How Can the Utah Jazz Return the Franchise to Prominence?

Rich ByingtonContributor INovember 17, 2011

There's an old saying in sports that "everybody is replaceable." Certainly that's true, but that doesn't mean your team will have the same results. When there's a statue erected in your honor in front of the arena you played in, as is the case with both John Stockton and Karl Malone, you're going to be tough to replace, but that doesn't mean the Jazz can't find team success again.

The Jazz have been trying to move forward in LASM (Life After Stockton/Malone) and have remained surprisingly competitive, despite the loss of two of the greatest ever. That said, the road has been rocky at times. They suffered through a losing season last year for the first time since man discovered fire.

So, what ails the Jazz?

They need a point guard to step up. Deron Williams was solid and even spectacular at times, but clearly clashed with the coaches by not playing within a system that brought 20 straight playoff appearances. He was the best the Jazz have had since Stockton's departure, but couldn't carry the load of leadership the way Stockton did.

Devin Harris is next in line. He's quick and a solid passer, but lacks the defensive prowess to shut down the opponent's point guard on a consistent basis. The Jazz need a point guard who can stay on the court as well.

John Stockton missed only 22 games during his 20-year career and was regularly seen setting up baseline screens against some of the biggest men in the game.

The Jazz also need someone to be a sharp shooter. Jeff Hornacek was one of the best pure shooters to ever step onto the court, as well as a deadly accurate free throw shooter. C.J. Miles has had his moments of catching fire from three, but his inconsistency is maddening. Okur has always been a threat there, but his health has been a major issue the past two seasons.

None of the guards on the current roster have that skill set.

It's possible that rising star Gordon Hayward, who came on strong at the end of last season, becomes that guy, but until then, teams will pack it in on the Jazz big men.

Speaking of the big men, this is one area of strength for the Jazz.

Al Jefferson has been a standout and Paul Millsap is one of the hardest working and most underrated players in the league. They are holding their own, but they lack the defensive aggressiveness and presence that the Mailman brought to the paint.

Fans are excited about the potential of barely-wet-behind-the-ears Derrick Favors. His development will go a long way in determining if the Jazz can get back to dominating the paint the way Malone did.

The biggest problem facing the Jazz is getting back to the cohesive, tough defense that Sloan-coached teams were known for. Ty Corbin is a Sloan disciple, and the expectation is that he is working to get that defensive toughness back. Until then, the Jazz may want to pull down those statues in front of Energy Solutions Arena and stick them out on the court.