[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
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
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
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.