Posted by: Ryan Walker on December 5th, 2011The author's views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of the Utah Jazz.
Christmas for me, as i’m sure was the case with many of you came about a month early this year. With the lockout mess over and done with, and comfortably in our rear view mirror (for at least 6 years) it’s time to get back to basketball. On a small side note i’d like to shout out to all the kids in my 2nd grade class that made fun of me for believing in Santa Claus… looks like i was right all along, he is real!
I just wanted to take a quick look at three questions facing the Jazz this season.
1. Can the Jazz have a successful season, while giving sufficient time to develop their younger core of players?
Other than the older teams in the NBA with a “Win Now” mentality, I felt teams like the Jazz had the most to lose by missing an entire season. With young and unpolished players, albeit with tons of potential and very high ceilings, it’s imperative that they get real game experience as often as they can. For proof, look no further than our very own Gordon Hayward. I think most of us like to remember his 22pt 6reb 5ast 2stl outing against the mighty Lakers in LA, where Hayward led the Jazz to a huge win in the Staples Center. Or his brilliant season ending performance against Denver at home where he poured in 34 points on 12-17 fg and a blistering 5-6 from beyond the arc. Let’s not forget though, early on in the season when Gordy looked very uncomfortable on the court, at one point almost getting his head taken off by some high and tight chin music thrown by a frustrated D-Will. Going from the College game to the NBA can be a tough and unforgiving transition, and even the most skilled players need time to learn and grow to feel comfortable with the pace of the game. While the Jazz do enjoy the “problem” of having three top-10 picks, and a #12 pick all within the first two seasons of their NBA careers, we also have experienced and proven veterans that know how to win. This isn’t a complete re-building year, nor should it be, because there is no better way to groom young players than to surround them with proven winners. With players like Devin Harris, Paul Millsap, Big Al, Raja, CJ, and possibly A.k. along with our young stars, i believe that the Jazz can easily be a .500 team or better this year with probably a 5-1 chance of grabbing that 8th seed out West.
2. Will this be the year that C.J. contributes and plays at a high level on a consistent basis?
I’ve always been a C.J. fan and believe he can be a very good player in this league. While i’m not naive enough to discount the fact that he has been very inconsistent over the years, he has shown flashes of brilliance that lead me to believe he is due for a breakout year. We can’t forget that while he has been in the league for 6 years, he is only 24 years old! At his best he is a guy with a dynamic skill set- he is big and strong, can shoot the ball at a high level (at times), can create his own shot, and plays above the rim. I’ve always felt like with C.J. that it is more of a mental block that keeps him from reaching his full potential, and not necessarily that that is the kind of player he is. I’m predicting a big year for C.J. especially since he has Hayward and Burks vying for minutes at the wing.
3. Which young player will make the biggest impact this year?
We haven’t seen enough of Kanter to really know what we’ve got exactly, and i think with him more than anyone else it will probably be a work in progress. Although Hayward and Favors are easy picks here, I think that most Jazz fans will expect them to play at a high level and contribute right from the start. I believe that Alec Burks will be the draft’s biggest surprise and will make the biggest impact for the Jazz. Although he shot very poorly from the 3 pt line in college, and most scouts pointed to shooting the ball as his weakness, Burks is going to prove a lot of people wrong. I had the opportunity to watch him at the Jazz charity game at SLCC a month or two ago, and while i understand that it was an exhibition game. Burks stole the show. He shot a ridiculous 12-13 or something close to that from the field and five of those were from beyond the arc. He is a natural slasher/scorer, but i think he is a much better shooter than people give him credit for and if he fulfills his potential, I think he has an even higher ceiling than Wes Matthews does. While he is still unproven that is just my opinion and gut feeling, the kid is going to be special. His coach at Colorado had this to say about him-
“He’s a better shooter than people give him credit for; I see it in practice every day. He’s so good with the ball going to the basket, virtually anytime he wants. Because of that, he doesn’t shoot a lot of jump shots. He scores a lot of his points at the free-throw line because he gets to the rim so often.”
While there are many more questions to be answered with the start of the NBA season, those were just a few that were on my mind. I think as Jazz fans we should all be very excited not only about this season, but the future in general of our young and upcoming team. GO JAZZ!!!
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