Jazz ’10-11 Preview
30 teams in 30 days.
by Chris Deaton / @umlikedude
I’m intrigued. Intrigued that the irreplaceable Carlos Boozer was replaced; intrigued that the constantly on-the-block or contract-talk Andrei Kirilenko will, in fact, be scoring and swatting in Salt Lake, at least for a while (and maybe a while longer); intrigued that Gordon Hayward, perhaps predictable for all his bashful charm, copped a Honda Accord, placing him alongside Volvo Battier as the L’s next ambassador for pinching millions in this time of economic largesse.
This team was on the brink. L.A. has unleashed some Poseidonian tidal wave on the West, and Utah, with its many roster questions and impossibly difficult division, was *that* close to drowning. But they float. They float, thanks to ownership that spent, and thanks to Deron Williams, always a source of hope and the NBA’s best point guard, except for those times when Chris Paul is, and those other times when Steve Nash is, and those other other times when Rajon Rondo is …
PG: Deron Williams (’09-10 stats: 76 GP, 18.7 PPG, 10.5 APG)
SG: C.J. Miles (63 GP, 9.9 PPG, 2.7 RPG)
SF: Andrei Kirilenko (58 GP, 11.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG)
PF: Paul Millsap (82 GP, 11.6 PPG, 6.8 RPG)
C: Al Jefferson (76 GP, 17.1 PPG, 9.2 RPG)
(*for opening night)
The obligatory and already tired question: Can Jefferson, whose career has played out in the standings cellar, replicate his numbers for a good squad? Better question: Is there a particular reason anyone thinks he can’t?
While Mehmet Okur rehabs his left Achilles’, Millsap will provide the Jazz a block-bruising mentality. Four of his final seven regular season lines last season: 19 and 11, 13 and 11, 15 and 12, 10 and 24. For all this talk about Jefferson’s slight deficiency on the boards when compared with Boozer, Millsap’s added presence is a clear silver lining.
The rustier lining is that this five doesn’t exactly scream three-point gunnery, especially considering the departures of Kyle Korver and Wesley Matthews. The Jazz were 23rd in the NBA with 439 made treys last year — for perspective, Orlando was first, with 841, and Memphis last, with 344.
Fourth-year center Kyrylo Fesenko is a vital piece until Okur’s return — but while he’s posted decent preseason numbers (10 and 5.5 over four games as of Friday), he has only 79 total appearances to his name, and his eight minutes a night last season were a career high. For now, he is the frontcourt reserves.
The arrivals of veterans Raja Bell and Earl Watson provide much-needed, if unspectacular, second-string backcourt help. A smattering of unproven youth provides the upside: the aforementioned Hayward is a project, but Coach Jerry Sloan is enamored with his willingness to learn, and said, “We’re not giving up on him just because he doesn’t score 40 points a night;” rookie swings Jeremy Evans and Ryan Thompson have scoring potential.
There are at least two: health and Sloan’s ability to maximize minutes for his mishmash roster.
Kirilenko is of particular concern in regards to the former. He lacks a reliable backup, meaning Hayward’s — hell, anyone’s — development is imperative. Would it be surprising to see Miles slide to the 3 and Bell at the 2 during select stretches?
Until then … best of luck with a limited rotation.
What a pain to compete with intradivisional foes Okie City, Denver and Portland for playoff spots. Indeed, Utah may be the fourth-best team in the Northwest. But below the Lakers, the West should be bunched 2-through-8 yet again — and despite personnel turnover, the lack of an impact rookie and injury concerns, Utah should find itself in the bottom half of that group.
Previous Season Previews can be found in the archive.