Off-Season Decisions for the Utah Jazz – Part 2 of 4

May 12th, 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 2 of this 4 part series. - JL]

Devin Harris – 6’3 PG

Ksl.com

Current Contract Situation. Harris is under contract next season with the Jazz for $9,319,000. His contract will then expire after the 2012/2013 season where he will collect $8.5 million.

Future with the Jazz. Devin Harris has been a player the Jazz have hoped to land since his days in Dallas. They like his quickness, good attitude, and pesky defense. Harris was an all-star in 2009, but since that time, the injury prone point guard’s game has regressed. It’ll be interesting to see if being back in a winning atmosphere can return Harris’ game to a high level. The Jazz were 7-10 with Harris in their lineup, which doesn’t sound like much, but overall it is much better than where they were without him. He also deserves credit for doing a good job of coming in and playing his game and not trying to do the impossible in replacing Deron Williams. Watch for an improved defensive game and a nice increase to his 5 APG career average. Although I see this Ludacris look-alike returning to the lineup next year (his contract is too affordable), he could potentially be a player the Jazz end up packaging alongside a draft pick to either move up in the draft or to acquire other assets.

Fransisco Elson – 7-0 C

AP Associated Press

Current Contract Situation. Fransisco Elson signed a one-year deal with the Jazz last off-season for the veteran’s minimum $1,146,337. He is now a free agent.

Future with the Jazz. This was likely the one and only season Elson will play for the Jazz. When healthy, Elson is a big man who runs the floor very well, brings toughness to the court, and can occasionally hit the outside jumper. If the Jazz enter next season needing to add another big man, fans shouldn’t be totally opposed to Elson grabbing that 12th roster spot. Elson has championship experience, and his good attitude and veteran leadership make him an affordable mentor for some of the Jazz’ younger players. Saying that, father time has taken his toll on Elson, and the 35 year-old has struggled to stay healthy. With the addition of Derrick Favors, and the possibility of one of the Jazz’ two draft picks being a big man, I see Elson as the odd man out for next year’s roster. It may just come down to Fesenko or Elson, and with the Sisco Kid’s age, I imagine the Jazz decide in favor of the Ukrainian.

Al Jefferson – 6’10 PF/C

Courtside

Current Contract Situation. Al Jefferson has two more years left on his current deal. He will make $14,000,000 next year and $15,000,000 during the 2012/2013 season.

Future with the Jazz. Big Al’s first year with the Jazz was a tale of two halves. The first half of the season Jefferson struggled to be consistent and figure out the flex offense, while the second half of the season he was the 20 and 10 type player Jazz fans had hoped for. While the increase in productivity was great to see, there was a disconnect between the Jazz’ success and Big Al’s. At age 26, it’s fair to say that Jefferson’s best years are still ahead of him, but a major concern still exists, namely: can he be a star on a winning team? With a sample size of 7 seasons, Jefferson hasn’t been on a team with a winning record once. In fact, the only three month period in which he was on a winning team he struggled to play well. Unfortunately for Jefferson, statistics show that the amount of points he scores in games has a negative correlation with how much his team is winning. During his short time with the Jazz (and in his defense), roster changes and injuries were more to blame for the team losing than Big Al’s lack of effort, or leadership. He showed huge heart the second half of the year. He mentioned that he came to Utah for three reasons; to play for Coach Sloan, to play alongside Deron, and to finally be on a winning team. At the end of the season, Jefferson didn’t have any of those to hang his hat on. Instead, he was back on a losing team that decided to begin re-building midway through his first season. He had every right to be disappointed, but he continued to work hard to improve his game.  Look for Jefferson to continue his improvement while he gets more comfortable in the Jazz’ system. Also, Derrick Favors’ length and athleticism should make Al’s job on defense much easier than playing alongside the undersized Millsap. As for his future, I don’t see the Jazz moving Jefferson. Hopefully his game will further adjust to fit what the Jazz need from their big man, and if the team can add some shooters, his job of scoring in the paint will be easier than it has been. With multiple draft picks and other uprising young players, there should be plenty of talent to help Al Jefferson buck his reputation of being the cause for bad teams.

Watch for article number three later this week as I take a close look at the decisions awaiting the next group of Jazz men; Earl Watson, Raja Bell, Ronnie Price, and Kyrylo Fesenko.

PART 1

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5 Comments

  1. u2despain says:

    I love the Jefferson section. There are so many things to think about with Jefferson. As the Jazz build this young core will Jefferson be able to adapt to these additional pieces? As they start to win will Jefferson learn to help or hurt the new squad? Elson is gone, there are too many options, Memo should come back at least serviceable to replace him. Harris is great and if healthy will make strides as a Jazz man. He really does look a lot like Ludacris.

  2. Dave S says:

    Another great article. Jefferson is a difficult situation. Of course he should stay, he showed some real form towards the end of the season, probably because the rest of the team was relying on him to replace the points the team loses without D-will, Okur, Harris and AK, who were all injured at the time. Centre isn’t his favourite, but Favors and perhaps a little more depth obtained in the off-season, might help out. He’ll see out the last few years of his contract whilst we improve more crucial areas that require attention, and we’ll see where we are.

    Elson for me has done his job for 12 months, but now he’s finished with the Jazz I’m afraid. As for Harris, he’s solid and will improve with a good off-season with the rest of the roster.

  3. toddam says:

    I’m a big fan of both Jefferson and Harris but they both make me a little uneasy when I think of them being big pieces in the Jazz system. While Harris has helped the team I don’t really feel comfortable with him being our floor general, and unless Corbin switches things up the Jazz need a point guard that is in control. As for Jefferson, it was already covered in this post, can he help a team win, or just put up good numbers as they lose? I think in both situations we need to give these guys another year before we start calling for a trade or an all-star bid, this last year was a total scratch. (and next year might be screwed by the whole CBA stuff so these guys might get two mulligans)

  4. r. benz says:

    Nothing but respect for Jefferson. It’s true, he could have taken the low road but he didn’t. He has shown he’s a genuine team player and a genuine person. That type of attitude mixed with a good work ethic is a recipe for success, in my opinion.

  5. Bloodshy says:

    I like both Harris & Jefferson. They’re both nice guys and good players. But neither should be in the Jazz long-term plans. Combined they eat up over 1/3 of the Jazz total cap and neither is truly elite at his position.

    Harris is solid. He doesn’t create as well as Jazz fans are used to, but he’s still above average. Since he has no trade value and only two years left on his K, we should make the most of it. As for re-signing him in 13… anything could happen if the price is right. But @ $9M — no way.

    Jefferson is great in the box on O. He’s also good at getting blocks in help D. But that’s it. He’s not a great 1:1 defender, not an elite rebounder and he’s slow getting up/down the court. He’s a good player, but for $15M (almost 1/4 our total cap), he should be better. His stat line looked nice last season and he should yield strong returns if the Jazz shopped him. He’s exactly what the slow-paced Pacers need, for example.

    If Irving/Williams go 1 & 2 as expected, the Jazz should pick Kanter (by far the best option left) and trade big Al. Kanter is more athletic, 1 inch taller w/2 more inches of wing span. His stroke is very similar to Al’s, but he has 3-ball range. And instead of eating up 1/4 of our payroll, he’d only require about 7% for each of the next four years, allowing the Jazz to look around in free agency or retain Wes Mathews-type surprises. This move would also give the developing Jazz players time to play. Favors may have Karl Malone-type potential, but we’ll never know for sure unless we give him some court time. Even if we don’t land Kanter, we should trade Jefferson & his bloated stat line to give more development time to Favors/Fez. We’re never going to win a championship w/Al as our lead man anyway.

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