Last night the Jazz pushed and fought and played as well as they probably were capable of in this series against the San Antonio Spurs. However, they lost, and with that loss, the season came to an end for this team of super over-achievers. I’ve recently written my thoughts on how this team has over-achieved on every expectation that anyone but maybe themselves placed upon them, so I won’t get into it again, just go read all my recent Jazz posts and tweets on either my personal or the academically ineligible Twitter feeds.
What I want to hit upon here is a quick snippet on each member of this current roster; his evolution to this point.
And before I start, let me just tell this team, “Thank you for such a marvelous season. You took me on a journey that I never would have expected, and couldn’t have asked more from you. I’m excited for the future and can’t wait to see you come back together come October.”
Now, without further ado, the guards:
Devin Harris – Harris didn’t have anyone to challenge him for his starting position except himself. I’ve been hard on him all season, but as we watched him over this stretch run, I think we saw many glimpses of who this player really is. For the season, he was a 36% 3 point shooter and elevated that to 42% in April while adding more than 5 PPG and almost another half assist while this team marched into the playoffs.
I still feel there are better options out there, but we aren’t going to find one in the free agency and even less likely in the draft, so I really like Harris going into a contract season. He is making $8.5 million* next season, which I feel is fair for a starting point guard.
Keep him here.
Earl Watson – He’s going to make $2 million* this next season. Can you get a better deal for a veteran back up? Okay, maybe you can with Jamaal Tinsley, maybe not. With Watson, you get a better defender and a more judicious shooter, but Tinsley gives you a little more moxie with more bad shots. Neither is so good as to elevate one above the other. But with Tinsley only making $1.35 million* if the Jazz pick up his option, I’m okay with either one.
However, if a better option should present itself this off-season, I wouldn’t be sad to see the end of the Tinsley experiment in Utah.
Blake Ahearn – Thanks for jumping in as a safety net, but I don’t expect you back next season.
Gordon Hayward – When you have a second year player on your roster, you expect him to take big strides towards a successful career. However, that comes from summer league play, training camp, practice, and consistency, none of which was afforded to Hayward. And it showed at the beginning of the season. But when the young man from Butler turned it on as the season progressed, he showed us all why he should be considered one of the two cornerstone pieces of this team. The maturity he exuded during the move to the bench during the season tells volumes about Hayward. He’s under contract for as many as three more seasons under his current contract at an incredible value of $2.7 million* next season. And word is he’ll play summer league with Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, and the other young guns. This is a kid to build a team around.
Alec Burks – What do you say about the rookie taken 12th overall in a draft with a dearth of talented players? Well, I for one was not disappointed. He had a lot of learning opportunities and he succeeded in some and in others he “learned.” He’s under contract for cheap still and with a full off-season of opportunities to learn and grow, he’ll be a more valuable contributor next season.
CJ Miles – Umm, I don’t even know where to start. I like how the player most fans want to see out of Utah this offseason spent his locker clean out day complaining about how he didn’t fit in this year. Yeah, you think CJ? You don’t play defense, you aren’t a “knock down shooter” and you play selfish basketball. And if someone looked up “underachiever” in the dictionary, your picture would be next to Bart Simpson’s.
Please Kevin O’Connor, for the love of the basketball gods, DO NOT SIGN HIM FOR ANY AMOUNT!
Raja Bell – Ty Corbin understood, better than just about anyone else this season, that he owed his veterans a chance to earn a future living. So in spite of all the clamoring for more of the “meaningful minutes” for the young guys, he stuck with it and played the vets. Bell was perhaps the one who didn’t get that this wasn’t his team. He dealt with injury all season, was sent home during an East Coast road trip for mouthing off to a rookie head coach, and then didn’t spend one minute playing against the Spurs. The writing is on the wall Raja. Fortunately, he sees it too. Unfortunately, he still has one guaranteed season. Hopefully KOC can find a partner.
Josh Howard – Yet another experiment that had its ups and its downs this season. Howard came cheap this season as he resurrected his career, but he won’t come for 1 year and $2.5 million* next year and I don’t see how this is a match that can be justified for more than that. Howard provided some quality veteran leadership, but frankly, he was outplayed by DeMarre Carroll who showed his passion to make this team in the future by playing straight up ball. If Howard can come back on the cheap like he did this season, I’ll be happy to see him in SLC next season.
DeMarre Carroll – The mid-season pick up gave more than anyone could have hoped for as he provided big minutes from the bench and as a starter over the final few games for the team and was pivotal in the final push to make the playoffs. He was replaced as a starter by a returning Josh Howard which many felt was the wrong move at the time. I didn’t. I was wrong. Howard’s “playoff experience” didn’t matter in the end and Carroll had built the chemistry that Howard had lost while recovering from his knee injury.
Carroll won’t come at $535,000* next season, but all indications are the Jazz will bring him back.
Jeremy Evans – #freeJeremyEvans. That’s about all I can say. Its really too bad there just isn’t much room for this great kid on the floor. But how hard is it to let the dunk champ go, especially after the governor gives him his own day in Utah – even if it does only come around but once every four years?
Paul Millsap – Man, oh man! I’ve been critical of Millsap over the season, but as it now concludes, I couldn’t think of many more guys I want on this team than Millsap. He too will be entering into a contract year in 2012. This guy has dreams of being an all-star power forward, but the problem is the guy breathing down his neck . . . .
Derrick Favors – The humble, soft-spoken kid from Atlanta spoke up today with the coaches. “I want to start coach” is the gist of the conversation. And after the proof in the pudding of the team’s improved defense with him on the floor, can you really keep starting Millsap at the 4? Sure, Paul has stated he will play the 3 if he’s asked, but the “big lineup” isn’t a full-time lineup. It just isn’t going to work. Can Paul accept being a back up? Can he be okay with working to be the 6th man of the year?
Al Jefferson – You know, if Big Al weren’t going to make $15 million* next season, I probably would be just fine with him here in Utah. But that’s just it; he is going to make that much. It’s hard to get on board with that idea. So then you have to ask if your leading scorer and rebounder is worth $15 million. And finally, who is going to take his minutes if you move him? Favors is ready for more minutes, but I just don’t think he is truly capable of playing at the 5 full-time. And Kanter is not either. I think he needs more minutes, but he can’t produce what Jefferson did this season and who is going to make up his missing production if he’s not on the floor?
Enes Kanter – The other rookie. I just hope he takes all his off-season work outs, the summer leagues, and then training camp seriously. I mean, for a kid who is only in his 6th year of playing basketball, he’s unbelievably talented. If he can continue to grow, Jefferson will have to come back cheap in 2013 if he wants to stay aboard the only playoff team he’s ever led.
I will be watching the summer leagues (man, I miss the Rocky Mountain Review). I will be watching to see who the Jazz sign, who they trade, and who they allow to walk away after 7 tumultuous seasons (here’s looking to you CJ.) I look forward to it all.
And finally, let me just finish this post how I started it; thank you Utah Jazz.
*Salary info is from Hoops Hype