As a diehard Utah Jazz fan, I was quite nervous heading into the 2010 NBA offseason. I may not have been as nervous as the entire city of Cleveland, but the possible departure of Carlos Boozer from my beloved Utah Jazz really was something that caused me to cringe. Boozer had an incredible year this past season and really showed us all the type of player he truly is when not hampered by injuries. Led by stud Deron Williams and Boozer, the Jazz achieved an unexpected upset of a highly talented but unfortunately dysfunctional Denver Nuggets team. Eventually losing to Kobe and Pau in the second round, the Jazz once again showed us all what a consistently good franchise they always have been. But, like I said, I had my doubts heading into this NBA Offseason. The thought that Carlos Boozer would actually resign with the Utah Jazz was about as absurd as the thought that LeBron James doesn’t only care about himself (sorry I couldn’t pass up my chance to throw in my two cents). Upon hearing that Carlos Boozer AND Kyle Korver would be joining the ranks of past-rival Chicago Bulls, I started to lose much faith in my team. It didn’t seem like the front office was going to do anything to replace the coveted outside shooting of Korver and the All-Star talent of Booze Cruise. After seeing the reaction of Deron Williams with the trade of Ronnie Brewer for cash, I wasn’t excited about how he would feel about the departure of Boozer for nothing.
I was wrong. Quite wrong actually. Once again, the Jazz front office has proven to the world what a high quality franchise it is. They have shown D-Will that they are committed to winning. The Jazz have quietly had one of the more productive offseasons in the NBA and I have a feeling they will still go overlooked in the 2011 NBA season. Who am I kidding, we are always overlooked. But, in my opinion, the Jazz are now a better team than they were last season. Now after that long introduction, here are my 5 reasons that the Utah Jazz will be better next season.
Don’t get me wrong. Boozer is a stud and had some great years in Utah, but I think Al Jefferson will be better. Think about it. He has only ever played on the rebuilding Boston Celtics and a consistently bad Minnesota team. This guy is ready to win and is going to do anything it takes to take this team to the next level. Boozer and D-Will ran the pick-and-roll to perfection but I believe Jefferson and Deron will mesh even better. Jefferson is a hard-working, consistent 20-10 player and will fit right on in with Jerry Sloan.
This one doesn’t need much explanation. After a huge payday last summer and another year as one of the most productive sixth men in the NBA, Paul Millsap is ready to prove to all of us that he is deserving of a starting PF spot in the NBA. With Jefferson and Millsap, the Jazz will have one of the more talented and best rebounding frontcourts in the league. They will be a scary combination, with Okur coming off the bench once his Achilles heal heals (haha). Look for Millsap's numbers to continue to rise this next year.
No one even knew who this kid was a year ago, but after a Cinderella run during March Madness with his talented Butler team, Gordon Hayward jumped into the NBA Draft and become a lottery pick for the Utah Jazz. This kid has a lot of upside and figures to be a nice replacement for Kyle Korver. He might not be as talented of a shooter, but he’s a hard-worker and I believe he will excel at the NBA level. He’s a Jerry Sloan type of guy and should be a valuable role player off the bench this season. I figure he will struggle a bit against more athletic players in the league and will have an up-and-down season, but with time, he will be a stud. He’s proved lots of people wrong up until now, and I believe he will continue to surprise. Hayward is no Adam Morrison.
With one more year under his belt and even more playoff experience, Deron Williams will be coming into this next season hungrier than ever. D-Will was finally named to an All Star team last season and continues to flirt with playoff success. He’s ready to prove to us all that he’s the best point guard in the NBA and that his Utah Jazz are and always have been a championship caliber team. This guy is a leader and will be ready and excited for this next season. Look for him to continue to excel and to lead this team to many victories.
I loved Wesley Matthews. He was a nice surprising pickup for the Utah Jazz last season and impressed a lot of people. He really showed a lot of upside in the playoffs while guarding Kobe Bryant and will be a stud for years to come. But when the Blazers offered him a contract worth over 30 million dollars, I became a little weary. He’s good, but he still has lots to prove. He will take a step back this next season, playing a backup role to Brandon Roy and isn’t worth nearly that much money. I’m glad the Jazz chose not to match it, and picked up a very good piece in Raja Bell for relatively cheap. I remember the days when Bell donned a Jazz uniform and was quite the fan favorite. Now he’s back in SLC and will be a fantastic three point threat and great fit for the starting SG spot. I was hoping the Jazz would bring back Ronnie Brewer, but I’m still excited about this pickup. Raja is a deadly shooter, fantastic defender, and grand teammate.
Look for the Jazz to “surprise” a lot of people next season and be a force to be reckoned with in the Western Conference. They still may have a tough time with LA, but will be able to hold their own in a not-as-good-as-it-used-to-be Western Conference. Expect another 50-win season from Jerry Sloan’s talented squad and another All-Star nod for Deron Williams and perhaps Al Jefferson. The Jazz will once again experience playoff success and could make a run all the way to the Western Conference Finals.