The past two NBA seasons have provided a stage for the Utah Jazz to show their immense talent. Despite being able to compete with any team in the NBA, the Jazz are usually left off of lists when talking about the elite teams in the NBA. This year, however, the Jazz are primed to be one of the top contenders for the Larry OíBrien trophy. With great coaching from Jerry Sloan, the Jazz have a premier point guard in Deron Williams and a top-notch post player in Carlos Boozer. Surrounding the two stars is a slew of great role players who complement each other very well. The Jazz have the potential to be representing the Western Conference in the Finals, but it still seems as though they are missing at least one more player before they are ready to take the NBA title to Salt Lake City.
Offense: The Utah Jazz had their best success with a point guard/power forward duo in John Stockton and Karl Malone. It seems funny how the thing that brought the team back to prominence was another point guard/power forward duo. Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer are arguably the most effective one-two punch in the league and Jerry Sloan certainly knows how to maximize their production on the court. With Boozer clogging the middle, it allows for big man Mehmet Okur to patrol around the perimeter and spread the floor for Deron Williams to create. Along with Okur, the Jazz have deadly shooter Kyle Korver and Andrei Kirilenko who cuts to the basket like few can in the league. With all of these weapons, Deron Williams doesnít have to take risks on offense, he just takes his time and waits for things to adjust, because they always do in Jerry Sloanís system. However, if by chance the passing routes are shut down, Williams can take the ball to the basket himself as he can overpower just about any opposing point guard. The jazz averaged 106.2 points per game and should average about the same this year. Though the offense is very mechanical, and somewhat predictable, it ultimately works and is actually a thing of beauty.
Defense: The defense of the Utah Jazz isnít fantastic or all that intimidating, but is still very effective. The team rarely breaks down defensively as they donít take too many risks on the floor; they just wait for things to come, just like on offense. Andrei Kirilenko is a spectacular player on defense but has shown an inconsistency. His inconsistency is hidden for the most part by the great team defense. Kirilenko plays a role rather than carrying the team, which mostly prevents a defensive lapse on his part. Kirilenko is the teamís best defender and has been for a long time, but fading into the team defense makes him much more valuable on the floor. The Jazz still donít have one of the best defenses in the league, but it is effective enough to get them easy victories when combined with their offense.
Strengths: The Jazz donít seem to take many risks on either side of the floor, and this balanced play is their best strength, aside from the Williams/Boozer duo. The depth of the Jazz is also very strong and the bench provides immediate help if a starter goes down or is just tired. The strengths of this team donít leave too many openings for a weakness.
Weaknesses: As stated above, there arenít many weaknesses on this team. The mechanical play, however, can be used against them. Though the offense is very effective, its near constant repetition sometimes allows for teams to figure out ways of preventing its use. Oddly, it doesnít happen very much, but it cannot be denied that it does in fact occur.
Five Players to Watch:
Deron Williams - Deron Williams is just as valuable to the Jazz as Chris Paul is to the Hornets and he is the motor that keeps this tem running. His steady leadership from the point guard position provides strength for this team to compete against anyone in the league. His size and strength gives him the ability to get to the basket with ease and create open shots for his teammates without too much worry. With Deron Williams, the Jazz have a great future ahead of them. Whether or not the future includes multiple Finalsí experiences may be completely up to Deron Williams.
Carlos Boozer - Though his performance in the Playoffs was less than impressive, Carlos Boozer is still one of the most important pieces to this teamís success. His ability to post up bigger players as well as take the defense out to the elbow is invaluable to the offense. Side from his great scoring, he is one of the best rebounders in the game and although he doesnít rack up defensive numbers, he is a pretty reliable defender in the post. His most valuable trait, though, is that he is the perfect complement to Deron Williams on offense. With the ability to opt out next summer, Boozer could have a great year, or perhaps he will bring unneeded problems to the team.
Mehmet Okur - Memo brings size and great shooting to the Jazz, which spreads the floor for the rest of the team. In the clutch, he is the most reliable player on the team, save for Deron Williams. Like Boozer, Okur has the ability to opt out of his contract this next summer, and that will bring worries to the team. His play, however, will likely silence any detractors of his possible intentions.
Andrei Kirilenko - AK47 used to be a one-man defensive force, but the Jazz have a great team defense and Kirilenko fits in perfectly as a role player rather than putting everything on his shoulders. His days of putting up 5x5s seem to be over, but he still has the potential to erupt on any given night. Kirilenko also has the unique ability to be able to defend both post and wing players with expertise. His value to this team has never diminished, and his solid playmaking makes him a reliable player on offense just as much as on defense. Even though his career has been full of ups and downs, he seems to have finally found a spot in the rotation and this season could be the most important of his career.
Ronnie Brewer - One of the most improved players in the league last year was shooting guard Ronnie Brewer. Brewer is a solid perimeter defender and shows no fear when attacking the basket. This year it sounds like he will be battling for time at the shooting guard position. Brewer is a great two-way player, and assuming he gets enough playing time, he could be the player that pushes this team farther into the postseason.
Title Hopes: The Jazz have a shot, but as stated before, it still seems that they are missing one more player that could put them over the top. Perhaps they have that player, but for now, it looks like they will miss out on the Finals once again.
Prediction: 1st Place, Northwest Division