After watching some incredible playoff basketball, it makes me long for the Jazz to become a threat to make deep playoff runs again. Right now is it is apparent that our current roster is still quite a bit off from being a 60 or even 50 win team. Today I am going to analyze what we have on our roster currently and what it is missing when compared to top teams in the league.
What we have on the Jazz right now:
Strengths: Playmaking skills, Clutch shooting, Ageless game (not dependent on athletic ability, but rather skills, so injury/age shouldn't impact his game as much as say a Westbrook or Rose)
Weaknesses: Athletic ability, speed, defense, shooting efficiency
Strengths: Elite slashing and driving skills, draws free throws at a high rate (13th in the league), high confidence
Weaknesses: Defense, average outside shooting
Gordon Hayward (Given that the Jazz match restricted free agent offer, which I would say is extremely likely, regardless of whether they should or not)
Strengths: Jack of all trades...., do-it-all wing, capable of playing point forward (fairly rare trait in the NBA), good enough to be a third (or maybe even second option) on a contending team, plays hard on both ends of the court.
Weaknesses: ...Master of none, inefficient this year, crappy first option, somewhat turnover-prone.
Strengths: Displays flashes of brilliance of acrobatic offensive post moves, gaining confidence in mid-range (and secretly long-range), usually a good rebounder
Weakness: Defense, obvious he is still learning the game, makes bone-headed plays, slow
Strengths: Elite rim defender, capable on offense and improving slowly but surely, consistent solid rebounding
Weaknesses: Foul trouble, consistent offense (may not be his fault, but rather due to lack of touches)
Strengths: Athleticism, highlight worthy plays, defense, rebounding
Weaknesses: Need other dominant players on floor to keep them from getting dominated by other benches.
What contending teams have right now:
Okay, so currently the conference finals are about to commence in the NBA playoffs, and I would say the 4 teams remaining and arguably the Clippers are the current contenders in the NBA. Let's see if we can find any trends.
Offensive oriented team led by Lebron, Wade, and Bosh, surrounded by a cast of shooters and defenders to complement this trio of stars. Average coach in Spoelstra.
What got them here: Dwyane Wade convincing fellow stars Bosh and Lebron to come over in free agency.
Chances the Jazz can take the same approach: Extremely close to 0 percent. Getting just 1 superstar would be amazing for the Jazz, getting 3 all stars on the Jazz at the same time would be extremely unlikely and has only happened once before (Malone, Stockton, Eaton in 1989).
Defensive oriented team led by Paul George, with roster oozing in talent from top to bottom with David West, Roy Hibbert, Lance Stephenson, George Hill, Luis Scola, Evan Turner. Coach has helped develop elite defensive schemes to hide their teams lack of efficient offensive skills at times.
What got them here: Drafted Paul George who made the jump to superstar in last year's playoffs, did draft day trade for George Hill (gave away Kawhi Leonard), got diamond in the rough 2nd rounder pick Lance Stephenson, acquired David West in free agency, Roy Hibbert has developed slowly but surely after being drafted 6 years ago, other minor trades and free agency signings for other players on roster. Got defensive-oriented coach.
Chances the Jazz can take the same approach: Moderate, the big if's are finding a coach that can implement a successful defense and getting lucky in finding one player who takes the leap like Paul George has. I already see Burke as good as Hill, Burks being capable of having the same impact as Stephenson, Hayward being a poor man's George, Kanter being a season or two away from being as effective as a 33 year old David West, Favors being as effective a defender as Hibbert, and Gobert and Evans being decent backups like Scola and Turner. It also helps a lot that the Pacers get to play in the weak Eastern Conference, they probably would be 4th or lower in the West.
Extremely well run system headed by Coach Popovich, maintained by over the hill stars Duncan, GInobili, and Parker as well as up-and-coming solid players Leonard, Green, Mills, and Splitter.
What got them here: Coach Popovich's system has made the Spurs a formidable contender basically ever since the last time the Jazz were in the finals. Winning the lottery and drafting Duncan was also a co-catalyst to what started this dynasty.Incredible international scouting for finding talent that no other team is even thinking of. Popovich's system helps the Spurs team achieve far beyond the overall talent level of the team when compared to other rosters.
Chances the Jazz can take the same approach: Low but possible, I find it more likely that the Jazz find an effective defensive oriented coach (similar to the Pacers') than a coach that implements a genius system that has the team achieve much higher than the sum of its parts. There are just so many coaches out there that claim to have a genius system but actually just end up having a system that requires certain players to not play to their certain strengths and fail. However, I can see the Jazz take the Spurs brand of looking for under-the-radar international players for their teams.
The new contenders who will be here to stay for a while until Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook get separated or injured. Mediocre coach who has the same vet-bias as Corbin in playing Fisher, Butler, and Perkins over Lamb and Adams. Simple system that appears to just be school ball, letting their elite players Durant and Westbrook just do what comes natural to them.
What got them here: Drafting, drafting, drafting. The Thunder "model" is one I have looked at for a while and it is apparent to me that the Thunder are either extremely good at drafting or extremely lucky. SInce 2007, they have drafted Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, James Harden, Jeff Green just to name their top choices. They have drafted so well, in fact, that they couldn't afford to keep all their talent together.
Chances the Jazz can take the same approach: Decent, with all the collective young talent that the Jazz already have just waiting to burst out of their seams along with 3 more picks in this stacked draft, it is just a matter of time and/or luck that the Jazz get an all star if not a superstar on their roster from the draft. We have a 10% chance this year of getting the #1 pick and Wiggins, but hey if this draft is anywhere near as close in talent level as the 2003 draft, if we don't win #1 and get our Lebron, we still have a chance at this year's Wade, Carmelo, Bosh, etc. I have a hunch that the Jazz may have employed Corbin all these years with the intention of keeping our talent minute deprived to help keep them more affordable so that we could keep this talented core together longer, however even if this is unlikely, it is yet to be seen if this strategy pays off or not
Out of the contenders left, there is serious disparity between the contenders and the Jazz currently. The Jazz still need:
A. at least 1 superstar
B. Either a defensive-minded coach and/or a coach with an effective system that helps elevate our players to play beyond their talent levels collectively,
Other roster needs I see for our team as currently constructed are an elite 3-and-D wing, consistent post scorer, and a superstar at any position. Hopefully the Jazz can address this through the draft and/or through player development, or maybe even a surprise free agent signing.