Bolster the Backcourt

We have just about reached the 3/4 mark of the 2014-15 NBA Season. The state of the Utah Jazz is very hopeful at this point, but we have to face reality here. Even if the Jazz miraculously won the rest of their 22 remaining games, that would give them a record of 46-36. While that might get you a 4-5 seed in the (L)eastern conference, that would likely leave the Jazz outside the playoffs. OKC is in that 8th spot right now at 34-27, and I fully expect them to win more than 12 of their last 21 games. That's fine, no one expected them to even be in the conversation this year. So let's embrace another trip to the lotto (hopefully the last for a long time), and start thinking about next year.

It's not hard to see where the Jazz' weakness lies, at least offensively. Hayward and Favors anchor the forward positions, and Rudy gets his putbacks and occasional salutatory dunks. Between Dante and Slow-mo-Joe, the current starting back court averages a whopping 8.7 points. Combined. That obviously won't cut it. Now, of course we can't forget about Alec Burks, who in 27 games this year averaged 13.9 ppg. A respectable number, but as much as I like Burks I'm not completely sold on him as the starting SG for a contending team. There are flashes of brilliance, and then he tends to disappear for several possessions at a time. There is still room for improvement, and it's unfortunate that he's out for the year and not showcase any improvements throughout this season.

Dante still has the deer in the headlights look every time he touches the ball. Sometimes I feel like the Monstars flew down to Australia between summer league and the regular season and stole his talent. I don't know what all the international scouts saw to project him to a top 5 draft pick, but here we are. Throw all the classic excuses in here--he's still 19, he is learning the NBA game, he hit a rookie wall, whatever else you like--but he's not what I'm sure most fans expected. At least not yet. His saving grace this season has been his defense. Just using the eyeball test, the last few games especially he has looked above average in that category. Also, you can't teach length--having a 6'6" point guard is awesome. I'm not giving up on Dante, but we need to see something from him offensively, and we need it soon.

Trey has taken his 6th man role in stride and really produced since being bumped to the bench. His floater has been on point and his passing looks better every time I see him play. I see at least a couple great assists from Trey every game. If he keeps this up it will be hard to justify Dante playing so many minutes. Rodney Hood has also been showing some life after sitting out so many games with a foot injury. I was ecstatic when the Jazz picked up hood at #23 last year and I still think he can be an all-star someday. It's a bold prediction, I know, but watching him at Duke I often thought he was better than his running mate Jabari Parker, who many Utah fans were praying to land.

Honorable mention: Elijah "Lilsap" Millsap, who is a great defender so far. He just can't hang onto the freaking ball! I would love for the Jazz to keep him on the roster moving forward.

So...that's the squad we got. Not bad, but as many reporters and fans have opined, we are just "a piece or two away" from being a legitimate threat in the West. The question is, who can we get to make the Utah Jazz a better team? I'm thinking this is the summer to take the leap to at least an 8 seed, and from a lot of interviews and commentary I think many of you agree. We have the option to stand pat with the current roster, bring in the two new draft picks and keep plugging away. But we can do better. Other options are free agents and trades. Let's look at free agents first:

Point Guards

Reggie Jackson (RFA): I was really hoping Reggie would be headed to Utah in the Kanter trade, but instead he ended up in Detroit, where he's averaging 15.6 points, 7.4 assists, and 5.2 boards per game since becoming the leading man in the Motor City. He's fast, young and can play defense. He is restricted this season and I don't expect Detroit to let him walk unless someone made an enormous offer. Probably not worth that much for Utah.

Rajon Rondo (UFA): 5 years ago, I would have loved for Rondo to be traded to Utah. After various injuries, he seems like a shell of his former self and hasn't put up near the numbers he did in Boston's title contending years. Still, he's a good disher and in the right place he could be great again. I just don't think that place is Salt Lake City, and I doubt he would want to come anyway.

Goran Dragic (Player Option): Dragic would have been a trade target if I was Dennis Lindsey when both he and Kanter were disgruntled by their respective teams. Dragic was a legitimate all-star snub just last season, and he almost seems like a Nash clone. Goran starting at the 1 for Utah with Burke and Exum sharing some of the backcourt minutes still sounds promising to me. He's getting older but Exum can learn from him and not have so much pressure right now. Sadly, I would bet that he will opt-in to his new home in Miami and stay there with bona fide all-stars D-Wade and Bosh.

That's really it for free agent PG's... at least ones that would be a solid upgrade over our current situation. Brandon Knight is also a restricted free agent, but I haven't seen enough of him to form any kind of opinion. I only remember him being completely destroyed by Deandre Jordan on this vicious dunk.

Shooting Guards

Jimmy Butler (RFA): If the Jazz don't offer Butler a contract this off-season, I will be very disappointed. However, I would be shocked if the Bulls didn't match any offer Jimmy gets after he became an all-star this season and is the likely MIP front-runner. It's worth a shot. I think he would take the Jazz from the 8-10 position to 4-6 seed in the West. Get it done DL!

Wesley Matthews (UFA): This one is a no-brainer. Matthews is that "one that got away" for the Jazz and judging by many of the SLC Dunk comments, we all want him back. Sad thing is, I don't think he leaves a title contender in Portland for a budding team in Utah, no matter how great of a homecoming it would be. A lot of this probably depends on the free agent destination of LaMarcus Aldridge, who has said publicly he wants to be a Blazer for life.

KJ McDaniels (UFA): He's averaging 9 pts, 3.7rbs a game this year, which is not the best. He's now running with Houston but seeing him play in Philly was always fun. His athleticism is amazing and his intensity is great. I think he could be a good fit in Utah, but probably not the offensive presence we need.

Khris Middleton (RFA): Another solid piece with some upside, Middleton has been averaging 16.5 points over the last 10 games. I wouldn't be surprised to see Utah make him an offer this summer.

Other: Jared Dudley, Eric Gordon, and Rodney Stuckey all would be serviceable, but aside from Dudley I don't think are realistic.


The last option for the Jazz is a trade. Lindsey has done a good job collecting "assets" that we can use to acquire players who otherwise might not sign a free agent contract in Utah. Who would you want on the Jazz (realistically), and who would you trade away? Looking at each team's depth chart I can't see anyone I really want who has any chance of being traded. Let me know what you think in the comments, I am ending this now because it's already gone on way longer than I expected.

All comments are the opinion of the commenter and not necessarily that of SLC Dunk or SB Nation.