It’s been a while but it’s almost back. It’s been a long and busy offseason that’s given us plenty to talk and to speculate about. The 2013-14 season is on the horizon and I can’t wait. It’s time to watch these young guys play. It’s time to see the offense that Coach Corbin envisions be executed with athletes that are now suited for it. It’s time to see an increased defensive effort. It’s time to analyze, enjoy, speculate and celebrate. It’s time for Utah Jazz basketball. With the first preseason game only 2 weeks away, here are some quick thoughts on each member of the Utah Jazz this year (in no particular order):
John Lucas III - John Lucas has some shoes to fill as he replaces Jamal Tinsley as the mentor and veteran leader on this team. John has also been given the responsibility of helping Trey Burke learn the ropes of being an NBA point guard. When you listen to John talk, he sounds like he’s been training for this role his whole career. He does not have great numbers but he has great respect around the league and he knows the game of basketball. Passing along this knowledge to the younger and more talented Burke will be a huge asset to the team and Burke’s growth. This will be the biggest contribution he makes to the team this season, what he’s able to do on the floor should be considered a bonus.
Richard Jefferson - Another veteran who could help John Lucas out with leadership this year. Don’t get me wrong Jazz fans, Hayward and Favors need to be THE leaders on the team, but RJ and JLIII can be calming influences that help these two players figure out what type of leaders they will be. Jefferson is looking for an opportunity to play and contribute for the first time since being traded by the Spurs a couple of years ago. If he can give quality minutes for the second unit with 3 point shooting and solid defense that will be good enough for this team. If he plays really well, don’t be surprised to see him moved to a contender for future assets.
Gordon Hayward - Ok I brought up his name already so may as well talk about him. I expect big things from Gordon this year. In light of Paul George’s 5 yr $90 million max extension he just signed this is both good and bad. I only say bad because I think the Jazz were hoping to get Gordon to sign between $10-$12 million per year. However now with George’s extension, there is now way the Jazz and Hayward get an extension done now. Hayward’s agent isn’t stupid and I think that’s what they have been waiting for. Hayward is going to put up numbers that are equal to or better than George this year. The Jazz will be forced to match a max offer sheet that someone will give him or just offer it to him themselves. On the good (and don’t worry the good far outweighs the bad) side this means Gordon Hayward will be with the Jazz for a very long time. As for this year, he is going to be a team leader in just about every statistical category and stamp himself as one of the best players on the team. It’s going to be fun to watch
Derrick Favors – I also expect big things from Favors this year as well. He has been putting in the work big time this offseason. I am very curious to see how the workouts with Karl Malone have helped him on the offensive side of the ball. Also as David Locke has brought up several times including in our Jazzcast, I hope the added weight and muscle Derrick has put on will not be a detriment to his shot blocking ability. Hopefully it has helped him to jump higher and run faster and will be a positive. Derrick wants to be great and it’s going to be fun watching what he can do, barring foul trouble, for 36+ minutes a night.
Jeremy Evans - This is a big year for Mr. Evans. He needs to show that he has what it takes to be a back up 4 in this league. I know he’s a good guy and somewhat of a fan favorite but the Jazz need more than that. He has also put in a lot of work this offseason and has added some muscle to that slender frame. Will it translate to quality back up minutes? I hope so. We should continue to see some highlight worthy plays from Jeremy this year but I want to see play from him that proves he should be here for a long time. He has almost as much to prove this year as…..
Alec Burks - Talk about fan favorite. Some people talk about this guy as if he’s the next Michael Jordan. Alec is a very talented player. He has an incredible ability to get to the basket and draw fouls. His outside shot continues to improve, he plays steady defense and has shown decent ball handling skills. There are 2 questions I have though; What are Alec’s motivations as a basketball player and are the Jazz trying to make him into something he’s not? Each year Burks has been with the Jazz the team has felt the need to have a player that pushes him and competes with him daily. Why is that? Secondly, news broke last week that Burks and Burke were in Spokane working out with John Stockton. Is Alec really a combo guard? Should the Jazz just let him be a 2? I would love to hear the scouting report that Stockton gave to the Jazz brass. I personally think that Alec is better suited at being a traditional 2 guard. Gordon Hayward has the ability to be a point forward at times to help out Trey Burke. Alec’s game to me seems like he plays his best when he plays free.
Brandon Rush - Is Brandon Rush healthy? That is the big question that will be answered in training camp. If healthy Brandon Rush will be a big boost to the second unit and is the most likely of the back ups to win a starting role. Unlike Randy Foye who played sporadic defense and was only his best if the 3 was falling, Rush will still play nice D if the shot isn’t falling. This is a player I believe the Jazz brought in to get a closer look at and possibly keep around after this season. I expect him to have a rather large role this season and average the most minutes of all the second unit. Don’t be surprised to see him in the 4th quarter of close games.
Trey Burke - Getting Trey Burke in the draft was a big deal. He is a talented play maker for himself and his teammates. He has great range on his shot and can get to the hoop. The biggest adjustment for him will be getting used to the size and athleticism of the NBA. Once he adjusts to this I expect him to do very good things with the Jazz. Trey Burke working out with John Stockton is a match made in heaven. Stockton wasn’t the biggest or most athletic at his position but he made himself into a Hall of Fame player. If Burke puts into practice the things he learned from Stockton, watch out. Another reason Burke is a big deal? I was talking to some friends of mine from California who are big time Lakers fans. They love Trey Burke and are looking forward to seeing what he can do on the Jazz with the other young guys. Yes Utah, the league and it’s fans have taken notice of this team. ROY candidate.
Enes Kanter - The biggest question I have about Kanter is this: How much will having learned under Al Jefferson the past 2 years hurt and help Kanter’s game? Kanter is a strong, talented young center. He has more offensive moves than Favors right now and a better J. The problem with working with Big Al is, well, we all saw how the offense had to be tailored to Big Al. Ball movement stopped once Al got the ball and the other 4 guys took a 20 second break watching Al work down low. Will Kanter have those same bad habits or will he be a better passer? Hopefully working with Karl Malone has taught Enes to pass the ball back out if the position he has is bad so he can fight for better position. I expect the ball to be moving more and faster between players this season and hopefully Kanter is young enough that he game will adjust to that style and not be another black hole.
Ian Clarke - The king of the summer league. Ian is the type of guy you love having on your bench. He’s a fighter and is always going to give you 100%. He’s going to make the starters work and he is a true combo guard. He has great range on his shot and will be a nice change off the bench. Don’t have to big of expectations from Clarke this year. He has Burks and Rush ahead of him and will probably only see time in mop up duty. He will keep the starters sharp though, and will always be ready when his name is called. He could be a D-League candidate this year.
Marvin Williams – You may or may not have noticed that other than the “Core 4″ and Jeremy Evans, Marvin Williams is the only Kevin O’Connor acquired player left on the roster. Marvin had a rough go with injuries last year and is rehabbing through another one right now. He is reported to be ahead of schedule and could possibly return in December. His offensive numbers were not great last year but it would not be fair to overlook his defensive contributions. He played much better when coming off the bench and is best suited as a stretch 4. By moving him to the 4, I would expect his 3 point numbers to go up since he would be guarded by bigger, slower players. This team could really use the 3 point shooting Marvin provided for the Hawks as a 4. It should be interesting to see the “battle” he and Jeremy Evans have to be the back up to Derrick Favors.
Rudy Gobert - Jazz fans are very excited about the newest French import to play in the NBA. His length is undeniable and intriguing at 7’2″ with a 7’9″ wingspan and 9’7″ standing reach. Rudy is young and athletic and will make some plays on the defensive side of the ball. He is still very slender and will need to bulk up to stay on the floor for long stretches. He is almost lost on the offensive side of the ball and it will take time for him to grow in that area. He’ll be fun to watch in limited minutes. He has a lot to learn but the Jazz know this. The Jazz have been linked to signing Rudy’s countryman Alexis Ajinça. However I believe the Jazz have someone on their roster that could be a great mentor, and that man is…..
Andris Biedrins - This man has been counted down and out by most people. The casualty of a youth movement in Golden State and Don Nelson making him scared to get fouled. As I wrote here Andris is motivated with his new opportunity with Utah. He wants to show that he still belongs in the league and can have an important role on a team. He’s never been great on the offensive side of the ball but has always played good defense and can rebound the basketball. Gobert is 2-3 inches taller than Biedrins and if he could emulate Biedrins career (without the pitfalls of course) he will be a great compliment to Derrick Favors. I expect Biedrins to give quality backup minutes to Favors and Kanter. He will be a good mentor to Gobert and will have a positive impact on this team.
Scott Machado - Yesterday the Jazz signed Scott Machado and today they waived Jerel McNeal. Machado had a nice Senior season at Iona in 2011-12. He averaged 13.6 ppg, 9.9 apg and 1.6 spg. He shot 49.5% from the field, 40.4% from 3 and 81.1% from the foul line. He played in 6 games for the Rockets last year and comes in listed at 6’1″ and 205 lbs according to ESPN. This is really just competition for the 3rd point guard spot. The Jazz may decide Clark is more of a 2 guard than a combo guard. This may also push Clarke to work on his PG skills. Either way it doesn’t have too big of an effect on the team.
On Tuesday October 8th at 7 PM at Energy Solutions Arena we will have our first glimpse of this team. I am looking forward to a team oriented attack on offense and a tenacious effort on defense. I have no idea what their record will be but I expect it to be a fun, crazy, wild and exciting year. I am ready for Utah Jazz Basketball!