Top Of The List
Top Offensive Player: Gordon Hayward. There will be plenty of shots to go around in Utah this season, and itís entirely possible that one of several players could emerge as the teamís leading scorer. That said, Hayward was third on the team in scoring last season with 14.1 points per game, including 41.5 percent accuracy from downtown. Hayward is the odds-on favorite to lead the team early on, even if someone else emerges mid-season.
Top Defensive Player: Derrick Favors. As the Jazz prepare for what is likely to be a rough season, theyíre going to call on everyone to step up. Managementís confidence that their young core is capable of doing so is seen in their decision-making over the summer. Favors led the team in blocks last season as a reserve averaging just 23.2 minutes per game, so itís logical to expect even more from him in a bigger role.
Top Playmaker: Trey Burke. Itís going to be baptism by fire for Trey Burke, who looks to be Utahís starting point guard on opening night. Burke made a name for himself at Michigan by being extremely efficient in transition, and the Jazz will want to take full advantage of that strength. Burke is also exceptionally efficient in pick-and-roll situations, which bodes well for a team with solid young big men like the Jazz have.
Top Clutch Player: Derrick Favors. Surprisingly, Favors was actually Utahís best player when considering games that were decided in the final five minutes. Favors saw action in twenty of those last season, converting 75 percent of his field goals on .2 attempts per game. Kanter was similarly effective, but in just four games that fit the category. Itís safe to say the ball should go through the post when the gameís on the line.
The Unheralded Player: Brandon Rush. Before an injury claimed all but two games of last season for Rush, he was a player on the rise. Two seasons ago he averaged 9.8 points per game, shooting 50 percent from the field and 45 percent from three as a reserve for the Golden State Warriors. For a young Jazz team in need of veteran leadership, Rush promises to be a great addition on and off the court.
Best New Addition: Trey Burke. As mentioned previously, Burke brings a reputation for efficient execution to the Jazz, and thatís something he will have to show he can translate to the NBA level as a rookie. He took his lumps in summer league play, and his size might be an issue, but playing with quality front court players like Utah has in place should help Burke make the transition to the pro game.
Who We Like
1. Jerry Sloan Ė The former head coach of the Jazz, Sloan piloted the team to unprecedented success during the toughest era the NBA has ever known. They never quite managed to get that elusive championship, but they were contenders nearly every year. With Sloan back in the mix, Utahís future might turn out to be even brighter than their past.
2. Dennis Lindsey Ė Itís no secret that most teams who are looking to rebuild are trying to do it in a manner similar to the way the San Antonio Spurs have been able to do it over the last decade and a half. Weíve seen a number of teams hire away their front office talent, as the Jazz did with Lindsey, and he is hoping to instill a little of that blue-collar style that has made the Spurs so successful.
3. Gordon Hayward Ė In a very short period of time, Hayward has gone from the new kid in Utah to the grizzled veteran and the voice of leadership in the locker room. Heís up for the challenge, however, and the Jazz are hopeful that he will take the next step this season, both on and off the floor.
4. Derrick Favors Ė As much as this is likely to be the year that Hayward emerges as one of the better up-and-coming talents in Utah, Derrick Favors must become an enforcer in the paint for the Jazz to be competitive. The team let some impressive veterans walk to make room for favors and Enes Kanter in the starting lineup, and with that comes a responsibility that Favors appears ready to shoulder.
5. John Lucas III Ė One of the NBAís true journeymen, Lucas always manages to find a place to play ball. The primary reason is that Lucas is a player who can impact a game night in and night out, yet is also happy to play whatever role his coach lays out for him. He is a great locker room veteran, and he will certainly play a major role in helping Trey Burke learn how to lead a team at the pro level.
Offensive rebounding was a specialty of Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors last season, and with their increased minutes that is likely to be a huge strength for the Jazz this season. When Kanter and Favors were in the lineup together last season they turned 45.9 percent of Utahís misses into offensive rebounds, and given Trey Burkeís limited success at finishing drives to the basket that could play huge for Utah this season.
Lack of experience will obviously be a big factor for the Jazz in 2013-14, as will their lack of a core group that is accustomed to playing together for long stretches. [/quote]
Favors/Kanter/G/Burks have played plenty together.
The Jazz will rely heavily on draftee Trey Burke, who struggled to lead the teamís summer league and was often pushed around by bigger guards. With so few veterans left to stabilize Utahís young core, it could be a very long season for Jazz fans.
The Burning Question
Is Utahís young core ready for prime time?
By allowing most of their veterans to walk away, the Jazz have put themselves in a low-risk, high-reward situation. If guys like Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks and Derrick Favors blossom this season, the Jazz might be pretty good. If it doesnít work out that way, they gain a lottery pick in the 2014 NBA draft, which is expected to be the best draft in years. Andrew Wiggins would look awfully good in a Jazz uniform, and Utahís management knows it.
- Bill Ingram