Saturday, October 17, 2015

2015-16 Season Preview: Utah Jazz


UTAH JAZZ
[] 38-44
[] Offensive Rating: 106.2 (15th)
[] Defensive Rating: 105.9 (14th)
[] Net Rating: +0.3 (17th)
[] Last playoff appearance: 2012
[] Coach: Quin Snyder

The Jazz were one of the most improved teams during the course of last season, thanks to Derrick Favors rounding into form and the emergence of Rudy Gobert as a defensive force.  Utah went 18-10 after trading Enes Kanter at the deadline and opening up minutes for Gobert.  That move turned Utah into the league's best defense by a wide margin over the last 29 games of the year (h/t to Liam Boylan-Pett of SBNation).  Utah's 94.8 points per-100 allowed was the best in the league by a wide margin.  For reference, the Warriors led the league in defensive efficiency for the season; they finished at 101.9 points allowed per 100 possessions.  Utah's defense will probably come back to the pack this year, but there's no reason to expect them to be anything less than one of the NBA's top three defensive units.  Most of that credit goes to Gobert for taking away all of the easy stuff, but the rest of the roster defends well too.  Offensively, there are some question marks.  PG is most prevalent among them, as Trey Burke, Alec Burks and Raul Neto will guide the offense after Dante Exum tore his ACL over the summer.  Burks needs to stay healthy and Burke needs to turn his career around if they're going to be above average on that side of the ball.  Hayward and Favors are positives though, and Rodney Hood looks like he could be an excellent role player.  Put it all together and I think this is a Jazz team poised to position itself for a playoff berth, or the heartbreak that comes with a narrow miss.
Projected Starting Five

PG: Trey Burke - 6'1, 185 - 3rd NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
76
12.8
12.6
23.9%
45.5%
31.8%
.388
.752
.144
25.0%
10.4%

Burke has struggled quite a bit in his first two years in the league, as quite a few of his numbers got worse between year two and his rookie year (TS%, 3P%, 2P%, AST%).  If we're trying to be positive here, he did cut his turnovers down from an already low rate, but that's a stretch.  He'll turn 23 right after the start of the season, so it's too early to write him off.  The injury to Dante Exum might be break he needs.  Now it's just a matter of taking advantage of it.

SG: Alec Burks - 6'6, 195 - 5th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
27
13.9
13.0
20.8%
52.4%
38.2%
.227
82.2%
.430
15.2%
12.7%

Burks lost 55 games to a shoulder injury last year, which is unfortunate because he was looking to repeat a strong 2013-14 performance.  He wasn't bad in 2014-15 before he got hurt, but his efficiency numbers had taken a bit of a dip.  Burks is an important piece of the backcourt, and with little depth at the SG position, they need him to stay healthy this year.  However, there's a chance the Jazz choose to give Rodney Hood a chance at winning the starting wing position opposite Gordon Hayward.

SF: Gordon Hayward - 6'8, 205 - 6th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
76
19.3
20.2
26.2%
56.7%
36.4%
.304
81.2%
.425
21.7%
13.8%

Hayward rewarded the Jazz for matching the max offer sheet he signed with the Hornets last summer by having yet another really good season.  He set new career highs in PPG, PER and FTr while also managing a career high Usage Rate.  He would almost certainly be an All-Star in the Eastern Conference, and at only 25 years old, he's still getting better.  The Jazz defense approached elite status late last year, but if the offense is going to get above average, it'll be on the back of Hayward.

PF: Derrick Favors - 6'10, 245 - 6th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
FT%
FTr
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
BLK/36
74
16.0
21.8
23.8%
55.8%
66.9%
.362
15.4%
10.0%
20.7%
1.9

Favors has improved every year in the league, to the point now where he enters his age 24 season as one of the best young big men in the game.  He's not Anthony Davis or DeMarcus Cousins, but Favors' 2014-15 season puts him right there in the second tier with players like Greg Monroe, Nik Vucevic and Andre Drummond, a group I'd probably take Favors first among.  He's still not great with his back to the basket, but he's good enough to get his fair share of cracks, and his overall production speaks to the quality of his game.

C: Rudy Gobert - 7'1, 230 - 3rd NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
FT%
FTr
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
BLK/36
82
8.4
21.6
14.0%
62.7%
62.3%
.639
20.7%
14.3%
27.2%
3.2


Gobert burst onto the scene last season, helping turn the Jazz defense from middling to elite over the last few months of the season.  His defensive abilities and signs of promise on the offensive end sealed Enes Kanter's fate, as he was shipped to OKC at the trade deadline and Gobert stepped into the starting lineup full time.  Offensively, Gobert shot close to 61% from the field, got to the FT line regularly, and was one of the best roll men in the league in pick-and-roll scenarios.  Defensively, he finished 3rd in the league in BPG and only allowed opponents to shoot 40.4% at the rim, which led the league among players who defended at least 4 shots per game at the rim.  He's 23 years old, has arms the length of a country mile and really came into his own last year.  He's the perfect piece to add to the offensive weapons the Jazz already have.  Plus, The Stifle Tower and The French Rejection are among the top nicknames in the league.

Bench

PG: Dante Exum - 6'6, 190 - 2nd NBA season - Injured
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
82
4.8
5.7
13.8%
45.7%
31.4%
.635
62.5%
.077
16.6%
21.5%

Exum tore his ACL playing for Australia in an international friendly against Slovenia.  Seeing as the injury happened in August and he had surgery in early September, it's hard to imagine Exum making a return before the end of the 2015-16 season.  There's no official timetable yet, but even if Exum makes an unlikely six month recovery, that puts him back at the beginning of March.  Exum had a rough rookie year, and the year off puts the timeframe for him to make an impact even further off.  Tough break for the Jazz.

PG: Raul Neto - 6'2, 180 - Rookie
GP
PPG
RPG
APG
FG%
FT%
3P%
34
8.9
2.1
3.9
42.6%
66.7%
20.5%

Neto, the 47th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, is set to make his NBA debut after playing the first four seasons of his professional career in Spain.  I don't know much about his game, but going off of his numbers, he's had some trouble shooting the ball.

G: Olivier Hanlan - 6'4, 185 - Rookie
GP
PPG
RPG
APG
FG%
FT%
3P%
32
19.5
4.2
4.2
45.4%
75.9%
35.3%

Hanlan did it all for a Boston College team that didn't put much talent around him in the last three years.  He needs to bulk up a bit, and will likely bounce back and forth between the NBA and the D-League as a rookie.  The injury to Exum does make it more likely that he sticks if he can contribute a consistent production.

SG: Elijah Millsap - 6'6, 215 - 2nd NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
47
5.3
7.9
17.0%
45.0%
31.1%
.378
67.4%
.361
9.7%
19.5%

The younger brother of former Jazz PF Paul Millsap made his NBA debut last season as a 27 year old.  He didn't really make a huge impact, but with the injury to Exum and not much depth at the SG position, he could be in line for minutes again this year.  The highlight of his rookie season was a 17 point, 7 rebound performance in February against the Lakers.

G/F: Rodney Hood - 6'8, 215 - 2nd NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
50
8.7
12.3
19.6%
52.9%
36.5%
.455
76.3%
.214
13.2%
9.9%

Hood, who played 75% of his minutes at SG in his rookie year (per Basketball-Reference), could push Alec Burks for a starting position if Burks doesn't come back strong from his shoulder injury.  Hood came on strong at the end of the year, notching five 20+ point performances across March and April.  Similarly, he posted a 57.5 TS% after the All-Star break.  His NBA future seems like it's stronger at SF, but there's no reason he can't play next to Gordon Hayward.  Call whichever one you want to the SG.

SF: Joe Ingles - 6'8, 215 - 2nd NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
79
5.0
9.6
12.9%
53.3%
35.6%
.571
75.0%
.113
16.8%
20.9%

The Jazz brought back Ingles in restricted free agency, a move that makes sense.  Ingles is a strong role player, providing some playmaking and reliable three point shooting on the wing.  He's nothing to write home about, but he's the kind of role player every team can use.

F: Trey Lyles - 6'10, 240 - Rookie
GP
PPG
RPG
APG
FG%
FT%
3P%
36
8.7
5.2
1.1
48.8%
73.5%
13.8%

Taken with the 12th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, Lyles could see time at both forward positions in his rookie year.  His numbers from Kentucky's platoon system don't jump off the page, but that has more to do with his usage than his talent level.  The Jazz have enough frontcourt depth to bring him along slowly, which I wouldn't be surprised to see them do.  The key to his development will be his ability to refine his jump shot.

PF: Trevor Booker - 6'7, 240 - 6th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
FT%
FTr
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
BLK/36
79
7.2
15.3
18.1%
53.6%
58.1%
.319
14.7%
10.3%
19.0%
0.9

Booker had a really solid season for the Jazz last year off the bench.  He's an energy player who gets to the FT line and rebounds the ball well enough for his size.  He'll be playing for a new contract this year, whether it's in Utah or elsewhere probably depends on the development of Lyles.

C: Jeff Withey - 7'0, 235 - 3rd NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
FT%
FTr
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
BLK/36
79
7.2
15.3
18.1%
53.6%
58.1%
.319
14.7%
10.3%
19.0%
0.9

The Pelicans let Withey walk this summer in favor of keeping Alexis Ajinca and Omer Asik.  Withey isn't anything special, but with what the Jazz already have, he should provide decent depth.  He'll compete with Tibor Pleiss for the backup C minutes.  I think he'll have a decent year and end up winning the role.

C: Tibor Pleiss - 7'2, 270 - Rookie
GP
PPG
RPG
BPG
FG%
FT%
71
5.4
3.8
0.6
62.4%
85.9%

The 31st pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, Pleiss will likely make his NBA debut at age 25 or 26 this season (his birthday falls on November 2nd).  Pleiss is a big body, and has years of experience playing professionally in Europe.  He played last year for an accomplished FC Barcelona club.

Outlook

The Jazz finished last season excellently after committing to Rudy Gobert as the team's starting C.  His emergence, and the removal of sieve imitator Enes Kanter, gave the team an identity and a lot of hope for this season. They didn't make many changes in the offseason, but bringing back Joe Ingles, signing Jeff Withey and drafting Trey Lyles has good implications for the team's depth.  As long as the offense is average again, which isn't asking too much, the Jazz have a very real chance of securing the 8th seed in the Western Conference.  Something like 41 wins should be where the Jazz finish this season.

No comments:

Post a Comment