2012 NBA Free Agency: Who Could Make the Utah Jazz Western Conference Contenders
If there's one thing that the Oklahoma City Thunder's Western Conference championship has given Jazz fans, it's confidence. Confidence that not all teams must be built with money and upon the lure of decent nightlife. A team can be built from ground up as long as the front office is patient and makes all decisions carefully. A championship team need not have a diva superstar calling the shots. You reading this Orlando?
For the Utah Jazz, the 2011-2012 NBA season was a surprise and a dash of hope. Barely making the playoffs, Jazz fans were treated to a glimpse of what the future may look like for the franchise in Salt Lake City. With an ever-emerging Derrick Favors, a veteran Al Jefferson who's ready to win, and a defensive stud in Gordon Hayward, the Utah Jazz are perhaps only one piece away from true Western Conference supremacy. And they don't need to wait that much longer. That one piece could be lying among the crop of existing free agents this offseason. All the Jazz need to do is pick the right pieces.
Already stealing a couple of quality role players away from the Los Angeles Clippers (Mo Williams) and Atlanta Hawks (Marvin Williams reportedly), the team is gradually and steadily moving its way up to the forefront. Here are a number of different options that the Utah Jazz could focus on that will transform them into one of the elite teams in the Western Conference and perhaps the entire league.
If there's one thing that the Jazz desperately need, it's an elite specialist from beyond the arc. Now that CJ Miles and Raja Bell are rumored to be headed elsewhere (neither were amazing threats from the three point line anyway), the Jazz need to hit free agency hard to find their sharpshooter.
The best one available would have to be Steve Novak. Once a no-namer, Jeremy Lin helped resurrect his career and bring Novak into the spotlight this past season. Of every Knicks game I watched this year, I don't think I ever saw Novak miss when the ball was in his hands.
And with a dominant frontcourt in Millsap/Favors/Jefferson, Utah is going to need guys on the perimeter that can shoot the ball and make it when its kicked out to them. Mo will provide a lot of help in that area, but we do need that specialist. Novak is that guy.
Why not? As long as Andrei doesn't want to be the superstar anymore, Utah could really use his defensive studliness off the bench. Now that Marvin Williams is on board (he's a solid defender), bringing in AK47 would only bolster an already beefy front line.
Imagine that rotation of defensive small forwards: Hayward, Marvin Williams, and AK47. That's actually pretty terrifying.
As long as he's willing to come on board for cheap, the Jazz need to seriously explore all options with the former star Jazzman.
Count me among the people that fell in love with what Ersan Ilyasova did with the Milwaukee Bucks this past season. The guy was an absolute stud. And I'm not just saying that because he was on my fantasy team (waiver wire!)...
But seriously, the guy just produces in any way he's asked. Often overlooked, he can give you points, a boatload of rebounds, and shot 46 percent from the three. He's also 6'10".
If AK47 doesn't work out, we'd be crazy not to take a look and seriously consider Mr. Ilyasova. The guy is only 24 years old.
The Current Cast
But at this point, now that the Jazz have been rumored to be bringing on Marvin Williams and have already pulled in Mo Williams, they have a cast of characters that's ready to contend now. And that's not just my Jazz-bias speaking.
Pending a major move of one of their big men, the Jazz have an extremely scary lineup. If all players continue living up to their potential and take that extra step, we could be set for years to come. We will live and die by Favors, Hayward, and Al. Mr. Millsap will always show up, so it all boils down to those three.
A few more pieces like Novak and Kirilenko may be added, but in the end, the Jazz are set to contend with who they have now. They just need to believe in what they've built and show up every night on the court.
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