2011-12 Season Predictions for the Utah Jazz
The Utah Jazz have the exciting opportunity to create a new, young team for next season. With two lottery picks in the 2011 NBA draft (third and 12th overall), players Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors and roughly $26,365,279 coming off the books, the Jazz are in excellent position to make the most of the offseason.
The following slides portray my top five predictions for the Utah Jazz in 2012.
3rd Overall: Brandon Knight, PG, Kentucky University, 6'3", 177 lbs., 17.3 PPG, 4.2 APG, 4.0 RPG, 6'8" Wingspan
12th Overall: M. Brooks, SG, Providence, 6'5", 190 lbs., 24.6 PPG, 2.5 APG, 7.0 RPG, 7'1" Wingspan
With Devin Harris nearing the end of his prime, the Jazz will be shopping around for the new point guard of the future, and, after Raja Bell failed to contribute to the team, they will also be searching for a prolific shooting guard.
Enter Brandon Knight and Marshon Brooks.
Brandon Knight will be a great addition to the team. The Jazz will have an outstanding group of young players next year if they pull off some great selections in the draft.
The Utah Jazz make the playoffs next year.
With upcoming talents Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors, two draft picks, proven veterans Al Jefferson, Mehmet Okur and Devin Harris and over $26 million in spending for free agents, Utah puts together a very nice, contending team.
A Western Conference first round could look something like this next year:
7. Utah Jazz
This would pit the Jazz, yet again, against the Lakers in the playoffs.
Whether by Utah's refusal to offer another contract, or by a player's own discretion, the Jazz have one of the largest free-agent groups in the NBA.
Currently under contract through the 2011-12 season are:
Al Jefferson, C/F
Mehmet Okur, C
Paul Millsap, F
Gordon Hayward, G/F
Devin Harris, G
Derrick Favors, F
Jeremy Evans, F/G
The Jazz players not under contract are as follows:
Andrei Kirilenko, F
Kyrylo Fesenko, C
Earl Watson, G
Ronnie Price, G
C.J. Miles, G/F *Team Option
Francisco Elson, F/C
The Jazz would be at an advantage to keep only one or two of the players listed above, then seek out free agents this year and/or save money and dive into the epic 2012 offseason when superstars such as Dwight Howard, Deron Williams and Chris Paul are on the market.
With over $26 million in spending, the Jazz finally have an opportunity to live up to the fact that they have the fifth-highest salary cap in the NBA at over $74 million per year—more than the Miami Heat, New York Knicks and San Antonio Spurs.
This summer, I can see the Jazz letting free-agent Andrei Kirilenko walk and the team picking up small forward Tayshaun Prince in his place. Prince provides just as much on the defensive end as Andrei, but with far more offensive polish.
Also, look for the Jazz to strive after players like Jamal Crawford, Andre Iguodala, Danny Granger and Delonte West.
With the resignation of Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan, the Jazz gave the job to assistant Tyrone Corbin. During the final half of the season, we saw glimpses of Corbin's tweaks in the offense, and now, with an offseason to work, I believe he will instigate a new offensive system in Utah.
Corbin will build his offense around core players Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Al Jefferson. Expect to see a lot less of the "flex" offense and a new system up and running in Utah for the 2012 season.
On another note, countless interviews with Jazz players and officials have proven that the team's main focus will be defense. The Jazz were 24th overall in the league last season in defensive standings.
If the Jazz can pull together a new offense and instigate stifling defensive play, expect them to return to playoff contention in the near, and distant, future.