Kia Season Preview 2016-17
2016-17 Season Preview: Utah Jazz
A half-dozen years ago, the Jazz created a blueprint and stuck with it, perhaps out of necessity. Because Salt Lake City isn’t a free-agent destination, the Jazz built primarily through the Draft (Gordon Hayward) and also struck gold in the Deron Williams trade which brought Derrick Favors. They now they appear ready to reap the benefits of that plan. Despite having only one winning season out of the last five, but the groundwork has been laid for a possible playoff run. The fans’ patience and faith in the work of GM Dennis Lindsey seems wise and well-spent.
Seeking veteran depth at point guard, the Jazz acquired George Hill arrived in a three-team deal with Jazz, Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks … Hill gives Utah the steadiness it lacked with Trey Burke, who was dealt to the Washington Wizards … Utah reeled in a pair of proven vets in the offseason, landing Joe Johnson in free agency and Boris Diaw in a trade with the San Antonio Spurs … In the draft Utah, took Joel Bolomboy, a 6-foot-9 sleeper from Weber State who brings shot-blocking to pair with Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors
Gordon Hayward is expected to miss another three weeks with a broken finger, and won’t be in the lineup until mid-November at the earliest. He’s an unrestricted free agent next summer. Utah allowed him to shop around last time (and matched the Charlotte Hornets’ offer in 2014). Will the Jazz be proactive this time?
Second-year man Trey Lyles is a tremendous talent at power forward with one problem: He plays behind Derrick Favors, a borderline All-Star. How can Utah give Lyles all the minutes and touches he needs to really develop?
In 2014, the Jazz made a four-year, $42 million investment in Alec Burks (which now looks wise, money-wise) but he simply hasn’t stayed healthy. Since signing, Burks has played only 58 games because of shoulder and ankle issues. He’s healthy now and the Jazz hope he can be valuable off the bench.
MAN ON THE SPOT
The point guard position was expected to be locked up by now by Dante Exum, but ACL surgery happened and he finds himself behind Hill. The Jazz haven’t given up on Exum, and Hill (and backups Shelvin Mack and Raul Neto) are on short-term deals. But two years after he was drafted, Exum has some things to prove in the NBA.
Gordon Hayward | 19.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.7 apg.
Potential All-Star will likely cede his starting job to Joe Johnson while he mends
Derrick Favors | 16.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.5 bpg
Low-post beast is among league’s underrated players.
Rudy Gobert | 9.1 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 2.2 bpg.
The NBA’s premier shot-blocker looks like a a fixture
George Hill | 12.1 ppg, 3.5 apg, 4.0 rpg
Is he keeping the seat warm for Dante Exum?
Rodney Hood | 14.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.7 apg.
Young guard hit team-best 161 3-pointers last season
Alec Burks | 13.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.0 apg
A top sixth man if he can stay healthy for a change
Trey Lyles | 6.1, ppg, 3.7 rpg, 0.7 apg
Long, lean and intriguing, Lyles should get minutes.
Dante Exum | Did not play last season (torn ACL)
Jazz hoping for a healthy season from their 2014 lottery pick
THE BOTTOM LINE
Utah has depth galore, young players just beginning to grow into their own and the right mix of veterans. In addition, coach Quin Snyder relates well to players and adjusts well in games. After making the playoffs 19 straight times in the Karl Malone-John Stockton era, Utah is out to end a four-year postseason dry spell. Point guard play — from Hill, Exum and the rest — could be what makes or breaks perhaps the best developing team in the NBA.
Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter.
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