Off-season Decisions for the Utah Jazz – Part 1 of 4

May 6th, 2011 | by Jeff Lind

[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

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

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

Getty Images

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

Yahoo Sports

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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10 Comments

  1. u2despain says:

    The thing I like most about these 3 players is that they play on both sides of the floor. Since Stockton and Malone left we have run into several players that were either offensive or defensive minded players. This group of players do both very well. I look forward to seeing what these guys develop over the off-season.

    • r. benz says:

      Good read.

      I think the common denominator with these three players is selflessness. They all work extremely hard and any of them will sacrifice their own best interests for the good of the team. If they can keep that mindset (big if), and not get big-headed and egocentric, the Jazz are going to be perennial playoff contenders with this bunch.

      I think a player like Deron Williams used selfish motivation to drive him to success. Maybe not at first, but that’s what it turned in to. When it was all said and done, he cared more about himself, his stats, his image, etc. than about the team and winning as a team. That type of player is hard for (some) other players to follow. No one in the world would have a problem following John Stockton into the playoffs.

      I’m excited.

  2. Nice analysis. I really like this young core of guys. I really hope they develop strong chemistry. Depending on how this year’s draft goes, we may have a really strong foundation moving forward. If follow the Sam Presti model for rebuilding, we may be able to be relevant again in just a couple of years. I still think we lack an All-Star caliber player. I love the idea of having 2004 Pistons-like team, although 4 of them ended up All-Stars. I’m optimistic though. GO JAZZ!

  3. toddam says:

    I agree that the Jazz list of untouchables is short and most likely is only Hayward and Favors, but I hope the likely outcome of what type of players they become is higher than suggested here. If we really think the likely outcome is Hayward = Matthews and Favors = Horford, than what is our plan because that is not a core that you can build around in the West. Don’t get me wrong I really miss Matthews and think he’s a heck of a player, but if you really want to compete for a championship Matthews and Horford have to be role players, not the only untouchables on the team. So lets hope we have a really good draft. I think Memphis has given teams like ours hope and that opens the door for people to say “you can compete for a championship with a bunch of guys who work hard and play together” but Memphis is the outlier in this situation and every other example shows that you have to have some all-star talent to build around to make a run deep into the playoffs. So hopefully the front office is either expecting Hayward and Favors to become all-stars or they have something else up their sleeves. That being said, I think as die hard Jazz fans we should probably follow the lead suggested in this post and say we expect Hayward to become a Matthews type player or Favors a Horford because we are much more prone to get our hopes up only to have them dashed by a long drawn out process with little progress. (See, Fez, Koof, etc…).

  4. DragonZ says:

    I see a very bright future for the Jazz with the mixture of young talent we currently have, established veterans, and future draft picks.

    The one thing we all need to keep in mind with KOC about the draft picks is this: looking back over the past 30 years, there are really very, very few players drafted above pick 10 that develop into even average bench players. I reviewed this site (see link below) for who was drafted where, and was actually surprised by how well we’ve done in comparison to most teams during that period. With that said, based on the way they have picked in the second round, I think that KOC will do a very good job of picking some good players with high draft picks, so I’m very optimistic. Anything outside the lottery (and even outside of the top 2-3 picks most years) is a total crap shoot every year, and you really only know in hindsight who turned out to be an NBA player or not.

    http://www.mynbadraft.com/NBA-Draft-Results

  5. Kevin says:

    Obviously, my favorite part of this article is the picture of Gordon Hayward. But I am very anxious and excited to see what the Jazz’ future is going to be like after reading this article. Should be interesting with A.K.’s contract ending and the draft opportunities that we have in the coming draft what moves will be made. As for the youthful group that we already have, its a breath of fresh air to see some freakish athletes running around in Jazz uniforms! LETS GO!

  6. Dave S says:

    Another great read, these articles are an excellent idea, they will become even more interesting as we go through as the decisions will get tougher. Thanks.

  7. zach says:

    I’m excited to see this core develop! I agree with todd, we will need favors and hayward to develop into better players than matthews and horford or we could be staring that decade long rebuilding slump that seemingly every team besides san antonio, LA and the Jazz have gone through in the face! However, with their draft picks over the next couple years and money finally coming off the books I think they will be able to add some key pieces and we’ll be a perennial playoff team again!

  8. Obama says:

    In a perfect world Kirilenko would agree to a 1-year $3 million contract each year from now. Hopefully he likes Utah enough that that’s possible.
    Gordon Hayward reminds me of Steve Nash–especially the look on his face when he’s driving through the lane.

  9. Tom Bibber says:

    I think that the Jazz have the young foundation that they need…but they do need to keep the experience around to help the young ones learn.

    It seems we are at a point where we are changing the dominant teams in the conference…hopefully the preemptive moves by KOC and management make it so we bounce back faster than LAL, SAN, etc

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