Late last night Deandre Jordan reneged on last week’s decision to sign with the Dallas Mavericks, instead electing to resign with the Los Angeles Clippers. In the weeks and months preceding his final decision rumors swirled about feuds with Chris Paul and or Clippers management. If the Clippers start to struggle tensions could resurface and cause trouble in Clipper Country. Clearly Jordan had some reservations about resigning with his old team.
Deandre’s change of heart coupled with Tyson Chandler’s departure will more than likely result in a few more tallies in the loss column for Cuban’s boys. A few more Mavericks losses could dramatically increase Jazz playoff chances. This is the most obvious reason for positivity in Jazz Nation over the indecision.
Maybe even more exciting is what this reveals about our team. Unlike Deandre Jazz players enjoy being a part of our organization. I mean just look at all the players who were watching Tuesday’s Summer League Game. Rudy Gobert, Derrick Favors, Alec Burks and Trevor Booker were all in attendance. Utah is not the kind of place that free agents have typically thought of as a destination and traditionally the state hasn’t attracted big names but our guys want to be here. Players are working out with coaches, ironing out some wrinkles in their games, attending summer league together and Derrick Favors is even living in his new Utah home through the Summer.
Though the Jazz haven’t signed any big name free agents this summer they have players who want to be in Utah. It can’t be overstated how important this could be a few years down the road when players contracts expire. The culture of the Jazz might not brought in any big time free agents but it could certainly help us retain them in the future and that is certainly something for Jazz Nation to be excited about.
The Utah Jazz starting front-court is one of the best in the league, housing three players who could be playing in the All-Star game next season. Rudy Gobert, Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward are a formidable trio. None of these players are likely to be displaced from their starting positions.
In the backcourt on the other hand no one is quite sure who will start and how the minutes will be distributed. At the shooting guard position alone there arefive players who have the potential to start for the Jazz next year. Rodney Hood, Alec Burks, Elijah Milsap, Joe Ingles and Chris Johnson could all start for the Jazz though the likelihood varies on a case-by-case basis. Hood and Burkes seem to be in a two-man race but don’t be surprised if one of the three undrafteds get a shot at the starting gig. Don’t forget that most the Jazz defensive improvement last season came while Burks and Hood were injured. All three of these players were an improvement or two away from being starting caliber players at the end of last season.
The point-guard position appears to be a little more set with Dante Exum christened heir to the throne. While I doubt that a benching of Exum will take place this season and I think it would be in the teams best interest to keep him on the court I don’t think a change is completely out of the question. Last season Trey Burke was on the Aussie fenom’s heels and there is hype coming from all three of the other point guards with a chance to be on the roster. There is reason to be excited about Bryce Cotton, Raul Neto and Olivier Hanlan. If Exum comes back healthy expect him to start and if he plays anything like he did in summer league last night prepare to be amazed and don’t expect any questions about his position in the starting line-up come October.
The real competition however is at the back-up point guard position. Though he has shown flashes of brilliance, Trey Burke’s performance has been underwhelming through two seasons of NBA play. If the Jazz brass want to trade anyone I suspect it is Burke and with Cotton and Neto waiting in the wings Burke could easily lose most to all of his minutes. It is more than likely that one or two of these four will be cut and/or relegated to the D-league. Each Jazz Point guard should be adequately motivated since their play could mean the difference between being the back-up point and being out of the league.
What does all this competition mean for the Jazz? It means that each player will be working their but off to produce, knowing that the next guy is on their heels and the guy in front of them is in reach. Players will have no leeway to slack off and they’ll know it. Everyone will get better and the Jazz two weakest positions from last season will improve catapulting this years Jazz team forward.