NBA Playoffs 2012: Will Utah Ever Be a Contender Again?
The gradual departure of talent like Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer, Wes Matthews and Andrei Kirilenko, as well as long-time head coach Jerry Sloan, made a playoff berth seem like something the Jazz would not achieve for at least a couple of years.
Utah has grown far away from the days where the trio of Karl Malone, John Stockton and Jeff Hornacek tried to lead the franchise to their first ever championship. Although their attempts were unsuccessful, the Jazz were still considered one of the NBA's top teams.
Malone, Stockton and Hornacek were provided a supporting cast that helped Utah achieve two NBA Finals appearances and three Western Conference Finals appearances.
That is why I, for one, am glad that the present Jazz team is matched up against the San Antonio Spurs in a playoff series.
Utah obviously will not win this playoff series. In fact, they will be lucky to win one game. This series is more so meant to provide young guys like Alec Burks, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Gordon Hayward not only valuable playoff experience, but also a firsthand look at how the Jazz need to play to reach that contender level again.
San Antonio's team is built, in my opinion, similar to Utah's. Their players come as a result of the draft, trades and free agency, journeymen or undrafted players, all looking for an opportunity they more than likely will not receive on other teams.
The Spurs have found their winning formula.
Meanwhile, Tyrone Corbin is slowly finding a system that works for his young Jazz team, and toughness is at the center of it. The departure of Deron Williams has also seemingly rid them of any conflict, which may be why the team has played this season like more of a collective unit.
It is clear, however, they need more scoring options, certain players to improve on defense, a true team leader on the court and a closer (maybe more than one).
Utah also needs to finally rid themselves of Devin Harris and let Earl Watson be the starting point guard once he returns from injury. A suitable backup can be found in the upcoming draft.
The team should rise to become one of the NBA's best if these things happen
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