Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Once again back is the incredible ... Ball Don't Lie's NBA previews, outlining offseason moves, projecting win totals, spinning tracks and much, much more. It's a fun, hot mess. Up next, the Utah Jazz.

2008-09 Record: 48-34, third place in Northwest Division
Head Coach/Facial Hair: Jerry Sloan/None
Key Additions: Eric Maynor(notes)
Key Losses: Matt Harpring(notes) (?), Morris Almond(notes), Jarron Collins(notes)

A whole lot worries me about this Jazz team. I see holes in the roster and quite a few potential holes in the attitude.

"Holes in the attitude." I'm becoming your local newspaper columnist. Sign me up for some khakis.

Last season seemed like one big holding pattern. The team assumed that Carlos Boozer(notes) would opt out of his contract after 2008-09, and seemed to play at times like the season just didn't count. Like it didn't really matter until the roster situation could figure itself out following Boozer's departure and/or whatever the Jazz received as compensation in any sign-and-trade.

I don't think I'm reading too much into things when I point out that injuries to Boozer and a nagging ankle issue that dogged Deron Williams(notes) sort of allowed for this mindset to sustain. Wait until 2009-10 comes, when everything will be all right.

Except, Carlos Boozer's still here. Whoops.

Boozer didn't opt out of his contract, and the last memory most of us have of the Jazz is the picture of a team that barely looked the part of a playoff participant late last season. Utah absolutely packed it in. The Jazz weren't dispassionate, they just didn't execute and continually lost track of their opponents while on defense. This was a bad team just waiting for the season to end.

And now, a few months later, and the team is back? Same team? Why am I getting excited about this?

The Jazz will win games. They have 60-win, conference-finalist talent. The offense could vault back up to the top three in offensive efficiency with Williams and Boozer healthy. But if things sniff of that same holding pattern, and it really does reek of more of the same, the team will struggle.

Like, on the road. This is a veteran crew with a Hall of Fame coach, so how in the hell do you explain away a 15-26 road record from last season?

The shooting? There isn't any. Ronnie Brewer(notes) and Andrei Kirilenko(notes) are your wings and that's ... that's not going to work. It didn't last year. It won't this year.

The defense? Improving, but what if Mehmet Okur(notes) (who turned 30 last May) starts to show his age?

The incessant fouling? Also improved, though for such a good and potentially great team, the Jazz still do foul more than they should.

Williams will have a lot to work through, but he is due for an absolutely stellar season. He never looked right last season. The balance and timing and lower body strength just wasn't there, but DW still managed to put up fantastic statistics. I see huge things for him.

I can't imagine Boozer being much of a problem; he's too passive-aggressive for that. And I don't see the Jazz trading him unless they get a significant upgrade who also happens to be an expiring contract - why make a deal for one year of Tyrus Thomas(notes) and Jerome James(notes) when you can have one year of Carlos Boozer? And don't expect a deal for any contract that goes past 2009-10; Utah will be well into the luxury tax this season, something they're trying to make into a singular occurrence.

Next season? Could be great. You'll have that Knicks lottery pick to work with. Boozer will be gone. Things will have straightened out.

In the meantime, yeah, these are your Jazz. Same thing. Paul Millsap's(notes) always been a good soldier, so he'll be fantastic. The offense is there, the defense is in the middle of the road and there's the potential to do something great in the spring.

Same as it was last season.

Prediction: 49-33

Kelly Dwyer

Is Jerry Sloan holding this team back?

Think about it. Advanced statistics tell you certain Jazz players are better served playing specific positions, but do you get the feeling Sloan is opening his laptop every morning to see what the data registers at 82games.com are telling him? And what would the Jazz's record be if they stopped giving up point after point because of early quarter fouls given under the team's "no layups" rule. Sometimes giving a team an easy two points in one spot denies them the chance to score eight points later on.

— KD, Yahoo! Sports 2009-10 NBA Preview magazine

SLC Dunk: "The Jazz still have one of the best offenses in the league. Three seasons ago when they went to the WCF, they had the third-best offensive rating. The year after that they were first in that same category. And last season, with injuries littering the Salt Lake valley, they were still a respectable eighth. While it comes at a very, very high cost (almost $50M), the Jazz have one of the best frontcourts in the league in Okur, Boozer, Millsap and Andrei Kirilenko. That gives you three former All-Stars and at least half of them play respectable 'D.' As for the logjam at PF, if and when Boozer gets traded, it looks like Sloan will find a way to get both of them 30+ minutes. There has been some experimentation with Paul at the SF in the preseason. He won't play significant minutes there, but in some matchups, he could be there. Also, Kirilenko can play SF, PF and even some C. Millsap and Boozer playing together, mass hysteria." [more]

True Blue Jazz: "... injuries hurt the team last year, so the eighth spot might've been an anomaly. But, still, teams around us improved and the Jazz did very little to their core. So I'm not going to expect a huge jump. But I have to think that the team competes for the Northwest all season, and gets to at least the second round of the playoffs. Anything above that is just extra. Also goals ... finding a solid wing (Boozer trade?) and getting a top pick (via the Knicks, of course). One of them they can control, the other they can't. Let's see how it goes. Maybe someone develops into the shooter this team needs? Oh, and can we find a way to trade for Ryan Anderson(notes)? Please? Don't the Magic owe us for taking Gordan Giricek(notes) off of their hands?" [more]

John McMullen: "The Jazz are a solid team that must find a way to win on the road to take the next step. The team has salary-cap problems so health and internal seasoning are the only options for improvement. A postseason berth is a forgone conclusion but it's hard to imagine Utah making a serious run at the Lakers this season. 'We can be really explosive,' Boozer said. 'We have a very talented group of guys and coach has a great depth on this team. We have to go out and prove it.'" [more]

Brenda Holloway, "Every Little Bit Hurts"

C'mon, Utah Jazzymen. You need to chill out with the fouling all the time. Those things add up. Yeah, yeah, "no layups" or whatever. You do realize that you're basically just giving away points at the free-throw line, right? Just let it slide every once in a while. The Spurs do, and things have worked out OK for them. Just be chill, Jazzymen. Just. Be. Chill.

— Trey Kerby, The Blowtorch

If Carlos Boozer had stuck to his guns and opted out, things would be a lot more cut-and-dry in Utah. As it is, he'll combine with Mehmet Okur and Paul Millsap to form the frontcourt rotation, limiting Millsap's ceiling and emanating bad vibes in general. Okur is steady and offers unique contributions as a 3-point shooting center. He's one of a number of solid FC options going around Rounds 5-6. Millsap is a fantasy favorite thanks to career per-36 minute averages that include 10.1 boards, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks, but he'll have to make due for at least a few more months as a reserve. And Boozer is no lock to be dealt, as he'd be a clear short-term rental. Much of the shine is off Boozer's 20/10 production thanks to injury and general circumstance — if you want to pass on him in Round 5 out of principle, you won't be blamed.

Deron Williams is the one given on this roster. Somewhere around 19/10 with good percentages are a lock, and continued incremental improvements at age 25 are to be expected. He's a very solid pick around the beginning of Round 2, with average-ish steals and threes keeping him from truly elite status. Andrei Kirilenko is far removed from his five steals-plus-blocks heyday, but he still provides some defensive stats and they come at a very friendly discount. Don't overlook him in the middle rounds. Ronnie Brewer ranks among the regular draft bargains in fantasy hoops, and his excellence in the steals category is consistently underrated. The 24-year-old could be poised for a breakout in his fourth season, so be sure he's among your targets around Round 9.

— Matt Buser, Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Basketball / BuserSports.com

Sign up now for Fantasy Basketball '09.

FarmerJerryS: Is this Twatter thing on? Hello? [/pause] Tammy, I think I broke it. [/smashes keyboard]
2:58 PM Oct 19th from web

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