Enemy Lines: A rival scout sizes up the Jazz
2012-13 Record: 43-39
Coach: Tyrone Corbin (fourth season with Jazz)
This team is emphasizing development of its young players after the free-agent departures of veteran starters Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Mo Williams and Randy Foye. The Jazz will follow their game plan of building a team for sustained success, which they've always been known for, rather than trying to make quick fixes.
That approach will make for a trying season: They have two cornerstone big men in Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, but they are pretty thin in other places. The likelihood is that they add another high lottery pick in next year's deep draft, and maybe they fill another spot and begin ascending again.
They did a tremendous job handling the transition from the Deron Williams/Carlos Boozer era in collecting young assets but also having some veteran pieces around them so those young players were not forced to play before they were ready. With Jefferson, Millsap and youngsters Favors and Kanter in the frontcourt, they could not play all of them big minutes. And even with the veteran guys, they weren't quite good enough to be a playoff team last season. So it makes sense that they would give the young guys more of an opportunity after slowly bringing them along the past few seasons.
Sometimes it seemed like Favors was overthinking when he was playing, that he was moving at a slower speed than everyone else. The skill level always looked like it was there. He just needed to go through the maturation process. Last year, he really turned the corner.
Whereas Favors is going to be a little more offensive-minded, Kanter is going to be the interior presence. There's no question in my mind that Kanter averages double-figure rebounds this year and potentially ranks in the top 10. He's big, he's strong and he's getting stronger.
Favors and Kanter have had the good fortune of being able to develop at their own pace. Both will be better for it and the organization will be better for it.
Gordon Hayward really took a step forward last year. He showed the ability to put some pressure on a defense, making shots but also showing that he's more than just a jump shooter. There's no question he's their best wing player. The Jazz will have to rely on Favors and Hayward to be their go-to scorers. It would not be surprising if Hayward leads this team in scoring. He has work to do defensively, but he'll stick his nose in there and make an effort.
The backcourt is the Achilles' heel. To thrust any rookie into the position of quarterback is tough, especially when he doesn't have much behind him. But once he returns from his broken finger, Trey Burke is going to get significant minutes no matter the situation. In the meantime, John Lucas III, a score-first point guard and career backup, is set to start in Burke's place.
Whether Alec Burks is ready for an increased role in the backcourt in his third season remains to be seen. In an ideal world Burks wouldn't start, but he's got some length and versatility, and he looks capable of making shots.
They're going to need someone to play minutes off the bench. The eldest statesman is Richard Jefferson, and no one knows if he has anything left in the tank. Andris Biedrins' confidence is completely shot. Marvin Williams [heel] and Brandon Rush [knee] are both coming off major surgeries.
Tyrone Corbin was in a difficult position replacing Jerry Sloan, but he's made as smooth a transition as possible over the last two seasons. The transition era on the court is another difficult spot for Corbin. This organization is staring at a lean season because the talent is so green, and when you lose a lot of games, the coach often gets blamed.