In conjunction with the good folks over at Celtics Blog and 70 other NBA blogs, enjoy the following recap of off-season moves and story-lines to follow as the new season kicks off:
Team Name: Utah Jazz
Last Year’s Record: 53-29 (Second Northwest Division)
Key Losses: Wesley Matthews (Portland), Kyle Korver & Carlos Boozer (Chicago)
Key Additions: Al Jefferson (via trade with Minnesota), Raja Bell (free agency), Gordon Hayward (draft), Earl Watson (free agency)
1. What Significant Moves were made during the off-season?
This off-season was one of the most active in recent history for the Jazz. Not surprisingly, Carlos Boozer fulfilled his contract with Utah, only to be signed by Chicago (a broken hand has only added to his legacy as Mr. Glass in the NBA). Sharpshooter Kyle Korver also made his way to Chicago as a free agent. Undrafted rookie Wesley Matthews was lured away by Portland with a HUGE offer sheet that the Jazz were unwilling or unable to match. With the number 9 overall pick in the draft (acquired from the NY Knicks) the Jazz selected NCAA tournament stand-out Gordon Hayward from Butler – a skinny wingman that has tremendous upside. Kevin O’Connor and the organization pulled the trigger on a blockbuster trade to bring “Big” Al Jefferson to Utah in exchange for a couple of draft picks and perennial bench-warmer Kosta Koufus. Adding to the bevy of new talent, the Jazz brought in some veteran role players, including former Jazz-man Raja Bell and backup point guard Earl Watson. Another key addition? New Uniforms.
2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?
Led by floor general Deron Williams (arguably the best point guard in the league), the Jazz will continue to run a disciplined offense that generates open looks and layups. Expect plenty of assists from D-Will and friends running Coach Sloan’s tested and perfected system. The team got longer in the off-season, so expect its rebounding dominance to continue. Home court advantage will, once again, have opponents dreading their trip to Salt Lake City, and not just for the lack of night life.
3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
In a word: consistency. Although you’d expect a young team to have some mental lapses, this team has been consistent only in its inconsistency. It’s amazing that a team can compete with just about anyone in the league and then lose to a lowly opponent in the same week. The Jazz also need to improve on the road and on the second night of back-to-back games. Last year, the team tried to simply outscore its opponents – in order to complete with the elite, though, the team needs to commit to playing defense. Raja Bell (aka, the Kobe-killer) will help.
4. What are the goals for this team?
The Northwest division (at least on paper) is stacked. The traditional goals are to win the Northwest division and reach the Western Conference Finals. This team is certainly capable of meeting those goals (if they gel and commit to playing team defense); a more realistic goal, however, would be to aim for one of the top two spots in the division and reach the Conference Semi-Finals come Playoff time. Utah will be solid at Energy Solutions Arena, as usual – another attainable goal would be to take the “Energy” on the road and post a winning record away from home.
Beginning next Monday, check in at Salt City Hoops for a team-by-team preview series of how the Jazz stack up against all of the NBA contenders.
BLOGGER PREVIEWS after the jump…
Sixers: Liberty Ballers
Pacers: Indy Cornrows
Jazz : SLC Dunk | Salt City Hoops | SBN
Nuggets: Denver Stiffs | Roundball Mining Company | The Nugg Doctor | SBN
Thunder – Welcome to Loud City | Planet BBall | SBN
Timberwolves – Canis Hoopus | TwolvesBlog
Clippers: Clips Nation | SBN
Hawks: Peachtree Hoops