The Utah Jazz have been a constant in the NBA playoffs over the last 20 years. They have only missed a couple of seasons. They have even been to the NBA Finals twice in that time frame.
Last season was one for the Jazz to forget and put out of their minds. They failed to make the playoffs and lost a sense of who they were. Young players, losing an All-Star and losing a Hall of Fame coach made last season a difficult one in Utah.
If the Utah Jazz want to make it back to the playoffs in 2011-12, they are going to have to make some changes. Here are some steps that will help them in their journey.
The Jazz are a different team than they were last year. They have different players, a different coach and need to create a different identity. Over the Jerry Sloan era, the Jazz were a very structured, slow-paced team, that had a distinct system. That system needs to be reevaluated.
With Tyrone Corbin at the helm for Utah, there should be some changes in the pace and style of the game for the Jazz—something that will fit Corbin and something that will mesh well with the young players such as Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward.
Perhaps with so many young players, the Jazz would be better off with a faster pace. Maybe they wouldn't. That is something that they need to determine and they need to create their new identity.
Energy Solutions Arena has been a tough place for the visiting team since back when it was called the Delta Center. Jazz teams have seen incredible success at home over the last few years. This changed last year.
They went 21 and 20 at home last season. 20 losses is by far the worst home record they have had in many years. Always known as a good home team and a bad road team, the Jazz always took care of business at home. Last year, they were barely above .500.
If the Jazz expect to return to the playoffs in 2011-12, they must win at home. They can't have more than 10 losses at home and be a playoff team. Taking care of their opponents at home is a must for Utah.
The Jazz are a stacked team if you only look at the front court. That is the problem. They have many capable players down low and not enough effective wing players. It would be a step in the right direction to trade one of the big guys and get a good wing player to help complete the rotation.
Paul Millsap seems to have the most value on the trade market. He could be a piece that is moved in order to clear up space underneath. Mehmet Okur is another likely candidate.
Al Jefferson could be moved if the trade was good enough for both sides. Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter are likely to stay and help the rebuilding process. If the Jazz can get a good wing player for a big guy, it would help them take a step towards the playoffs.
This one seems like it should be the opposite. Usually it is the veterans that help your team make the playoffs and win games. Just look at the Boston Celtics and the San Antonio Spurs. But sometimes the young players don't know any better. They don't realize that they are not supposed to win.
It is sometimes young guys that play the hardest and can put a team over the top. Look at the Oklahoma City Thunder. This could be a hidden benefit for the Utah Jazz.
Players such as Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks need to play more and show that they can win. With a group of hungry young guys, the Jazz are taking a step in the right direction.
The Jazz need to make a big splash in the free-agent market. This does not mean that they need a huge star, but the need for a good, established player at the shooting guard or small forward to join the team.
Some of the possibilities include J.R. Smith, Wilson Chandler, Marcus Thornton and Nick Young, among others. Any of these players would help the back court and balance out the team. I don't know if any of these players would be interested in Utah, but the Jazz need to do everything in their power to land a good free agent.
After the Deron Williams trade the Jazz were left without a No. 1 option. They no longer had that go-to guy that you knew would take a clutch shot when needed. Nobody seemed to fill that void for the remainder of the season.
Somebody needs to step it up and become the No. 1 option for the Utah Jazz. The most obvious player to take that role is Al Jefferson. He is a good player that can take over games at times. He needs to do that consistently in order to give the Jazz stability.
That role could also be assumed by an unexpected player such as Gordon Hayward or Derrick Favors. One of them could develop into a go-to guy as well. They need to have someone step into that role in order to make the playoffs in 2011-12.
The Jazz struggled greatly to close out games last season. They lost many games that were very close. They need to win those games in 2011-12 if they want to make the playoffs. Good teams finish strong and have good fourth quarters. This is an area that the jazz need to improve upon.
If the Jazz are able to win these close games, they will increase their win percentage and make the playoffs. This could be helped by establishing a No. 1 option and giving him the ball in the fourth quarter.
The Jazz seemed lost in the fourth quarter after Williams left, and they need to find someone to give the ball to in order to win those close games.