The NBA Season is ready to start on Christmas Day, the last couple of preseason games are being played as I write this up, and it's time for me to cater to every serious NBA fans love of season previews! The 2011 Geektastic Preview is going to be way too large for one article, so I'm dividing it up into divisions (and even so, it's going to be long, so get a cup of coffee!). In this article I'm going to preview the Utah Jazz.
The 2011-12 Utah Jazz
Lost: Ronnie Price, Andre Kirilenko (?), Mehmet Okur (T)
Added: Enes Kanter, Alec Burks, Josh Howard
Outlook: They won't be last thanks to KAAAAAAAAAAAAHN!, but they really can't compete in this tough division for a playoff spot this year. It appears the owners know this, because they traded Okur for a 2nd and a trade exception in what looks like a pure salary dump.
2010 - 2011 PER-48 stats
As you can see if you are fan of Wins Produced, the Jazz have a big problem: their best player is currently playing in Moscow. Whether or not he wants to return (or if the Jazz want him to return) seems pretty unclear. But a couple of things are clear: Devin Harris is no replacement for Deron Williams (I left him in the table just for comparison), and the Jazz could really use a big man. If the plan is to replace Kirilenko with Josh Howard, the Jazz are in for a very rude awakening:
Per48 Comparison of raw stats
Howard is not the same player who was once a cornerpiece of a great Dallas team, and hasn't been for many years. He's been a very inefficient scorer the last few years. Frankly the Jazz are worse off for signing him; he's likely to cost the team a win or two this year.
Then there are a couple of unclear variables: Is Jeremy Evans the real deal? Those were limited minutes but my goodness, 10 rebounds per 48 and 68% TS% is impressive. If he can keep it up over a larger sample, the Jazz have a nice piece, even though at 25, he's old for a sophomore. Will Derek Favors continue to improve? He was also solid in limited minutes, and he's very young (and therefore likely to improve). The other unknowns are Alec Burk and Enes Kanter. No one's really seen Kanter play much, but in limited minutes this preseason it sure looks like the kid can play. Burks, on the other hand, has shown a ton of athleticism while grabbing almost no rebounds and shooting lots of bricks.
Given the stiff competition in the west, and in particular in the Northwest, it's hard to see this team playing .500 ball even if Kirilenko returns. Without him, things don't look good. I'm optimistically pencilling in Kanter to perform at the average NBA level (which is very good for a rookie), but even in that case this team's ceiling is probably 30 wins (in 66 games). If the sophomores improve (and get burn), the team might be good enough to have a winning record, but that won't be enough for a playoff spot.