"Al was doing a good job of passing the ball tonight. We need to touch that thing inside before we take our jump shots. That's who we are. We go through him and need him to make the right plays."
It's clear to me that Big Al is who Ty thinks is "the Man" on the Jazz. Ty is playing Big Al big minutes, and is working on developing Big Al by running the offense through him and by giving him the ball in crunch time. This is not a willy-nilly trivial decision Ty has made. This type of commitment means we will be seeing Big Al be "the Man" for seasons to come.
The question then is "How are the Jazz going to build the team around Big Al?"
Please be warned that answering this question requires a little prognostication; actual results may vary.
Let's first look at the team as currently constituted:
Group A: Players with contracts expiring at the end of this year-
1. Jamal Tinsley, age 34
2. DeMarre Carroll, age 25
3. Jeremy Evans, age 24
4. Josh Howard, age 31
5. CJ Miles, age 24
At this point, I don't believe CJ will be back after this season. We will either trade him by the trade deadline or he will find a team that will promise him more playing time and/or more money then we will be willing to pay and give. Tinsley, Carroll, and Evans are all replaceable parts (though, I will note that with Evans like-ability and Slam Dunk title, it would be a shame not to bring him back since he should still most-likely command an inexpensive contract). Howard is a bit of a wild card; he's 31, but Ty seems to like what he brings to the table; the only question is "what is going to be his market value after this season is over?" While Howard is 31, the Jazz have shown a willingness to keep players into their mid 30's. I think the Jazz will try to bring Howard back for a few more years; however, if Howard demands too much, they will probably let him walk.
Group B: Players with contracts expiring after the 2012-13 year-
1. Devin Harris, age 29
2. Earl Watson, age 32
3. Raja Bell, age 35
4. Al Jefferson, age 27
5. Paul Millsap, age 27
This group has four current starters in it and a key bench contributor. Re-signing Big Al and Devin will be top priorities for the Jazz at the end of next year. Because of this, Big Al could get a max contract and Devin could get some decent money too. Millsap most likely won't be back after the 2012-13 year. Ty showed his hand early this year by trying to start Favors - that is where the Jazz are heading; my belief is Favors will be starting by 2013-14. Millsap will not want to go back to a reserve role and will either be traded before the end of the 2012-13 year or he will sign a contract with another team that the Jazz will not be willing to match. Raja will either sign a one or two year deal with us or retire; Gordon, hopefully, will have played his way back into a starters role at that point. That leaves us with Earl. I believe the Jazz will re-sign Earl for a one or two year deal to be our second or third point guard option.
Group C: players with contracts expiring after the 2014-15 and 2015-16 years-
1. Derrick Favors, age 20
2. Gordon Hayward, age 21
3. Alec Burks, age 20
4. Enes Kanter, age 19
If I did my research right, these players are to be restricted free agents at the end of their contracts. All have shown promise and have shown that they can contribute at an NBA level. The Jazz will re-sign them all to long-term deals assuming (a) the signings in prior years don't give the Jazz salary cap heart burn in trying to re-sign them, (b) the contracts they agree to don't give the Jazz salary cap nightmares, and (c) they all continue to progress. My belief is that at a minimum, Gordon and Favors will be starting alongside Big Al when their contracts are up for renewal, and Burks and Kanter will be providing significant minutes from the bench.
With that being said, I see the following future starting five:
1. Al Jefferson
2. Devin Harris
3. Gordon Hayward
4. Derrick Favors
5. Josh Howard
with the following contributing from the bench:
1. Alec Burks
2. Enes Kanter
Kevin O'Connor will sprinkle in draft picks, assets, and free agent signings to fill out the rest of the roster.