Next up, a Jazz team with a lot of cap room, a young roster and very little chance of winning.
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The Jazz are in a weird place. They’ve shorn a lot of money off their cap even with the recent max extension for Derrick Favors. They lost Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson for nothing in free agency this summer after keeping them during last season’s February trade deadline. No one was willing to part with increasingly over-valued first round picks in order to receive either of the dominant frontcourt players that kept the developing Jazz frontcourt from getting PT.
That means this season will be all about reps. Reps for a talented frontcourt rotation of Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter; reps for Gordon Hayward as the only real ball-handler with some experience; reps for Tyrone Corbin as he attempts to salvage his job; reps for Salt Lake City fans unaccustomed to this much losing; reps for rookie Trey Burke â€” once he comes back from a fractured finger.
There is going to be a lot of losing, but Jazz fans can rest easy knowing that the 2014 Draft is a big one. Their young players who languished on the bench for so long behind the Jefferson/Millsap combo will finally be able to spread their wings and play, so there is plenty to take in this season.
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Enes Kanter’s Offensive Chops
Kanter will get the majority of the touches in the post this year despite Favors’ extension. He’s more polished in that role, and there will be a lag before Corbin can find an offense that doesn’t rely on Kanter to draw a double-team on the block. So the Jazz will utilize his length and dexterity around the rim to hopefully instigate their famous flex offense.
But the 6-11 Kanter, who lost a ton of weight before last season, hasn’t ever averaged more than 15 minutes a night for the Jazz through his first two seasons. That means he could be tired once the season enters the dog days in late January. Kanter can score â€” that much is clear â€” and he’s going to get the opportunity to do so, but the changes inherent in the departure of Jefferson and Millsap now means he’ll be facing first team defenses and asked to log more minutes than he ever has before at this level. If he can come close to his double-double 36-minute averages from his first two seasons, that’s gravy. But the offensive rebounding machine may not be quite ready to lead this team from his place on the block.
Gordon Hayward’s Contract
Hayward and Jazz management are reportedly far apart on figuring out a deal by Thursday, and that could mean he’ll likely go into the season without signing an extension. That will also change his perspective on the year.
If Hayward is a restricted free agent this summer, that means he’ll be playing for a new contract instead of playing to win. No matter how deferential he might be depending on the moment in the game, there will always be that nagging sensation he should do more. But can he?
Through three seasons, Gordon has turned himself into a borderline elite 3-point shooter who can also put the ball on the floor and slash towards the rim. He’s added some bulk to that still-skinny frame when he came out of Butler looking barely old enough to sit for a college exam. With all the work he’s done on his body, and with the Jazz having already agreed to terms with Favors, that leaves Hayward as the odd man out.
There are some, admittedly biased, fans in Utah who believe Hayward is just as good as Paul George of Indiana, who signed a max extension this summer. If the Jazz fail to lock him up before Thursday, that could spell trouble from a chemistry standpoint even as the coach and fellow players are all hoping the deal gets done.
If not, the slashing, wispy-haired wing out of Butler could be gone in July. Still, his deadeye shooting and underrated ball-handling will be a joy for fans missing Trey Burke through the season’s first month.