The Downbeat #822 - The Countdown to Training Camp

Another day, another set of predictions. This time from ESPN.com, who expect the Jazz to finish 41-41 and in 8th place in the West. This record, according to this list, also puts them in a tie with the Timberwolves, but has the Jazz winning the hypothetical tie-breaker. So, there's that. Also, some great insight from Twitter on this one as @DavidBolton23 weighs in:

Perfect spot for the Jazz, think they could suprise some people with Cousins and Foye. #nbapicks

I don't know what this means, and I have no idea why Foye would be the one to help the Jazz surprise people. Also, this might mean that the Jazz are bringing Marcus Cousin back? Disclaimer: This fellow doesn't seem to be a Jazz fan, more of a fan of Clemson and cookies.

This projection was the product of contributions by "100 of ESPN's Best Basketball Minds", so we'll see how accurate it is in about 9 months.

In the same area, Bradford Doolittle of the amazing Basketball Prospectus, has the Jazz finishing in 7th, with 42.9 wins, which I will round up to 43 wins. Doolittle has this to say about the Jazz team:

Utah has a lot of really nice, young pieces, but as the franchise continues to evolve, it remains to be seen how it's all going to fit together. With so many efficient interior scorers and a growing collection of 3-point shooters, the offense projects to be top-five in the league. However, the defense lags, and it will as long as the Jazz count on Al Jefferson to anchor the middle.

I think this is a more than fair analysis of the current Jazz team and that win number could fluctuate quite a bit depending on if those 3 pointers are dropping and how much improvement has been made by Favors and Hayward especially, but also Burks and Kanter.

The last part of the equation that could drastically change the nature of the season is player movement. With the FA period ending in mid February, there is plenty of time left for a move that could lift the squad to finish the season off with bang. We've seen it happen with the acquisition of Korver back in 2007 (Yes, it was that long ago).

I know this is a flashpoint on this site, and with Jazz fans in general, but if we take a step back and look at the cards being played, it isn't hard to see that the player most likely to see himself headed out during that week in February is Al Jefferson. His mega contract expires this year and we have heard nary a peep about contract talks between his reps and the Jazz. Now, it could be that the Jazz FO is playing a different tactic with Big Al, but it would completely go against their M.O. Before you say that it is the difference between KOC and Lindsey, I would point to the Millsap talks. They initiated them before DL was hired, and now he has taken over as the negotiator for the Jazz, whereas talks with Big Al have yet to begin. The only other explanation is that the Jazz gave Millsap an offer they thought they could get him to take, but with Al, they are confident in letting the market set his price.

One of my favorite parts of the new season is seeing who the Jazz bring in to training camp. If I had to guess a few players that will be present, I would say Blake Ahearn and Michael Stockton, to begin with. Both would be fantastic to have in camp because they will play their asses off against the likes of Mo, Jamaal, Earl, Alec, etc. and I think that is a good thing to help prep for the season. I could also see the big man Salah Mejiri being back. The Jazz staff really liked him and he played great for Tunisia in the Olympics.

In #3 I speculated that the Jazz would make a move before the FA period ends in February. We've talked about this before, but some of our projected FA targets have become a little less available- namely Bynum and Howard. With that said, who would be next on the list that the Jazz could REALISTICALLY trade to acquire? That means both teams have a need and a motive to make the trade

#4- Who are your guesses to complete the training camp roster?

**Remember, the predictions in #1 and #2 are purely hypothesis and should not be taken too seriously, so let's thoughtfully discuss the merits of both.

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