Though answers for the 2012-13 Utah Jazz are in short supply and the ones we have may be few and far between, we do know that the current roster for the Jazz is much improved.
Jazz executives took it upon themselves to not only change the roster, but enhance it in many different areas. The major question that will plague Jazz fans until opening game on Oct. 8 is: How do these improvements translate into victories?
There are a couple of things that “Jazz Nation” should hope stay in place: High scoring basketball and excellent rebounding.
Utah was fourth in the NBA in scoring last season, averaging 99.7 points per game, and was good enough on the glass to be ranked third in the league in total rebounds. While succeeding in these two statistical categories is vital to success, everyone in Salt Lake City knows that there are other things that need to change.
The Jazz were on the short end of 13 games last season that were decided by six points or less. Their combined three point shooting in those games was an atrocious 47-164 (28 percent). Had they been more capable of making their outside shots, who knows what the outcome to those close games would have been?
Acknowledging the Achilles heel, GM Kevin O’ Connor made some big decisions. The additions of Mo Williams, Marvin Williams and Randy Foye dramatically improve the team’s shooting from outside. The three newcomers made more three pointers last year (278) than the entire Jazz squad combined (273).
Not only did O’ Connor reach out through free agency and trades, but in the NBA draft the GM drafted Kevin Murphy in the second round. The Tennessee Tech product shot 41 percent from beyond the arc as a senior last season.
Utah’s improved outside shooting is apparent but the Jazz, with their additions, have improved their rebounding as well. Players on the Jazz roster for 2012-13 (excluding Murphy) brought in an average of 49 rebounds per game, an improvement on the 44 rebounds Utah averaged in 2011-12. Murphy is a good rebounder for his frame as well, having averaged 5.2 boards per game.
The more athletic, new-look Jazz will continue to be a high scoring team this season and have stronger, quicker defenders than the seasons past. The enhancement of Utah’s outside shooting will be able to spread the floor for Al Jefferson and company in the Jazz’s flex offense as well.
With the lockout-shortened season last year, the Jazz (36-30) won the equivalent of 44 games. With better outside shooting, more athletic players and elite rebounders, you can expect the Jazz to win around 50 games and to be the fourth to seventh seed in the top-heavy Western Conference.