn't even mind if he ended up getting the starting shooting guard spot going into next year. It would be interesting to see if he can have a breakout year if given the chance to start. Burks did get some time at point guard with all the point guard troubles that the Jazz had this past year and it was fun to see him in that role, although the more he is playing that role, the more concerned I will be because it probably means the Jazz don't have much else, unless of course he steps up his game big time in which case I wouldn't mind, but I expect him to remain as shooting guard with his point guard skills being an insurance policy

*Jamaal Tinsley, PG - A couple years ago the Jazz snatched up Jamaal Tinsley on a whim after he had been out of basketball for a year and that turned out rather well for the Jazz as he ended up being a decent backup point guard, and even a decent starting point guard when he was called on. However, all of the Jazz's point guards are free agents and I would be shocked if more than one of them returns next season. Tinsley has served the Jazz well in the last two years, but being that he is 35 years old right now, chances of him being the one that gets re-signed is pretty slim. However, it is possible he does return given the fact that he is the one true pass-first point guard out of the there, thus fitting the mold of the type of point guard that has worked out well for the Jazz.

*Earl Watson, PG -  Another surprising player for the Jazz, Watson was picked up back in 2010 and surprised the Jazz organization by being a really decent back-up point guard. That in turn led him to spend three full years with the Jazz, which is tied for the most he's played with any other team. Personally, because of his play and his down to earth, humble attitude, I have called him Earl "The Man" Watson. Sadly, though, I do think it is time for "The Man" to say goodbye as the Jazz need to get younger and Watston suffers the same thing that Tinsley does. He is not young. And both his production and ability to stay healthy has been in a decline as of late.

*DaMarre Carroll, SF - The story of DeMarre Carroll this year was a confusing one to me. I think he is a solid small forward that is a great asset coming off the bench. The former first-round pick struggled in his first few seasons as a pro and bounced around a bit, but he seemed to be coming into his own as a member of the Jazz. When he first got here, he looked like a confused young man who wasn't going to do anything for us and when he first scored a basket me and some friends immediately  went to celebrate by getting ice cream. Now he has progressed to the point where there was a game this season where he scored a career high 19 points. The he somehow landed in Coach Corbin's doghouse for reasons that I still don't know. Corbin just suddenly stopped playing him towards the end of the season and now I think his days as a Jazz man are over as he is a free agent. It's a shame because I really liked the man as a player.

Jeremy Evans, PF - The human pogo-stick is definitely a fan favorite in Utah with his charismatic personality and his extremely athletic abilities. He participated in the Dunk Contest for a second straight year and after winning the competition in 2012, he was runner up this past season. The problem here is that he really hasn't proven himself as someone who can play the game of basketball. He hasn't quite progressed from the position of showcasing his dunking abilities in the last few minutes of a game when the game is already over. I would love to see him step up and become a rotational bench player who contributes 15-20 minutes per game, but I don't know if that will ever happen. With the revamping of the upcourt this offseason, he will actually have a chance to prove himself next season, so let's hope he steps up.

Kevin Murphy, SG - The Jazz usually do well with their second round picks, so grabbing the sharp shooting Kevin Murphy with their late second round pick last year seemed like a good idea. However, the initial outlook after one season isn't good as Murphy looks like a dud. He never got established into the rotation for the Jazz as he only appeared in 17 games. In those 17 games, he got a grand total of 52 minutes and in those minutes he went 7-28 shooting on the season and only 1-7 from behind the arc. Four of those seven made field goals came in one outing. In theory if he works hard this offseason he still has a chance to prove himself, but things aren't looking up at this point.

Tyrone Corbin, Head Coach - I will be honest and say that I was never a fan of the Ty Corbin hire. I think when Sloan resigned, Corbin definitely should've gotten the job, but on an interim basis, allowing for the Jazz to do a real coaching search. But instead he was hired on as full time head coach. In fairness to him, he has done better than I initially thought he was going to do, but throughout this past season there were always weird coaching decisions that he made, the Carroll situation being only one of many and I honestly think that he has hit his ceiling as a head coach for this team. Perhaps he is good enough to get his team to the playoffs, but the highest he will get them to is the bottom half of the playoff bracket, which will thus result to a first round exit in most of those situations. As a Jazz fan, I have never seen my team win an NBA title and one of my life goals is to see that happen at least once. With Ty Corbin on board I don't know if I will ever see them get out of the first round of the playoffs when they even make it and that is a problem. Now the Jazz did make a few interesting moves recently. First off they hired Karl Malone to help out our big men and that'll help. They also brought back Jerry Sloan in an advisory-type role and I also think that will help. So we'll see where that takes us this season, but in the end I think Ty Corbin needs to get fired and since it has been a long time since a Jazz head coach has been fired, I wonder if they even know how to do that. I was hoping that they would fire Corbin after this season and hire Jeff Hornacek as head coach as it has been my dream for the past ten years or so to have him as the head coach and that almost came true given the fact that he was an assistant head coach here, but nonetheless the Jazz made the dumb decision to keep Corbin for another year and Phoenix made the smart decision by snatching Hornacek up as their head coach. That broke my heart.

Overall, I think that this Jazz team has a lot of potential with Kanter, Favors, Hayward, and Burks on the team as a young group that could turn out to be the main corps of this team, but presently the Jazz have a lot of decision to make and that could lead to some growing pains in the next season or two, but ultimately things are looking up for this team. They are on the right track and really need to get lucky starting in the draft that happens this week and moving on into free agency.

*- Unrestricted Free Agent

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