The 2014 off-season was a crazy one for the Utah Jazz. The team parted ways with Head Coach Tyrone Corbin, and picked up Quin Snyder as his replacement. The team let Gordon Hayward test the waters of free agency, only to match a max offer from the Charlotte Hornets. They may have struck NBA gold when both Dante Exum and Rodney Hood fell to them in the draft. And they parted ways with the irreplaceable talent of Richard Jefferson, Brandon Rush, and Andris Biedrins. Well, that’s mostly true.
To say that this summer was a whirlwind for the Utah Jazz would be an understatement, but despite all the changes, many believe the team will see almost the same results as last year – almost, if not dead last in the Western Conference.
No one’s certain how the wins and losses are going to finish out for the Jazz, but I can tell you this – this season will not be the same as last. Here are three reasons why:
1. Coach Quin Snyder
Snyder, or as I like to call him “Coach Q,” will bring a fresh look to this young team. Now I’ll be the first to admit that I never believed Corbin was given a fair chance to succeed in Utah, and I thought there was a chance the team would bring him back. Regardless of what my thoughts were, I was happy with the hire. Having a fresh perspective can only help a team that struggled its way to 25 victories just a season ago. Changes in offensive and defensive philosophies will give fans something new to take in, and may bring out things in players that we’ve yet to see. Coach Q also isn’t required to walk that fine line of winning or losing too many games. He’s been brought in to win, and he’ll have no problem playing the younger players in order to do that long-term, something that Corbin had to struggle with.
2. The Kids Are Alright
Remember a season ago when everyone was worried that Trey Burke wasn’t ready for the NBA? Remember that tall skinny French guy that sat on the bench a lot? Well, a year later, Trey seems ready to step into a bigger role with the team, and Rudy Gobert looks like a legitimate NBA player. Not only that, this year’s rookies should see plenty of playing time and have huge potential. There will be struggles as this young crew tries to find their way together, but with plenty of minutes on the court, fans should see a huge transformation 82 games from now.
3. No Dead Weight
One of the things that may have disappointed fans last season was the players acquired in the trade made with the Golden State Warriors. Biedrins was a liability on the offensive side and not much more on the defensive end. The most important thing Brandon Rush did was make sure his seat on the bench didn’t defy gravity and float to the rafters. Richard Jefferson actually was a productive player and solid mentor to the young team, and even threw down a few nice dunks throughout the season, but it was difficult for fans to see him getting so many minutes. Jefferson played 2,213 minutes – third most on the team behind Trey Burke and Gordon Hayward. Yeah, more minutes than Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, and Alec Burks – three guys who will be starting for the Jazz this season. Dennis Lindsey and crew have done a nice job bringing in role players like Trevor Booker and Steve Novak, but fans can breathe a sigh of relief, as no one should be taking up huge minutes from the young guys this year.
I can’t promise that the Jazz will be a winning team this year; I can’t even promise they’ll win more games than last year, even though I think they will. But I can promise you this: This team has the potential to be one of the most exciting young teams in the NBA. This team will be more fun to watch than any team since the Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer days, if not back to Stockton and Malone. And this team is one to keep your eyes on. As Craig Bolerjack will tell you tomorrow, buckle up, it’s time to play Jazz basketball.