Utah Jazz Offseason: What the Team Needs To Do To Return To Contention
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The Jazz were headed to the postseason this year until the departure of coach Jerry Sloan and the trade of star point guard Deron Williams.
After those two events, the Jazz sunk back into mediocrity and have clinched just their second losing record in the past 28 seasons, which is quite a phenomenal feat.
They are also the first team in NBA history to miss the playoffs after starting the season 27-13.
On paper, the Jazz have an entertaining roster that is full of promise. Players such as Devin Harris, C.J. Miles, Derrick Favors, and Paul Millsap are all full of potential and Al Jefferson has shown that he is a 20-point, 10-rebound seasonal threat.
The Western Conference is by far the toughest of the two conferences, so the Jazz will need to work heavily to return to their postseason form.
Use Their Two Lottery Picks...and Use Them Well
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There is one thing that the Jazz are not used to...and that is selecting draft picks in the lottery (Picks 1-14).
The Jazz have rarely picked in the lottery, much less have two selections.
But what should they do with those two picks?
Tyrone Corbin's Jazz need a shooting guard. Raja Bell and Kyle Weaver are the only players listed as shooting guards on the roster and with such a possible high selection, they could get a nice one at that.
If they land a pick inside the top eight, they could use their first selection on Kentucky's Brandon Knight or Colorado's Alec Burks.
Knight helped lead the Wildcats to a Final Four appearance and is considered to have lots of potential. Burks is also thought to be one of the best players in the draft, along with being considered one of the most NBA-ready players.
If drafted, either could immediately be thrust into the starting rotation.
Their second selection is expected to be between No. 11 and 14 and players expected to be drafted around there include Naismith Award winner Jimmer Fredette, Kansas' Morris brothers, Kentucky's freshman Terrence Jones and a few others.
Depending on what they do in the offseason (and I will get to that in the following slides), it will be difficult to think exactly who'd they draft.
But, using the solutions that I've based mine upon, I think the best selection is Terrence Jones. Jones, along with Knight, formed a deadly tandem in the NCAA tournament and almost led them to a championship berth.
Most people think that Jimmer Fredette belongs in Salt Lake, but I do not think that's the case. Personally, I think Fredette will be a bust and he reminds me of a certain recent draft bust (although they play two totally different positions) - and who might that be, by the way? West Virginia's Joe Alexander.
I think the Jazz's best bet would be to nab Colorado's Burks and Kentucky's Jones.
Get Rid of Andrei Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur
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Okur has been a part of the Jazz organization since the 2004-05 season. Although he has had a few productive seasons since arriving in Salt Lake City, it may be time that he find a different team.
He has only played 13 games for the Jazz this season, averaging a measly 4.9 points and 2.3 rebounds per game.
With Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors, and Al Jefferson already on the roster, Okur may be the odd man out.
Kirilenko has spent his entire NBA career with the Jazz since being selected in the first round of the 1999 NBA Draft.
He has been valuable to the team and many could consider him as one of the biggest fan favorites in the team's history.
But it may be time for him to take his services elsewhere.
Primarily known as a defensive specialist, AK-47 has helped the Jazz in more ways than one, but as of lately, it has been popular that a longer-tenured player get moved.
He is also listed as a small forward and C.J. Miles has performed well over the last couple of seasons. Not only has Miles practically been put in the starting lineup, but soon-to-be second-year pro Gordon Hayward is also listed as a small forward.
A tandem of Miles and Hayward seems to be better than a trio, with one being extensively overpaid.
One of the best scenarios for the Jazz would be to somehow package Kirilenko and Okur and move them for a draft pick or another player. I think Okur is just as good as gone, but Kirilenko's future is still up in the air.
Solidify the Bench
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A brief look at the Jazz's 2010-11 lineup:
Point Guard: Devin Harris, Earl Watson, Ronnie Price
Shooting Guard: Raja Bell, Kyle Weaver
Small Forward: C.J. Miles, Andrei Kirilenko, Gordon Hayward, Jeremy Evans
Power Forward: Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors
Center: Al Jefferson, Mehmet Okur, Kyrylo Fesenko, Francisco Elson
Judging by the roster, the Jazz's bench isn't prototypically among the very best in the league. It seems to be the weakest in the backcourt - Watson is one of the oldest players on the team and way past his prime, and Price and Weaver haven't gotten much playing time.
The Jazz definitely need to address those needs, whether it be in free agency or if they could trade into the second round of this year's draft.
They seem to be set at small forward and power forward, as every single player has loads of potential (except for Kirilenko, who is past his prime).
I would also think that the Jazz would want an upgrade over Fesenko, who lacks offensive capabilities and is also horrible from the free throw line.
According to my previous slide, Okur and Kirilenko may be the odd men out, and if possible, they could unload the pair for help at each guard position and at the center position.
Work on Team Chemistry
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The Jazz went through many changes over their tumultuous 2010-11 season, including the firing of the longest-tenured NBA coach, Jerry Sloan. The heir apparent to Sloan, Tyrone Corbin, is currently the head coach and the Jazz had played rather poorly under him.
There were many new faces for the Jazz this season: rookie Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, Raja Bell, Francisco Elson, Kyle Weaver, Al Jefferson, and Earl Watson.
With almost half of the roster new to the team, the Jazz lacked chemistry, especially after the trade that sent Deron Williams to New Jersey.
The roster is full of talent, but it just depends on how they could mesh together and pull out wins.
While playing a minority of the season as a core, the Jazz will be much better next season, as long as the team can come up with some kind of chemistry.
Acquire a Three-Point Shooter
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The Jazz need a deep threat shooter. Bad.
They are currently tied for 20th (34.4 percent) in three-point shooting out of 30 teams. However, they rank ninth in total shooting percentage (46.4 percent).
But they still need a deep threat that can hit the big shot at the end of games.
There are some notable players that are entering free agency this offseason that are considered deep threats - Jamal Crawford, Rasual Butler, Anthony Parker, Peja Stojakovic, Mike Dunleavy, Michael Redd, among others.
It would mightily help the Jazz if they could acquire one of these players and help boost their three-point percentage.
Re-Sign C.J. Miles
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Miles was taken with the 34th overall selection out of Skyline High School in the 2005 NBA Draft.
Over the past four seasons, Miles' stats have steadily increased, as he is averaging double-digits points (12.4) for the first time in his NBA career this season.
Primarily a bench player throughout his career, it may be time for Miles to start for the Jazz, if they choose to re-sign him.
He is one of those players that energizes the crowd, either as an electrifying dunker or with his shooting touch.
In my opinion, the Jazz can't afford to see him walk, especially if they decide to let Kirilenko go in free agency.
Although he is still young, he could still mentor Gordon Hayward, as he has played in the NBA for six seasons.
The Jazz need to re-sign Miles, as I think he will vastly help the team in the future.