5 Reasons Why the Utah Jazz Will Return to the NBA Playoffs
In comparison to other teams in the league, only the Los Angeles Lakers have a better mark with only missing the playoffs twice in that time. The San Antonio Spurs have only missed out four times as well.
Over that stretch the Jazz have only had a losing record on two occasions and finished with a 41-41 record once. After all three seasons they have been able rebuild quickly and have not had to take extended time to rebuild into a winning franchise.
Thanks to the coaching of Hall of Famer Jerry Sloan, and players like John Stockton, Karl Malone, Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer and Andrei Kirilenko, the Jazz have been able to consistently put together good seasons that have shaped the success of the team.
Assuming that the lockout ends and the league will play basketball, this is why they will return to being one of the best eight teams in the Western Conference at the end of the next season.
Tyrone Corbin Will Be Better Prepared to Be the Head Coach
Even though he has been one of the top assistant coaches in the league for the last several year, Tyrone Corbin had only a few days to not only figure out how to become a head coach in the NBA but also to deal with the pressure of replacing one of the best and most successful coaches in league history.
Following Jerry Sloan's surprising retirement, Corbin, who many had thought would be a head coach at some time in his career, could not have predicted that he would be thrown into the position in the way that he was.
In the middle of all of the team turmoil and the unusually high amount of injuries, Corbin was asked to clean up the mess and try to salvage the season last year.
The 8-20 record that he finished with last season is not indicative of his coaching ability, and he will fare much better in the coming years.
Heading into the next season, Corbin will be much more prepared to be the man in charge. He will be working with his staff to not only decide the direction of the team, but he will make this his team instead of what was left of the long Jerry Sloan era.
With the additions of new players, and the further development of the young players, Corbin will have a better opportunity to shape the team in the way that he wants it and show the league why he has been considered for several head coaching jobs.
He will also show Jazz fans why they are glad that he did not leave the team.
Alec Burks and Enes Kanter Will Develop Quickly
The Utah Jazz had two lottery selections in the 2011 NBA draft, the first coming in the midseason trade with the New Jersey Nets, and the second being their own selection.
With the third overall pick, the Jazz selected Enes Kanter, a center from Turkey, and with the 12th pick they filled a need at the shooting guard position by drafting Alec Burks from Colorado.
Under the Jerry Sloan system, being a rookie usually meant that playing time would be scarce, and it would take longer to gain experience as a player.
Although new head coach Tyrone Corbin may be tempted to continue that trend, Kanter and Burks will force him to get them onto the court.
While Kanter may take more time to develop as centers often do, Burks will have the opportunity to play significant minutes right away. He will battle C.J. Miles, Raja Bell and possibly Gordon Hayward for playing time at that position.
Known as an athletic player who can create his own shot, Burks may struggle initially with the outside shot but has the advantage of working with assistant coach Jeff Hornacek on a daily basis and should improve.
Kanter joins a crowded Jazz front court but could earn playing time quickly especially if he is willing to do the dirty work and play defense. His size and athleticism contributes to his potential that should make him worthy of having been the third overall pick.
Both Enes Kanter and Alec Burks will turn out to be good selections that will help the team in their rookie seasons.
Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors Will Continue to Improve
Even after it was evident last season that the Jazz were going to miss the playoffs and that the team would end with a losing record, they did have a few bright moments that showed a glimpse into what is to come for this team.
After being the third overall selection in the 2010 NBA draft and spending most of the season with the New Jersey Nets, then rookie Derrick Favors took a few games with the Jazz to see playing time but showed why he was the third pick when he did.
Battling for time in a crowded frontcourt, Favors showed his length, athleticism and defensive capabilities. As the youngest player in the league last season, his potential continues to be at one of the highest levels among young players in the NBA.
Favors will no doubt get more consistent playing time, continue to learn and develop and help fans to understand exactly what the franchise got in return for Deron Williams.
In addition to Favors, the Jazz also saw some great play from Gordon Hayward. After surviving some rookie moments, Hayward finished the season strong by breaking his own career and season marks for points in three of his last six games, including a 34-point performance against the Denver Nuggets.
Of those games, he was most remembered for the ferocious dunk and good defense played against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers that helped the Jazz beat them on the road for the first time in several seasons.
The future is bright for the Utah Jazz but especially for these two players. As they continue to learn the game, consistently gain experience and better fit into the league and the team, they are going to be very good.
It may take them a few years to reach their full potential, but Favors and Hayward are going to quickly become two of the best players on this team and will lead the Jazz to more success than last year.
The Team Will Have Fewer Injuries and Distractions
During the 2010-2011 NBA season, the Utah Jazz experienced some of the biggest changes they have had as a franchise, in the middle of the year.
As if the abrupt and unexpected retirement of Hall of Fame head coach Jerry Sloan after nearly 23 seasons in charge was not enough, the Jazz also traded away All-Star point guard Deron Williams a short time later.
Amid all of the drama of those franchise changing events, the team also suffered more injuries and players missed more games than they had in one season in a very long time.
Not only did new head coach Tyrone Corbin try to deal with the strange emotions of the season, there were nights he had the challenge of putting a team on the floor. On several occasions, the Jazz had only eight or nine available players, and role players were asked to do jobs they were not ready for.
Thankfully for the Jazz, the frequency and amount of injuries that the team endured last season is not likely to be repeated, and there should not be as many off court distractions for the team.
This will not only help the team to be able to focus more on basketball, it could translate into more wins.
Devin Harris Will Emerge as a Team Leader
Whether he deserved it or not, point guard Devin Harris was the recipient of a lot of the blame for the poor finish that the Jazz endured last season.
For many Jazz fans, it would not have mattered who the player was that replaced Deron Williams as the starting point guard, accepting him would have been difficult no matter how good he was.
Based partly on the shock and anger at the team sending Williams away, Harris had a rough start with many fans in Utah who were critical of his play. Couple that with the fact that he missed several games due to injury and seemed to have a tough time getting comfortable with the Jazz offense, and things did not add up well for Harris.
Coming to Utah and the Jazz not drafting a point guard are both good things for Harris who deserves more that 17 games to be judged as to whether or not he will be able to lead this team.
Like many of the new additions to the team last season, Harris will have a better opportunity to fit into this team, and should do well. As he learns the offense and creates team chemistry with his new teammates, Harris should return to the higher level of play he had before spending time in New Jersey.
When the lockout finally ends, the former All-Star will have had time to better adjust to being in Utah, recover from injuries and become the team leader that the Jazz did not have after the trade deadline last season.
One thing is for sure, whenever the Jazz and the NBA start to play again, it will be nearly impossible for the Jazz to have the same setbacks that they had last season, and things can only get better.
Follow Chris on Twitter @JazzRSLExaminer
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