A year ago, I posited a couple of potential storylines from the season that were very intriguing for me: The (hopeful) redemption of Marvin Williams and the (hopeful) emergence of Ian Clark. It’s a good thing I’m not a psychic by training, because clearly neither of those happened to the extent that I was hoping. But they were still storylines that were intriguing to me. And maybe Marvin’s 2-year, $14 million deal with the Charlotte Horcats could be considered a redemption of some sort, even though it’s slightly less per year than his previous contract (which was considered a poor contract for his production by many). And while Ian Clark didn’t emerge during the season in any fashion similar to how he did at last year’s Summer League, he wasn’t included in the trade with the Cavs, so he still has some chance of emerging this year with this Jazz team.1
So, what are some of the storylines that are intriguing for this coming season? I’ve got a few that are highest on my list:
Quin Snyder – Any storyline here (pick a one, any one)
The hiring of Quin Snyder is exciting and intriguing for a multitude of reasons: we have promises of ball movement, player movement (play the pass), defense, a plethora of pick-and-roll variations, innovative sets and screens and cuts, and the list can keep going.
Considering what so many Jazz fans gritted through the last few years—stagnant offenses, lethargic defenses, clichéd quotes after the game, and losses piling up one after the other—what we’re hearing so far is a breath of fresh air. It remains to be seen whether or not all this talk—play the pass—will actually happen, but we saw enough glimpses of a new-and-improved offense at summer league (even with younger players and lesser talent) to get what may be an unhealthy expectation for this season. Considering the offensive efficiency of recent years, we’ll take any improvement we can get.
Another Snyder storyline that intrigues me is this: will he own the position and be the undisputed coach/teacher/motivational guru for this squad? Jerry Sloan was always the top dog, that was crystal clear. The players seemed to give him an incredible amount of respect. Snyder seems to have enough intelligence mixed with confidence and presence to own this coaching position, and it’ll be interesting to see how that presence and his sheer force of will creates and molds an identity for this team—something that has been sorely lacking for the last few years.
Gordon Hayward: Max Man
We were all curious how Hayward was going to respond last year under the weight of a contract year and the weight of being the number one option without other consistent options around him. We saw that both the pressure and the circumstance were too much for periods of time, and we saw that he’s not a great #1 option. Now, the weight of the contract issue may be shifted: from the weight of not having a contract to the weight of having a max contract, with all of the expectations that come along with it.
With a new coach and a style of play that will appeal to and enhance Hayward’s strengths, will he be able to repeat his 16/5/5 averages for the year? This is going to be one of the most fascinating stories for me this year: will we see a higher ceiling on Hayward, because Snyder will be able to utilize Hayward and his skills better?
Alec Burks: Who is he?
This is the year where we get to see what Alec Burks can do and who he can really be as a player. The last couple of years, he was being shuffled either between the 1 and the 2, with varying degrees of success, or shuffled between being a starter or a sixth man. Flexibility is a great thing—and variety can be fun—but the Jazz need to figure out where he’s going to fit, and what he can do within that role, whether it’s as a starter or a sixth man (whether or not he’ll be happy in that role is another issue to look at if he’s in the team’s long-term plans).
He’s incredibly talented with unique skills and a high FTr (the highest on the team if you take out Rudy Gobert, and I think it makes sense to), and can make defenses collapse more than anyone else on the team can. Given that the corner three looks to be utilized more as part of the Jazz’s offense this coming year, Alec’s talents will be very valuable. If the Jazz can extend Alec Burks, I hope they do it. He, like Hayward, could also command a significant raise as an RFA, so hopefully it doesn’t get to that.
So, Jazz fans, what are your top three stories for the season? Enes Kanter? Trey Burke and Dante Exum?