Record 25 – 57
Points per game 95.0 (29th)
Points allowed per game 102.2 (18th)
What went wrong?
Losing their two best players in Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap to free agency was the major blow for the Jazz. Jefferson averaged 17.8 points per game and Millsap was shooting 14.6 per game. This had a great effect on Utah’s offensive output, especially early as they tried to adapt to the players no longer there. Add Mo Williams to the group and you have 45.3 points per game leaving the team. This led to the Jazz moving from 13th in points per game last season, to this season’s lowly rank of 29th.
Another thing that hindered their season was the early injury to Trey Burke, the highly touted rookie missed the first month of the season with a finger injury. Without him the Jazz struggled to get anything going on offense and resulted in the team losing 14 of the first 15 games.
The Jazz struggled on both ends of the floor. They failed to make good shots, which resulted in their team shooting a poor 44.4 percent from the field, and they didn’t take care of the ball, leading to their 25th ranked assist to turnover ratio. They were terrible on defense from all spots on the floor, and it is one area that the new coach will have to get right.
What went right?
The continued development from their young players. The Jazz have a solid base to work with. Burke looks to be point guard to build around and the team looked a lot better once he started playing. Alec Burks is another young player that improved from the season before, averaging 14 points on 45.7 percent in his second year shows that he and Burke can combine to make a great back court duo.
Enes Kanter is still a raw player that will take time to progress, but he seems to be making steady improvements and will be valuable to the team in a few years.
With the team finishing with the worst record in the West they are guaranteed to pick up a pick inside seventh, and with this draft being so good, you can argue that this is a positive for the Jazz.
Team MVP – Gordon Hayward
In the absence of Jefferson and Millsap, Hayward took the role of the team’s top player, and had a great season. He scored 16.2 points, grabbed 5.1 rebounds and dished out 5.2 assist per game. Although he had career lows in field goal and three point shooting percentage due to becoming more of a playmaker, he managed to adjust to being the opposition’s focal point and won over a lot of General Managers with his play. He was also one of five players this season to put up averages of at least 15 points, five rebounds, and five assists.
Most likely to be there next year
As stated earlier the Jazz will hold onto all their young talent. Expect to see Burke, Burks, Kanter getting heavy minutes, Jeremy Evans and Rudy Gobert are the other guaranteed contracts that will be back.
Who has played their last game for the team?
Utah has a few high contracts expiring this season and I find it hard that they keep all of these players. Richard Jefferson is a veteran that played a lot through the season, but I highly doubt the Jazz will hold onto him going forward, especially if they are trying to build through youth. Marvin Williams and Brandon Rush are also expensive expiring contracts that the Jazz are likely to let go.
Who could they bring in?
Even though they will have a lot of cap space next season, don’t expect the Jazz to spend money on players just because they have it. Utah will continue their youth policy and I will be very surprised if they make a big splash in free agency.
Now the Jazz will look to replace sacked coach Tyrone Corbin and start the rebuild. They have their own top pick and also the Warriors first round pick in this year’s draft, which should allow them to have a great young core that will lead them for several years. Utah needs to re-sign restricted free agent Hayward to help the younger players with their transition. With the potential to clear $25.5 million in cap space, they should be able to match any other teams offer on Hayward, even they have to pay up to $12 million for him.
They have a potentially great frontcourt, with Hayward, Kanter, Derrick Favors, and the often forgotten Gobert looking promising if given enough minutes.
In choosing their next coach it is important that they find a guy that is able to develop and get the most out of the young team. And one that can fix the defensive troubles they have.
They have a great opportunity to build a very good team; they just need to make the right decisions now.