The young team from last year has gained playoff experience, had the offseason to train with each other, and former general manager and current Jazz executive Kevin O’ Connor has continued to play moneyball with this small-market franchise. The foundation of this year’s Jazz differs from that which has been used by O’ Connor in years past.
O’ Connor has been at the helm of Utah’s day-to-day operations since 1999. He’s now taken on a different role with the Jazz and has accepted the title of Senior Vice President of Basketball operations.
His first act of business: Hire a new GM.
His name is Dennis Lindsey and he’s fresh off his latest gig as assistant general manager with the San Antonio Spurs. Lindsey is younger and helped piece together quite the squad in San Antonio.
O’ Connor will work closely with Lindsey, but has stated that he would prefer not to micromanage him. Prior to being promoted, O’ Connor made some roster moves that focus on the Jazz’ glaring weakness from last year: outside shooting.
Mo Williams originally came into the league with the Utah Jazz in the 2003 NBA draft. He was selected the 47th overall pick in the 2nd round, and was used sparingly in his time in Salt Lake City. After having been around the league for a while, Williams was brought back to Utah in a four team trade that sent Utah’s trade exception to the Dallas Mavericks.
As a career 39 percent three point shooter, Williams would have led the Jazz in three point shooting last year and will be vital in spreading the floor for Utah’s talented big men; Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. Another big move made by the Jazz was shipping starting point guard Devin Harris to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Marvin Williams.
The former North Carolina Tar Heel and lottery pick plays small and power forward and often found himself guarding the opposing team’s star wing players. An above average defender, Williams will combine with Gordon Hayward to shut down star wing players. He is also a career 32 percent shooter from long distance and averages over 11 points per game.
Marvin will be able to make a big difference offensively and defensively for the Jazz this season. There are a couple familiar faces on the Jazz for recently signed combo guard Randy Foye. Foye recently signed a one year deal with the Jazz and will probably be the starting two-guard this season. Al Jefferson and Mo Williams have both played with Foye in previous seasons. Foye will be able to help Utah in their quest to improve outside shooting.
Foye would shot 39 percent from beyond the arc last season, and with Utah’s other outside shooters and low post dominance that number should remain high this season. Although the Jazz have three point guards that will see good amounts of playing time this year, there is a good chance that Foye could see some time at the one spot. He’s proven that he is comfortable with it in the past, and his versatility will be a large asset to Utah’s offense.
C.J. Miles contract option was picked up by the Jazz at the end of the 2011 season. Miles was originally drafted by Utah in the second round and had played seven seasons with the Jazz. After seeing declines in every major statistic, a steady drop in playing time and fan support, Miles and the club both decided it was time to part ways.
Miles would sign a free-agent contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
After spending two seasons with the Jazz on his second stint in Salt Lake City, Raja Bell had had enough. The Jazz’ leading three-point-shooter from last year had limited playing time, at best, by the end of last season. Bell was frustrated by lack of playing time and the coaching style of head coach Tyrone Corbin.
Bell has been seeking a buyout with the Utah Jazz all offseason, no deal has been reached, however. Josh Howard’s future with the Jazz is in jeopardy. The former All-Star has been working out, and negotiating with the Charlotte Bobcats, and New York Knicks, among others.
With the roster additions and the pending development of Jazz youngsters Favors, Kanter, Hayward, and Alec Burks, the Jazz could do some real damage in the top-heavy Western Conference this year. I expect the roster changes to help the Jazz improve 4-5 games this season.
It’s common belief amongst “Jazz Nation” that outside shooting will help Utah to become a contender in the West. The fanbase hasn’t been this excited for a season since 07-08 when the Jazz made the Western Conference Finals.
Look for the Jazz to improve a lot this season.