COACH: Jerry Sloan | 2007-08: 54-28
Utah Jazz

Deron Williams continues the great Jazz point guard lineage.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
As much as the 82-game NBA season separates the pretenders from the contenders (of course, there are exceptions), the regular season also rewards those teams who crush the most opponents over the course of the season with the precious postseason position of having home-court advantage. The Celtics may have never made it out of the First Round against the Hawks without it. Thus, having it is, as The Salt Lake Tribuneís Ross Siler and Steve Luhm adroitly note, important, especially for the Jazz.

Over the last two NBA seasons, only the Dallas Mavericks at 70-12 have had a better home record than Utah's 68-14 tally at EnergySolutions Arena. Away from ESA, the Jazz have been a pedestrian 37-45.

But how did the Jazz improve their chances to get home-court advantage throughout the playoffs? The Hornets, the Southwestern Division champs, added newly minted champ James Posey to help put opposing scorers on lockdown. The Lakers, the Pacific Division and Western Conference champs, get Andew Bynum back. And the Jazz?

[Whistles...]

Whether that's whistling past the postseason graveyard, where the bones of many Jazz teams have come to rest short of an NBA title, or whether they're whistling a happy tune is yet to be determined. But the Jazz have been down this path before. The question in Jazz-land is, as it was in the late '80s and early '90s, whether the franchise should practice patience or whether it should pull off a huge deal.

As you can see, the Jazz haven't done much in terms of player personnel changes except make three draft picks and swap Jason Hart for Brevin Knight. Luhm, at the end of his article, believes the Jazz will hold steady because the young nucleus featuring the ever-improving Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer not only can contend for a title not only this year, but can also contend for the next few years.

Williams may be the main reason for that optimism. As deep and as talented as this Jazz roster is, Williams fits Jerry Sloan's pick-and-roll offense perfectly. He's strong, he makes good reads and, if they need a bucket from him, he can nail shots. He may not be as quick as Chris Paul, his 2005 Draft mate (but then again, who is?), to whom he'll always be compared, but he's as important to his own team as Paul is to the Hornets. This became clear this summer when Williams and Paul essentially split time at the point as they helped lead Team USA to a gold medal.

After starting 47 games in his rookie season, Williams started 80 games his sophomore campaign and made all 82 starts last season, where he averaged 18.8 points and 10.5 assists per game. Considering John Stockton didnít become Sloanís starter until his fourth season (at 25 years old) and never averaged more than 17.2 points per game, you can understand why Jazz fans are giddy about Williams, who turned 24 in June.

After three seasons of improvement, it's not unrealistic for people to expect Williams to be even better in his fourth. Because if Williams gets better, then so do the Jazz.

Then, maybe the dreams of home-court advantage in the playoffs become a reality.

-- Rob Peterson

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Boozer
Last season, Carlos Boozer had his best season as a pro. Just check the digits. He had career highs in point (21.1 ppg), minutes (34.9), steals (1.2) and tied his career high in games played (81). Then why would Boozer be a man on the spot?

Because Boozer, the Jazz's most productive offensive force, can opt out of his contract next summer. Mehmet Okur and Kyle Korver can do the same thing, but sorry Memo and Mr. Long Range, but Boozer's consistent post offense would be harder to replace if lost to free agency. With Williams and Boozer becoming the latter day Stockton and Malone, having one of those pieces leave would be devastating to the on-court health of the Jazz.

""He's definitely a big part of our organization, a cornerstone of our team," said the Jazz point guard. "I definitely want him back with me ó he knows that and I've expressed that."
The big query is: will Boozer allow this contract talk affect his play for the Jazz? So far, Boozer's swatted away the rumors as just that, rumors.

Then again, Boozer may let his play do the talking for him. And with two recent All-Star appearances under his belt, that may be music to Jazz fans' ears.

-- Rob Peterson

THE STAT
21 Seasons Jerry Sloan has been Jazz head coach.
Jerry Sloan has virtually his whole roster returning for a team that was one of the best disciplined in league history.
Deron Williams is the quintessential point guard with his ability to distribute the ball as well as score when the need arises.
With the cast of solid players, Carlos Boozer, Andrei Kirilenko, Matt Harpring, Mehmet Okur and Kyle Korver fit Sloanís system exceptionally well, although Kirilenko often finds himself in the doghouse. But he gives them something the rest donít (with the exception of Boozer) and thatís a defensive presence.
[Defense] This is the one area that often hurts the Jazz. Technically they are sound but athletically they canít always defend.
-- NBA Scout
Two seasons ago Andrei Kirilenko moved to small forward full-time and seemed to lose half-a-step of foot-speed, a combination that pulled him away from the rim (fewer blocks) and forced him to concentrate on guarding the more athletic wings instead of playing the passing lanes (fewer steals).

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Record: 45-37, 9th in Western Conf.
Playoffs: No postseason
Scoring Leader: D. Williams, 21.3 PPG
Rebounding Leader: C. Boozer, 9.6 RPG
Assist Leader: D. Williams, 9.1 APG

Simulated Season Details
PLAYER/2007-08 STATS PPG RPG APG
PG Deron Williams 18.8 3.0 10.5
SG Ronnie Brewer 12.0 2.9 1.8
SF Andrei Kirilenko 11.0 4.7 4.0
PF Carlos Boozer 21.1 10.4 2.9
C Mehmet Okur 14.5 7.7 2.0

G Brevin Knight 4.6 1.9 4.4
G Kyle Korver 9.8 2.0 1.4
F Matt Harpring 8.2 3.2 1.1
F Paul Millsap 8.1 5.6 1.0
C Kosta Koufos Draft
C-F Ante Tomic Draft
F Tadija Dragicevic Draft
G-F Brevin Knight Trade
G Jason Hart Trade
PPG Carlos Boozer 21.1
RPG Carlos Boozer 10.4
APG Deron Williams 10.5
SPG Ronnie Brewer 1.7
Points Scored 106.2 (5th)
Points Allowed 99.34 (13th)
Field-Goal Percentage .497 (2nd)
Opponents' FG% .461 (19th)
Rebounding Diff. +3.07 (4th)
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Local Coverage: Salt Lake Tribune | Deseret News