Over the next month or so, I will be a writing a series of articles exploring the depth charts of NBA teams, and more specifically, where the rookies from the 2011 draft fit into those depth charts. Thanks to MTD for the idea.
We've already taken a look at the Cleveland Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves, so next up is the Utah Jazz who held both the third and twelfth selections in the 2011 draft.
The Jazz are in the midst of an organizational overhaul, as they lost both their long-time head coach Jerry Sloan and franchise point guard Deron Williams last season. The Jazz were able to acquire a second lottery pick from the New Jersey Nets in the Williams trade, and they used their two picks to add a player each to the frontcourt and backcourt.
#3 - Enes Kanter
Measurables: 6'11" 259 lbs
2010-2011 Statistics: None
Utah continued the re-tooling of their frontcourt that began with the departure of Carlos Boozer in free agency by adding the young big man form Turkey. Kanter was one of the riskiest picks in the draft considering he did not play in a single game last year for the Kentucky Wildcats after being ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA.
But the talent of the nineteen-year-old is undeniable as evidenced by the 34 points and 13 rebounds he put up in the 2010 Nike Hoops Summit.
UTA Frontcourt Depth Chart: Al Jefferson (PF/C), Mehmet Okur (C), Kyrylo Fesenko (C, FA), Paul Millsap(PF), Derrick Favors (PF/C), Francisco Elson (C, FA)
Utah has a pretty loaded frontcourt at the moment, and it might be difficult for Kanter to find time early on. Fesenko and Elson are both free agents, and even if one of them is signed he should not be an obstacle for Kanter.
Okur is a veteran big man with a sweet stroke who has been Utah's starting center for several seasons now. But his inability to stay healthy recently as well as the addition of Al Jefferson has severely cut back in his playing time. He will likely stick around and act as a mentor for the young guys for one more year, but I'd be surprised if he played a significant role in the rotation. Kanter would have to show some real promise to move ahead of the veteran, however.
Al Jefferson is most likely stuck with Utah for at least one more year, and he is sure to eat up plenty of minutes.
Paul Millsap has been an extremely solid player for the Jazz over the last few seasons, but the addition of 2010 third overall draft pick Derrick Favors has complicated matters. The team may be ready to move forward with Favors as the guy at power forward, so a Millsap trade is a strong possibility. There were rumors that they nearly traded Millsap at the deadline last year, and the Jazz should receive a nice offer for the skilled big man.
Kanter's place on the roster: Kanter hasn't played for an entire year, and it will likely be closer to two years before he finally gets on the court after the lock-out is lifted. Considering that and the depth of the Utah frontcourt, it would be unreasonable to expect a major impact from the Turkish teenager.
The center depth chart heading into the year will likely be Jefferson as the starter, Okur as the back-up, and Kanter as the third-stringer. He will be given time to work himself back into basketball condition and to regain and sharpen his skills. This is probably the best possible scenario for Kanter to have a successful career.
But Okur has not been able to stay healthy, and injury is likely to strike again during the season. If that happens, Kanter should be primed to step in and secure his spot in the rotation.
Another possible way for Kanter to break into the rotation would be for the Millsap trade I mentioned above. Millsap is a player many of our friends at SLC Dunk would love to keep, and they have even expressed the belief that the Jazz may try to play Millsap some at small forward. But I have a hard time seeing that plan being successful and still believe he will be traded at some point. If that happens, Jefferson, Favors, Kanter and Okur (if healthy) would handle the majority of the frontcourt minutes.
Expectation: Minutes for Kanter will be tough to come across early on, and much of the first part of his season will be devoted to getting him back into shape. But later in the season he steps into the rotation and shows flashes of what made him the third overall pick. 4-6 ppg and 2-4 rpg in 7-9 minutes per game.
After going big with their first pick, Utah balanced out their draft by taking a guard with their second lottery pick. Burks was the consensus best shooting guard in the draft, so it was an easy decision for the Jazz when the former Colorado Buffalo was still on the board at twelve. Burks still needs to add strength and work on his jumpshot, but he's a solid rebounder and passer for his position and can score with the best of them.
UTA Wing Depth Chart: C.J. Miles (SG/SF), Gordon Hayward (SG/SF), Andrei Kirilenko (SF, FA), Raja Bell (SG), Jeremy Evans (SF)
Andrei Kirilenko, a long time Jazz starter on the wing, is a free agent and may not be back. If he signs elsewhere, Gordon Hayward and C.J. Miles will be the starting wings, Hayward likely splitting time between the 2 and 3. Veteran Raja Bell is still on the roster and may pose an obstacle to Burks, although he has been a shell of his former self over the last few years while dealing with age and injuries.
If AK-47 remains with the Jazz, Burks will find himself in a similar situation to his fellow rookie Kanter. Kirilenko is either the starter or the back-up at small forward, which means Hayward will spend the vast majority of his minutes at shooting guard with Bell as his primary back-up early on.
Burks' place on the roster: Whether Kirilenko returns or not, Miles and Hayward will get their minutes.
Bell is the man Burks has to beat out for playing time, which is odd considering he is the anti-Bell. Burks is a solid iso scorer and good playmaker but doesn't play much defense and can't shoot very well, while all Bell can do is shoot the three and play defense. If Burks can become at least an average defender, the back-up role should be his. Bell could also make this easier by getting hurt again.
Burks will probably play a minor role as a scorer off the bench during his rookie season, and he could also see spot minutes at point guard if Ronnie Price and Earl Watson don't both return.
Expectation: Burks will play a minor role as a rookie, although I see his playing time increasing as the season rolls on. He will average about 10-12 mpg, but could be playing upwards of 20 minutes by the end of the season. 6-8 ppg, 1-3 rpg, and 1-3 apg.