Utah Jazz: 30 Teams In 30 Days
Finished 48-34, third in Northwest Division, eighth in Western Conference
First Round: lost to Los Angeles Lakers 4-1
Eric Maynor via draft, Goran Suton via draft
After months of trade rumors surrounding all-star power forward Carlos Boozer, the Utah Jazz remained with the same lineup that's led them to the postseason for the past three years and are now ready for a deep postseason run.
Over the offseason, trade rumors circulated around the Utah Jazz organization over whether they should part ways with the oft-injured Boozer. Many of the rumors involved a possible trade with the Miami Heat to bring in forwards Udonis Haslem, Dorrel Wright and the deal breaker Michael Beasley. When Utah brought B-Easy up, the Heat stepped back a few paces and decided to wait a few more months to give serious thought to giving up Beasley.
When healthy, Boozer is one of the top power forwards in the league, but due to his constant battles with injuries his play suffers substantially. Two years ago, when he played a career-high 81 games, Boozer had the best statistical year of his career, averaging 21 points and ten rebounds. This past year is a different story, though, as he only played 37 games and saw his numbers go down well below what he usually puts up.
With averages at 16 points and ten rebounds per game, we hardly saw the Carlos Boozer we're used to seeing battle in the paint. His mid-range jump shot and agile post moves are very similar to Tim Duncan's. The difference between their games, though, is Boozer's lack of health, which takes away his trade value and puts his future in jeopardy.
Along with Boozer, the Jazz have one of the most stacked starting lineups and bench in the NBA. That's mostly due to star point guard Deron Williams. Williams has been the key reason why the Jazz have been making postseason runs, and despite not making a large run last year, he had the best statistical year of his budding career.
He had career highs in points and assists despite missing 14 games with an injury. At 19 points and 11 assists per game, Williams has emerged as arguably a top-five caliber point guard in only four years in the league. He has become the team leader and to the delight of Jazz fans, it appears he is going to stick around for a while.
When Boozer went down with an injury, another young star came into the limelight and proved his worth and got a lucrative deal over the offseason out of it. Paul Millsap took over the power forward spot for the Jazz last season and was a double-double machine. Even though he only averaged 14 points and nine rebounds per game, it seemed like after every game Millsap's stat column would read 20 points and ten rebounds.
Millsap is an explosive player, but might have to spend the first few months of the regular season on the bench as Carlos Boozer's backup, which does not exactly utilize his potential and talent. Sure enough though, Millsap will be the starter eventually and certainly figures in the team's future.
Regarded as one of the most talented players in the league only a few years ago, it appears Andrei Kirilenko has lost his role as a major contributor to the Jazz. Despite averaging 12 points, five rebounds, and three assists, AK-47 saw his lowest minutes since his second year in the league and was sent to the bench after being the usual starter. Kirilenko is still an everyman type of player who can do a little of everything, but for now it appears that the bench is his likely spot for now.
Third year player Ronnie Brewer also emerged as a part of the future Utah Jazz as the team's starting shooting guard. Brewer was the first-round pick for the Jazz in 2006 and is starting to show that he was quite the steal after last season's breakout performance. He averaged a career-high 14 points, four rebounds, and two assists last year, and he's still improving. His passing production needs to improve significantly; there's no excuse for having forwards average more assists than a shooting guard.
Mehmet Okur has become the team's starting center and has also become one of the top shooting big men in the league. His three-point percentage was at the highest of his career at 45 percent and he also averaged 17 points and eight rebounds per game. To have nothing but shooters on the starting lineup could be a good thing, but it could also have it's flaws. Okur is not big enough to compete with the league's stronger, taller centers and could get pushed around by the larger centers of the powerhouse teams, such as the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Jazz are known for their depth.They have substantial depth at every position and there's a possibility you could make an entire starting lineup out of the bench and it could compete for a postseason run. Led by the likes of shooting specialists Kyle Korver and Paul Millsap, as well as defensive specialists in Kirilenko and Matt Harpring, who could be a potential starter, the Jazz bench is one of the best in the league.
In the past draft, the Jazz took one of the most underrated point guards in the draft by selecting Eric Maynor with the 20th pick out of VCU. Maynor is a pure scorer and has the ability to pass as well, which is a great combination for any young aspiring point guard. He will not become a starter any time soon, but he will be a solid backup to Williams at the point guard spot. Maynor averaged 22 points and six assists last season.
In a new and improved Northwest division, the Jazz will have some even tougher competition this year and will need only the best performances from their stacked lineup of talent. They can guarantee a postseason appearance in the upcoming 2009-'10 season, but the Jazz are looking for more than that. The championship that has eluded them for so long is so close, but with the competition in the Western conference, the Jazz are still so far away.
Projected Starting Lineup
SF-Matt Harpring/Andrei Kirilenko
This is Pt. 29 of a 30-day series of 2009-10 season previews of each NBA team. My profile will contain every other team that has been previewed before.
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