Where Are The Utah Jazz Heading? - The Downbeat - #639

What would you say the goal of this season is? Kevin O'Connor stated on KFAN the other day that he doesn't believe in rebuilding because it provides a built-in excuse. Yet to me as soon as he pulled the trigger on the Deron Williams deal it signaled the start of a new era and a different direction for the team.

Yet that doesn't appear to be what he's doing now. In fact, he's kind of doing what he did for the last "rebuilding project" in 2005, just in a different way. The initial plan was to build around Andrei Kirilenko. That changed however the next season when Carlos Boozer became available and the Pistons were not able to match the offer to Mehmet Okur. Thanks to injury, a porous defense, and inefficient offense, the Jazz were able to land the #3 pick in the 2005 draft. (Side note, any guesses on who had the most field goal attempts in 2005 for the Jazz?). That pick of course turned into Deron Williams and the team returned to the playoffs after just three missed post-season appearances.

A complete rebuilding starting this season probably would have meant more missed playoff seasons than that. Even with the talented young core the Jazz have, it would have taken a while for them to build the experience necessary to get back to a playoff-caliber team. If you look at a team as talented as the Thunder, it took four seasons for Kevin Durant and company to make the playoffs again. The Jazz don't have an MVP candidate. The Jazz haven't had three-four years of lotto picks. They're acquiring some good picks that hopefully pan out but what if they didn't? It could be a long time before the team is playing more than 82 games.

With the current group, they have a chance to rebound faster than that. What O'Connor is counting on is for the current veterans to continue to play at the level they are now and for the rookies and sophomores to come into their own this season or next. If it gets to the point where they can't deny a guy like Favors more minutes, then you might see someone moved. I would be surprised though if anyone gets moved this season There will be an evaluation after the season when the Jazz will have about $50 million in committed salaries and all but Favors, Hayward, Kanter, and Burks heading into the last year of their deals.

The only way I can see someone getting moved this season is if Favors or Kanter are playing so well that the team has to get them more minutes. The other scenario is if the team is doing so poorly that the playoffs are already gone.

I can say though that nobody in that organization is planning for anything else other than making the playoffs. They're not in a rebuild mode. That's not a message they can send to their players. How it plays out this season is what remains to be seen.

With that in mind, it shouldn't be a surprise then that the Jazz are going after a veteran wing that they feel can help them compete now rather than hand the job to one of their recent draftees. Depending on whom you believe, the Jazz are in various stages of discussion with free agent Josh Howard,

O'Connor said the Jazz have had serious discussions with free agent small forward Josh Howard but a formal offer hasn't been made.

"I haven't made an official offer, no," O'Connor said. "That's incorrect. Have we talked about stuff? Yeah."

A source told The Salt Lake Tribune on Saturday that Howard's camp maintains the Jazz have made a "firm offer."

The Jazz could offer him all or part of the mid-level exception.

Talks are also still in the works for Andre Kirilenko.

If you're a Paul Millsap fan, then the news that David West signed with the Pacers has to put you at ease for a bit. Indiana was one of the teams reported to be interested in acquiring Millsap given the logjam in the front court that the Jazz have.

However, they've been rumored to be interested in signing AK. The Sacramento Kings have also had discussions with AK's agent.

Not all twitter campaigns are for naught. Earl Watson had this to say to Jody Genessy,

Watson was impressed by a "BringBackEarl" campaign. It felt good for him to be wanted as well - a feeling Jazz fans share.

"I was impressed," Watson said. "The fact that fans wanted me, that meant a lot to me."

Now maybe we can start up a campaign for Dwight Howard? I heard he's looking for somewhere to be loved.

ESPN had their 5 on 5 for the Utah Jazz this season featuring some of their bloggers including Spencer Ryan Hall and Jeff Lind from Salt City Hoops. Here are the five questions they asked. Let's read your answers in the comments and then head on over there to compare your answers to theirs. My answers after the jump so as not to affect yours.

1. For which Jazz player is the 2011-12 season most important?
2. Who is the most intriguing player on the Jazz roster?
3. What's the most surprising take in Hollinger's Jazz profiles (Insider)?
4. Based on Hollinger's profiles, what do the Jazz need most (Again, Insider but you can answer what you would like here)?
5. Will a shortened season help or hurt the Jazz?

1. I don't think it's any question that it's Al Jefferson. He hasn't been on a team with a winning record since his rookie season when he started just one game. He's been looked up on as a franchise guy since he was dealt to the Timberwolves has yet to lead a team to the playoffs; whether that's fair to put entirely upon him or not is another debate.

Last season was supposed to be the year that he was playing with veterans and a component of a playoff and perhaps contending team. The season certainly started out promising but we all know how that ended. Al took it upon himself some after Jerry Sloan stepped down and after Deron Williams was traded to pick things up a bit. And he did. Unfortunately, the team was not able to turn around as a whole.

This desire to prove himself is exactly the reason why Al has been camped out at P3 for the past six months. Tell me what other player has done that during the lockout? He has something to prove this season.

2. For me the answer is Alec Burks. I'm excited to see if Favors can continue to develop and become the player that we hope he can be. Gordon Hayward is another that fits that mold. However, how long have we desired to have an athletic, premium wing for the Jazz? Most players and coaches will tell you that the two spot is the hardest to guard given the quality of talent at that position in the league. My hope is for Burks to become that player.

The biggest question for him will be if he can develop a consistent shot. Instruction from Jeff Hornacek should help and I would have to think that he develops better than Ronnie Brewer in that regard. Even if he end up only marginally better than Brewer, he's a solid pick at #12. I think he can be better than that though.

3. The most surprising tidbit outside of Fesenko's D and Millsap's mid-range shooting -- which shouldn't be a surprise if you've read SLC Dunk -- was Hollinger's analysis of Devin Harris's defense,

Defensively, Harris gave a bit more effort last season than the previous one, but that's damning with faint praise -- he was still a negative on that end, and with his quickness he shouldn't be. While Harris is very good at taking charges, too often he seems focused on his offense and checked out at the other end; it's so frustrating because early in his career he was one of the best defensive guards in basketball. Last season he was solidly below average in nearly every metric, continuing the trend ever since he was traded from Dallas.

He clearly still has the speed and ability to stay in front of his defender. What changed when he moved from Dallas to New Jersey was his role on offense. In terms of field goal attempts, he went from the fifth or sixth option with the Mavs to the number two guy with the Nets. As Hollinger wrote, he did seem to focus more on offense.

Perhaps now that he has more option here in Utah -- where he'll be at least the third or fourth option -- we can see him return to his defensive levels while he was in Dallas.

4. What the Jazz need the most right now -- personnel-wise -- is a scorer. Whether that's someone on the team or someone to bring in later via draft/trade/free-agency is to be decided. You would have to say that the go-to guy right now is Jefferson. If the offense isn't working or guys aren't hitting shots, getting it low to Big Al will at least result in a good look at the basket. This team needs someone though that can create his own shot and become a scorer and not just a shooter. Those points can come from the field or from the line.

One other thing they Jazz need -- and I think the have the personnel for it just not the mindset -- is a rebounder. He doesn't have to be a scorer -- just a knack and desire to get boards. A lot of that has to do with being in the right place for defense and proper positioning. I think Favors will become that guy but for now they don't have the rebounders that they've had in the past. Team changes and other things have affected this but can be changed.

5. I don't think the shortened season helps anyone, especially the Jazz. With no summer league, no real training camp, two pre-season games, and limited practices will hurt this team that's trying to find an identity. It's a mix of young and old with few clearly-defined roles. The team needed a full season for evaluation and cohesion and it won't get that.

Where it will help the Jazz is that the veterans will probably get a majority of the minutes. However, I believe the young talent is enough to come in a spell the legs of those that have been around several years. it's a good mix. Only Memo, Watson and Bell are over 30. This is for all purposes a young team though that should have fewer injuries and tired nights that their opponents.

I believe this also sets back the team a year in its long-term goals, whatever those may be.

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