[Editor’s Note: As the playoffs move forward, we continue to discuss the future of the Utah Jazz. Nick Smith joins Salt City Hoops to chat current players. Who stays, who goes, and how bright are their respective futures? Join us for part 1 of this 4 part series. – JL]
The 2010-2011 season is officially over for the Jazz, and now it’s time to shift our attention to the many important decisions that await the Jazz front office. General Manager Kevin O’Connor did not hesitate when admitting the upcoming draft is the most important in Jazz history, but the draft still months away! Let’s talk current players. My last article discussed the bright future of the Jazz considering their young talent and multiple draft picks, but what I failed to mention is financially healthy the Jazz are going forward. With Andrei Kirilenko’s enormous contract coming off the books, the Jazz have a significant amount of cap space. Off-season signings and trades will not happen until a new Collective Bargaining Agreement can be agreed upon between the league’s owners and players, but with the NBA as popular as it was this season, the looming lockout could be shorter than we think and personnel decisions for the Jazz are (optimistically) right around the corner. This series of articles will discuss each player’s current contract situation with the Jazz and what decisions to expect the Jazz to make. We’ll feature players in order of tenure with the Jazz, newest to oldest, while tiebreakers go to tenure in the league. This article features rookie Jazz men Jeremy Evans, Gordon Hayward, and Derrick Favors.
Jeremy Evans – 6’10 F
Current Contract Situation: Jeremy Evans is under contract next season for an extremely affordable $788,872. Although he’ll still be the lowest paid player on the Jazz, it’s a nice 67% increase in pay for the second year player.
Future with the Jazz: Evans is a freak athlete who jumps higher and faster than anyone else I’ve seen in the league. What’s perhaps most impressive about the young kid is he already has a sound understanding of how to use his athleticism to create scoring and rebounding opportunities. This understanding helped mask his severe weight problem (think the opposite direction of Oliver Miller) which will be instrumental in his developing into a real player. That’s’ a big if, but with the rookie pay scale for 2nd round draft picks awfully team friendly, I doubt the Jazz will pass on the opportunity to see what this kid can do with an entire off-season to prepare. For a cool $800k and for being the best friend to one of the Jazz’ future franchise players, expect to see the human pogo stick back in uniform next season.
Best case scenario: Shawn Marion, Thaddeus Young
Worst case scenario: Jared Jeffries
Likely scenario: Luc Richard Mbah A Moute
Gordon Hayward – 6’8 G/SF
Current Contract Situation. Hayward is under contract next season for $2,532,960, with team options of $2.7 million and $3.4 million for seasons 2012/2013 and 2013/2014, respectively.
Future with the Jazz. The Jazz’ group of untouchable players is very small. In fact, by my count it stops at two. Gordon Hayward’s strong all-around play at the end of last season made him one of them. During the last two weeks of the season, Hayward showed that he could be special in this league. He has surprising athletic tools, a great work ethic, and an unbelievable basketball IQ. As a 21 year old rookie, Gordon can shoot the three, defend dynamic perimeter players, and is an exceptional passer. Jazz fans hope to see an uptick in his consistency, and his ability to finish at the rim. The Jazz desperately need him to contribute every night as a legitimate driving threat. No question G-Time will be back with the Jazz next season, and hopefully many more to come.
Best case scenario: Brandon Roy-like (pre-knee surgeries)
Worst case scenario: Mike Dunleavy
Likely scenario: Don’t kill me for this, but… Wesley Matthews?
Derrick Favors – 6’10 PF
Current Contract Situation. Favors is under contract next season for $4,443,360 with team options of $4.75 million and $6.01 million for seasons 2012/2013 and 2013/2014, respectively.
Future with the Jazz. Remember that two-man list of untouchables? If begins at Hayward and ends at Derrick Favors. Favors is a young talent that also started playing especially well toward the end of the season. He showed great signs of development and got better every game he played. In Favors’ 22 appearances with the Jazz, he averaged 8.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 1.2 BPG, all while only playing 20 MPG. If you were to adjust Favors’ stats for starters minutes, he would already be nearly averaging 16, 10 and 2! The most impressive aspect is that Derrick has yet to develop any real offensive moves. All of his production is coming from raw athletic ability and sound fundamentals. Once he couples his athleticism with some offensive prowess, the sky is the limit. Look for Favors to improve his defensive ability (without fouling), building a back-to-the-basket game, and an increase his FT%. I expect Favors to be the Jazz’ Most Improved Player for next season. As for the future, get used to seeing Derrick in a Jazz jersey.
Best case scenario: Amar’e Stoudemire
Worst case scenario: Stromile Swift
Likely scenario: Al Horford
Watch for article number two next week as we take a close look at the decisions awaiting the next group of rookie Jazz men Devin Harris, Al Jefferson, and Fransisco Elson.
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