As the NBA season rapidly approaches its climax for the Utah Jazz, a multitude of questions arise for general manager Dennis Lindsey about who the Jazz should keep for next season, and who should be let go in the wake of one of the worst seasons in Utah Jazz history.
When the Jazz took on the expiring contracts of Brandon Rush, Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson, it was widely thought that Rush would be the only one to survive the chopping block once the potentially disastrous season came to a close. Yet here sit the Jazz, five months later, deciding whether or not to re-sign a 33-year-old small forward in Richard Jefferson who has arguably been the most consistent player for the Jazz this season.
The supposedly “aging” Jefferson has played in and started every game for the Jazz this season, remaining one of the few constants in a starting lineup that has seen plenty of injuries, illness and experimental insertions during the 2013-14 campaign. Averaging 10.2 points per game and shooting a very respectable 42 percent from behind the arc, Jefferson has emerged from the pit of despair that was his last season with the Golden State Warriors in which he averaged 3.1 points per game and only shot 31 percent from three-point range. Jefferson has also been the model teammate to a young roster still fighting to understand what it takes to become a consistent winner in the talent deep Western conference.
Surely Jefferson hasn’t enjoyed the amount of losing he’s been forced to endure this season with the Jazz, especially after spending such successful years with the Warriors and Spurs over the past few seasons. He may be interested in using this year’s highlight film as a recruitment video for other teams, but the Jazz might not be through with him just yet. Dennis Lindsey and Kevin O’Conner are going to have some deep pockets to work with this upcoming off-season and Jefferson could very well be a prime target to re-sign on a one to two year contract to stay in Salt Lake City.
The relative lack of veteran leadership on the Jazz roster, paired with Jefferson’s resurgence as a strong three-point shooter make him vital in the future development of players like Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter who are always in need of a solid perimeter player to bail them out when they get double-teamed in the paint. On the other hand, despite his increased productivity, Jefferson is aging. Dennis Lindsey has made it clear that youth is the future of this franchise, so the team might want to go in another direction and sign a younger, more versatile scorer than Jefferson. When it comes to the veteran presence, Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors (both of which will be entering into their fourth year in the league next season) will be expected to take on bigger leadership roles next season, which will most likely be supplemented by the re-signing of Marvin Williams who has rekindled his career in a Jazz uniform.
The decision will be a key one for the future of the Jazz. Will Lindsey and O’Conner go with youth, or experience? Athleticism, or knowledge? Unproven talent, or consistency? Either way, if this is the end of Richard Jefferson in Salt Lake City, it’s been a pleasure watching him invigorate himself and his young teammates this year, and I’m sure the Jazz would agree.
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