I. Team Report
|With the dismantling of the Bulls dynasty, Jazz
fans had visions of Stockton and
Malone finally holding the
coveted trophy above their heads. The core of the team remained intact from the previous
two seasons. Most experts penciled in Utah as their pre-season pick to win it all. In a
veteran friendly, condensed season, the Jazz tied for the best overall record in the
league. The first two rounds looked favorable for Utah. Both Sacramento and Portland were
young teams that could be mentally rattled by a veteran, execution style team. However, in
a season in which young studs like Iverson and Duncan seized the torch from the aging
stars, the Jazz found themselves looking old and tired. The Jazz barely escaped from the
up tempo Kings, finally winning in five games. Utah really showed their age against the
Jail Blazers. Portland was able to throw young athlete after young athlete at the Jazz,
which finally wore them down.
speculation begins. Where do the Jazz go from here? Utah has seven free agents in Malone, Stockton, Hornacek, Anderson, Foster, Fuller, and Bailey. On the flip side they have three first round picks. Logic says to tear it
down and rebuild using the draft picks and the large amount of salary cap room that would
be freed up. However, this is not Utahs philosophy. They will likely give large
contracts to these players and cap themselves out for years to come. They will return
almost an identical team to last years and take another run at it. Expect the Jazz
to resemble the Houston Rockets of 99. A capped out team with aging stars that is
good enough to do damage in the regular season but too old to go anywhere significant in
the playoffs. The torch has been passed. This is the era of the young athletic teams. Utah
better figure this out quickly.
II. Positional Analysis
The center position is the obvious weak link for the Jazz
and it all begins the enigmatic Greg Ostertag. The organization doesnt expect a lot out of Ostertag. As long as
he plays hard, rebounds, blocks shots, and stays on the court, they are happy. Any offense
he supplies is considered a bonus. Gregs biggest problem is that his confidence is
easily shattered. Early foul trouble or a mental mistake can throw him into a multi game
slump. Until he regains his confidence he is pretty much useless. Ostertag was the highest
paid member of the team this year and needs to start justifying his salary. Expect the
Jazz to give him another opportunity next season. However, if he disappoints he could find
himself traded. The alternatives at center arent very pretty. Greg Foster continues to infuriate the
coaching staff as well as the fans. If he would stick to shooting the mid range jumper and
drawing the opposing center away from the basket, he would be a valuable asset. However,
he tends to try to play beyond his abilities.
He will launch a three pointer early in the shot clock or
try to drive to the net and end up turning the ball over. This usually gets him a scolding
and a seat on the pine. Former lottery pick Todd Fuller is the other alternative. He runs the court and plays hard but lacks the
necessary skills to affect the game. However, he is a big body that gives the team an
additional six fouls.
It is amazing how much heat Karl
Malone takes when he has an off game. Headlines such as
The Failman littered articles after Malones 3-16 shooting night in game
6 against Portland. These articles called Karl a master choke artist. If ever there was a
model for consistency it is Karl Malone. Almost every single game he scores 25 points and
pulls down 10 boards. He does struggle at times with his shooting in the playoffs but that
is because he is the focal point of the offense. Teams focus their defensive energy trying
to shut him down. He is a low post player and requires some one to get the ball in his
hands. The media and fans must understand this. He like all players is prone to having a
bad game. What makes him great is that these games are few and far between. Providing
relief for Malone are veterans Adam Keefe and Thurl Bailey.
Keefe is a limited player but cuts to the basket for easy scores. Bailey returned to the
Jazz after four years in Europe. He is a big body that has a nice mid range game. He
played pretty well when he appeared in games.
The starting small forward position is manned by the ever
improving Bryon Russell. Russell
was drafted as an athlete but has developed his basketball skills to the point in which he
can make an impact on the game. He can slash to the basket, shoot the spot up three and
defend at the 2 and 3 spots. To take the next step Bryon needs to add a mid range and
become more consistent. The Jazz do not have a true back up for Russell. Keefe and Bailey get some time but are both athletically challenged for the 3 spot. Shandon Anderson also plays here but is
better suited for shooting guard.
Jeff Hornacek, one of the
purest shooters in the league, is the starting off guard. Hornacek is a very good
compliment for Stockton and Malone. He can hit a shot from anywhere, while providing above
average passing skills. However, Hornacek is approaching the end of his career. His lack
of size, strength, and athletic ability has always hurt him defensively. As he ages, he
becomes more of a liability. There has been some talk that Shandon
Anderson will assume the starting duties next season and Jeff
will fill the sixth man role. Shandon Anderson provides athletic ability and defense to
the shooting guard position. Anderson is not a very good shooter but makes up for it with
his cutting ability and knack for getting offensive boards. Shandon can also take his man
down low and post him.
This is really tough to say but John Stockton is starting to show his age.
This is not to say that he should retire or anything of the such. The point is Stockton is
no longer an elite guard. He is a very good point guard but he cant consistently
reach the level of greatness as he has during the majority of his career. He still has
brilliant moments such as the clutch shot against Sacramento. There is talk that John may
return for just one more season and then retire. If anyone deserves the big free agent pay
day it is Stockton. He may be the most underrated and underpaid future hall of famer of
the modern era. Providing quality back up play is Howard
Eisley. Eisley is a smart point guard with the ability to hit
key shots. The former league castoff has certainly found his niche as a bench player on an
elite team. Providing sparse relief is Jacques Vaughn. The former Jay hawk hasnt
really done much in his two seasons with Utah. It may be a simple numbers game or it may
be he hasnt proved he can play significant minutes at the NBA level. Next
seasons play should determine what the Jazzs plans are with him.
III. The Draft
|Utah enters the 1999 draft with three first round picks.
The 19th pick is from Philadelphia for Nazr Mohammed, the 24th from Orlando for Felton Spencer, and their own pick at 28. The
Jazz made a major blunder last year not taking Orlandos pick which was number 12.
G.M. Scott Layden passed because he felt there were no players at that spot that could
help the team. Its hard to believe in hindsight that Matt Harpring, Michael Doleac
nor Michael Dickerson could have been a quality bench contributor. So this year they are
stuck with three picks in a weaker draft. Expect the team to dump 2 of the 3 picks for
future ones. The Jazz do not want three rookies on what they feel is a contender.
Past Five Drafts
- 94 No Pick
- 95 Greg Ostertag
- 96 No Pick
- 97 Jacques Vaughn
- 98 No Pick
- Bench Athleticism - Anderson is the only reserve that has
any athletic ability
- Center with Offensive Ability - Ostertag and Fuller are
limited offensively and Foster has played his last game with the Jazz
- Rebounding - When Malone comes off the floor the Jazz
become a poor rebounding team. A hard working guy that boards with authority and dives for
loose balls would be very useful.
With the 19th pick in the 1999 NBA Draft the Utah Jazz
the select Tim James, forward, Miami. The selection process of Tim James is quite simple, he
has the most upside potential of the players remaining on the draft board. James is an
extremely athletic player who has a 40+ inch vertical. He can score by driving to the
basket or using his mid range game. His leaping ability and tenacity allow him to rebound
and block shots at a pace that surpasses most small forwards. Scouts feel that James can
develop into a very good defensive player at the NBA level. The only real drawback to
James is that he played a lot of post early in his college career and has only recently
concentrated on the small forward position. This means his perimeter skills and ball
handling ability isnt at a NBA level yet. However, the Jazz have had success in
recent drafts taking players similar to James. Russell and Anderson had similar strengths
and weaknesses. Both have now developed into useful and productive players.
IV. Others Considered
|James Posey - Posey was the guy that I really wanted, unfortunately he was taken with
the previous pick. I felt he and James were 1 and 1A. The reason I would have selected
Posey is because his upside could be higher than James and also his ability to play
more than one position.
Frederic Weis - Weis is a
player whose stock could rise as we approach the draft. He is a big man who like most
European forwards has a developed passing and shooting game. He would be a good fit but
may have too many negatives. The first is his back problems. He missed a chunk of the
season with a back injury and has refused to take physicals thus far. To me this hints
that it may be more severe than people think. The second drawback is that European teams
may be able to pay him more. As we have seen with Nesterovic last season and Stojakovic in
96, Europeans are more inclined to play a few more seasons across the pond and then
try the NBA.
Jamaal Magloire - This is a player that I really like. A lot of people have looked at his
numbers and written him off. Yes his scoring numbers are low and yes he has had off court
problems but he brings a lot to the table. The most important element that Magloire
supplies is defense. If you watched his college games you would have noticed that his man
rarely scores. A lot of guys today can swat shots into the fifth row but dont play
good position defense. He puts a body on his man, pushes him out of the paint and denies
the entry pass. If his man gets the ball, Magloire is an excellent on ball shot blocker
with most of his blocks coming via this route. The second thing that he brings is a
physical presence. He will bump you, come to the aid of teammates, and foul hard
(sometimes flagrantly) any man that tries to showboat at the expense of his team. The 19th
pick is a little high for him but he would be a smart pick at 24.
V. Who the Team will Probably Take
|Utah will draft the best player available. They have no
pressing needs so they can simply take their top ranked guy. The team prefers seniors with
good attitudes, basketball intelligence, and athletic ability. Some players that may fit
this profile are James Posey and Tim James. They may also take a chance on a big man that
is available or maybe Dion Glover if he remains in the draft.
VI. Off Season Moves
Own Free Agents
Utah has seven free agents and five of them are expected
to return this season.
- Karl Malone - If you hear
Malone publicly pondering his future in Utah, just ignore him. This is Karls way of
trying to get a better contract. Forget the rumor of Malone signing with the Lakers or any
other contender for a fraction of the salary he could get from Utah. He has been lobbying
for this pay day every year this decade. Reports indicate he will sign a four year
contract worth as much as 66 million after July 1st.
- John Stockton - Stockton will
probably follow suit and re-sign with the Jazz. There has been talk of him retiring but
the odds are on him signing a big, one year contract.
- Jeff Hornacek - Of
Utahs key free agents he is the least likely to return. He has talked favorably
about retirement in recent years. However, with the Jazz likely to make one more run at a
title he will probably return and sign a one year contract.
- Shandon Anderson - Shandon is
arguably the most important free agent for the Jazz to re-sign. His youth and athleticism
represent Utahs future. The question is, will he patiently wait on the bench until
Hornacek retires? Or will he leave with a promise to start on another team?
- Todd Fuller - The Jazz will
bring him back if the price is right. Big bodies with six fouls are a useful commodity in
the Western Conference.
- Thurl Bailey - Expect Thurl
to call it a career. Reports indicate he may be offered a front office position with the
- Greg Foster - Expect Foster
to be playing for another team next season. The organization is tired of his poor
Other Free Agents
With Utah most likely handing out large contracts to
re-sign their own free agents, the team will be capped out. They will likely have two
roster spots to fill. One with a rookie, the other will probably come via the 2 million
dollar exemption. One free agent that has reportedly got their attention is L.A. Clipper,
Eric Piatkowski. The team feels that he would fit in perfectly with their offense and give
them a long range bomber they need to come off the bench. If the team cannot draft a
quality big man they may explore the possibility of signing a veteran post player.
However, this years free agent crop is quite thin.
One trade rumor that is circulating is Bryon Russell for the 8th pick. One has to
wonder how this would improve the Jazzs title hopes. With the trade of a key starter
the number one need is someone to replace him. How does replacing a veteran that
understands his role with a rookie going to help? Another rumor is the Jazz are offering
all three picks to move up. Great if it works but I dont see a team ahead of them on
the draft board willing to take three low picks.