My apologies to the loyal, ravenous fanbase of the Utah Jazz, but this team is not going to be good this year.
In the future? Possibly. There are a few young players worth investing, such as Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Gordon Hayward, but there were a few acquisitions, Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins, that lead one to believe that Utah is not going to be exactly adamant about going for a title this season.
Utah can at least be satisfied with the deals that brought in Brandon Rush and John Lucas III, as well as the draft that brought in Trey Burke and Rudy Gobert, but this team will be on the outside looking in come playoff time.
Overall, the past few years have been tough for the Jazz. They lost their coach (Jerry Sloan), All-Star point guard (Deron Williams) and All-Star power forward (Carlos Boozer). This offseason, they have already lost Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, but those two have been in the trade rumors for awhile.
It's clear and evident: the Jazz are in rebuilding mode. They recognize they can't keep up with the Houston's or the San Antonio's or the Oklahoma City's, and it's a great thing they recognized this before marching out a product that's going to be first-round fodder.
It's always darkest before the dawn. For the Jazz, it may be dim for awhile. Even with a number of lottery picks on the roster, reliable players are few and far between on the current roster.
16 players, including those who have yet to be signed by other franchises but have agreed to deals, are on the current Jazz roster and we took the time to rank each and every last one of them.
A 6'3" guard out of Marquette, Jerel McNeal will be fighting for one of the few roster spots remaining on the Utah roster.
It's tough to see him fitting in, though, even with a ragtag roster either filled with declining veterans or unpredictable youth.
McNeal played three summer league games and averaged eight points, 2.3 steals, two assists and 1.7 rebounds per. He also shot 44 percent from the field and 17 percent from beyond the arc. He has been aggressive in his few outings, including an 11-point outing against Indiana where he shot 5-of-12.
In his final season at Marquette in 2009, McNeal averaged 19.8 points and shot a shade under 40 percent from beyond the arc, while also averaging 4.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists per.
There isn't much known about Rudy Gobert, a native of France, other than the fact that he's a large individual.
Standing at 7'1", 220-pounds, Gobert has been exhibiting his authority in the summer league against the hopefuls that are trying to make a name for themselves as players who can score over huge players like Rudy. Most players haven't been successful in doing so, with Gobert averaging 2.4 blocks per in five summer league games.
He also put up 5.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per contest. Perhaps the most impressive numbers, however, is the fact that he's defending without fouling. Outside of recording five fouls in 25 minutes against Indiana, Gobert has managed to stay out of foul trouble; recording two fouls or less in his other four outings.
He played at least 23 minutes in three of those four contests. Not too shabby for a 21-year-old who set draft combine records for wingspan and standing reach.
Even with Andris Biedrins joining the Jazz through a trade, Gobert may be worth keeping on for a Jazz team looking to invest in youth.
If he wasn't such a freak-athlete and dunking-savant, Jeremy Evans may not be holding a job in the NBA.
Recently playing in the summer league, Evans is still on the lookout for relevant minutes on a Jazz team he's been with for three years. Unfortunately, he has simply not done enough to earn those minutes as he continues to struggle with his shot and fails to prove to be anything more than a high-flyer.
Averaging six minutes per game last season, Evans put up averages of two points and 1.6 rebounds per.
However, with no Jefferson and Millsap, perhaps Evans could be rewarded more playing time with more opportunities to prove himself. The 6'9" forward has proven he can finish in the lane, but he's simply got to do more than score around the rim to show that he can be a relevant player outside of Dunk Contest circles.
In extremely small sample sizes, Evans ranked eighth in points per possession, per Synergy, but also ranked 448th in points per possession given up. Perhaps it was his inability to defend spot-ups, ranking 319th and giving up 46 percent shooting on 28 attempts, that hindered his playing time.
2013 will be a big year for Evans, as it will be for any young player on this team looking to insert themselves into a heavier role. With no clear-cut stars, the rotation is open for any player who wants to play enough to earn minutes.
Ah, the curious case of Andris Biedrins. A statistical oddity within the body of someone who resembles Ivan Drago.
You couldn't blame the Golden State Warriors for offering Biedrins a lucrative deal following the 2007-08 season. As a 21-year-old, he played in 76 games, shot a league-best 63 percent from the field and averaged 10.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per. Per 36, it was good enough for 13.8 points and 12.9 rebounds per game.
A 21-year-old already averaging a double-double? Pass that kool-aid on over.
The party continued the next season as Biedrins set a career-high in points (11.9) and rebounds (11.2). He only played 62 games that season, but, hey, a 22-year-old averaging a double-double in a league devoid of quality centers who could maintain resourceful numbers. What's the worst that could go wrong?
Well, everything. Everything could go wrong. Because after that season, Biedrins plain forgot how to play the game of basketball. He was limited to 33 games and his numbers dropped significantly. Oh, and he also shot 16 percent from the foul line.
Sixteen percent, 4-of-25, and that's not even the worst. Two years later, Biedrins would take nine free throws and convert a staggering one of them; good enough for an 11 percent conversion rate. Biedrins once shot 62 percent from the line. What happened?
Most recently, Biedrins averaged 0.5 points, 2.9 rebounds and 0.8 blocks in less than ten minutes of action per game.
Don't expect Biedrins to challenge Enes Kanter or Derrick Favors for a starting spot. He'll be buried on the bench until he figures out just how he earned $9 million per year.
In 2010, the San Antonio Spurs offered Richard Jefferson a deal that would garner him nearly $40 million over a four-year period. That will go down as one of the few times in the past 15 years the Spurs have made a mistake in their front office.
Oh, he could shoot still. He only shot 32 percent from beyond the arc his first season with the Spurs, but would shoot 44 percent from the same area the next season and 42 percent the season before being traded.
The problem was he just wasn't worth the money. He was stealing $10 million from the Spurs, but wasn't providing the team with the veteran expertise and savvy San Antonio expects out of its elder statesmen.
As a 31-year-old shooting 41 percent from the field, Jefferson was a casualty of the amnesty clause and eventually picked up by the Golden State Warriors. His tenure with the Warriors was, for lack of a better word, awful. In the end, it was downright crippling to see a player of Jefferson's magnitude become such an afterthought in such a short period of time.
This past season with the Warriors, Jefferson averaged 3.1 points and 1.5 rebounds per game. Do I need to remind you he was once an integral and vital part of a few New Jersey Nets teams that nearly won a few titles in the early 2000's?
Per Synergy, however, Jefferson ranked fifth in the league in points per possession allowed. Opponents only shot 30 percent, on 139 attempts, when defended by him.
He averaged only ten minutes of playing time in his lone full season with the Warriors. He now joins a Jazz team with an extremely fluid roster with nothing near set. At 33 years old, Jefferson still has time to turn it around, but he'll be sharing playing time with Gordon Hayward and Marvin Williams.
Either way, here's hoping Jefferson can find a way to make the remaining years of his his career respectable.
Life just hasn't been the same for John Lucas III outside of Chicago.
Before he joined the Bulls in 2010, Lucas actually spent two uneventful and forgettable years with the Houston Rockets. With things not working out and no NBA team wanting him, Lucas played overseas in Italy, Spain and China for three years before landing a deal with Chicago.
He only played two games in the season he signed by the Bulls, but would grab life by the horns in a 2011-12 season that featured Derrick Rose in-and-out of the locker room with injuries. With Rose out, it was the likes of C.J. Watson and Lucas earning playing time and making the most of it.
Lucas shot below 40 percent that season, but converted 39 percent of his three-pointers, would average 7.5 points and 2.2 assists per game, and would give the effort that only those who have the most to prove and are the hungriest could provide.
But then he went to Toronto the following season. And, well, you haven't heard much from him lately, have you? He shot below 39 percent from the field and averaged 5.3 points and 1.7 assists per game on a Raptors team that hardly gets the best out of its talent like the Bulls do with their cast of role players.
Lucas is a player who will leave everything on the floor, and isn't scared of backing down from competition, but his poor shooting percentages sometimes neutralize that tenacity he provides when he's on the floor.
With Mo Williams and Jamaal Tinsley possibly on the way out, Lucas could end up with a consistent starting role for the first time in his career.
Only a rookie that has struggled during summer league play, Trey Burke is still one of the few players worth watching in a Utah Jazz uniform this season.
Burke's numbers in his first four games of summer league hardly remind anyone of the dangerous sharpshooter and facilitator he was at the University of Michigan. In four games, Burke has managed to 54 attempts while converting only 13 of those numerous attempts. He also made only one of his 19 three-point attempts.
Overall, he shot 24 percent from the field, while putting up a John Wall-esque three-point percentage of five percent. Despite taking 12 or more shots in each game, Burke only hit double-digit scoring on one occasion, an 11-point outing where he shot 5-of-15.
As far as a facilitator, however, Burke was solid. He averaged four assists and a shade over two turnovers per game. He also surprised with his rebounding capabilities, averaging nearly four per game, including a seven-rebound outing in his debut in a loss to Miami.
Let's not take too much away from summer league, though. Burke's missing, but he's also a 20-year-old playing NBA-level basketball for the first time. We know he's a great shooter, he shot 38 percent from three in his lone year at Michigan, and the shots will fall as they do for every shooter who has to persevere through a slump.
Burke will most likely start out on the bench, but that situation could be fluid. Although the Jazz recently signed John Lucas III, there are still decisions to be made by Mo Williams and Jamaal Tinsley, who are attracting attention from several suitors, via Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld.
It's a shame Earl Watson signed with Portland. He could have provided guidance only a veteran could provide to the player who plays his position.
Following two seasons of solid play in a minor role, the Utah Jazz will no doubt be asking for more from Alec Burks this coming season.
Burks, now entering his third year after being selected 12th in the 2011 draft, has been playing in the summer league and has performed a fine job at separating himself as an NBA player going against future cuts, D-League perennials and end-of-the-bench players. Averaging 19 minutes per game in the Orlando summer league, Burks averaged 14 points on 41 percent shooting.
He had an 18-point, three-rebound, three-assist outing in 30 minutes in a win over Houston. He scored in double-digits in all three games he played, before bowing out early in a matchup with Miami, one where he scored ten points in 11 minutes, with an injury.
He still has a long way to go. He failed to show any vast improvements in his game in his sophomore season, with averages that were similar to his rookie year, and only proved that he could shoot the rock from beyond the arc, improving from 33 percent in his rookie season to 36 percent in his sophomore year.
According to SynergySports, however, Burks struggled as a spot-up shooter, ranking 208th and shooting only 37 percent. He thrived as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, ranking 88th in the league, but neutralized it with overall poor shooting numbers.
His defense left much to be desired, as well. He ranked 421st, allowing opponents to shoot 44 percent, including allowing pick-and-roll ball-handlers to shoot at a 52 percent clip.
This third year will be crucial for Burks, who will be receiving a larger role with the absence of Randy Foye and the exclusions of volume scorers in Millsap and Jefferson.
Jazz fans need not worry, Brandon Rush will be ready for the start of training camp.
Rush suffering a torn ACL only a few days into the 2012-13 season was one of the most upsetting, and unnoticed, events to take place in the NBA.
The 2008 first-round pick was coming off of three solid seasons in Indiana and was able to transfer that play over to Golden State, where he averaged 9.8 points and 3.9 rebounds per, while shooting an impressive 50 percent from the field and 46 percent from beyond the arc.
One minute, 51 seconds into the second game of the season and Rush's fifth year was done; one year after having one of the most efficient shooting seasons of any guard in the NBA.
Golden State's loss is now Utah's gain. A part of the trade that sent Andre Iguodala to Golden State, all the Jazz had to relinquish was Randy Foye and the seldom-used Kevin Murphy. Foye's three-point shooting will be missed, but not nearly as much if Rush is able to fill in his role.
Rush is a 41 percent shooter from deep for his career, converting at least 41 percent of his three-point attempts in the three years leading up to the year he tore his ACL. The Jazz can only hope the 28-year-old that the year off did not cause Rush to lose the three-point shot that made him desired by the likes of the Pacers and Warriors.
Aside from being a perimeter threat, Rush is also a solid perimeter defender that will take the assignment of guarding whoever is the primary ball-handling threat of the night. Rush was a recipient of 2.5 win shares in his second year with Indiana.
Marvin Williams is one of three Utah Jazz players to have been drafted either second or third.
And yet, the Jazz may end up as one of the Western Conference's worst teams. Williams is coming off his first year with the Jazz after spending the first seven years of his career as the underachieving small forward for the Atlanta Hawks. Somehow, he ended up performing more underwhelming than before.
Sharing time with Gordon Hayward, it was Williams, the starter, who ended up receiving less minutes than his fellow small forward teammate. He averaged the lowest numbers of his career since he was a rookie, 7.2 points and 3.6 rebounds per, and managed to shoot only 42 percent from the field and 33 percent from beyond the arc.
Just another year, really, for the career 45 percent overall and 33 percent three-point shooter. His 10.9 PER was the lowest of his career, as was the 2.3 win shares he earned. Needless to say, Williams will be looking for a significant bounceback year with Utah, especially if he intends to keep his starting job away from the hungry and younger Hayward.
With Utah needing all the scoring it can get, Williams being sent to the bench, as he did in 22 out of 73 games played last year, may be an idea that comes to fruition soon. Utah is looking to invest more time in its younger players and Williams, who recently turned 27, has yet to prove that he could be looked at as a reliable scoring option.
Williams is a guy who can, from time-to-time, have a great shooting night, but he also disappears as much as he has an actual impact in a game. Despite being a starter, his scoring high last year was only a mere 20 points in a win over Sacramento.
When it came down to it, the Jazz were far more willing to give the minutes at the three to the more capable Hayward.
When watching this Utah Jazz team last year, you almost forgot that they had a number two and three picks quietly waiting for their chance to step up and receive their opportunity to prove themselves.
One of those players was Derrick Favors. The other was Enes Kanter, who continues to remain a mystery in terms of what he can provide and just how much potential he has. The Swiss-born power forward/center was unpredictable out of college, since he didn't play at all, and he remains as such to this day because of sparing minutes in his first two seasons.
Minutes shouldn't be a problem in Kanter's future, even with the Jazz trading for Andris Biedrins. The difference between those two is we already know what to expect out of Andris. Kanter, however, is a 6'11", 21-year-old that averaged 16.9 points and 10.2 rebounds per 36 minutes last season.
He has started only two games in his first two seasons. It would be safe to say that a starting job would be in his future, otherwise the Jazz would not have attempted to trade Millsap and Jefferson so vigorously over the past year. Utah wants to begin getting its young players on the floor and playing the minutes of a starter.
Kanter only averaged 15 minutes per game last season, but was solid in averaging 7.2 points and 4.3 rebounds per. In one of his two starts last year, Kanter put up a 23-point, 22-rebound outing in a blowout win over Charlotte. He also had 18 points and eight rebounds in his other start, a blowout win over Toronto.
But let's not get too overzealous that Kanter is putting up big numbers on the likes of the Bobcats and Raptors. It's how he performs against the teams with something worth fighting for that will reveal what type of player he is.
Kanter spends most of his time around the rim, but isn't afraid to shoot and shouldn't be either. Enes was a 46 percent shooter in the 16-25 foot range, 40 percent from 10-16 feet and 45 percent from 3-10 feet.
Coming off the best season of his career, Gordon Hayward now has a chance to step into the spotlight as arguably the best player on this rebuilding Jazz team.
Hayward, who averaged career-highs in points (14.1) and three-pointers made (1.4), could actually break the starting lineup again after being relegated to the bench for the majority of the season. While Marvin Williams took over starting small forward responsibilities, Hayward thrived in his role off the bench.
Now that I think about it, perhaps Hayward coming off the bench would be the best idea for Utah. Although the team is going to be in obvious need of scoring, especially with the their two best scorers from last year no longer on the team, Hayward played the role of a spark extremely well.
Although he came off the bench, Hayward was still getting starter minutes averaging nearly 30 per game.
But his responsibility will be larger now that Jefferson and Millsap are no longer around. At only 23 years old, Hayward, who has shot above 41 percent from three twice in his three-year career, will be a main component of a team that will focus the majority of its attention on its young players, such as Hayward, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter.
Hayward thrived last year as a three-point shooter, but could still use some work on his mid-range game. He was a 38 percent shooter in the 16-25 foot range, but managed a paltry 32 percent in the 10-16 foot area, while also struggling to shoot 37 percent in the 3-10 foot range.
The 44 percent he shot last year overall was the lowest of his career. He'll have to improve on his pull-up jumper game if he wants to be recognized as a significant contributor.
Overall, Hayward was a 38 percent jump shooter; an improvement from the 36 percent he shot in a sophomore season where he struggled with his three-point shot.
Is there a problem with the roster if there's a debate over who the best player is on an NBA team?
In the case of the Utah Jazz, there is. Without a go-to scorer like Al Jefferson, jumping ship for Charlotte or another reliable threat in Paul Millsap, leaving for Atlanta, the Jazz are now forced to rely on an entirely new power forward/center combo. One that involves Derrick Favors, a former second-round pick of the then New Jersey Nets.
Favors, a part of the trade that sent Deron Williams to the Nets, didn't play a year in New Jersey before getting sent to Utah. Over the past two-and-a-half years, Favors, who was incredibly raw at first, has gradually improved his overall game and has received a gradual increase in his minutes as a result.
After averaging only 6.8 points and 5.3 rebounds as a rookie in between stints with the Nets and Jazz, Favors most recently averaged a healthy 9.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per as one of the first players off Utah's bench. Per 36 minutes, he was garnering nearly 15 points and 11 rebounds per game.
Those are the numbers we should expect out of Favors this year, who also set a career-high averaging 1.7 blocks per last year, or 2.6 per 36 minutes. He has sporadically started throughout his career, but should find a consistent starting role now that Utah has cleared out the frontcourt leading to nowhere.
Favors had a career-high PER of 17.5 last year.
He's an athletic freak for his size at 6'10", 246-pounds, and does most of his damage near the rim where he shot 67 percent last season. However, his percentages from everywhere else on court drop-off significantly, including a lowly conversion rate of 26 percent on 62 attempts in the range from 16 feet to the perimeter.
At only 22-years-old and with untapped potential, however, the Jazz could train Favors into being more than a player who plays above the rim.