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2010-11 NBA Season Preview: Utah Jazz

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, and David Kay of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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Utah Jazz (Last Year: 53-29)

2010-11 Projected Depth Chart:

C: Al Jefferson/ Kyrylo Fesenko/Francisco Elson/Mehmet Okur

PF: Paul Millsap/Jeremy Evans

SF: Andrei Kirilenko/C.J. Miles

SG: Raja Bell/Gordon Hayward

PG: Deron Williams/Ronnie Price/Earl Watson

Head Coach: Jerry Sloan (23rd season)

2010-11 Team Salary: Approximately $76.1 million

Off-Season Grade: B
The Jazz were faced with the task of replacing three valuable players this offseason when Carlos Boozer, Wesley Matthews and Kyle Korver all left for greener pastures.

Utah used the trade exception from the Boozer deal to absolutely steal Al Jefferson from the Timberwolves. The Jazz signed veteran Raja Bell to take over Matthews' role of lockdown defender/three-point threat. The team turned to the draft to replace the sharpshooting Korver when they selected a younger, more athletic version in Gordon Hayward.

Considering the tight cap situation Utah found itself in entering the summer, that is one heck of a job by general manager Kevin O'Connor.

2010-2011 Outlook:
Despite all the major changes to the roster, the Jazz should remain competitive in the Western Conference because of Jerry Sloan. In Sloan's 23 years as Utah's head coach, the team has only missed the postseason three times and finished with a sub-.500 regular season record just once.

Everything Utah does this season will run through Deron Williams who some argue is the best point guard in the league. Williams can score and create, and has been teetering on the verge of taking his game to the next level which is what Utah will need him to do if they are going to be more than a one-and-done playoff squad.

Jefferson steps inside to replace the production of Boozer, but will end up playing a lot of center especially at the start of the season while Mehment Okur recovers from a ruptured Achilles injury that will likely keep him out until at least December. Paul Millsap has proved the past couple years that he more than capable of handling an expanded role and gets the opportunity to do so this season.

The wing play is an uncertainty. Andrei Kirilenko just cannot seem to stay healthy which has caused a drop in production compared to what his impact was in the mid-2000s. Bell was limited to just six games in 2009-10 due to a wrist injury, but will likely assume a pretty prominent role in the backcourt alongside Williams. C.J. Miles is coming off his best year as a pro and really impressed in the postseason. He should see plenty of time off the bench while the rookie Hayward could also work his way into the regular rotation.

A lack of depth especially early in the season with no Okur in the lineup concerns me a bit. But as is the case with any Sloan-coached Utah team, the Jazz will be playing more than 82 games this year. How many more will depend on whether or not Williams can truly take the leap this season and how Jefferson acclimates himself to his new surroundings.

Looking Ahead to the Summer of 2011:
Kirilenko becomes a free agent after this season which will free up about $17.8 million in cap space. (Yes, Kirilenko is making nearly $18 million this season.) Clearing that contract will still not give the organization enough flexibility to make a major move in free agency. However, Utah could shop that expiring deal before the trade deadline to a team looking to dump some salary.

2010-2011 NBA Power Ranking: 13th

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, and David Kay of the The Sports Bank.
Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
All other e-mail, including advertising and link proposals, send to:

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