I have been hearing a lot of talk about how the Jazz need to go for a big name in a trade or Free Agency. I think we need to think about the distinct possibility that we have three players who show all star potential right now, and a fourth who is borderline. These players will command big money when their rookie deals are up, and may even be max players, if given time. Let's take a look at the stats and see why I think they will be stars, according to their numbers this year.
The first is Gordon Hayward.
Hayward has shown that he can be efficient and productive when he is given the reigns of the team. I know it is the second team that he runs, but the guy has been shooting great, and playing with fire since he came back from injury. He will get all star consideration next year.
His Per 36 numbers: 18.8 Points, 4.1 Reb, 3.3 Assists.
Compared with a current Allstar (Paul George) Hayward is a better scorer, worse rebounder, and about the same passer. If you think we should have taken Paul George in the draft over Hayward, you don't really have a point, other than rebounding. Paul George is probably a better rebounder, but Hayward is very good in other areas. If Paul George can be an All-Star, then Gordon Hayward will be one as well. Count on it.
Second, Derrick Favors.
Favors only needs time. He has shown improvement in efficiency every year. He will never have the offensive game of Hakeem Olajuwon, but that is a once in a lifetime talent. Favors has Defensive Player of the Year potential, and has shown an offensive game that nobody thought he had at all. His free throw shooting percentages indicate that he can probably develop an effective midrange game, ala the mailman. He can probably turn out to be something like Mailman lite, with shot blocking ability. That could be scary good. (Please note her that I am not saying that Favors will be as good as Malone, but he can be a special player)
Favors Per 36 numbers: 15.3 Points, 10.3 Reb, 2.3 Blocks
Those numbers would definitely get all star consideration, especially given the defensive ability.
Third is Enes Kanter.
Kanter has potential to have a great offensive potential, and will be a great contributor to the team. He is a great rebounder, great team player, and has a great motor.
Kanter Per 36 numbers: 16.1 Points, 10.2 Reb, 1.1 Blocks
Put Kanter and Favors together, and I am fairly certain that they would be better than our current starting frountcourt, if given the playing time. They will have to take their lumps, but they will probably get there relatively quickly.
*A quick caveat about Kanter's numbers: I am optimistic that he will get better than he is currently, because he is so young. He could be the best offensively, but should at least be a solid contributor.
Finally, Alec Burks.
Burks is a hard one to read, mostly because he has only had significant playing time the last few weeks. He is super athletic, has a chip on his shoulder, and has some very distinct skills. Burks can get to the line, he can drive to the rack, and he has the killer instinct. Give him time, and I think he will surprise us all.
Burks Per 36 numbers: 13.9 Points, 4.7 Reb, 3.1 Assists.
I think as we use Burks more, those numbers will go up. I think he can very easily be a 16, 4 and 4 guy. That is pretty darn solid.
Will the production continue if the players are actually given minutes?
Personally, I think it will. Here is the reason why: When you feature a player on the team, their confidence goes up, and so does production. Just take a look at Paul Millsap. He was given a larger role, and has improved each year, until basically leveling off this year. When he played behind Boozer, many fans were calling for him to start. He is a starting caliber player, and contributes a lot to this team. If fact, his production was so good, and so similar to what he was putting up as a reserve, that Basketball Prospectus published what they called The Paul Millsap Doctrine. This is statistical evidence that a players production is likely to stay the same or improve with increased minutes.
What can we realistically expect from these young guys?
I think it is safe to say that our young players are not done growing. I think that each of Favors, Kanter and Hayward can improve on their games by about 15% from where they are now, and that Burks can improve about 25% from where he is now. This is not too optimistic of a projection. The reason that I think they will be able to have this rate in growth is because they are hopefully going to be featured on the team very soon. I think Favors and Hayward will be the focal points next year, and Kanter and Burks will follow them in the year or two after.
So what can we expect per minute given the 15% growth from our C4? (25% growth from Burks)
Hayward: 21.6 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 3.8 APG
Favors: 17.6 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 2.6 BPG
Kanter: 18.5 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 1.3 BPG
Burks: 17.4 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 4 APG
While this is pretty optimistic to have four players on any given team doing this well, it would be pretty awesome. There may not be enough touches to go around, but this team would dominate. They could put a scarecrow in to play point guard, and still dominate most teams. Together they would average about 75 ppg.
What does this mean for the team, and salary situations?
If this is what our players turn out to be in the next few years, then we will have at lease one or two max players. Kanter and Favors would get max offers from every team out there, as they would be considered top big men in the league. Hayward would also get a max offer at this production level. Burks would probably be a very highly paid player as well. I think the front office is holding the flexibility in large part for this reason. I do think they see the potential that they have. We can not believe that they saw it with Millsap and do not see it with these players. If we luck out and get them all for 10 million a year or less, then we would be certain to contend for the championship the entire time we had players of that caliber.
The only question now is, will we see these young guys live up to their potential? For now, we can only hope so. However, as time goes on, it is only looking like more and more of a sure thing. We are seeing them step up one at a time. Hayward is on his way to stardom, and Favors should be next. Hopefully Burks continues his production, and the Dennis Lindsey gets rid of one of our veteran big men in the offseason, giving Kanter a chance to step up and show us what he's got!