The Utah Jazz are looking to finally turn the corner and have a better win-loss record during the 2014-15 season after looking both awful and boring for the majority of last year.
Being one of the NBA's worst teams was a result of having a young squad with a lack of a solid foundation. It felt like players were unsure of where they stood on the roster, and the franchise in general had an overall lack of direction.
The Jazz were going to be bad, but what were they going to do in order to fix the problems and become a better team?
Well, the good news is that they look to be finding some of those answers.
It appears as though the organization has a direction and is working hard on reaching its ceiling. Utah has some of the best fans in the league. They are always filling up the arena regardless of how well the team does, and it's about time they get rewarded for it.
Next year will certainly be a better season, but how much better? Here's a look at Utah's win-loss prediction heading into the upcoming year.
If Utah is going to have any success during the 2014-15 season, then the Jazz are going to need exceptional play out of their guards.
Burke and Exum will need to be able to do a number of different tasks—one of which will be to play alongside each other in an efficient matter. Each needs to be able to start the offense and run at shooting guard in whatever order presents itself.
The next task is for one to be able to fill in for the other at any given time. If Exum starts the season off the bench, then he'll have to be able to step up and take over for Burke when the time comes.
Burks will have the incredibly difficult job of being the No. 1 scorer off the bench. The tough part comes from the amount of pressure being put on the sixth man to perform on a nightly basis.
Guard play is key. Utah's backcourt will need to consistently take care of the ball and play at a high level if the Jazz want to surprise fans and win a good chunk of games.
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Kanter and Favors could be incredibly dominant at the power forward and center positions if they can figure out how to play with one another at the same time. Stepping onto the court next to each other has always seemed to hold one or the other back from hitting his true potential. Still though, the talent is clear as air; it just needs to come to fruition on a more consistent basis.
Averaging over 16 points, five rebounds and five assists during the course of an 82-game season proves how good a player someone is. It's also exactly what Hayward was able to do last year.
His next move will be to prove that he can be the guy worthy of his $63 million contract. That will require more of an initiative on the offensive end of the floor and being the go-to guy, along with stepping up and guarding the opposing team's best player on a nightly basis.
He's got the talent to be that kind of player; it's time for him to make it happen, though.
Add in the long-ball threat of Rodney Hood along with a developing Rudy Gobert, and we continue to see how youth and potential are heavily in Utah's favor.
Tyrone Corbin just wasn't the right man to lead Utah over the past three-and-a-half seasons. It never looked as if he wasn't trying, but there was a certain passion that was missing.
The 2014-15 season will give us a look at Quin Snyder and if he can do a better job.
Corbin and Snyder have a different level of skill when it comes to player development. Corbin only played people when he felt they were ready. There were times when people like Burks never saw the floor strictly because Corbin didn't feel like he had the game to compete.
Snyder does and will likely do his job a little differently.
The Salt Lake Tribune's Aaron Falk interviewed Snyder and heard a bit about how he plans on developing players. Here's what Utah's new coach had to say:
As an old college coach, that was something that you were really focused on. It’s become kind of something that everybody talks about, everybody wants to do. I think a couple things that are key is your staff has to be really, really good. You have to be teachers. You have to enjoy seeing guys improve. We’re awfully young. You’re going to see a lot of guys grow. Hopefully some will grow pretty fast. It’s a challenge, but it can be really rewarding as well when you see people get better.
It's important to hear Snyder say that one of his staff's keys will be to develop talent. The only negative part about making sure a player's potential gets hit is that it means there has to be room for growth.
And there's more than enough growth to go around with the Jazz.
Snyder will certainly help move the team in the right direction, but it will have to take some time.
It won't all happen during the upcoming season.
It's difficult to say that there's truly an easy division in the Western Conference. Luckily, Utah is a member of the least difficult.
It's definitely difficult but not nearly as bad as the Southwest Division, where four of the five teams made the playoffs last season.
Minnesota is in complete rebuilding mode, and Denver is one of those teams who will beat you by 10 points, only to lose by 25 the next night. Stealing a couple games from Portland and Oklahoma City will be difficult, but there's definitely an opportunity for three or four wins between the two squads.
It's no surprise that the teams in the Western Conference are much more talented than those in the East. Franchises in the Eastern Conference won a total of 556 games during the 2013-14 season.
The West won 674.
If 118 more victories isn't proof enough, then it's unclear as to what is. Utah only plays 30 of its 82 games against teams in the opposite conference, leaving it with 52 very difficult battles.
More athleticism among all positions should set the Jazz up for a stronger season. Unfortunately, their conference schedule does nothing toward leading to more wins.
Final Regular-Season Record/Standing
The Jazz can go in one of two directions. They can overachieve and surprise some people by winning games they weren't expected to, or they can end up as exactly who they're expected to be.
There are sure to be a number of cuts and changes to the final roster, but Utah currently has the youngest roster in the NBA. An average age of 23.4 is ridiculously young and potentially the leading factor toward another difficult year.
Could the Jazz compete for the playoffs this season? It's highly unlikely. They would need a turnaround similar to the 2013-14 Phoenix Suns to make that happen.
Still though, seeing them consistently battle should become a regular sight.
Utah basketball has been boring for the past couple years. There's no reason not to be blunt about it. A more athletic roster and first-year NBA coach should bring some life back into the franchise and be significantly more fun to watch.
Best-Case Record: 37-45
Expected Record: 25-57
Best-Case Western Conference Standing: No. 10
Expected Western Conference Standing: No. 14
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