Much of last season’s success for the Utah Jazz can largely be attributed to the team’s incredible improvement on defense. Head coach Quin Snyder really made his mark with his defensive philosophies and strategies, placing great emphasis on that end of the court. His players really bought in, as evidenced by the stellar showing following the All-Star break. Utah will hang its hat on its defense going forward.
By many accounts and admissions, the offensive side of things was going to take more time. The Jazz did make some strides as the season progressed, but Snyder was more careful implementing his schemes on offense. With some complicated nuances, it was mentioned on different occasions that Snyder would take time in introducing all the aspects of his offense. It is safe to assume that the team will show some new wrinkles and looks therein next season. It will be exciting to watch.
One clear facet of Snyder’s offense is his desire to have shooters on the floor. Given the NBA’s evolution over the past few years, shooting has never been at more of a premium. For Utah, with Derrick Favors coming into his own and Rudy Gobert emerging as a cornerstone, improved spacing will be integral moving forward. Perimeter shooting will undoubtedly be a focus for general manager Dennis Lindsey and his cohorts this off-season. Even with Gordon Hayward, Rodney Hood and Alec Burks in the fold, there is still a need for more marksmen. As many say, you can never have too many shooters.
Along these lines, a stretch four seems to be of importance for Snyder and the way he wants to operate his offense. He gave Enes Kanter and Trevor Booker the green light from beyond the arc, to mixed results. Kanter never fully embraced that role, but Booker became a solid and surprising 3-point threat. While his future in Utah is currently unconfirmed, whether Booker is back or not, an additional shooting big seems to be in the cards.
Utah could look to fill this need through a few outlets. The draft has some intriguing prospects for smooth-shooting bigs, such as Kristaps Porzingis, Frank Kaminsky and Kevon Looney. There are also some interesting players who might be available via trade, like Ryan Anderson and Patrick Patterson.
Free agency may be the most viable option. There are some somewhat under-the-radar guys out there who may be nice fits as a stretch four without costing an arm and a leg. Here is a little primer as the Jazz delve into the off-season.
Pero Antic, Atlanta Hawks, 6-11, 260 lbs, RFA, 52-173 3s (.301)
After a solid rookie season as a valuable bench player, Antic took a step back his sophomore campaign. While his shooting percentages have not been the most sparkling, he is still someone defense have to respect. He is more of a bruiser, and his size makes it a bit more difficult for guard lithe power forwards.
Jonas Jerebko, Boston Celtics, 6-10, 231 lbs, 28 yrs old, UFA, 54-140 3s (.386)
The Swedish forward is a very interesting player who is not being talked about much. He had some solid seasons with the Detroit Pistons before taking a backseat role in their front court. A midseason move to the Boston Celtics rejuvenated him a bit1. He is a good shooter who crashes the boards and gives good effort whenever he is on the court. Boston seems to like him.
Mirza Teletovic, Brooklyn Nets, 6-8, 235 lbs, 29 yrs old, RFA, 62-191 3s (.321)
A combo forward, Teletovic is certainly not bashful. In Brooklyn, he was counted on for his offense and when he plays, he lets them fly. While his shooting last season was subpar, he was a 39 percent 3-point shooter in 2014. Teletovic is not afraid to battle for rebounds. At 6-8, he may not have the ideal height as a stretch four, but he is a crafty scorer.
Charlie Villanueva, Dallas Mavericks, 6-11, 240 lbs, 30 yrs old, UFA, 83-221 3s (.376)
After some solid seasons for the Milwaukee Bucks, Villanueva was a big signing for the Detroit Pistons in 2009. Unfortunately, he time for Detroit was disappointing as his role diminished each passing season and his large contract rendered him un-tradeable. Villanueva was very much an afterthought for teams, but Dallas took a chance on him on a minimum contract and he showed that he could still shoot and play a reserve role.
Chris Copeland, Indiana Pacers, 6-9, 235 lbs, 31 yrs old, RFA, 52-167 3s (.311)
Copeland came out of nowhere as an older rookie for the Knicks in 2013, becoming a fan favorite in the Big Apple. He had his fair share of suitors that summer, even reportedly including the Jazz. Copeland played sparingly his first season in a Pacers uniform, but given Indiana’s injuries, was looked upon more this season. His shooting plummeted, but he has shot 40 percent or better on 3-pointers in two of his three seasons. Copeland’s recent stabbing and his ensuing recovery will affect his free agency.
Andrea Bargnani, New York Knicks, 7-0, 225 lbs, 29 yrs old, UFA, 15-41 3s (.366)
Follow me here. Yes, Bargnani has largely been a disappointment. As the first pick of a weak 2006 Draft, he has found it hard to meet the expectations that accompany such a lofty status. While his defense and rebounding are certainly lacking, Bargnani has shown the ability to score. He buried over 400 treys over his first four seasons. He can also get to the free throw line, and makes when he’s there. While he definitely has some glaring warts, should he assume a bench role on a much lower salary, Bargnani might be viewed differently when less is expected of him. In the meantime, it’s best to ignore that this happened. Or this.
Omri Casspi, Sacramento Kings, 6-9, 225 lbs, 26 yrs old, UFA, 35-87 3s (.402)
Casspi went back to where his career started last season, posting a nice campaign for the Kings. On a roster that really struggled, he was a bright spot. He consistently shot the ball well, sporting a career-best .580 True Shooting Percentage. Casspi is young enough that he still has some upside. He might be a solid get as an inexpensive role player.
Matt Bonner, San Antonio Spurs, 6-10, 240 lbs, 35 yrs old, UFA, 46-125 3s (.365)
Has the Matt Bonner era ended in San Antonio? He has spent nine seasons with the Spurs, contributing to two championships in 2007 and 2014. Given his age, he may not have much in the tank. That said, Lindsey knows him well from his time in the Alamo City. He can still stick the triple, while adding a solid locker room presence who injects some humor into things2.
There are some other players out there like Luigi Datome, Luke Babbitt and Shawne Williams — primarily small forwards who might be able to play some power forward in small ball lineups. Another interesting name is Jeff Green, who has a player option for the Memphis Grizzlies. The Jazz also have their fingers on the international pulse, so it’s conceivable they take long looks at some overseas players.
While these players are not the most high profile names, they might be worth keeping an eye on this off-season. Everything naturally depends on how Utah’s summer unfolds. Should they address some of their other needs through trades and the draft, there may be a player here who might be a consideration.