Utah Jazz: What needs should they address in free agency?

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The Utah Jazz are entering this off-season with essentially a blank canvas. It’s time to turn the page on the Al Jefferson era and move to the youth movement. This team now belongs to Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors, so how should they build this year with an eye on long-term success?

Under contract:

PG – Trey Burke
SG – Alec Burks
SF – Gordon Hayward, Marvin Williams
PF – Derrick Favors, Jeremy Evans
C – Enes Kanter, Rudy Gobert

Non-guaranteed:

PG – Jerel McNeal
SG – Kevin Murphy

Raul Neto probably won’t come until next year, though Kevin O’Connor left the door open for that.

Free agents:

PG – Mo Williams, Jamaal Tinsley, Earl Watson
SG – Randy Foye
SF – DeMarre Carroll
PF – Paul Millsap
C – Al Jefferson

2012-2013 Season Jazz Stats

Offensive Rating: 12th
Defensive Rating: 21st

Rebounding: 12th
Off. Rebounding: 9th
Def. Rebounding: 21st

Points: 13th
eFG%: 15th
AST/TO: 14th
TS%: 15th
Pts off TO: 9th

I could easily get lost in stats, but let’s look at what the Jazz were worst at first. Defense. 21st in defensive rebounding, 24th in defending the 3, 20th in defending the 2. The Jazz need to improve, and this might be a case of addition by subtraction. Big Al was the worst defender on the team. In +/- alone, the team averaged -3 with him on the floor and +5.2 when off. He may have been their most reliable scorer, but then whoever he was guarding became the other team’s most reliable scorer.

Favors and Kanter will improve defense early, but after inevitable early foul trouble from one (*cough* Favors! *cough*) they need that third big who can be ready to play plenty of minutes. It doesn’t look like Evans will ever be trusted to be that guy, but Paul Millsap, if he’d be willing, would fit perfectly in that role. Millsap’s D wasn’t great last year, but maybe if he’s always paired with Favors or Kanter, he could get back a little more 2011 mojo.

The starting lineup of Mo Williams and Randy Foye (or any PG and Foye) saw a gross amount of surrender from 3-point land. It can’t all be blamed on personnel. Ty Corbin has the challenge of instilling schemes that will help his players not get caught late on rotation so often to give up the open shot.

With defensive rebounding, they need improvements from every player. Big Al was the best defensive rebounder on the team, with a rate of 7.9 per 36 minutes. The guards all need to do their share. Hayward needs to step up in this regard. Alec Burks, DeMarre Carroll and Marvin Williams are all better rebounders than him. In fact, Hayward’s rebounding numbers were comparable to Earl Watson’s last year. Earl Watson’s!

There are many things the Jazz did well that they’ll need help if they just want to maintain. Four of the top five scorers for the team are free agents. If you break it down to Per-36 and gage year-to-year improvement, Enes Kanter is ready to step up. He had the best FG% and FT% of any forward or center on the team (not counting small-sample-size Evans). If you factor in he’ll be against stiffer competition, his year 2 to year 3 leap won’t be as dramatic, but I anticipate at least no regression.

For perimeter shooting, Mo was 38.3% from 3 and Foye was 41%. The Jazz still have Hayward (41.5%), but they’ll need Alec Burks to improve (35.9%) and whoever else they get to not be terrible. Trey Burke was 38.4% from 3 at Michigan last year, so hopefully he can minimize his adjustments to the NBA 3. This is where talks of O.J. Mayo make sense. He can shoot like Foye but he can also pass and rebound.

Greatest needs:

Defensive big man
Backup point guard
Multidimensional shooters

You have your mission before you, Dennis Lindsey. Godspeed.

About the author

John English

John studied journalism at UVU and put that to good use by writing for free for blogs on a part-time basis. Money well spent. He became an avid Jazz fan since moving to Utah in 1989. Also a fan of the NFL and BYU football.