Analyzing Utah Jazz's Biggest Draft Needs
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The Utah Jazz are at the beginning of a monumentally important offseason for the state of the franchise. However, with two first-round draft picks and tons of cap space, they are set up to make this offseason a productive one.
Utah has roughly $25.6 million committed to the roster next season. After that, the following season the team has only $1.75 million committed to rarely used forward Jeremy Evans. No other player has a guaranteed contract for 2014-15.
Other than Evans, the team has options on building blocks Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors, Alec Burks and Gordon Hayward. The four represent an ushering of a new era of Utah Jazz basketball. As of now, they are the cornerstones that are the future of this team.
Four of the five positions are filled by that group moving forward. None of the team's point guards are under contract next season, leaving the team clamoring for a franchise player in the backcourt. Mo Williams, Jamaal Tinsley and Earl Watson all could potentially be moving on next season, and in order to turn this group into a cohesive unit, they need a player to guide them.
The Salt Lake Tribune's Steve Luhm recently reported that the team has held a pre-draft workout for a number of point guards, including South Dakota State's Nate Wolters and Myck Kabongo from Texas.
"Utah does need a point guard, and everybody is aware of that," Kabongo said. "I’m excited to come out here. Obviously the history with John Stockton is here. And a lot of other great guards have come through. So it’s a pleasure to be here."
In addition to the 21st pick in the first round, the Jazz also have a lottery pick. Since Utah barely missed the playoffs, it has almost no chance of winning the first pick and will likely be picking around 14th.
Mo Williams averaged 6.2 assists per game this past season. Earl Watson and Jamaal Tinsley both averaged over four assists a game as well but were offensive liabilities for the most part. They combined to score only 5.5 points per game while each shooting well under 40 percent from the field.
Aside from Gordon Hayward, Mo Williams and Randy Foye are the squad's only three-point threats. Both are free agents, and if either or both leaves, they take with them a huge part of the offense. Foye made over a third of the Jazz's three-pointers this season, canning a career-high 178 while playing in all 82 games.
NBADraft.net currently has Utah slated to select Kentavious Caldwell-Pope out of Georgia at 14 and Tim Hardaway Jr. from Michigan at 21. Both are off-ball guards and cannot handle the ball very well, so it would be difficult to see both these picks coming to fruition unless the team re-signs Mo Williams.
Regardless, this group needs backcourt depth and talent desperately. Picking a guard with each of their first-round picks would be advantageous of them since their frontcourt is set. Even if Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap both jump ship, Kanter and Favors are more than ready to start. Addressing frontcourt depth is an option the Jazz can explore with their second-round pick.
Thinking outside the box, Utah may be willing to package its two first-rounders in order to move up. There are plenty of guards near the top of the first round. Trey Burke and Michael Carter-Williams will almost assuredly be gone by the time the Jazz are picking, unless they can get lucky in the draft lottery.
The bottom line is that Utah needs guard help in this draft. It specifically needs to address passing, outside shooting and leadership and must make sure that whoever it comes out of the draft with is capable of doing these things.
Past drafts have been kind to the Jazz, as they have come out with Kanter, Hayward and Burks in recent years. They are one good draft away from being a very young, exciting team that can mesh together and eventually be a substantial threat to the rest of the Western Conference.
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