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NBA Preview: Utah Jazz


Record:  51-31, 1st Northwest Division, 5th in Western Conference

Statistical Comparisons:


2nd in field goal %  
29th in three-point %  


7th in the league in scoring (101.5 ppg)
17th in opponent scoring (98.6 ppg)
8th  in ppg differential (+2.9 ppg)
11th in opponent field goal %
2nd in assists
20th in steals
22nd in blocks
21st in turnovers
11th in opponent turnovers
Superb offensive rebounding team
Very Good defensive rebounding team

Significant Additions:  
Jason Hart, Morris Almond (R), Kyrylo Fesenko (R)

Significant Subtractions:
Derek Fisher

Jerry Sloan

Key Players

PG:  Deron Williams, Jason Hart
SG:   Gordon Giricek, Ronnie Brewer, Morris Almond
SF:  Andre Kirilenko, Matt Harpring
PF:  Carlos Boozer, Paul Millsap
C:  Mehmet Okur, Jarron Collins

Comments:  Phoenix, Dallas, and San Antonio are the money-in-the-bank teams in the West.  Utah is probably the best of the rest.  Houston is a sexier pick and Denver is more exciting but the Jazz have a good roster of talent, a great coach, and the kind of night in, night out production you need to win in a long NBA season.

There are plenty of better known one-two punches than Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer but those two lead their team in steady production.  Neither is perfect but you know what you're going to get every night. Boozer will give you 20 points or more and double-digit rebounds.  He's not a good defender but he anchors the team's scoring.  Deron Williams is a big-bodied guard who knows how to distribute and can score as well.  He's a popular pick for the hottest young point in the league.  Mehmet Okur isn't as dependable as the other two-thirds of Utah's big three but he stretches out the floor as well as any big in the league with his shooting.  Between them those three make the Jazz an intimidating offensive team.  

The Jazz also have a darn good supporting cast.  Matt Harpring is an all-purpose linebacker of a player.  Paul Millsap made a nice impression with his scoring and rebounding in his rookie year, looking like an heir apparent to Boozer.  Andre Kirilenko has fallen way off from his past glory which is one of the few things keeping Utah out of the league's elite.  If he wakes up and shapes up, look out.  Jason Hart replaces Derek Fisher as the back-up point, providing a little more potential but far less experience.

If there's a weak spot on the team it's shooting guard.  The Jazz have been trying to replace Gordon Giricek for years and haven't managed to do it yet.  Fisher took many of the off-guard minutes last year but with his departure they'll be hoping Ronnie Brewer grows up quick.

The Jazz are a pretty good defensive team and one of the top rebounding teams in the league, both of which contribute to their dependable excellence.

Add it all up and you get a team that's unlikely to drop and may even get a little better.  Unfortunately being very solid and very good isn't quite enough in the West nowadays because all of the teams mentioned in the opening of these comments are just as solid and a notch above very good.  It's not hard to imagine the Jazz being able to overcome one of them in a playoff series but it's likely they'll have to fight through two.  As good as this team is that's a longshot.  They didn't improve enough to move clearly into the league's elite this year.  They're young, however, and they have time.

--Dave (