The Utah Jazz are among only a handful of teams that have quality young players to build around for the future. But which young player should be the future centerpiece that the Jazz will decide to build around? Is there a potential superstar hidden on the bench somewhere, or is this young Jazz team destined to adopt the Denver Nuggets model?
The Jazz management has made it clear that they will look to deal Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson—the two best players on the team—if a good opportunity presents itself.
It's obvious that the Jazz aren't willing to sign Millsap or Jefferson to a loaded contract because they have little room to improve, and they aren't the players to build around to create a contending team. Instead, the Jazz are anticipating to start the rebuild some time in the near future with the abundance of young talent they have.
Looking through every player on the Jazz who's under the age of 23, there isn't one name that stands out as a future superstar in the making. Every young players (Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Kevin Murphy) can each play a specific role to contribute to the team, but is there one player that the Jazz can label as the future face of their franchise?
Let's start by taking a look at two of the more proven, seasoned young players in Favors and Hayward. From their respective contributions so far in their careers, they are further along in their development than the three other aforementioned youngsters.
Hayward is the typical, but crucial do-it-all small forward that every team would love to have on their team. Through two and a half seasons in the NBA, he has proven that he is a versatile defender and has a constant motor whenever he's on the floor.
On top of that, Hayward has been one of the best shooters from beyond the arc this season, averaging an astounding 41 percent from three this season. With a stat line of 13.7 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2.3 APG and a PER of 16.4, it doesn't scream out "superstar" right now, but he will definitely be an important piece for the Jazz' rebuilding efforts.
With all that being said, Hayward is not the player that the Jazz should build their team around. He is the player that every team needs—a selfless, hustle player willing to take on any challenge for the team—but he isn't destined to be a player who can take over a game by himself. Hayward would most likely develop into a player like Nicolas Batum—someone who contributes to many facets of a game but won't ever be the centerpiece for his team.
Derrick Favors is more likely to develop into the player that the Jazz would look to build around in the near future. Is he a more complete player than Hayward is at the moment? Probably not. But we already got a glimpse of what type of player that Hayward is, while Favors' ceiling and potential is still yet to be seen largely because of his limited playing time.
Favors is already known as one of the best big man defenders, with a high basketball IQ on that end of the court. I wrote a previous article on how Favors has exceptional skills and the potential to be a premier player in this league.
Among every player under the age of 23 on the Jazz roster, Favors is the one most likely to develop into the type of player the franchise can look to build around. He has the body, athleticism and IQ to become a more prominent offensive player than any other Jazz player once he polishes his game on that end of the floor.
The three other youngsters—Enes Kanter, Alec Burks and especially Kevin Murphy—haven't had many good opportunities to demonstrate what they are capable of.
Kanter is a rugged, physical wrestler in the paint who excels at what he does—using his body to grab rebounds and aggressively finishing pick-and-rolls. He can occasionally score from the post, but that part of the game still needs improvement.
Per Basketball Reference, Kanter is averaging 15.0 PPG and 10.1 RPG per-36 minutes, with a total rebounding rate of 16.3. Those numbers are excellent, and he is definitely an intriguing prospect as he improves and gets more playing time in the future.
He doesn't have all the athletic tools or intelligence of Favors on defense, but that will come with time. Kanter will always be a big, physical body in the paint and he has proved that he's more than capable of holding his own down there.
With the game shifting towards the perimeter and more versatile centers are favored over traditional ones, it's unlikely that Kanter will be the focus of the team. Make no mistake though, he will thrive in what he does best and be a valuable contributor to the Jazz rebuild for years to come.
Alec Burks and Kevin Murphy on the other hand are two shooting guards whose skills complement each other well, but have had even less of an opportunity to show it.
Burks is probably closer to being a complete player, as he's a solid defender, good passer, exceptional athlete and great slasher (although his field-goal percentage doesn't show it). He filled in at point guard admirably in a recent win—garnering praise from his teammates and coaches.
Amar of SLC Dunk discussed some considerable aspects of Burks' game and his potential to be a superstar. While his outside shooting could use work, that's an area he can improve in through hard-work and practice. You can't teach athleticism, speed and court vision and these qualities separate him from other young guards.
We haven't seen much of Murphy in the NBA, but he proved he is a deadly shooter and scorer with his play at Tennessee Tech. He possesses a silky smooth shooting stroke that rivals that of Ray Allen and Kevin Durant.
Although he is a proven scorer in the college ranks, he hasn't demonstrated it yet in his transition to the professional league. At 6'6", 185 pounds, it's hard to see him banging and pounding with the average NBA player on a consistent basis without getting dragged around like a sack of potatoes.
The Jazz have plenty of young talent to construct a tremendous team in the near future, but the centerpiece to build around is still uncertain.
Favors, Burks and Hayward are all capable players who have skills that can instantly contribute to any team, but can any of them put a team on his back and lead them to the promise land?
I would start my rebuild around Favors and Burks, as I believe they have the highest potential out of all five of the youngsters. Realistically though, this Jazz team would probably turn into a team similar to the current Denver Nuggets—a team with a bunch of quality young players playing at a breakneck pace without truly employing a superstar.