Once a Jazzman, always a Jazzman. That is something I wholeheartedly believe and I think most Utah fans feel the same way. Some may show otherwise when former Jazz guys return to EnergySolutions, but I, for one, continue to root for these guys and hope for continued success.
Some, including all of Utah’s free agents, have joined new rosters. Others remain where they were last season. Here’s a quick look at where former Jazzmen are and what to expect in their new roles.
Atlanta Hawks: A few years ago, the Chicago Bulls and New Jersey Nets were dubbed the Utah Jazz East. This year, it could be the Atlanta Hawks who earn that moniker. With Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver, and DeMarre Carroll on board, Utah fans will keep an eye on how this team fares. Millsap effectively is taking Josh Smith’s role alongside Al Horford, at a much lower cost. While Smith’s athleticism and all-around game will be missed, Paul should excel in Atlanta. He will produce similar PPG and RPG numbers as his predecessor, but will do so much more efficiently. Similar to his last few years in Utah, it would not surprise to see Millsap be an All-Star candidate. Korver had his most productive season in many years (10.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg) and as the main perimeter threat; he should see similar productivity in 2013-2014. The “Junkyard Dog” was itching for a bigger role and he may indeed get that with the Hawks. While they have a solid corps of bigs, Atlanta’s wing depth might benefit Carroll. His hustle, offensive rebounding, and improved shooting could help propel him to a career year.
Boston Celtics: Former first-round pick Kris Humphries was part of the blockbuster swap with the Nets. His minutes and stats took a precipitous nosedive last year (5.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg in 18.3 mpg). Given the makeup of the Boston roster, Humphries could resume his role of a good-stats-guy-on-a-bad-team, a role in which he excels. He could see a return to his double-double days.
Brooklyn Nets: Many Jazz fans will be eager to see the reunion between former cornerstones Deron Williams and Andrei Kirilenko. This will be the most talented team D-Will has had since the Utah Western Conference Finals team. With four former All-Stars running with him in the starting line-up and quality bench depth, Williams will be the heart and soul for Brooklyn. He should easily achieve the goal head coach Jason Kidd has set for him. AK had a nice season in Minnesota and signed with the Nets for a pittance. He will add yet another defender and facilitator and will likely be a guy who finishes games for Brooklyn. This will be a role that could help Kirilenko age well.
Charlotte Bobcats: Al Jefferson is one of the most polarizing players in Jazz history. Many loved him, many had difficulties with his game. Whatever the case may be, he was a guy who gave it his all and now will do the same for the Bobcats. While his contract was eye-opening, he automatically becomes the best player for Charlotte, a bonafide post player they have long needed. Given the talent level around him, Big Al should get a lot of touches and perhaps a return to his 20/10 days. The bigger question: can Jefferson help turn around one of the lowliest franchises?
Chicago Bulls: Jefferson may be polarizing, but he’s nothing compared to Carlos Boozer. Few people incite more emotion that Boozer for the Jazz crowd. He enjoyed a nice season (16.2 ppg, 9.8 rpg), but definitely missed former MVP Derrick Rose (evidenced by a career low 47.7% field goal clip). He is still woeful on defense and given his massive contract, is always mentioned in trade talks (unlikely) and as an amnesty candidate (perhaps after this season?).
Cleveland Cavaliers: C.J. Miles had his second-best season, chipping in 11.2 ppg and 2.7 rpg for the Cavs. With a wealth of exciting, young players, Miles (who is still just 25), will contribute off the bench for what might be a team headed to the Playoffs.
Dallas Mavericks: Devin Harris never got going in Atlanta. He played a lot of minutes alongside Jeff Teague and subsequently produced his lowest stats since his second season. It’s hard to remember that just two seasons ago, Harris was a 15 and 7 guy. He is returning to where he started and should prove to be a nice player off the bench behind Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis.
Denver Nuggets: Randy Foye had a short stay, but managed to shoot himself into the Jazz record book. As part of a sign-and-trade, Foye takes his three-point shooting to the Mile High City. He’ll get plenty of minutes, either as a starter or off the pine.
Houston Rockets: Ronnie Brewer, he of the insane athleticism and crowd-pleasing dunks off cuts, joins James Harden and Dwight Howard in Houston. He should add some defense to the bench, while being another guy who will run up and down the court. With a plethora of wings, it’ll be interesting to see what kind of playing time he earns.
Memphis Grizzlies: One the most underrated moves of the off-season was the Grizzlies’ acquisition of Kosta Koufos. Coming off a career year (8.0 ppg, 58% FGs, 6.9 rpg), he bolsters a deep front court. He will help Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph be fresh for the postseason and adds to a bench that needed some help.
Oklahoma City Thunder: It was surprising when the Thunder brought back Derek Fisher last season and it’s equally surprising to see him re-sign. His regular season was rocky and while things improved a bit in the postseason, he was weak defensively and at 39, that’s not going to get better.
Orlando Magic: The Magic are in total rebuild mode, but are in quite good position in that rebuild. They inked former fan favorite Ronnie Price to be a veteran presence on a very young team. Given his subpar shooting (32.5% last season), his leadership may be his biggest contribution in Orlando.
Portland Trail Blazers: Incumbent Wesley Matthews will most likely continue starting, as he has for the past three seasons in Portland. With the additions of C.J. McCollum, Dorrell Wright, and Mo Williams, he may not have to carry as much as he has (especially with Portland’s injury situations over the years). Williams’ addition in Rip City was curious on many fronts. There was much talk that a starting gig was what he was looking for, but that is not going to happen with Rookie of the Year Damien Lillard ahead of him. Williams can, however, add some punch to what was a very punchless bench last year. Earl Watson will be the sage vet for the Trail Blazers. Chances are, he will see very little on-court time, as he perhaps prepares for future coaching opportunities.
Washington Wizards: Former first-round pick Eric Maynor will serve as John Wall’s back-up. After a bright start, Maynor’s career has not taken off–injuries playing a big part of that. His midseason move to Portland jump-started him (6.9 ppg, 4.0 apg) and at a minimum, he will be a solid reserve.
There are other former Jazzmen who have yet to latch on with a team. Guys like Jamaal Tinsley, Raja Bell, DeShawn Stevenson, Othyus Jeffers (who will attend Minnesota’s training camp), Lou Amundson, and even Kyrylo Fesenko are still seeking employment. Utah also will be pulling for former players now coaching: legend Jeff Hornacek and Jacque Vaughn. Perhaps not as much for Mark Jackson.
As always, best of luck to the those who once donned a Utah Jazz uniform.