The victory, paired with a Boston Celtics loss, put each team at 25-57, leaving them tied for the fourth worst record in the league. Some fans were disappointed with the win, hoping instead to finish the season on a six game losing streak and get ever closer to that top three lottery pick. On the other hand, many fans (and certainly the players) were happy to see the Jazz finish such a disappointing season on a high point with a gutsy win on the road.
In the end, the Jazz got the last laugh when they won a random drawing between them and the Celtics to decide which team would own the fourth best lottery odds for the upcoming draft.
With the season complete, the lottery odds set and the playoffs looming, it’s time to make a proper assessment of this young Jazz squad and point out what coaches and fans hope to see from them next season.
- The growth of Trey Burke
The top draft pick by the Jazz (via the Timberwolves) last summer, Burke mad the best out of a less than desirable situation this season. After missing the first few weeks of the season with a broken index finger, Burke burst into the starting lineup and never looked back. Burke showed creativity in his offensive production and was not afraid to take the big shot late in games. However, Burke’s lack of experience and apprehensive decision making skills often lead to turnovers or lost possessions for the Jazz. Defensively, Burke struggled to defend larger guards and was often caught in the wrong position going through screens. Film study, practice and plenty of visits to the weight room should produce big dividends for the young point guard next season.
- The partnership of Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter
The Jazz’s “twin towers” made decent strides this season, but have still yet to show the cohesion (especially on defense) that GM Dennis Lindsey and Jazz fans were hoping for. Favors began to show more offensive prowess as the season went on, but is in desperate need of a go-to offensive move in the low post. Kanter, on the other hand, showed enormous improvement in his shooting range and quality, but lacks the defensive knowledge to aid Favors. I would hope that, whoever is the head coach for the Jazz next season, encourages the two big men to work out together in the offseason and aid in the development of each other’s games. With improved scoring from Favors and quality defense from Kanter, these two could become a nightmarish duo for opposing big men in the league.
- Gordon Hayward’s scoring
This assumes that Hayward and the Jazz can come to terms and complete a mid-to-long term deal this offseason, Hayward is a restricted free-agent and will most likely receive offers from teams like Phoenix (coached by Hayward’s former shooting coach Jeff Hornacek), and Boston (coached by Hayward’s former Butler University coach Brad Stevens). If Hayward does remain a Jazz man, his point totals will need to consistently rise in order for this team to keep up with the high scoring offenses in the West. Hayward remained the leading scorer for the Jazz this season, but his field goal percentage and three-point shooting both took hits as Hayward desperately tried to run the struggling Jazz offense throughout most of the season. Hayward was expected to create offense, and produce more assists than in his past three years with the Jazz, which hindered his scoring duties. At the end of his rookie season, Hayward finished the last three games of the year with 30+ points. If Hayward can boost up his shooting percentage, combined with his driving ability, the Jazz might just have one of the top utility players in the league.
More improvements need to be made for this Utah Jazz team to compete in the West next year, it all starts May 30,when the NBA draft lottery decides who will own the top picks. With the numerous potential franchise players that have entered the draft this year, Dennis Lindsey and Kevin O’Conner must make the right decision in order to continue the rebuilding process and get this team, and its fans, back to the promised land.