With a bulky power forward capable of producing 24-17-3 stat lines in tow, the Utahan horizon looks bright. But Derrick Favors, along with youthful mates Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter, and Trey Burke, have a lot of growing up to do.
Lucky for them, Utah higher-ups went through with the right move and cleared their frontcourt of aging bodies Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. Now the development of their own version of the Twin Towers (Timmy D & The Admiral), the Twin Pines (Favors & Kanter), can be at the top of their five-year plan.
It will be an ugly year for them in the wins column but an important one in the course of budding careers. Below is our Utah Jazz 2013-14 preview.
Points Per Game: 13th
Points Allowed Per Game: 16th
Rebounds Per Game: 14th
Notable Losses: Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Randy Foye
Despite atrocious shooting percentages Burke remains an interesting prospect for Utah. He’s athletic, has a nice shooting stroke, can find his teammates, and, at times, looks fearless on the hardwood. Unfortunately, his development will have to wait while he nurses a hand injury.
In the meantime, Lucas III, or possibly Jamaal Tinsley, if it comes to that, will take up his minutes. Both are veteran point guards you can count on for very different reasons which might just be what the Kanter-Favors-Hayward-Burks boy scouts crew needs as they round up their first full season together. Still, a Calderon or a Nash figure would be ideal in this role. Lucas III and Tinsley bring with them too many cons.
Shooting Guards: Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, Brandon Rush, Ian Clark – Grade: D+ to C-
Hayward’s home will traditionally be at small forward but he’s been shown capable of filling in at the 2, which helps the Jazz on that front. It’s too early to know but if Burks can’t ever find his shooting stroke he might not ever be anything more than a quality role player. Going 2-for-10, 1-for-13, and 4-for-12 like he has in the preseason is a big no-no for a squad that will learn to value spacing with its Twin Pines inside the half-circle.
Rush and Clark are serviceable options but not exactly the kind of bench contributors a young team, who has had a history of lukewarm offense, needs.
Modest projections have Hayward ending up with a year that looks like this: 14.4 Points Per Game, 3.5 Rebounds Per Game, 3.0 Assists, 1.0 Steals, 0.6 Blocks and 1.3 three-pointers made (3PM). That puts him at the bottom of the top-20 small forwards. The Jazz will need all they can get from the youngster who has a jack-of-all-trades game that can carry them for moments. It isn’t out of the question for him to break all expectations and go for something like 17-5-3-1.5-1-1.4 3PM.
Evans can give you 10-12 minutes of hustle but fails to be the backup Hayward needs. Jefferson and Williams are in Utah for a reason.
Power Forwards: Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter – B-
The future for Utah is in the paint. Though Favors and Kanter have nice, and improving, mid-range games, it’s inside where the greatest leap will have to be made by a team searching for a new identity. With enough development from Favors, who is wholly capable of beastly games, and Kanter, likewise, the Utah Jazz can be in good shape to bring in prodigious wing talent in the 2014 Draft. Favors and Kanter, who will principally put in his hours at the 5, will find their own growth in this coming year. It will now be up to Jazz management to find them complementary talent, like a handful of shooters, to put them over the top statistically.
Centers: Enes Kanter, Andris Biedrins, Rudy Gobert – Grade: C+
Not enough can be said about Kanter’s upside. It’s what’s keeping the Jazz’s grade at the center position from being written in red marker. He has a varied offensive game that is complemented by a will to play smart ball. 13 and 10 are realistic numbers for him to average.
Outside out him, the Jazz are essentially a four-person unit on the court. There’s some intrigue with Gobert who has shown flashes of potential but, alas, Kanter will have to take up a bulk of the minutes at center. For now, that’s a good thing.
Coach: Tyrone Corbin – Grade: C-
Corbin seems destined to be an above average assistant coach. That’s how he got this gig after taking the place of longtime Jazz mastermind Jerry Sloan. But, despite working under an admittedly tough environment, Corbin only seems to excel in the amount of intensity he can bring to a game. If you’ve ever watched Corey Brewer, or even vintage Tyrone Corbin, play you know that intensity doesn’t always translate to results. No contract extension is expected for the hard-nosed coach and perhaps none is deserved.
Team Grade: C-