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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

SDH's 2012/2013 NBA Worst to First Previews and Predictions: 17. Utah Jazz

Overall Win/Loss Record : 36-30 third place Northwest division

Last Season’s Rank

14
Projected 2012/2013 Finish

17
Last season’s Team Statistics and League Rank
  • Points Scored: 99.7 (4th)
  • Points Allowed: 99.0 (23rd)
  • Team FG%: .456 (9th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .453 (18th)
  • Rebounds per game: 44.2 (3rd)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 41.2 (10th)



Returning Individual Statistical Leaders
  • Scoring: Al Jefferson (19.2)
  • Rebounds per game:  Al Jefferson (9.6)
  • Minutes per game: Al Jefferson (34.0)
  • Assists per game: Earl Watson (4.3)
  • Steals per game:  Paul Milsap (1.8)
  • Blocked Shots per game:  Al Jefferson (1.7)

Projected Starters Based on Last Season’s Performance, Veteran Seniority and Projected Impact


Key Reserves Based on Last Season’s Performances, Veteran Seniority and Potential Impact.
  1. Derrick Favors (F/C)
  2. Gordon Hayward (G/F)
  3. Earl Watson (PG)
  4. Alec Burks (G)
  5. Enes Kanter (F/C)

2012/2013 Projection:  44-38 fourth place in Northwest Division, will come so close yet remain too far to reach the post season.

Analysis:

Qualifying for the playoffs was probably the worst thing to happen to this young Utah Jazz team.  Instead of preparing to rebuild and starting from scratch, now the Jazz and their fans have the delusion that they are still a playoff team which is simply not the case.  The Jazz were lucky, that is all; they were lucky enough to have the Phoenix Suns and the Houston Rockets, who were odds on favorite to win the final spot in the West, collapsed giving Utah the room to just slip in unnoticed.  Instead of taking a long term view to develop a solid core of young players whom includes Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Gordon Hayward, Jeremy Evans and Alec Burks; the Jazz will be looking to continue with the roster it currently has that is extremely flawed to say the least.  The team is overloaded to the hilt with big post players yet have no one in their team that can consistently hit a jump shot beyond ten feet from the hoop.

With the way the Northwest division has been shaping, it is even less plausible to see the Jazz returning to the playoffs.  The first two spots in the division have already been taken by the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Denver Nuggets with the third place being corralled by the onetime doormat Minnesota Timberwolves.  If the Jazz decide to push towards reaching the playoffs again, they will endure the disappointment of posting a winning record just miss the playoffs and having nothing but a low first round pick to show for it.  Utah will just be spinning its tires watching the rubber melt of its wheel while not moving anywhere as it continues its slide into quicksand.  That is no way for a team to function desperately holding onto its past despite the sad reality glaring in front of its face that it is time to move on.

Utah has been fortunate to have gathered numerous pieces that can prove to be solid building blocks to a rather prosperous future.  They have two of most talented young men to come off the bench in Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter; both have the natural gifts of size strength, skills and talent to become greater than they are right now.  Unfortunately, they find themselves shelved on the bench in favor of veterans Al Jefferson and Paul Milsap who would probably serve themselves better on an already established veteran team rather than one that is looking to start over.  The same goes for their other young players such as Gordon Hayward, Jeremy Evans, and Alec Burks—young swingmen with plenty of upside, but need minutes to develop, however.  They have been unfortunately upstaged by veterans such as Marvin Williams, Mo Williams, Raja Bell, Earl Watson and Randy Foye whom have seen their upsides all but disappear in their careers.  Neither one of those veteran mentioned have the goods to keep Utah in contention, so holding onto them will just be counter-productive as they will inevitably hold the team back.

At least these veterans will have some value in the future as their deals will be expiring in a year or two leaving Utah with plenty of salary cap space to work with; however, will the Jazz front office have the foresight to let these veterans go for the long run or be scared enough to hang on to them for fear of not making the playoffs in the near future.  Fear is a very strong motivator in professional sports as team managers and coaching staffs mostly care of survival and keeping their records spotless rather than actually taking a risk that can hurt their careers.  Right now, coach Tyrone Corbin's resume looks rather impeccable coaching the Jazz for a little over a season along with reaching the playoffs in his first season.  Will he want to risk his resume to be tarnished by his team losing because the management decided to go in another direction focusing on developing their youth rather than winning now?  Most coaches would not want that because such a move does not affect their careers now, but much later when they are subsequently fired and then find themselves looking for a new job.

This leaves the Utah Jazz stuck at an impasse—a virtual fork in the road that carries risk on both ends, but the rewards are more lucrative on one side than the other.  Do they continue with the team that they have and risk being stuck for years mired in mediocrity or do they take a chance to blow things up in favor for possible better future that may or may not happen?  Either way, there is no escaping the fact that the ownership, front office, and coaching staff have to make this decision rather quickly for time is running out.  It does not matter what direction they will take because the result will be the same—the Jazz will not be headed to playoffs this season or any season following that.  Last season’s playoff appearance was a complete fluke, and those who believe that Utah has any chance of returning to the post season are fooling themselves and a need a major reality check.