Utah Jazz Bizarre Season: What Might Have Been for the Jazz in 2011

Matt JonesAnalyst IApril 8, 2011

Would the Jazz be better if Williams and Sloan were still with the team?
Would the Jazz be better if Williams and Sloan were still with the team?Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

As the 2011 NBA season comes to an end for the Utah Jazz, let's take a moment to look back at what might have been.

This season was by far the most unusual in franchise history. It is no secret that there have been huge changes and that it has been disappointing to fans and the team.

Frustration has been evident down the stretch and Jazz nation is still trying to figure out what just happened.

Following the departure of Carlos Boozer, who many fans had given up on, and the addition of power forward Al Jefferson, who actually wanted to play for the team, the Jazz looked primed for a successful season.

Excitement and expectations were high as the team cruised through the preseason undefeated and jumped out to a 15-5 record.

During one stretch, they were known as "The Comeback Kids" with several come from behind wins in a row. In one of the best games of the season, they came from 19 down at halftime to beat the Miami Heat.

Although frustration and losses had been building up, it wasn't until mid-February when Hall of Fame head coach Jerry Sloan abruptly resigned, causing the Jazz and it's fans to go into a tailspin.

To make thing worse, they traded their all-star point guard Deron Williams to the New Jersey Nets a short time later. 

It was obvious that this was the turning point of the Jazz season. We all know what happened from that point on.

So, with all of the frustration that the Jazz have endured, let's ask one simple question:

What might have been if Jerry Sloan were still the coach and Deron Williams was not traded?

While this is pure speculation and one can never really answer this question, let's assume that the many other factors such as injuries, matchups and team chemistry would have remained the same.

Would the Jazz have much better of a record than they do now? I would say that they would. The presence and experience of Jerry Sloan would have translated into three to five more wins and playing with Deron Williams may have been for good for three to five more.

As the standings are currently, six more wins would still keep the Jazz on the outside of the playoffs. Ten more wins would get them into the playoffs, but the reward would be a road playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks, who swept the Jazz in the regular season.

Chances are good that they would have lost in the early rounds of the playoffs.

In the draft the Jazz would have only their own pick that would be either high in the lottery or in the high teens, where they have historically not found good players, other than Stockton and Malone.

Even with Sloan and Williams, this team was not going very far. There was not much excitement, and not much help coming in the future. Not to mention that there was a good chance that neither would be staying around long, with retirement coming for Sloan and the strong possibility that Williams would soon leave through free agency.

While it is hard to lose a coach and a player who are of the caliber of Sloan and Williams, and endure the season that has turned out to be disappointing and frustrating over the last few months, let's ask one last question:

What do the Jazz have now?

Since mid-February, the Jazz have one thing that is very obvious: multiple losses. Add in the injuries, frustrations and lack of experience, and that is not a good combination. Fortunately, they also have a few other things.

In the trade for Deron Williams, they received a high energy, second-tier point guard in Devin Harris who has shown he can lead teams and compete in this league. They also received the third overall pick in last year's draft, athletic big man Derrick Favors.

Since joining the Jazz, he has played well and has shown fans glimpses of his abilities and talent.

The Jazz have a good core of veteran players and young talent, including Gordon Hayward—who impressed many in the league with his play against the Lakers—Favors and Jeremy Evans, who is full of potential.

Had Sloan stayed around, these guys may have not gotten much playing time. Although he may have been forced to due to injuries, coach Sloan was not known for giving much time to rookies.

In the upcoming NBA draft the Jazz will have two lottery picks, and have a chance of one of them being in the top five. This will help them to add to the young core of players with quality talent.

They also have the "problem" of dealing with three very skilled big men in Derrick Favors, Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, and having some veteran players under contract for the next couple of years.

As I see it, the Jazz will come out of this season doing well overall. They are in a good position to not be in rebuilding mode for long. They will have more flexibility financially, and will turn out better in the long run.

Living through the nightmare that has been this season was hard, but the bleeding has almost stopped. It helps to think that there is a lot to look forward to.

Let me know what you think about this and what you see in the future for the Utah Jazz.


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