Ask and ye shall receive.
Utah Jazz fans yelled loud enough during the 2012-2013 season that the front office finally heard them. The Jazz are going to the young guys to lead the team for the upcoming year.
What I like about the whole situation is that Jazz fans have the right attitude about it. They know there is potential for the Jazz to struggle at the beginning of the season while the young guns adjust to being the top dogs in Salt Lake City. But don’t let the potential early-season struggles scare you off; come February, the Jazz could have things all figured out to make a run at the playoffs.
No longer will Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter have to ride the bench, as Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap both went into free agency and left for other teams. Jefferson went to the Charlotte Bobcats, and Millsap went to the Atlanta Hawks.
To make matters even better for the two young big men Favors and Kanter, Karl Malone rejoined the organization as an assistant coach in hopes to help those two become dominant. Kanter already likes to shoot low-post shots, and with Malone’s help he could perfect that shot. Can you imagine Kanter clearing the low post with his furious arms like Malone used to do? And then with the lane cleared, Kanter could put up an 8- to 10-foot jumper.
Favors’ offense is what needs the most help, and with Malone showing him the ropes, the only way he can go is up.
What does the youth movement mean for Alec Burks? He’s the spitting image of a young Dwyane Wade or Kobe Bryant, and now he has the chance to develop the skills of a true shooting guard. Trading up to draft point guard Trey Burke out of Michigan finally gives Burks the chance to play his true position.
Now, is Burks as talented as Wade or Bryant? Probably not. But he’s got great potential, and he hasn’t had a chance in his first two seasons to really show what he can do. We’ve seen his athleticism, and that will only continue to grow with minutes on the floor.
As for Burke, the potential always exists for draft picks to not work out, but he’s surrounded by at least two potential superstars in Favors and Burks. Will there be growing pains at the beginning? Absolutely. Don’t make the mistake in thinking Burke will be an all-star from day one. However, over the course of an 82-game season, Burke will start to figure things out. When he does, that will be the moment the Jazz start to pick things up and make a playoff run.
Then there is Gordon Hayward, the small forward who drives to the rim with surprising success. Hayward has his off nights, but when he’s on, he’s on. With a proper point guard to make plays, Hayward can now move around and get open. It will make his drives to the hoop with sweet finishes at the rim all the more available.
It’ll be a fun year of Utah Jazz basketball. With the Los Angeles Lakers likely down in the dumps this season with the departure of Dwight Howard, those final playoff spots are wide open. This is the growing year where the Jazz players will have to learn about themselves and then make a run. But in future years, those top seeds in the Western Conference are a legitimate possibility.