(Sports Network) - The Utah Jazz are one of four teams in the NBA whose
nickname doesn't end with an 'S.'
The Heat, Magic and Thunder are the others.
There really is no meaning beyond that axiom, but the Jazz recorded less
win(s) a year ago than the previous six seasons and that is due to the
lockout. The 36-30 ledger in 2011-12 was good enough for an eighth seed in the
Western Conference, however, and a fifth postseason appearance in six years.
Utah, which has qualified for the playoffs 25 times in 29 years and finished
the regular season above .500 for the 27th time in 29 seasons, overcame
expectations during the lockout-shortened season and fully embraced a youth
movement to set the bar high for 2012-13.
A few tweaks here and there could have the Jazz back into the postseason, but
they will still be in a dogfight at the bottom of the conference standings.
"We're all set to go. We'll change some things, we'll have a few different
guys on the floor and it gives us a few more options," Jazz head coach Tyrone
Corbin said. "We have a long, long way to go to get where we want to get."
That was the case last season, as the Jazz fought off both the Houston Rockets
and Phoenix Suns for the final postseason spot and won seven of their last
nine games. Utah was swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the opening round of
the playoffs, forcing the front office to make some moves. Gone are notable
players Devin Harris, C.J. Miles and Josh Howard, but Mo Williams, Marvin
Williams and Randy Foye are some of the new pieces Corbin gets to work with.
Corbin was asked if Mo Williams will be the vocal leader.
"Absolutely, absolutely. He has a great background in this league and he's
been a leader on teams in Cleveland, did a good job in Milwaukee, he played a
great role with the Clippers last year," Corbin said. "We're going to look for
him to do a lot of things for us. I think he's up for the challenge."
Williams is a true point scorer and is dangerous with his midrange jumper. He
is now a part of a team that is frontcourt heavy and said his game is based on
spreading the ball down low. Williams added that he is excited about his new
surrounding and will lead by example. He preached staying in shape and showing
what it takes to be a winner will eventually rub off.
New general manager Dennis Lindsey made a point to bolster Utah's backcourt,
which consists of Williams, Alec Burks, Foye and Earl Watson. Burks said
during the team's media day that he expects a more expanded role in 2012-13.
The Jazz are hoping they have the right pieces to grow. The frontcourt should
have no issue doing so because it's already in place. Al Jefferson, Paul
Millsap and rising youngsters Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter bring a solid
foursome to the paint. All of them contributed to Utah's tough defense that
ranked third in the NBA in both rebounds per game (44.1) and offensive boards
per game (13.1). Utah also was fourth in both points per game (99.7) and
Jefferson said he is excited to have both Williams' on the roster and has
known both of them since he was young. Big Al was asked what his expectations
are for this season.
"Pick up where we left off last year," Jefferson said. "We made a good run, we
made the playoffs, but I know everybody kinda had a bad taste in their mouth
getting swept in the first round. So now we wanna get back to the playoffs and
Jefferson said a full training camp and preseason will help after what the
organization went through during the lockout. He was, however, pleased with
the outcome under such duress.
2011-12 Results: 36-30, third in Northwest, lost to Spurs in west
ADDITIONS: G Randy Foye, G Mo Williams, F Marvin Williams, G Chris Quinn, F
Darnell Jackson, G Kevin Murphy
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE:
PG- Mo Williams
SG- Gordon Hayward
SF- Marvin Williams
PF- Paul Millsap
C - Al Jefferson
KEY RESERVES: F Derrick Favors, G Randy Foye, G Chris Quinn, F Darnell
Jackson, G Kevin Murphy, F Enes Kanter, SG Alec Burks
FRONTCOURT: Jefferson is Utah's best player and led the team in scoring (19.2)
and rebounding (9.6) last season. A low-post presence with great footwork and
a solid jumper, Jefferson also averaged a team-high 1.7 blocks per game and
7.4 defensive boards. He is the cornerstone for the next few years and it
would be a wise decision to renew his contract when it expires. Jefferson
should thrive even more with Williams running the point, an area in which the
departed Harris failed to excel.
Millsap was second on the team in scoring (16.6) and rebounding (8.8) and is a
bit more athletic than Jefferson. Millsap's deal is also nearing extinction,
but it wouldn't make sense to depart with him unless an overwhelming deal is
brought to the table.
Marvin Williams was added via trade with the Atlanta Hawks for Harris and his
career never panned out with the Hawks. He posted 10.2 points and 5.2 rebounds
in 57 games last season, and will make the Jazz more athletic.
BACKCOURT: Williams said one of his goals this season is to maximize his
teammates' potential. He has to limit turnovers in order to do that, but has a
bevy of talented teammates around him. Williams posted averages of 13.2 points
and 3.1 assists in 52 games with the Clippers last season. The speedy guard
said the main reason he was brought in was to distribute the basketball.
Williams is impressed with the depth and versatility of his teammates, and
will have a full season to bring the best out of each of them. Mind you,
Williams enjoyed success with LeBron James, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin --
three superstars of the league.
Gordon Hayward was third on the Jazz with 11.9 points per game and brings
youth and excitement to the organization. Look for Hayward to continue his
success with more responsibility.
BENCH: Utah was eighth in the NBA in bench points per game last season,
averaging 34.1 PPG. With a loaded bench featuring Alec Burks, Favors, Kanter
and Foye, Corbin is expected to have an easier time assessing situations.
Corbin told his team to be excited because "they're going to get a chance to
compete against some great competition and great teammates everyday." Burks,
who averaged 7.2 points in limited time a season ago, hopes to have an
increased role in 2012-13. Burks is a former lottery pick and should see more
time with Miles and Howard gone. Favors may even crack the starting lineup
before the regular season starts and has developed into a low-post threat.
Favors finished with averages of 8.8 points and 6.5 boards last season.
COACHING: Corbin has taken over a franchise that was led by the great Jerry
Sloan and was named head coach in February 2011. The seventh head coach in
team annals, Corbin said the team has to get better individually in order to
compete for the long haul. He has displayed excitement throughout the
preseason and has every right to be since this team is much better than last
season thanks to a few new faces. Sometimes it's important for players to get
a fresh start elsewhere and the Jazz have a few of them. Corbin is in a
Northwest Division loaded with great coaches and just has to keep his players
prepared on a nightly basis. Matchups are different by the day, but Corbin's a
well-polished head coach with a strong track record. What has been defined as
a transition year should mean moving on to the next round of the postseason.
Corbin was able to squeeze out victories at home in 2011-12, going 25-8, and
must start taking advantage of opportunities away from Salt Lake City.
OUTLOOK: Utah is counting on its new pieces to the puzzle to make another
playoff run. The backcourt has been labeled the team's weakest link even with
the addition of Mo Williams and possibly a breakout campaign for Hayward or
Burks. The frontcourt should strike fear not only into the Northwest or
Western Conference, but the entire league. Pegged to battle once again for one
of the final playoff berths in the West, the Jazz are confident they will
quiet the critics when spring arrives. Just don't expect them to compete for a
division title. That belongs to Oklahoma City.
The Sports Network