Best-case: The offseason departure of Utah’s veterans opens the floodgates for Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward and Enes Kanter to thrive.
Worst-case: A season goes by without much substantive player development.
For Utah, the worst-case possibility is extremely remote. This will be a losing season for the Jazz, but a learning season. Kanter and Favors, in particular, will have a chance to claim more minutes and more responsibility, an opportunity for both players to grow into their games.
Favors, for his part, very much needs to become more comfortable with the ball in his hands. He’s a good finisher and does well to convert off rebounds, but last season he wanted no part of anything that would require his own shot creation. That’s a bit of a problem. Being able to catch the ball and make simple plays without panicking is essential to becoming a high-functioning NBA big man, and yet last season Favors never seemed to know where to go when temporarily in control.
Kanter, on the other hand, could very much use the defensive reps. He’s a bit slower than Favors, which is part of the reason why Kanter doesn’t project the same kind of gaudy defensive potential. That makes it all the more important for Kanter to be intimately familiar with the specifics of defensive rotation and the timing of defending in space — both of which can only be gleaned through experience.
The Jazz have finally cleared up their long-standing frontcourt logjam. With Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap gone, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter go from prospects to starters. Gordon Hayward becomes the focal point of the offense and Alec Burks gets a chance to show what he can do. With the potential to start five lottery picks (when Trey Burke is healthy), the Jazz are going to find out what their future looks like quickly.
They shouldn't be ahead of Toronto. Maybe if they switched conferences.
Top Addition: Trey Burke | Biggest Loss: Al Jefferson
Loss of Jefferson was the best thing that happened!
Whether you want to call it “tanking” or “rebuilding with passion and intellect,” the Jazz will likely be among the league’s worst teams this season and it’s at least partially by design. Four of the 2012-13 team’s top-five scorers left this summer -- Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Mo Williams and Randy Foye -- and Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey made no real effort to replace them. Instead, he took on the expiring contracts of Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins to acquire draft assets, and he elected to turn over the bulk of the minutes to a talented, but largely unproven, young core made up of five lottery picks: Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks and Trey Burke. Unfortunately, Burke, the team’s projected starting point guard, was lost for the beginning of the regular season with a finger injury. That’s an ominous start for what figures to be a long and rough road to the 2014 lottery.
The skinny: This year will be labeled a success if Favors, who was recently handed a four-year extension, Hayward and Kanter all show they can be impact starters when given the largest roles of their young careers. A top-three pick in this year’s draft would be pretty great too.
Notable Additions: C Andris Biedrins, G Trey Burke, C Rudy Gobert, F Richard Jefferson, G John Lucas III, G Brandon Rush
Notable Losses: F DeMarre Carroll, C Al Jefferson, F Paul Millsap, G Randy Foye, G Earl Watson, G Mo Williams
Coach: Tyrone Corbin (fourth season with Jazz)
AN OPPOSING TEAM'S SCOUT ANALYZES THE 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.
DOLLINGER: Jazz No. 22 in preseason Power Rankings
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.
You have them mixed up?
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.
He's their best player period. He had already shown he was more than a jump shooter. The shooting part has been one of the questions about him.
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.
Kanter should be their go to guy with Burks and hopefully Burke eventually as secondary options along with G. Favors sure looked good against the Clippers too!
GOLLIVER: Northwest Division preview
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.
Hasn't been a rotation player much.
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.
Don't think there's much doubt he's ready for more.
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.
And Marvin sucked!
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.
HOW IS THE INJURY SITUATION HEADING INTO THE SEASON?
A: “The way it is right now it’s looking like we’ll start with 11 healthy bodies. Trey (Burke, finger surgery) will be out for weeks to come. Jeremy (Evans, rotator cuff) will be out for a few more weeks. (Marvin Williams, Achilles, and Brandon Rush, knee, are also out indefinitely.)
“Those four guys more than likely won’t be available for us Wednesday, so we’ve got 11 bodies and we have to make sure that we’ve got everybody ready to go and up to speed.
“You have to make adjustments and you want to have as many weapons as you can. … It’s going to be some juggling here, but we’ll organize and look at things and see what gives us the best chance.”
Evans is out for weeks! I guess that is why Gobert finally played.
Corbin: “To his (credit), he’s done a good job of listening to everything, It’s been a lot of stuff thrown at him in a short amount of time, He’s now starting to figure out how to understand what we’ve thrown at him and now how to implement it on the floor in the games and in practice. The more reps he can get in, the better off he will be at it. He’s making great strides for us, so we’re happy to see him continue to progress. …
“He’s always demonstrated that he’s a tremendous worker. He’s continued to do that. He’s putting the time in. He had a little setback when he got hurt. (But) he studied; he watched when he was not on the floor, and now it’s starting to show. He’s starting to not have to think as much about every little thing. He’s getting to his spots where now he can play. It’s good to see him make those strides right now.”
Utah's biggest offseason need was a point guard and rookie Trey Burke, currently sidelined after finger surgery, has the poise to run the offense and the perimeter game to keep defenses honest ... The Jazz were tied for eighth in the NBA in three-point shooting percentage (.366) and with the arrival of Burke, there is no reason why that figure can’t improve … Utah should thrive in the transition game with such a young roster.
Except for the fact that Burke hasn't shown he can shoot, Rush is out and Foye and Mo are gone.
Without Burke, journeyman John Lucas is likely to run the point ... Lucas is a solid reserve, but not a starter for a team with intentions to contend for a playoff spot .
Which they don't have those intentions. His a solid 3rd pg.
With Burke healthy, the Jazz have a decent starting lineup,
Burke has proven nothing at this level. Hayward/Jefferson are the only proven starters and Jefferson was at the end of the bench last year.
but they have questionable depth .
To put it mildly.
Favors and Kanter are still raw offensively .
Favors is anyway.
The Jazz were a middle-of-the-pack rebounding team and, without Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, aren’t as strong in that area .
Favors/Kanter/Biedrins/Gobert/Evans and some good rebounding wings should make it one of their strongest areas.
There's no star power whatsoever .
Not yet anyway.
Lack of experience will translate into losses in close games ... Tyrone Corbin is on the final year of his contract and the fact that he hasn’t receive an extension could pose a distraction, especially if Utah struggles early.
26 years and 107 days (opening day), 6 foot 6.72 inches, 214 lbs.
Wallace Prather, the man Lindsey described as being a “father figure” to Favors, opened the talks with a query that caught Utah’s lead negotiator off guard.
“You guys may not believe this,” Lindsey said, “but the first question that Wallace had for me was not, ‘How much money is Derrick going to get?’ It (was), ‘Can you keep the young core together?’ ”
Lindsey smiled relating the story and added, “That question was very much appreciated by ownership.”
It set the tone for an amicable resolution, which came almost two weeks ahead of the Oct. 31 deadline for extending contracts for 2010 draftees. A week ago Saturday, the 6-foot-10 Favors signed an incentive-based four-year deal worth at least $47.7 million. It kicks in after this season, when the fourth-year player will make $6 million, and keeps the Atlanta native in Utah through 2017-18.
“I want to stay in Utah,” Favors said. “I’m happy being here.”
Though this conference was about the 22-year-old Favors securing his future in the Beehive State, the bigger question looming over the Jazz organization is the same one his agent asked Lindsey.
Will the Jazz be able to keep the young core together?
Lindsey said the team will exercise options to keep center Enes Kanter and guard Alec Burks on board through 2014-15, but shooting guard Gordon Hayward’s future remains up in the air.
“If,” Jazz CEO Greg Miller said, “we have players that we think have the skill and the ability that it takes to win a championship or at least show promise of that and we can get all of the negotiations and contract speculation behind us so that we can focus on playing the game of basketball and getting better every single game, that’s going to be a good thing for all of us.”
Hayward’s camp and the Jazz have a lot of work to do before coming to an agreement that’d keep the former Butler star in a Utah uniform for another four or five years after this season.
Lindsey wouldn’t comment on the process, but, after pouring praise on Favors, Miller admitted he hopes to have Hayward’s situation settled this week.
“Gordon is a player who shows a lot of promise. I think we’ve seen a lot of growth and development with him over the last few years, and I’m very interested in keeping him as a member of the Utah Jazz,” Miller said. “The sooner we can get all that worked out, the sooner it’s not going to be a distraction. I’m hoping that we can get that done sooner than later.”
The clock is running down.
If the sides don’t strike an extension deal by 9:59 p.m. MDT on Halloween, Hayward will become a restricted free agent at the end of the 2013-14 season. Utah will be in the same situation with Kanter and Burks next offseason.
“I’m still in the same spot, letting them (agent and Jazz) worry about it,” Hayward said before Monday’s practice. “Today, I’m going to focus on getting better in practice.”
Moments after Favors’ press conference, Hayward was asked if he hopes the Jazz will be holding a similar one for him this week. He deftly deflected the question to congratulate his teammate and the franchise.
“It’s great for him. I’m really happy for him,” Hayward said. “Great for the organization. Derrick’s going to be good for Utah for a long time.”
Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin is another one who’d like as much certainty and stability as possible. This Utah team only has four players with guaranteed deals past this season (Favors, Trey Burke, Rudy Gobert and Jeremy Evans), and Monday’s Man of the Morning is the only one past that.
“I’m very hopeful that it will come soon. We love the guy,” Corbin said of Hayward. “Hopefully, things can get worked out and (we’ll) get the deal done, and he’s with us for a long time.”
Incidentally, Corbin is also in the final year of his contract.
“I would love to be here,” said Hayward, the ninth pick of the 2010 draft. “That would be great, especially playing with Fav and be a part of this franchise. It’s a great franchise. I would love that.”
The guy who was selected six spots prior to him and who came to Utah in the Deron Williams deal in the middle of the 2010-11 season hopes so as well.
Favors, now a Beehive State homeowner whose Atlanta-based mom is thrilled he’s settling in “peaceful and quiet,” has become quite fond of Hayward.
“It’s very important (to sign him). Me and Gordon, we’ve been together for going on three years. We’ve been to the USA Camp together, so we’ve got a good chemistry going,” Favors said. “With Enes and Alec and all those guys, they’ve been wonderful teammates. It’s important to keep the young core together, so we can build the chemistry and move forward to the future.”
Favors, the NBA’s third-leading rebounder in the preseason, believes he can help lead that group to some lofty heights.
“What do I expect from myself?” he said, repeating a press conference question. “Just come out there and be a leader on the court, try to lead this team to the playoffs and hopefully one day to a championship. Those are my expectations.”
That’s what the Jazz have in mind, too.
Plus, the organization — from owner Gail Miller to the coaching staff — loves the man that Favors has become over the past three years.
“We think he’s a really good fit,” Lindsey said. “Just to reduce it simply, we wanted to keep a very talented player and a really good person in the fold.”
Question remains: Will they be saying similar things about Hayward at a contract-extension press conference later this week?
For now, they're ecstatic that one major piece of the puzzle is in place.
"This is one of the first of many steps that we’ll take," Miller Sports Properties president Steve Miller said. "With his (Favors') talent and his leadership, we believe our future is very bright."
During the preseason, Favors averaged only 26.5 minutes, 8.3 defensive rebounds, 9.4 points and 1.4 blocks per game. According to my tabulation, if his stats are adjusted to 36 minutes a game, he would average 11.2 defensive rebounds, 12.8 points and 1.9 blocks.
Malone averaged 37.2 minutes per game during his career. Reduced that figure to the 36-minute measurement and Malone would have averaged 7.5 defensive rebounds, 24.2 points and 0.8 blocks.
The defensive rebounding stat is the most interesting, rather than a combined rebounding stat because Favors is a defensive minded player first. If Favors is truly a better defensive rebounder than Malone (he owns the all-time rebound record at 11,406 rebound) and if Favors sticks it out for 19 years, it is conceivable that Favors could break Malone’s record, if Kevin Garnett doesn’t do it first. He os currently at 10,757 and counting.
The nice thing is Favors’ attitude is easier for a coach to deal with than Malone’s.
Let's see what he does this year first against first units and how much he can stay on the court before we make him the greatest defensive rebounder ever.
For nearly 30 minutes before Monday’s practice, Jazz brass spent nearly as much time complimenting Favors the man as they did Favors the player.
Jazz owner Gail Miller wasn’t able to attend the conference because of other out-of-town obligations, but general manager Dennis Lindsey relayed a thought she shared with him during recent contract negotiations.
“Can we get more players like Derrick?” Miller asked Lindsey.
“I didn’t tell Derrick and (agent Wallace Prather) that during the negotiations,” the Jazz GM added. “I took it that Gail wants to keep Derrick in the fold. It’s much appreciated.”
Favors has admitted he wanted that first season in Utah to end about the same time he arrived from New Jersey. He was 19, feeling dejected, displaced and disoriented.
By the next season, however, something started to click for the youngster from Atlanta.
That second year with the Jazz (2011-12), he bought an apartment, started to open up to teammates and noticed that he liked the friendly atmosphere in his new environment.
“My second year here … it just started feeling like home,” Favors said.
Now Favors owns a Salt Lake City home and is under contract for the next five seasons.
That happened, by the way, even though he’s yet to find a Southern-style restaurant in Utah that hits the spot like Mary Mac’s Tea Room in Georgia.
“I haven’t found one yet,” he said when asked if he gets any home-style cooking at Utah restaurants. “I’ve got to stay away from that stuff.”