From Stockton to Malone, to Williams to Boozer, the fine folks of Salt Lake City, Utah have long been accustomed to formidable point guard to power forward connections. Of course, over that time, they have also known no other coach other than Jerry Sloan.
That, of course, has changed. The rebuilding process for Utah was launched unexpectedly midway through last season with the retirement of Sloan, and (with fears of losing him in free agency) the trade of Derron Williams.
The roster now dictates that Utah find a different model for success. With all due respect to Devin Harris, a fine player in his own right, he does not command an offense the way his point guard predecessors did. Instead, the team looks to run through its young, raw, but potentially imposing front line.
With the third overall pick in the NBA draft the Jazz selected Turkish center Enes Kanter, pairing him with the previous year’s third overall pick Derrick Favors. Whatever success the Utah Jazz have likely depends on how well these two young big men develop and mesh.
On paper, it is an intriguing combination. Favors the athletic wunderkind, and Kanter with the big frame but soft touch. By all accounts Kanter has the potential to be a force in the post, with a good frame, great hands, and the aforementioned soft touch. He also shows the beginnings of a reasonable face up game, with desirable range. It is imperative for Utah that Kanter develop into the sort of player that can both demand and pass out of a double team, because Favors athleticism and skill set currently requires him to play off such players rather than create.
If Kanter is that guy, then it opens up various interesting high low options between he and Favors. Of course, where they could post the greatest impact is currently where they will struggle the most next season. Both players posses the size, length, and mobility to make life a living hell for offenses, but currently lack the experience to do much past get out of position and foul on defense.
With their second first round pick, the Jazz tabbed Alec Burks for an infusion of athletic size in their backcourt. Burks comes with the strengths and caveats present in most modern day shooting guards–a stellar athlete who presently struggles to shoot.
As it stands, with veterans Harris, Paul MIllsap, and Al Jefferson on board, the Utah Jazz could fight for positioning just outside the eighth playoff seed. Their ability to grow into anything more than playoff fodder depends on the growth of their young frontline. Which leaves the following to consider:
Big men with this level of talent are often found only through the draft, and without looking at what the new CBA might look like, this will conceivably the last time these two aren’t overpaid. As such, these next few years represent the best opportunity to acquire game changing talent.
Harris, Millsap, and Jefferson are not the kind of assets traded for nothing, which means the Jazz have leverage in any deals involving them. If Utah can package any combination of them for a package of young players and draft picks, combined with one more trip in the lottery, the Jazz just might find themselves whistling the right tune.
2011 Draft Reflections: Utah Jazz & Enes Kanter