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2008-2009 Utah Jazz Preview   17 comments

The previously mentioned Blogger Preview being directed by Jeff from Celticsblog continues on, with today being the day of the Jazz bloggers.

This was written before the recent injury to Deron, the severity of which is still unknown. So that hasn’t been factored in. Nor has the fact that J-Slow seems to be leaning towards starting CJ Miles over AK.

Team: Utah Jazz
Last Years Record: 54-28 (37-4 at home, 17-24 on the road)
Losses: Jason Hart, Dee Brown
Additions: Brevin Knight, Kosta Koufos (R)

1. What significant moves were made during the offseason?

After the disappointing end to last season, there were a ton of rumors flying around. You probably heard them too… Boozer to Miami for a pick and more, AK to anyone for anything, etc… most of which were probably started by depressed Jazz fans. In the end, the Jazz stood relatively still… surprising for a team that didn’t win it all last year. I guess the Jazz saw that their record after acquiring Kyle Korver last season was 38-12… something that extends out to 62-20 if extended over a full 82 game season and assumed that it would keep up. In any normal season, 62 wins should be plenty for home-court advantage. That pace keeping up seems unlikely though.

A laundry list of the moves made… you can decide for yourself if they were significant or not. (Note: the list is in order of significance, from most to least.)

  1. Jarron Collins is somehow still on the team.
  2. Deron Williams gets a contract extension, keeping him in Utah for a long while.
  3. Ronnie Brewer’s option is picked up, giving the Jazz some stability at the 2-guard spot (finally!).
  4. Jason Hart is dealt away for Brevin Knight, forcing the fans to find another player to hate. Plus, this has to be a major upgrade.
  5. CJ Miles gets an offer from OKC… and the Jazz promptly match it. The new Jason Hart is found… especially if this preseason-CJ shows up in the regular season.
  6. Kosta Koufos is drafted. He seems like he could be the next Mehmet Okur. Except that Okur is already on the Jazz… and Koufos seems destined to spend the season in the NBDL.
  7. Dee Brown gets a contract offer from the Wizards and the Jazz don’t match, fearing that Dee’s presence could transform Deron Williams into Keon Clark or Jason Hart or something.

2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?

Interior offense. The one thing about this offense is the dependence on close shots & driving to the hoop, with or without the ball. Booze is solid inside, shooting above 50% last year. Brewer’s game depends on getting to the hoop, and he does that well (along with the finishing). AK has developed a bit of a jumper, it seems, but he’s also good at getting to the hoop (or finding someone there). Okur has improved his game and has shown a higher willingness to attack the hoop. Deron also attacks the hoop often, and has the ability to finish, even with contact. ‘Sap has a solid inside game. Ronnie Price has the ability to finish at the hoop when he drives. And now with Okur, Almond & Korver able to light it up from outside (along with Deron, Price and AK & CJ at times), it’ll seemingly make it even easier for this team to score.

Depth. The team has solid depth, save maybe the logjam at back-up center with Flop, Koufos & Fesenko. And if AK does in fact move to the bench, the bench just becomes that much stronger.

The ESA. Like the name or not, you can’t ignore the fact that the Jazz absolutely dominate at home. That’s got to be considered a strength, no?

3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?

Interior defense. You don’t even have to ask. Everyone and their penguin knows that this is true. AK is a fine help defender, but that comes at the expense of leaving his guy open. We’re hoping Fesenko can be some sort of presence, but he has to stop trying to impress J-Slow with various hairstyles first. Booze defends like a rock. Okur is a bit better, but not much. ‘Sap is great, but he gets into a lot of foul trouble, and is a bit undersized when trying to defend Shaq or DHo or Duncan or what-not. And Flop flops. Occasionally it works, occasionally not. Once an opponent drives in, it’s probably going to end in a relatively easy 2, or FTs. Neither of which is good for the Jazz.

Perimeter defense. As a result of the first weakness, the Jazz are forced to collapse in around the ball to keep it from being an easy 2 every time. This tends to leave the guys on the perimeter open. And most teams will kill you for that (they aren’t the Jazz after all, so they will shoot). Yeah, it’s ugly.

4. What are the goals for this team?

Two years ago, this team surprised (and took advantage of an easy road) and made it to the Western Conference Finals. Last year, it got a bit tougher, and they could only make it back to the Conference Semifinals. You’ve got the fact the team stood still this offseason though and you throw in the fact that so many players are potentially entering contract seasons, and it just seems like management thinks this team is perfectly built. And, as a result, the goal has to be to win the NBA Finals. No one has any idea what the team will look like at this point next season, so you can’t just say “win in the next couple years”. The team is built to win now and, if the team stays together, win in the future. Might as well start winning now though… especially with no guarantee on how long the team will actually stay together.

5. Who is the starting small forward for the Jazz?

The Jazz starting line-up is pretty much set in stone. You’ve got Okur & Booze as the bigs, and Deron & Brewer as the guards. That leaves the 3-spot… a spot that has been occupied by AK the last couple of spots. J-Slow seems to have finally woken up to the fact that AK’s skill set fits in much better in the Manu Ginobili type of roll… playing starter type minutes while coming off of the bench. As a starter, AK is, at best, the 4th option offensively… something that doesn’t seem to suit him well. Bring him off the bench though, and he jumps up to the 1st or 2nd option (depending who else is out there). Plus, his ability to help on defense and find the open guys can be better utilized when he’s coming off the bench and handling the ball more often. But how well does that work? The Jazz have 3 potential options to start here (including AK, but disregarding Matt Harpring).

  • CJ Miles
    Pros: The Jazz matched his contract, they’ve obviously got to think he’s ready. He’s got the potential (and ability) to be a disruptive defender, something that could be important with AK not starting.
    Cons: He has really struggled again this preseason, forcing J-Slow to consider starting someone else. For all the potential, he’s shown very little… other than the ability to take (and miss) a ton of jumpers.
  • Kyle Korver
    Pros: Adding another solid shooter to the starting offense could really help the offense even more, especially Boozer. He has starting experience in the league, for what it’s worth.
    Cons: Calling him an average defender seems to be something that would overrate his defense. Is that even possible? And the help defense would be totally gone, meaning teams could attack the basket with ease early on.
  • Andrei Kirilenko
    Pros: Jack of all trades… his help defense is huge for the Jazz, and occasionally his jumper is falling as well. He’s paid like a starter, for what it is worth. And he’s the incumbent starter. How would he react to coming off of the bench?
    Cons: He’s at best the 4th option offensively. I don’t think he likes that very much. His game offensively seems to mirror that of Ronnie Brewer. Do you want 2 of those guys starting? It’ll lead to more double-teams for Booze… definitely not a plus.

Predicted record: Let’s see… the team improved for sure (yes, getting rid of Hart is that big). There isn’t much in terms of aging loss (maybe Flop & Harpring), but their is plenty of youth & guys that should be getting better. A full season with Korver should help, as should the fact that guys will work harder due to the fact that it’s their contract season (hopefully they work as a team and not individually). Plus, the home record won’t change much, and the team has to be better on the road, right? Let’s go with a slight improvement… 58-24.

Posted October 20, 2008 by Sujal in Season Preview

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