By John Budrow
RotoWire Staff Writer
STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
An injury-riddled Jazz team battled through 2008-09 and ended the season with a respectable 48-34 record and playoff birth. Injuries are always unexpected, but the Jazz were hoping to be more of a championship contender in the west. Rookies aside, their roster has not changed from last year's squad that got into the eighth playoff spot and was bounced in the first round. The Jazz have one of the best all-around point guards in the NBA, Deron Williams
, and depth at the forward position. The roster may still change significantly as it is believed Carlos Boozer
will be traded either before or during the 2009-2010 season. If this happens, the Jazz have a very suitable replacement at power forward in Paul Millsap
, who was signed to a four-year contract in the offseason.
As a team, the Jazz do everything well, but aren't exceptional at any phase of the game. The Jazz are a blend of post players, sharp shooters and guys that can play multiple positions but don't have the the biggest or quickest lineup in the NBA. If healthy, they will likely make the playoffs once again but we would not expect them to be a true challenger for the elite teams in the conference.
PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION
Assuming everyone is healthy - and again, that's a long shot - here's how the minutes should shake out: Deron Williams
is Utah's best player and will play close to 38 minutes per game at the point. First-round draft choice Eric Maynor
may be the number one point guard off of the bench to spell Williams and will see about 12 minutes. At shooting guard, Ronnie Brewer
has shown improvement year-to-year but his minutes will likely stay around last years level of 32 per game. Ronnie Price
could get time at both the point and two guard positions and get close to 12 minutes per. The forward spots are stacked with talent. C.J. Miles
could continue to start, but will not get "starter's minutes" and average maybe 20 minutes if he plays well. Carlos Boozer
is back with the Jazz for the moment, and should see 35 minutes as long as he can stay healthy. Paul Millsap
showed he could start in the NBA, but for now he will be the backup power forward and could also play alongside Boozer when the Jazz go small. This will give Millsap 28 minutes-per-game, increasing to around 35 if and when Boozer is traded. Andrei Kirilenko
will be the Jazz's sixth man and will play every position but point and center. His minutes might decrease slightly to 26 per-game, but if Boozer is traded, he could get a boost to 30-plus. Kyle Korver
is the main offensive weapon off the bench and could average 22 minutes and play either small forward or two guard. Mehmet Okur
will play around 33 minutes per game at center. Kosta Koufos
will likely get the majority of the backup center minutes but some could go to both Kyrylo Fesenko
and Goran Suton
Okur has been a steady offensive force for the Jazz. Last year was one of his best, averaging 17.0 points and 7.7 rebounds-per-game. He was second on the Jazz with 90 total three-pointers and is one of the best outside shooting centers in the NBA, hitting over 44 percent from beyond the arc. Like most of Utah's frontcourt players, Okur's numbers could improve if Boozer is shipped elsewhere.
Kosta Koufos: Koufos is a young player with size but is still developing an NBA game. As a rookie, he showed that he is capable of stepping in and maintaining quality center play for double-digit minutes but averaged just under five points and three rebounds a game.
Kyrylo Fesenko: This is Fesenko's third and final year of his rookie contract. He has the size and skill to help give the Jazz an interior presence to rebound and play defense well, but has been very inconsistent.
The Jazz drafted Michigan State's Suton 50th overall and signed him to a one-year contract. He will likely spend his time on the bench in 2009-10.
Boozer suffered a leg injury early last season and missed a total of 45 games. Paul Millsap
replaced him and had a great year, making Boozer expendable; Jazz have actively sought trade partners for him this off-season. When Boozer is on the floor, the two-time All Star is considered one of the best power forwards in the NBA. He averaged a double-double in the last three seasons, and has shot over 53 percent from the field during his career. We see no reason for him to give any less whether he is with the Jazz or another team in 2009-2010.
C.J. Miles: This may be the last chance Miles will get from the Jazz to stay in the starting lineup. He is very athletic and appears to have great potential but does not seem to have the desire or hustle to put up more than the occasional big game. He does not play good defense, "hangs around" on offense, and has frequently drawn criticism from coach Jerry Sloan. He averaged just 12 minutes per game last season, and we do not see that increasing dramatically. He supposedly took the initiative to spend his summer preparing for the upcoming season, but do not expect him to have big fantasy numbers.
Paul Millsap: Millsap replaced Carlos Boozer as the starting power forward early in the season and made the most of the opportunity. He had a fantastic year with 19 double-doubles in a row, and 29 overall. Millsap brings it on both ends of the floor and has confidence in his game. He projects as a decent fantasy option this season, but once Boozer is dealt he should put up very nice numbers. The Jazz re-signed him to a four-year contract extension showing their faith in his ability.
Andrei Kirilenko: Kirilenko is an excellent all-around player who had to adjust to coming off the bench for the first time in his career. He still managed to average over 27 minutes per game and retained statistics close to his career averages. He will likely be used as Utah's sixth man this year, even if Carlos Boozer is traded. Playing the small forward position hurts Kirilenko's overall fantasy value, as he's less able to block shots as a help defender or over-play passing lanes.
Kyle Korver: As a three-point specialist, Korver is one of the best in the NBA. In his two years with Utah, he has averaged just under his career averages, shooting three-pointers at a 40 percent clip and scoring 10 points per game. During the offseason, Korver had minor wrist surgery, but that shouldn't prevent him from being used as the designated scorer from the Jazz bench.
Matt Harpring: Harpring is unlikely to play this season due to continuing knee and ankle problems. He's expected to retire.
Deron Williams: Deron Williams
is one of the very best point guards in the NBA and can do it all. He is a big guard with quickness and excellent basketball intelligence. He has become the clear leader of the Jazz and has improved his numbers each year. We're expecting him to average 20 points and 10 assists and make his first All-Star team in the upcoming season.
An athletic guard with good defensive skills, Brewer missed just one regular season game all year in 2008-09 and gave the Jazz an offensive spark when many of the regular starters were out. He has increased his scoring average each of the last two years, scoring 13.7 points per game last year. He's also an excellent source of field-goal shooting and steals. Brewer's a solid mid-to-late round target whose modest scoring average and low profile usually make him an excellent value.
Ronnie Price: Price averaged just four points and 2.1 assists per game last season and is not expected to improve those numbers greatly next year as he continues to back up one of the best point guards in the league. If anything, Price's numbers are in danger of falling further after the Jazz used a first-round draft choice in Eric Maynor.
The two-time Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year, Maynor was drafted in the first round by the Jazz. He'll likely get occasional minutes backing up Deron Williams at the point, but as a rookie will have a steep learning curve.
Watch out for the numbers Millsap will put up if Carlos Boozer
does get traded. His minutes will likely increase this year anyway, and he has shown he can be a force who gets steady double-doubles. Even with Boozer around, Millsap is a borderline fantasy starter, but if he does gain the starting power forward spot early in the season, he could well become an All-Star.
Miles has yet to show game commensurate with his athleticism and raw talent. He has been criticized for lack of hustle in the past. Even as the nominal starter, with Utah's depth at forward we do not believe Miles will command enough minutes to stack up fantasy-relevant numbers.
Article first appeared on 9/29/09