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Utah Jazz (Last Year: 53-29)
Live 2010 NBA Draft Grades:
Jazz Overall Team Grade
I think No. 9 is too high on Hayward when players like Ed Davis, Xavier Henry and Paul George were still on the board. With that being said, Hayward will probably be a nice fit in Utah who was looking for a shooter on the wing since Kyle Korver is a free agent. I don't see Evans being an NBA player, but look what Utah did with undrafted free agent Wesley Matthews last year, so you never know. (Grade: C-)
9. Gordon Hayward, SF, Butler
I mean, is the white guy to Jazz joke too obvious? I don't get this one. I think George and Henry are better wing prospects. Utah needs a shooter since Kyle Korver is a free agent, but what about Ed Davis here? Carlos Boozer is likely gone and I think Davis has more potential as a pro than Hayward. (Pick Grade: Don't Get It)
55. Jeremy Evans, F, Western Kentucky
A guy who has not received any hype on any mock draft I have looked at this season. He is a physical player who could add some depth behind Paul Millsap. (Pick Grade: Meh)
2009-10 Season Summary:
Have you heard the term "NBA hell" before?
It describes a franchise just good enough to make the playoffs every year, but never get past the first round. Teams like this are also not bad enough to qualify for the lottery, and possibly win the chance to land a franchise player. This is where the Utah Jazz reside. Sort of.
The Jazz are a 53-win team with a lottery pick (they possess the Knicks' selection). However, it'll take more than a stellar rookie to help this squad get past the New York Yankees of basketball next postseason. Utah needs a seismic change to occur in both the Los Angeles Lakers and the Western Conference landscape. Otherwise, this is a team running in place on a treadmill.
As soon as I saw the Jazz matched up with the Los Angeles Lakers yet again this postseason, I wondered if I should even watch a minute of that second-round series. After the Lakers eliminated the Jazz in both 2008 and 2009, the outcome (a four-game sweep this time) was more certain than the ending in a big-budget Hollywood action film. You'll see the villain kill James Bond before you see the Jazz take down the Lakers. And I'm sure that in Salt Lake City, Kobe and company are considered more evil than Dr. No and Goldfinger combined.
The Jazz need to find a way somehow add a third big piece to their nucleus (which looks nearly impossible given their cap situation), or consider blowing the roster up and rebuilding around star point guard Deron Williams (a somewhat likely scenario).
Otherwise, the end result will be yet another mind-numbingly boring playoff series; exactly like the one that just concluded.
2010-11 Projected Depth Chart:
C: Mehmet Okur/^Kyrylo Fesenko
PF: Al Jefferson/Paul Millsap/Jeremy Evans
SF: Andrei Kirilenko/C.J. Miles
SG: Raja Bell/Gordon Hayward
PG: Deron Williams/Ronnie Price
NBA Free Agents:
^C Kyrylo Fesenko (RFA)
SG Othyus Jeffers (UFA)
PG Sundiata Gaines (UFA)
2010-11 Team Salary: Approximately $69.5 million
2010-11 League Salary Cap: $58 million
Jazz sign SG Raja Bell to 3-year, $10 million deal
Jazz acquire PF Al Jefferson from Minnesota for C Kosta Kofous and two first round picks
Jazz acquire trade exception from Chicago for PF Carlos Boozer
Jazz extend qualifying offer to SG Wesley Matthews
Jazz extend qualifying offer to C Kyrylo Fesenko
NBA Offseason Needs:
1. Super-size Me- The always blunt head coach Jerry Sloan lamented his team's lack of size. "Even when we're healthy with our bigs, we're small." And you have to feel for him, or any guy coach forced to start Kyrlyo Fesenko in an actual NBA game. Injuries in the postseason to AK-47 and Mehmet Okur only worsened the situation when it counted the most. And we all saw how the Lakers DOMINATED the Jazz on the front line. Los Angeles is a gargantuan roadblock for Utah exactly like the Detroit Pistons were for the 1980s Chicago Bulls.
If Carlos Boozer walks, concerns over depth will get even worse. He looked vastly undersized in the Lakers series, and he's certainly not actually the 6-8 he's listed to be. However, the team believes Paul Millsap can step in and provide Booze's front-line scoring and rebounding. That idea has some validity; but Millsap is at least an inch or two shorter than Boozer. So Utah needs to embrace the cliche "go big or go home," as every postseason they "go home" when they encounter L.A. I hate to belabor this point, but I have to until they can do something about it.
2. I'll see you in Health!- What is up with this team and injuries the past two seasons? Kirilenko and Kyle Korver missed half the season, and even Williams was out for a few more games than usual. Okur was sidelined during the postseason when the team needed him most. And then there's the team's second biggest weapon, Carlos Boozer. "The Scores Report" summed it up best:
"The 28-year-old forward averaged 20-11-3 this season and shot 56% from the field. Of course the Jazz want him back, right? Not so fast. This was one of Boozer's 'healthy' years. He appeared in 78 games, which marks just the fifth time in eight years that Boozer has played in 52-plus games."
3. A Third Piece- Deron Williams made his first All-Star appearance and second all-NBA team appearance last season. Williams is the premier player on this team, and he is currently running the point better than anyone in the league right now. He, along with Boozer, manifests a star point guard-power forward combination reminiscent of John Stockton-Karl Malone.
But those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. Stockton and Malone reached their primes in the early 90s; not the late 90s. The reason the Jazz team won the Western Conference in 1997 and 1998 was only because every other West team had declined in power by then. The Jazz weren't at their best when Malone and Stockton were in their primes, they just got lucky (only in a sense, because if they were really lucky they would have also avoided Michael Jordan.) I mean, how many other legitimate NBA Finals teams have had to start a useless waste of space like Greg Ostertag?
Had Stockton and Malone ever played with that elusive third piece, they might have won it all. The Jazz have only one losing season in the last 27 years. They have the best coach in league history never to have won it all. However, they won't find a higher ceiling without a legitimate third star. Of course, if the Jazz do not re-sign Boozer, they will be in need of a second AND third piece.
4. A shooting guard- Wesley Matthews went from undrafted free agent to starter for the Jazz, and was an integral role player due to his defense and ability to hit open threes. His emergence made Ronnie Brewer expendable, and Utah dealt Brewer to the Grizzlies before the trade deadline for a future first-round pick. Kyle Korver backed up Matthews and shot a ridiculous 53.6 percent from three-point range. Both players are free agents and if they are not re-signed, Utah will need to search for a replacement.
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