Yesterday, My_Lo gave you five reasons to be excited about next year's Utah Jazz. And I agree with all of them. But I also think that, as thrilling as it's been to watch the Jazz play since the All-Star break, there's plenty of work to be done before the Jazz can safely return to the Western Conference contention, let alone a championship run. And some of that work will involve players not currently on this Jazz roster.
This piece from the D-News' Brad Rock illustrates the point:
But making the playoffs and contending are different things. The Jazz should catch the playoff tail-enders, next year, but what about Golden State, Houston, the Clippers, Memphis and Portland? What about a healthy Oklahoma City?
Will the Jazz still be eating San Antonio's exhaust in 25 years? Does anyone really believe the Lakers won't buy their way back into contention?
Some things have changed since last summer. The Jazz have earned respect, though still a superstar or two short of being a contender. But with cap money and flexibility, you never know. The odds are improving. Alec Burks will return next fall. Rodney Hood and Dante Exum are coming along. This is a team with promise.
Championship promise? Not as presently constituted.
Whether that means trades or draft picks or free agents or a combination of all three remains to be seen. And I don't take this as a negative thing, by the way. I'm ecstatic when I think about the future of the Jazz and the young core the team can build around. But I'm trying to temper my expectations as well. It's a lot harder to go from middling to great than it is to go from bottom-five to middling, as the Jazz did this year.
What do you think the ceiling of this Jazz team is? How good can they be next year? And what changes will that require? I'm interested to hear your thoughts as we end the season on the right track.
It's NBA award season, and there's really only one Jazz player who is likely in contention for any honors. That would be one Young Rud, according to Grantland's Zach Lowe:
Gobert instead played five times as many minutes, tripled his assist rate with some nifty passing on the pick-and-roll, cut his turnovers, and improved his shooting from both the field and the foul line — all in addition to emerging as the league's scariest rim protector. You know how teams in practice have assistant coaches hold up huge pads to simulate the presence of shot-blockers at the rim? Multiple teams have casually mentioned to me that they refer to those pads as "Gobert" — as in, "LOOK OUT FOR GOBERT!" The French Rejection got better at everything at an astonishing rate. What a story.
I LOVE the anecdote about naming the pads "Gobert." And I love that it comes from other teams, not just the Jazz themselves. Our Stifle Tower is literally changing the way NBA teams practice. Amazing.
Let us now SUMMON THE FANPOSTS.
I've spent some time going through various ways the Jazz can fill out the holes in their roster this summer.The needs of the team are 1. A back up Center; ideally a rare 3 and D type would be the perfect fit. 2. Wing depth; With Gordon and Rodney playing well this season and Alec returning the need for added wing depth may be over looked. But if there is something to be learned by what the Warriors have done this season, it is that there is no such thing as too many lengthy athletic wing players. 3. A point guard; Let's face it, Trey has not been a good NBA player so far in his career, and the jury is still out on Dante, the best Jazz point guard in the last 5 years has been Devin Harris, its a problem.
Mykroberts also weighs in on the Jazz's "pathway to contention":
I have heard other fans mention this so I'll just echo it - I'm not really interested in many roster changes next season. I think everyone here expects playoff contention or possibly actual playoffs next season. DL has said the Jazz are a bit ahead of schedule and with the amount of young talent they already have most decisions should be aimed to capitalize on it in 2-3 years time (hopefully as a serious contender).
And SLC Dunk newbie cgrenham alerts us to this excellent post he wrote on Bryce Cotton -- yes, before Cotton's explosive performance on Monday night:
From being doubted on every single level, Bryce has grinded his way to Utah. The Jazz are lucky to have this guy and I have no doubt they'll be seeing his impact sooner rather than later. Good luck Bryce and go Jazz.
And just because I can:
Speaking of NBA awards, Sports Illustrated's Rob Mahoney has invented a few of his own, and gives one to an Aussie Jazzman:
Most Deferential: Joe Ingles, Utah Jazz
Utah's 27-year-old "rookie" forward appears to go quarters at a time without so much as looking at the rim. His game is one of facilitation; Ingles is a waypoint in the ball's transition from one side of the floor to another, a capacity in which he's long thrived. The tradeoff to that mentality is that Ingles has attempted a Prigioni-like 7.6 field goals per 36 minutes over the course of the season. That's not the slightest mark in the league this season, but it stands as the most disproportionate relative to Ingles' level of involvement in the offense.
That's as may be, but I wouldn't call anything about this step-back "deferential."
From Day 1 rookie season to now...how time flies. pic.twitter.com/50wz35frO1— Jeremy Evans (@JeremyEvans40) April 13, 2015
Amar tells me he has a piece forthcoming on Jeremy and his relationship with Gordon. So I'll just say this: if tonight's game is the last time we see him in a Jazz uniform, I'll miss him.