Like we are currently seeing in the NFL, the 2011 NBA off-season is up in the air with a lockout looming. Free agency could be delayed and completely restructured depending on the new agreement reached by the owners and players. Still, The Sports Bank continues to break down all thirty NBA teams to see what areas they need to address in the off-season. The Utah Jazz begin a new era this off-season without long-time head coach Jerry Sloan and superstar point guard Deron Williams.
By: David Kay
Utah Jazz (39-43 last season)
’10-’11 Season in Review:
The 2010-2011 season brought a changing of the guard to Utah… times two. After 21 years with the Jazz, the longest tenured head coach in the league Jerry Sloan 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 record to the end the season under Sloan’s replacement, Tyrone Corbin and missing out on the post-season.
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 D-Will 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 thirteen 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 off-season 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 post-season.
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
#G/F-C.J. Miles (TO)
F-Andrei Kirilenko (UFA)
PG-Earl Watson (UFA)
PG-Ronnie Price (UFA)
F/C-Kyrylo Fesenko (UFA)
C-Francisco Elson (UFA)
’11-’12 Team Salary: Approximately $51.9 million
1. Wing Help:
Gordon Hayward came on strong at the end of the season and should make a bigger impact next season. 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. Back-up Point Guard:
Earl Watson and Ronnie Price shared the back-up point guard duties last season but are both free agents this summer. Most speculation points towards 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 pick or via free agency.
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.
OTHER NBA TEAM NEEDS PAGES:
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CHECK OUT MY NBA FREE AGENT POINT GUARD RANKINGS
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CHECK OUT THE SPORTS BANK’S 2011 NBA MOCK DRAFT
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities.
You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.Powered by Sidelines Follow paulmbanks