2011-12 Record: 36-30, third in Northwest Division, eliminated in first round of NBA Playoffs by San Antonio Spurs
2012 NBA Draft: G Kevin Murphy (Tennessee Tech, 47th overall)
Offseason Losses: G Devin Harris (traded to Atlanta Hawks), G C.J Miles (signed with Cleveland Cavaliers)
Re-signed: F Jeremy Evans (3 years, $5.5 million)
Projected Starting Line-up: PG Mo Williams, SG Gordon Hayward, SF Marvin Williams, PF Derrick Favors, C Al Jefferson
OFFSEASON GRADE: C +
The Utah Jazz and their young core of players showed last season that they are ready and able to take that next step up the ladder of the Western Conference and really make some noise.
Despite being swept by eventual Conference finalists the San Antonio Spurs, the Jazz were competitive throughout the series and showed huge potential for future success.
Utah completed a player-for-player swap with Atlanta this past July when they sent point guard Devin Harris to the Hawks in exchange for former #2 overall pick Marvin Williams.
Williams averaged 10.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 57 games last season for Atlanta. His career averages hover around those same marks.
Marvin isn’t an overly terrible player, but being selected with a top-5 draft pick ahead of such all-stars as Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Andrew Bynum has thrust expectations on him that he can’t feasibly reach. It’s not his fault he was selected so high, but it’s something that can’t be avoided.
He was a forgotten aspect of the Hawks offense, playing behind star teammates in Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Al Horford and Jeff Teague. He never got a fair shake in Atlanta to showcase his offensive prowess. For Utah, that won’t change. This Jazz team runs on the scoring of bigs Al Jefferson and Paul Milsap, as well as the highly praised Gordon Hayward. It’s hard to think Williams role will be any different from what it was in Atlanta. He plays great perimeter defense with his size at the 3 (6’8) and rarely turns the ball over (1.2 career average). Outside of Hayward, the Jazz are incredibly thin on the wing, so Williams will at least add some depth to the position. I just find it hard to believe that he will amount to anything more than what he already is.
I hate to sound so down on the guy, but I’ve just never been sold on Marvin Williams as an impact player.
He is what he is. Not bad, but not great either.
Replacing Harris at the starting point guard spot will be former all-star and Jazz player Mo Williams, who was acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers in a four-team trade that sent Lamar Odom back to L.A.
Mo averaged 13.2 points on 42% shooting, as well as 3.1 assists and 1.9 rebounds off the bench last season for the Clippers. Williams can stretch the defense with his perimeter shooting (38.9% from long-range last season), which is a greatly needed asset on a Jazz team who had only one player (Raja Bell) shoot better than 39% from behind the arc in 2011/12.
One thing that’s for sure is that Williams is not the longterm solution at point guard for this Jazz team. However, he is a feasible short-term answer. His passing ability leaves little to be desired (3.1 assists to 1.9 turnovers last season, 5.6 assists to 3.0 turnovers the year before), which could present a problem moving forward. The Jazz would be better off with a pass-first point guard rather than a player looking for his own shot. Deron Williams isn’t walking through that door anymore, so Utah is going to have to address the position either in free-agency down the road or with a prospect in the NBA Draft. Mo can hold down the fort in the meantime.
Randy Foye, a former top-10 pick back in 2006, was also acquired by the Jazz this summer after signing a 1 year, $1.25 million dollar deal with the franchise.
Foye played alongside Mo Williams on the Los Angeles Clippers last season as part of the teams second unit. He averaged 11.0 points and 2.1 rebounds a game. Randy is a scorer in the purest sense of the word, even though he isn’t an overly efficient jump shooter (41.1% for his career). Like his teammate Mo, Foye can light it up from downtown (38.6%). The Jazz finished third to last in the league last season from three-point range. On a team where the ball goes through the bigs a majority of the plays, having strong perimeter shooters is a necessity. Foye will help in that department, at the very least.
Progression is something that should never be taken lightly. The Western Conference is stacked with so many talented teams that moving up the standings is anything but easy.
Utah is slowly but surely making a name for themselves and becoming a credible threat to the top dogs out West.
I’m not sold at all on the Marvin Williams deal, but I do love the fact that the perimeter shooting issues were addressed.
Christopher Walder is a sports blogger and lead editor for Sir Charles in Charge. You may follow him on Twitter @WalderSports