Utah Jazz Training Camp 2013: Full Preview and Roster Projections

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Utah Jazz Training Camp 2013: Full Preview and Roster Projections
USA TODAY Sports

When the Utah Jazz kick off training camp next week, the team will be playing to a much different melody than it did when it was last on an NBA floor in April.

In fact, there may not be another team in the league that experienced more turnover during the summer of 2013. So think of the next few bullets as a final goodbye to the old team and the remainder of this preview as an introduction to the new one.

 

Jazz 2012-13 Results

  • 43-29 record (.524)
  • 3rd in Northwest Division
  • 9th in Western Conference

 

Key Stats: The Good and the Bad

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports


Utah's middle-of-the-pack finish was consistent with most of their team statistics. Two exceptions were three-pointers made and offensive rebounding.

The former was one of the Jazz weaknesses. They finished 23rd in three-point buckets and lost two of their top three shooters (in terms of makes per game) from out there. Randy Foye and Mo Williams made just under half the team's total threes, so this weakness might be even more glaring in 2013-14.

As for the other exception, the Jazz had the league's eighth best offensive rebounding percentage at 28.8. That will likely continue to be a strength of theirs going forward.

Enes Kanter, Jeremy Evans and Derrick Favors were the team's top three in that category. All finished with percentages over 11 and will see a significant increase in playing time this year.

 

Biggest Storylines Entering Training Camp

 

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

With 2012-13 in the books, a new storyline is now emerging in Utah, and it's pretty obvious: For perhaps the first time since the franchise launched in New Orleans in 1974, the Jazz are basically starting fresh. This is a full-fledged rebuild.

After piling up young players from the 2010, 2011 and 2013 draft lotteries, and saying goodbye to four out of the team's top five leading scorers from last season, Utah's projected starting lineup has an average age under 22.

So despite the inevitable growing pains that will manifest themselves as bad shots, turnovers and losses, Jazz fans have plenty to be excited about. The next few months will be more about how well these young guys jell together than the number of wins and losses.

Though those losses are important too. Because the more L's Utah tallies, the more ping pong balls will be assigned to them in the 2014 draft lottery. No team comes right out and says they're tanking, but most Jazz fans realize that losses aren't the worst thing this year—especially if they lead to Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker this summer.

But enough gazing into the future. Let's get back to the reason we're here: the 2013-14 Jazz, how the team got to this point, what to expect from all these youngsters this season and how training camp might affect the way everything plays out.

 

Key Additions and Losses 

 

Nick Laham/Getty Images

 

Key Additions: Trey Burke, PG (four years, $11 million remaining); Richard Jefferson, SF (one year, $11 million remaining); Andris Biedrins, C (one year, $9 million remaining); Brandon Rush, SG/SF (one year, $4 million remaining); John Lucas III, PG (two years, $3.2 million remaining)

Key LossesAl Jefferson, C/PF (three years, $40.5 million remaining with CHA); Paul Millsap, PF (two years, $19 million remaining with ATL); Mo Williams, PG (two years/$5.4 million remaining with POR); Randy Foye, SG (three years, $9.1 million remaining with DEN); DeMarre Carroll, SF (two years, $5 million remaining with ATL); Jamaal Tinsley, PG (unsigned); Earl Watson, PG (one year, $884,293 remaining with POR)

 

Biggest Addition: Trey Burke

Because a handful of the additions were castoffs from the Golden State Warriors, draft-night steal Trey Burke was Utah's biggest acquisition this offseason by default. 

Hopefully that doesn't come off as a knock against Burke—or the deal that landed the castoffs, for that matter.

All three former Warriors (Jefferson, Biedrins and Rush) are on expiring contracts and the Jazz received five draft picks from Golden State and Denver to facilitate a deal that sent Andre Iguodala from the mountains to the bay.

That trade could have an impact on the future, but the addition that will affect the 2013-14 season the most is the No. 9 overall pick Burke.

Utah has been starved for a point guard since Deron Williams shipped off to Brooklyn in February of 2011, and that famine may finally be over.

Burke won five NCAA Player of the Year awards last season after averaging 18.6 points and 6.7 assists while leading his Michigan Wolverines all the way to the national title game.

All season long, he showed the intangibles you want most out of a true point guard: leadership and unselfishness.

Both traits will be influential in the immediate success and long-term development of this entire team.

Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors will crash the boards and run harder if they know their point guard will reward them with scoring opportunities. Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks should see an uptick in their shooting percentages as Burke draws defenders off the perimeter.

More naturally than any other position, the point guard can make everyone on the team better. And if that happens in the short-term, the confidence generated by such success would improve each player's long-term outlook.

 

Biggest Loss: Paul Millsap

This is a toss-up between Utah's two leading scorers from last season: Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. Both were essential contributors to a solid offense, but their departures made sense as part of the long-term rebuilding effort.

Harry How/Getty Images

Losing Millsap is a bit more painful because he's been with the Jazz for all seven of his NBA seasons and has become a defining part of the team's culture.

He spent the first four years of his career as a high-energy reserve who dominated the boards and cleaned up second-chance opportunities.

As a full-time starter since 2010, he averaged 16.1 points and 7.8 rebounds. Fans will certainly want to see that production replaced, but will miss Millsap's attitude and effort more than his numbers.

 

Depth Chart Breakdown and Training Camp Breakdowns

Utah Jazz
1 2 3
PG Trey Burke, 6'1" John Lucas III, 5'11" Scott Machado, 6'1"
SG Alec Burks, 6'6" Brandon Rush, 6'6" Ian Clark, 6'3"
SF Gordon Hayward, 6'8" Richard Jefferson, 6'7" Marvin Williams, 6'9"
PF Derrick Favors, 6'10" Jeremy Evans, 6'9" Dwayne Jones, 6'11"
C Enes Kanter, 6'11" Andris Biedrins, 6'11" Rudy Gobert, 7'2"

http://espn.go.com/nba/team/depth/_/name/utah/utah-jazz

Utah's starting lineup is young, loaded with potential and features five players who seem to complement one another perfectly. 

From point guard to center, each player basically has the prototypical size and skill set for his position. The lone exception would be Burke, who may be an inch or two short.

Burke's role as a true point guard was covered in the previous section, so we'll move on to the wings.

At shooting guard, the Jazz have a slasher with a 6'10" wingspan that helps him finish at the rim in Alec Burks. He also added some combo guard skills last year, as the team played him at the point for limited stretches.

The 23-year-old small forward Gordon Hayward is the veteran of the lineup and the most accomplished scorer. After posting 14.8 points per game last year, he'll have to carry an even heavier load as the only player in the starting five who's ever averaged double figures. 

Inside, Utah has Favors and Kanter. These two are an excellent combination because of the touch and range of the latter. He shot 46 percent from 16 feet and beyond. That ability will drag opposing centers away from the rim and make it easier for Favors to get easy finishes inside.

Although the lineup, as I just detailed it, is the assumed starting five, there certainly hasn't been a guarantee on it from anyone inside the organization. There may be a couple spots up for grabs.

   

Training Camp Battles to Watch

 

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Alec Burks vs. Brandon Rush:

Fully embracing the youth movement and rebuilding would mean going with Burks, but Rush is the more accomplished player. His career scoring average of 9.1 points is two better than Burks' and his three-point percentage of 41 is six points better.

 

Gordon Hayward vs. Marvin Williams:

Williams was the starting small forward for most of last year, despite being thoroughly outplayed by Hayward all season. Coach Tyrone Corbin may want to use Hayward as the offensive spark off the bench again this year, but that might stunt his development.

 

Backup Power Forward:

Derrick Favors is the obvious choice to start, but who backs him up? The two most likely candidates are guys that have tried to transition from college power forwards to pro small forwards—Jeremy Evans and Williams. To me, this is where Williams should be all year. He may have an edge in quickness against opposing bigs and could be a stretch 4 if he improves his range.

 

Backup Center:

Most websites that feature NBA depth charts have Andris Biedrins behind Kanter for the moment, but that could change as early as training camp. With his 7'9" wingspan and ability to protect the rim, Rudy Gobert offers plenty of intrigue.

 

Battling For a Roster Spot

Ian Clark:

According to Bill Oram of The Salt Lake Tribune, Utah has already cut ties with Jerel McNeal. This means Ian Clark's chance at sticking is slightly better since they had similar size and skill sets. Clark hit enough threes during the summer league to earn a deal from Utah, but the two years and $1.3 million are not guaranteed.

 

Scott Machado: 

Sham Sports' Mark Deeks tweeted that Utah had signed Scott Machado. The first real training camp invitee was an excellent distributor in college, averaging 9.9 assists a game as a senior.

But he hasn't been able to stick in the league, appearing in only six games with Houston over the course of his career. The Jazz have little depth at point guard and Machado's passing may give him an inside track on Clark.

 

Dwayne Jones:

Utah has also added added Dwayne Jones, according to Real GM's Shams Charania. He'll add some depth inside during training camp, but likely won't see much time during the regular season.

Jones has appeared in 82 NBA games since 2005 and has career averages of 2.3 rebounds and 1.3 points.

 

Biggest X-Factor: Alec Burks

 

 

One Jazz youngster who seems to be flying under the radar is Alec Burks.

The No. 12 overall pick in the 2011 draft was a big-time scorer at Colorado, but hasn't had the minutes in the NBA to post anywhere near his college average of 19 points.

He should finally have a prominent role in his third year in the league. Not only does he have a chance to start at shooting guard, he could spend some time at point as well.

Last year, Burks finished a handful of games at point guard and The Salt Lake Tribune's Bill Oram even wondered why Corbin didn't start him there.

Because of his height and length he would be a nightmare for opposing 1's to cover. And Utah may be seriously looking to create that kind of mismatch as they've had John Stockton helping Burks with his point guard skills. Jazz president Randy Rigby relayed that message to Spence Checketts and Gordon Monson of The Big Show.

The more Burks can develop his court vision, ball-handling and general playmaking ability, the more minutes he'll earn this year. 

If he can play two positions well, he should be able to log around 30 minutes a game. And on a team filled with young players, the scoring mentality Burks displayed in college could surface once again. Fourteen to 15 points a game may be within reach.

 

Jazz Best-Case Scenario in 2013-14

If Alec Burks reaches that X-Factor status and everyone else hits their potential, it's not outrageous to think Utah could finish with a record around .500 again.

Some may see that as a negative, because of how stacked the top of the 2014 draft class is. But even when a prospect is a sure thing, it's not really a sure thing.

If the five lottery picks under the age of 24 come together now, they may not need another superstar. The potential could already be there—it's just untapped.

 

Jazz Worst-Case Scenario in 2013-14 

There really isn't a worst-case scenario for Utah this year, unless four or five of the young guns just look flat-out awful in primary roles. But the chances of that happening seem slim.

I guess some might consider a ninth- or 10th-place finish the worst-case since it would hurt their lottery chances, but I just offered my argument against that.

 

Predictions

 

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

 

Because they seem to have engineered a near-perfect start for a rebuilding, even missing the playoffs by about 10 games could still be seen as a success for the Jazz.

And that's probably how they'll do. Inexperience with each other and with the NBA in general will lead to a lot more losses than Jazz fans are used to. But patience shouldn't be that hard to exercise because the team's potential future is so bright.

 

Prediction: 30-52, No. 13 in the Western Conference

 

How Many Games Will the Jazz Win in 2013-14?

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This season will be rough, but let me just reiterate one more time why Jazz fans should keep their chins up through all the losing.

The projected starting lineup features five lottery picks from the last four drafts who are all 23 years old or younger. They'll likely add another from the star-studded 2014 class. And the three biggest contracts on the books end after this year—leaving the Jazz plenty of financial flexibility to re-sign the up-and-comers.

If even half of them turn into stars, Utah could be back in the playoffs within a year or two. 

 

All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference unless otherwise noted.

 

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