2011 NBA Offseason: Utah Jazz

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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Utah Jazz (Last Year: 39-43)

2011 NBA Draft Team Grade:

The Jazz are not in a re-building mode but they are trying to transition from the Deron Williams era. This NBA Draft gave them the opportunity to find some upgrades, and that is exactly what they accomplished. Enes Kanter is a potential franchise center and gives the Jazz great depth up front. He and Derrick Favors could end up being a dominant frontcourt duo one day. Alec Burks and Gordon Hayward combine to form the wing duo of the future. Utah certainly made the most of their draft night. (Team Grade: LOVE IT!)

Live 2011 NBA Draft Grades:

3. Enes Kanter, C, Kentucky
The Jazz absolutely made the right choice in taking Kanter over Brandon Knight even though they already have quality depth in their frontcourt. Knight was not worthy of the third-overall pick while Kanter is a potential franchise center. (Pick Grade: LOVE IT!)

12. Alec Burks, SG, Colorado
Maybe it is a blessing that Jimmer was off the board here because Utah needed an up-grade on the wing and found one in Burks. He and Gordon Hayward give the Jazz a promising young duo at the two and three. (Pick Grade: Makes sense)

*** 2011 NBA Offseason Needs and Free Agents listed below this comment box. ***

2010-11 Season Summary:
The 2010-11 season brought a changing of the guard to Utah – times two. After 21 years with the Jazz, Jerry Sloan, the longest tenured head coach in the league, unexpectedly stepped down after leading the Jazz to a 31-23 record. From there, things quickly went downhill as Utah finished with a 9-20 mark to the end the season under Sloan’s replacement, Tyrone Corbin, and missing out on the postseason.

That slide also occurred after Utah dealt their superstar point guard Deron Williams to the Nets for Devin Harris, Derrick Favors and a 2011 first-round pick. The trade was surprising to most but the Jazz chose to get solid value for Williams rather than risk losing him via free agency next summer and getting nothing in return. Harris proved to be a capable replacement at the point although he did not do anything to cement his status as the long-term solution to replace Williams.

Favors was solid once he arrived in Salt Lake City, providing the Jazz with needed depth up front since Mehmet Okur missed all but 13 games due to injury. In his first season with Utah, Al Jefferson combined with Paul Millsap to form a productive though somewhat undersized front line.

What really hurt the Jazz was their inconsistencies on the wing. Andrei Kirilenko and Raja Bell form a defensive-minded duo and looked well past their prime when they were healthy. C.J. Miles posted a career high in scoring but struggled shooting the ball while first-round pick Gordon Hayward was unable to find a steady spot in the rotation until late in the season when he showed promise of being the small forward of the future.

Now the Jazz enter the offseason with uncertainty. Corbin will try to create his stamp on the franchise that now lacks a true go-to player. A pair of lottery picks in the draft should help out but will not be lone answer to what Utah needs to return to the postseason.

2011-12 Projected Depth Chart:

C: Al Jefferson/Mehmet Okur

PF: Paul Millsap/Derrick Favors

SF: Gordon Hayward/Jeremy Evans

SG: Raja Bell/C.J. Miles

PG: Devin Harris

NBA Free Agents:

F-Andrei Kirilenko (UFA)

PG-Earl Watson (UFA)

PG-Ronnie Price (UFA)

F/C-Kyrylo Fesenko (UFA)

C-Francisco Elson (UFA)

Offseason Transactions:

Jazz pick up team option on G/F C.J. Miles

2010-11 Team Salary: Approximately $55.6 million

NBA Offseason Needs:

1. Wing Help: Gordon Hayward came on strong at the end of the season and should make a bigger impact next year. But with Andrei Kirilenko a free agent, C.J. Miles entering the final year of his deal, and Raja Bell turning 35 years old before the season begins, Utah could use additional talent on the wing. They could ideally look to add two wing players – one who can shoot the ball from deep and someone who can replace AK47’s versatility on the defensive end.

2. Backup Point Guard: Earl Watson and Ronnie Price shared the backup point guard duties last season but are both free agents this summer. Most speculation points toward the Jazz selecting Brandon Knight with their third-overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft which would fill this void while also adding a scorer who could play alongside Harris at times. If Utah chooses to go in a different direction with that pick, they should look to add a point with the 12th overall selection or via free agency.

3. Center: Big Al, Millsap, Favors and Okur give the Jazz good frontcourt depth especially if Favors makes strides in his second season. Still, Utah could use a true big man who can replace what free agents Francisco Elson and Kyrylo Fesenko brought to the team last season as insurance since Okur is in the final year of his contract and coming off an injury-riddled season. Plus, none of the current bigs bring a true defensive presence to the middle.

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