The 2012-13 season is upon us, but I will always remember the summer of 2012 for one man: Enes Kanter.
“Eating dinner @cheesecake downtown, looking for a blonde to eat dinner with me at my table. Does anyone wanna join me?”
“Just finished dinner. Thanks Twitter <3 Now need a massage. BRUNETTES WELCOME ;)”
“Catch me if you can I’m the gingerbread man!”
“Now time to have some fun. It’s Saturday night and Enes Kanter is in L.A. Ohh yeahh, Y’all know what does that mean ;)”
Shortly after that tweet, someone from Jazz PR must have sat Enes down and told him to lay off Twitter for a while – which is a shame. He had the best account on Twitter for nearly an entire month.
But that’s not what this post is about – we’re talking season forecasts for the Utah Jazz.
The Jazz made a trade! Oh, wait, it was Devin Harris? Awwww man. Who’d we get? Awwwww man.
While this is what I imagine many a Jazz fan said when the news that Harris had been traded for Marvin Williams, the reaction has become gradually more positive. Williams and Harris basically swapped contracts, with Marvin making roughly $8.3 million this year while Harris is contracted to earn $8.5 million.
However, signing Mo Williams, the former Jazz draftee, helped make the loss of Harris less significant. Marvin and Mo, whom I shall refer to as the Williams brothers, should improve the Jazz offense this season. The wing positions for the Jazz were awful last season, outside of Gordon Hayward, posting a PER of 11.8 between Josh Howard, Raja Bell, CJ Miles, Hayward, Alec Burks and Demarre Carroll. The addition of Marvin will dramatically help the Jazz because they won’t be playing CJ Miles, Josh Howard, or Raja Bell anymore.
In part to the Golden State Warriors tankapalooza and the fierce competition to make the eight seed of the playoffs, the Jazz were left without a first-round pick in 2012. They did draft Kevin Murphy, a 41% 3-point shooter from Tennessee Tech, but he will not receive much playing time this season. It seems that he was drafted just for the purpose of supplying shooting off the bench, so get excited to see him play alongside Jeremy Evans, Jamaal Tinsley, Kanter, Favors, and Burks. Woo garbage time!
Outlook for 2013
The Jazz enter the season with one of the strongest benches in the league. Led by the shooter-that-can’t shoot Randy Foye (.521 TS% career, Devin Harris is .551% career), the young guard Alec Burks, the hustling Demarre Carroll, and the tail end of the fearsome foursome in Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, the bench unit has their fair share of hard workers who will manufacture points in the paint.
This young squad will help keep the Jazz close in many games, and will use the energy from the home crowd to play tight defense and feed the post.
The starting unit? While Karl Malone suggests starting Millsap at small forward, I predict Coach Corbin will trot out Mo, Gordon, Marvin, Paul and Big Al every single night. Why not? Hayward is developing his game, learning when to shoot and giving 100% on defense. Millsap is the little engine that could, and will pinball through the key for putbacks and work the left baseline like a robot. Marvin will help defend wing players that have victimized the Jazz since the departure of Andrei Kirilenko, but there still is a question about whether he can work hard for an entire season, and stay focused for an entire game.
Coach Corbin doesn’t need to shake things up too much to find success. The Jazz were one of the top teams at scoring in the paint, they couldn’t score from distance, and they will foul a ton on defense – they were second worst at committing fouls last season. If the increase in minutes for Favors limits Jefferson’s fencepost defense on pick and rolls, Swat Lake City could average more than six blocks per game, and focus on deflecting shots instead of slapping wrists or shoving.
My bold claim? Give Alec Burks 12 shots per game. Actually draw up plays where he is the main option. Let him isolate his defender near the wing and allow him the freedom to try to beat the defense off the dribble. He drew a foul 15% of the time last season – double his attempts, and I predict that his scoring will jump up around 16 points per game. Players that lead the league in scoring – Durant, Wade, Westbrook – draw fouls at around 13% rate. That’s something Burks excels at, in driving the lane, drawing contact, finishing and getting to the line. Why hold him back? Free Alec Burks, especially during January and February before the All-star break, and build his confidence for a postseason run. I know that only good things can happen when you let a scorer operate with the ball in his hands.
Resigning Mo, Paul, and Al means that the $32 million space could result in … wait for it … zero cap space.
That’s right, Jazz fans. Zero.
Are the Jazz going to pay Jefferson $16,402,500 next year (the maximum)? Because someone will. He’s a starter in this league, either at center or power forward. He may not be the best defender, but he can score efficiently and he is a great passer.
Are the Jazz going to pay $10,000,000 for Millsap next year? JaVale McGee and DeAndre Jordan got $11 million, someone HAS to spend that on Millsap, right? He’s going to hit free agency, and some team with money to spend on one of the hardest working players in the league will spend the money.
Are the Jazz going to spend $8,000,000 on Mo Williams? Someone else will, because there is too much of a need for someone to run the offense efficiently while knocking down three’s.
That adds up to … $34 million. Uh oh.
The Jazz need to either ride the fearsome foursome as far as they can, or deal Jefferson/Millsap/both for assets. I predict that the addition of the Williams brothers will help improve the spacing of the offense, give the post players some room to operate, and increased minutes for Favors and Kanter help improve the defense. While they are going to struggle on nights when the Williams brothers can’t knock down threes, they will be very hard to beat at home. The schedule is road heavy on the end, but a favorable stretch in January-February will help the team decide which course to pursue after the All-star break. If the team is out of the playoff race at the All-star break, even by a few games, the front office should seriously consider trading Millsap and/or Millsap instead of allowing them to walk for nothing. The discussions will be kept secret, and will likely come as a surprise to many, but a trade needs to happen if the season is going poorly.
That being said, I think they’ll ride the season out with the current roster on their way to a 45-37 record. Will they make it to the Finals? No. Western conference championship? No. Establish a culture of winning? Sure, and that will help Burks, Favors, Kanter and Hayward.
Just enjoy having Millsap’s face on the outside of Energy Solutions Arena, because by this time next year, he’ll be playing somewhere else – like San Antonio.