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Utah Jazz 2014-15 Season Preview

SLC Dunk contributor Jon Midget joins Blazer's Edge to discuss the 2014-15 Utah Jazz, continuing a month-long, 30-team NBA season preview feature.

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Over the next month, Blazer's Edge will be rolling out season previews for all 30 NBA teams. Continuing this feature, we discuss the Utah Jazz with SLC Dunk contributor Jon Midget.

Utah Jazz 2014-15 Season Preview

2013-14 Record: 25-57, No. 5 in Northwest Division, No. 15 in Western Conference

Roster additions: Trevor Booker, Dee Bost, Jack Cooley, Dante Exum (rookie, No. 5), Carrick Felix, Rodney Hood (rookie, No. 23), Dahntay Jones, Brock Motum, Kevin Murphy, Toure' Murry, Steve Novak

Roster subtractions: Andris Biedrins, Diante Garrett, Richard Jefferson, John Lucas, Brandon Rush, Jamaal Tinsley, Marvin Williams

SB Nation affiliate: SLC Dunk


Blazer's Edge: Gordon Hayward was offered a four-year, $63 million deal by the Charlotte Hornets this summer that the Jazz matched. Do you think he's worthy of a max deal? If not, how does Hayward need to improve? It looks like he had a pretty down year shooting the ball in 2013-14 ... What do you expect from him going forward?

Jon Midget: Well, compared to other players making similar amounts, Hayward seems overpaid. He certainly is if he continues to shoot as poorly as he did last year. That said, his contract is almost completely painless for the Jazz: they were far under the cap anyway, they had no extensions coming up that would put them over the cap over the next couple of years, and they aren't in a position to really make a run at quality free agents right now. Really, despite the overpay, there's almost no downside to the contract for the Jazz right now. Without paying Hayward, they would have had to do another Richard Jefferson + Andris Biedrins for $20 million to reach the salary floor. I'll take Hayward for $15 million over Beans and RJ for $20 million all day every day.

The Jazz are also done sucking on purpose. If they are going to become a quality team, they can't let their quality players walk. And despite the overpay, Hayward is a very good player. He contributes everywhere (scoring, passing, rebounding, steals, and blocks), and honestly if he had managed to shoot decently last year, nobody would be scoffing at his contract.

This year I expect similar scoring numbers from Gordon with better shooting percentages. Basically, he won't be asked to be the GORDON HAYWARD, #1 OPTION AND BASKETBALL GOD this year ... and that will be a good thing. However, I think his assist numbers will likely go down as a result too ... other guys will have the ball in their hands more.

Again though, this will be a good thing.

BE: Unlike Hayward, Derrick Favors had a career-year last season, scoring over 13 points per game and averaging 8.7 rebounds. Do you think he'll continue improving? What are the strengths and weaknesses of Favors' game?

JM: Favors really made a nice big step last year. Hopefully the Leap to Greatness follows this year. I do think he's going to continue improving over the next two years, and I'm excited to see what he can become. He needs to continue improving his shot away from the hoop (15 footers, hook shots, baseline turnaround J's, etc.). He has made a lot of improvement already, but there's still more to go. He has great athleticism, and he has the raw tools to be a fantastic defender and rim protector. But it has yet to be put together.

I believe that a 17 ppg, 11 rbd, 2 ast, 2 blk, 2 stl kind of season average is an attainable hope ... and I think he's closer to this than many realize.

BE: Rookie Dante Exum had an underwhelming Summer League, though to be fair, he's only 19 years old. What does he bring to the Jazz, and how do you expect him to integrate into coach Quin Snyder's rotation?

JM: I think Dante will bring excitement, athleticism, and some flat out mind-boggling passes. Sadly, his shot will likely clank a lot more than it swishes this year, and I'd be surprised if he is physically ready for more than 20-24 minutes per night this year. I expect a lot of promise, some flashes of brilliance, and some hard nights. However, if he does what he needs to this year and next summer, I think he'll be ready to take on a much bigger role next season.

BE: There doesn't figure to be a starter for the Jazz over the age of 24. In fact, Trevor Booker, 26, might be the oldest, most experienced rotation player. This season won't be judged on wins and losses, right? What would you consider a successful 2014-15 season for the Jazz?

JM: A brilliant season will include:

1. Hawyard returning to acceptable shooting percentages while still doing everything else that made him a valuable player.
2. One or two of Alec Burks, Derrick Favors, and Enes Kanter making a leap in productivity.
3. Trey Burke making a jump to decent starter-quality PG.
4. Dante Exum showing more than occasional flashes of magic, suggesting that while his body may not be ready, his skills are already there.
5. Rudy Gobert becoming a high efficiency, low usage, rim protecting, rebound snarfing monster. Really, Gobert could become something terrifying.
6. Coach Quin Snyder puts together an offense and defense that works, while helping his guys show clear, tangible improvement as the season progresses.

A successful one would include maybe 1/3 or 1/2 of the dream scenario above, and an increase in wins to the low 30's.

BE: Is there a "breakout" player on Utah's roster, or someone you predict might surprise Jazz fans with unexpected contributions this year?

JM: Potential Breakout players:

1. Alec Burks. I love this guy, and I think he will have a pretty strong year as he finally ... FINALLY ... gets the chance to start and play 32+ minutes per game. I think Alec will turn out to be the team's leading scorer next year.
2. Derrick Favors. I think he has at least another big step in him, and the #'s I mentioned above are a reasonable dream. Not what to expect. Not what to just assume he'll get. But a reasonable dream.
3. Enes Kanter. I really do think Gobert is the C of the future for the Jazz, but Kanter could prove everyone wrong.

Unexpected contributions:

1. Trevor Booker. This guy's been really solid, and I think everybody will be excited with his contributions.
2. Rodney Hood. He's mostly overlooked with Exum as the headliner rookie, but Hood could become a very decent player. And he's honestly more likely to be helpful right away.
3. Rudy Gobert. I don't know why I put him here, since most hardcore Jazz fans are obsessed with him right now. But I think many of the casual fans could find themselves  wide-eyed with wonder as they see him do his thing in the paint defensively.

Special thanks to SLC Dunk contributor Jon Midget for taking the time discuss the Utah Jazz' upcoming season with Blazer's Edge. He can be found on twitter @YuccaManHoopsSLC Dunk has you covered for Jazz news and analysis.

-- Chris Lucia | | Twitter