Utah Jazz Positions That Must be Upgraded before 2013 Season

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Utah Jazz Positions That Must be Upgraded before 2013 Season
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The Utah Jazz had a great frontcourt in 2012-13, but they need to upgrade at point guard, shooting guard and small forward before next season.

They didn't have a terrible campaign, finishing ninth in the Western Conference at 43-39, but Jazz fans have come to expect playoff teams and most are ready to leave the lottery behind.

The two most viable means for upgrading will be free agency and the draft (unless they work a sign-and-trade with Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap).

However they do it, the Jazz could use some improvement at both wings and at the point.

 

Point Guard

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Utah's need at point guard is probably its most pressing. When healthy, Mo Williams was its best option, but he was 28th among point guards in Player Efficiency Rating (PER). His 13 points and six assists a game looks solid standing alone but doesn't stack up against the league's best guards.

The NBA is becoming more and more point guard driven. Lots of teams are being built around young guards like Derrick Rose, Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving. The Jazz need someone at the position who can compete with this rising generation.

The organization has a couple of ways it can upgrade at point, and it may do both. There are a couple of veteran options available in free agency, and it may take a point guard with the No. 14 pick in the draft.

Two names that might make sense as veteran options for Utah are Jose Calderon or Jarrett Jack. 

Calderon is 31, so he would be a short-term option, but he would be a solid distributor for the current core of the team and a good mentor for whomever the Jazz take in the draft.

For his career, Calderon has averaged over seven assists a game in less than 30 minutes. He's a pass-first point guard and would create good open looks for young players like Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter.

At 29, Jarrett Jack is a slightly younger option for the same role. Last season, Jack was a candidate for Sixth Man of the Year and averaged 12.9 points and 5.6 assists a game coming off the Golden State Warriors bench.

Going with Jack might not be that much different than Mo Williams, though. Their numbers, minutes and size are all very similar, and both have shown the ability to make big shots in the playoffs (Williams in Cleveland and Jack last year).

They have similar weaknesses as well. Neither one is a prolific playmaker or a great defender. Any of these three (Calderon, Jack or the incumbent Williams) would most likely be short-term solutions at the position.

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Another way to upgrade at point is through the draft. The Jazz have the No. 14 pick, and Dennis Schroeder or Shane Larkin might be available. 

I'd go with Larkin if he's there. He's proved he can be a winner as the leader of a team (he led his Miami Hurricanes to an ACC title last year). He's undersized but has NBA athleticism (44" vertical jump at the combine). And he's proved to be an effective shooter (15 points a game while hitting 41 percent of his threes).

Larkin may not be ready to start right away, but the Jazz can sign someone like Calderon, Jack or Williams to tutor him until he's ready to take over.

 

Shooting Guard

Randy Foye started all but 10 games for the Jazz at shooting guard and was fairly effective in his role as a three-point specialist. Over half of his field-goal attempts were threes, and he hit 41 percent of those attempts. The problem with Foye was that he did little else.

The Jazz have bigger and younger options for the wing in Alec Burks and Gordon Hayward.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Burks hasn't really experienced a major role at any point during his two-year NBA career, but he has been effective in limited minutes on the wing (and occasionally at the point), averaging over 15 points per 36 minutes. He was also a prolific scorer at Colorado where he averaged 19 points a game over his two seasons in college.

He also has better size for a shooting guard than Foye. In fact, Burks basically has the prototypical body for an NBA shooting guard at 6'6" and 195 pounds.

At 6'8", Hayward may be more of a small forward, but he's showed the ball-handling ability and jump shooting range to spend some time at shooting guard as well.

He was third on the team in scoring this past season at 14.1 points a game and hit 42 percent of his three-point attempts. He's earned the chance to be a leader and may get it next year if Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are signed by another team.

Hayward started just 27 times last year and played less than 30 minutes a game. He should have a bigger role next season and could spend some time at shooting guard.

Utah can also upgrade this position by adding some depth through the draft. The Jazz have the No. 21 pick, and Reggie Bullock from UNC or Allen Crabbe from California may be available. Both have NBA bodies and three-point range.

 

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Small Forward

It's pretty difficult to understand what coach Tyrone Corbin is doing at the small forward position.

Marvin Williams started 51 games, but he didn't accomplish much. He averaged 7.2 points and 3.6 rebounds and never really had a significant impact on any aspect.

DeMarre Carroll started 12 games and always played with great effort on both ends of the floor. He's one of those guys who doesn't mind doing the little things, and there's usually a place on any team for a player like that.

But he's simply out of his league against a lot of NBA small forwards. He's appeared in 173 NBA games and has career averages of 4.2 points and 2.3 rebounds a game. At best, he's an energy guy off the bench.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

One way the Jazz can add some depth at small forward is through free agency.

Kyle Korver looks like a great option. He's played for Utah in the past and has proved to be one of (if not the) best three-point shooter in the NBA. Last year in Atlanta, he averaged 10.9 points a game while hitting 46 percent of his three-point attempts. Jazz fans would welcome him back with open arms.

Korver is probably best suited as a three-point specialist off the bench because he's not exceptional at any other aspect of the game. Utah could use a more complete player in the starting lineup.

The answer is Gordon Hayward.

He's fundamentally solid on offense, with the ability to handle the ball, pass and shoot. He was fourth on the Jazz in assist percentage last year (behind point guards Mo Williams, Jamaal Tinsley and Earl Watson) and third in true shooting percentage (behind centers Jeremy Evans and Kanter).

As soon as Corbin is ready to entrust Hayward with a bigger role, I expect him to embrace it and grow into the leader a young Jazz team without Jefferson and Millsap will need (assuming both go). I don't expect him to carry Utah to the playoffs the way he carried Butler to the Final Four in college, but he's definitely shown he can handle a bigger role with his current team.

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