NBA Free Agency 2012: Bold Moves the Utah Jazz Will Make This Summer
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The Utah Jazz seem to be stuck in neutral this season, but that is about to change.
Though they have climbed back to above .500 with a big win over the Los Angeles Lakers, the team has been too inconsistent and has too many holes to truly build on going forward.
With a full summer to work the trade wires right around the corner, general manager Kevin O’Connor should look to build on the promising core of young talent the Jazz have picked up the last couple of seasons.
Utah has good, young players at shooting guard (Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks), power forward (Derrick Favors) and center (Enes Kanter). Paul Millsap, relatively young at only 27, is another piece that should be among the untouchables for the Jazz, but there are several players that could (and should) be cut or traded after the season.
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Though Devin Harris has been able to scratch his way back to having a decent season for the Jazz, the fact that he has simply seemed to be disinterested in games earlier in the season has to concern the Jazz management team.
Harris has always been viewed as a temporary fix at the point guard position after a trade last season that sent Deron Williams to the New Jersey Nets, and that temporary status will be confirmed this summer.
It is true that Harris has been playing much better as of late, but his low production overall is what shines through the most when looking at his tenure in Utah.
His lack of contribution is particularly evident when looking at the primary duty of a point guard, which is setting up teammates for buckets. Harris only averages 4.4 dimes per game, which puts him 26th in the league among guards. He also ranks 32nd in steals per game among guards (1.0), a stat that is 20 percent below his career average.
Look for the Jazz to seek out other options at point guard among unrestricted free agents this summer. Such options include Goran Dragic and Nate Robinson, two shifty point guards that would change the face and attitude of the backcourt and are being underutilized on their current teams.
Part Ways with C.J. Miles
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C.J. Miles showed up in Utah in 2005 as a raw 18-year-old, he will leave this summer still looking to find himself in the NBA.
Miles seemed poised to continue his climb up the NBA ladder with a record 2010-11 campaign, but this season he seems to have regressed back to his former self. That disappointment shows on the faces of fans, but it also shows in how he has been playing.
After averaging 12.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.7 rebounds and 0.9 steals (all career highs) last year, Jazz fans were anticipating an exceptional 2011-12 season. Rather, Miles has again turned into Mr. Inconsistency.
With both Josh Howard and C.J. Miles entering this offseason as unrestricted free agents, Kevin O’Connor is going to focus on re-signing a more proven Howard.
Both will be available for around $3-4 million per season, and with Miles’ inconsistency again showing its ugly head in his seventh year with the team, the Jazz should part ways with him and look for someone with better range to help space the floor for the strong frontcourt.
Al Jefferson Trade
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Al Jefferson currently leads the Jazz in points (19.0) and rebounds (9.4) per game, but he will not be leading the team in any category next season.
With Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors knocking down the door behind Jefferson and Millsap in the lineup, along with a backcourt that has been hurting the team all season, the Jazz need to trade Jefferson this summer.
Per the Salt Lake Tribune, Kevin O’Connor recently mentioned that he just could not find a deal that he liked prior to the NBA trade deadline last week. With an entire summer to work with, the chances of O’Connor making some moves to trade Jefferson are very high.
Jefferson is set to earn $15 million next year, which takes up roughly a fourth of the existing room under current salary cap rules (without paying a penalty).
With Millsap, Favors and Kanter set to earn a combined $16.3 million next year, the Jazz brass are going to want to clear up room for much-needed additions (point guard and small forward) in order to make them a more competitive team from top to bottom.
Furthermore, Jefferson’s recent injuries should lead O’Connor to look hard at teams desperate for a presence in the paint that are potential trade partners (the Charlotte Bobcats who currently have D.J. Augustin and Corey Maggette), though a multi-team trade may be another way to move Big Al’s big contract.