With the NBA offseason activity beginning to wane heavily this week, albeit for a few signings still up in the air- Nikola Pekovic notably. And on the eve of the NFL and college football's annual takeover of all things media, I think it's finally time to make some predictions for the upcoming NBA season given that the majority of rosters are somewhere between working rough draft and fixed. Now before reading this column, I need you guys to realize a few things: 1) I'm making NBA predictions in JULY and literally ANYTHING can happen before the season to derail these predictions. 2) These are 100% serious. I am not here to troll or make fun of anybody. That would be churlish and a waste of time. 3) I encourage you to respond with how you feel about my predictions. So without further ado, I present to you a running column that will include a Fanpost for each and every NBA team, "The Flagrantly Early, Incredibly Half-Baked NBA Predictions Series."
No. 1: Enes Kanter will have a breakout year
When you look back at games like this one, you get excited about the upcoming Jazz season. With Al "The Black Hole" Jefferson no longer hogging everybody’s touches and stealing minutes from prospects like Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors, there’s a lot to be hopeful for as Jazz fans. Yeah, Enes Kanter’s best game (and Jazz record game) was against the Bobcats who were probably starting that tall guy from down at the corner store that played 2 years of JUCO ball, but what a game it was! He absolutely crushed the Bobcats on the glass that game when Al Jefferson was out.
With the opportunity finally thrust upon him to be the Utah Jazz’s starting center, Kanter will rise to the challenge and then some. While Kanter only played 15 minutes/game, he still finished 24th in PER (17.65) amongst centers; while that’s less than Al Jefferson (20.99) it was better than a few starting centers including Roy Hibbert, Marcin Gortat, DeAndre Jordan, Nene, , and Omer Asik. With legitimate minutes, it’s perfectly conceivable for Kanter to jump even further up that list, in step with the Nikola Vucevics of the world. Now I’m not saying Enes Kanter is going to be an All Star, not this season at least, just that the drop off from Al Jefferson to Kanter won’t be that steep. Plus the Jazz are paying him a 1/3 of Jefferson’s salary the next 3 years. How’s that for being thrifty?
No. 2: The Burk(e)s will struggle
Trey Burke was bad in summer league. He was the consensus least impressive rookie and clearly not quite ready for it all. He shot 24% against the also-rans and haven’t-yets of the league, including 1/19 from deep. And yeah, summer league is not a real tell of who’s got NBA game, but from the eye-test (all we really have to judge him on at this point), I wouldn’t say Trey Burke does at this point. And I hate to be a critic, but that point guard job sure looks like John Lucas’ to lose; Mo Williams clearly wants to play for a contender over getting big minutes. Yet, in a rebuilding year, it’ll be good for Burke to get some run, unencumbered by really any pressure, and learn as he goes especially once the Jazz are 15 games back at the All Star break.
Then there’s Alec Burks, the 3rd year combo guard and Utah’s first round pick in 2011, who goes into the season competing with career back-up Brandon Rush for the starting spot unless the Jazz opt to start Hayward at the 2. While Burks will probably get the nod, but I just don’t see him primed for a breakout year. His advanced numbers, which were alright, are probably more consequence of playing with Millsap and Jefferson who are both really good than anything else. His season-highs (26 & 19) came against the Kings and Bucks last year- both losses. While it would be nice to see Burke-Burks-Hayward grow together as a young core to build on, that core’s going to get housed more times that not next year, and barring a massive leap from either of the latter players void of star power. With such a young, inexperienced team it’s going to be hard for the Burk(e)s to succeed at first, and I see a long season ahead for the pair.
No. 3: Ty Corbin will get canned
Like, I mentioned previously, the Jazz are in a rebuilding year. While an Enes Kanter-Derrick Favors duo shows promise as Millsap-Jefferson replacements, there is always an adjustment period, and neither of those guys really are primed to put the team on their back, especially with such a weak back court feeding them the ball. Teams like the Jazz with the solid young core, that lack strong veteran presence from skilled players often do poorly, and it won’t be surprising should Ty Corbin- sitting on 12 wins at the All Star break- get canned. Now he’s coached an average team with two semi-stars to plus-.500 records the past two seasons, but those two guys are gone and in their place are a handful of relatively unproven young cats and laughably overpaid vets.
For a team devoid of a superstar, it makes perfect sense for the Jazz to start "Riggin’ for Wiggins" when things go south. Plus it’s a stacked 2014 FA class that the Jazz could possibly take advantage of. But finishing in the lottery for consecutive seasons rarely means keeping your job. Just ask Byron Scott, Mike Dunlap, or Lawrence Frank who all were fired last year. Moreover, there are playoff coaches who have proven their ability to rebuild the scrap heap into a contender such as George Karl and Lionel Hollins (Western Conference Finalist) just waiting for a phone call. Even with Jerry Sloan back as a man in his corner, when things go south I don’t think that’ll be enough for Corbin to stay on board for the long haul.