The 2008-2009 Utah Jazz had the 8th best offense in the league, the 10th best defense in the league, and finished with a record of 48-34. That’s what you call a very good team. They were never really seen as championship contenders, though. With Carlos Boozer only playing 37 regular season games, and with Deron Williams, Andrei Kirilenko, and Mehmet Okur struggling through injuries at various points in the season, this extremely consistent franchise was fielding a team that lacked… consistency. Boozer came back to unseat Paul Millsap with a couple of months left in the season, but this wasn’t enough as they ran into the eventual champion Lakers in the first round of the playoffs. It’s tough to say if this team underachieved last year – you could definitely make the argument that this team should have finished with more than 48 wins in the regular season, but, as good as they were when at full health, they weren’t going to win a 7-game series against the Lakers.
This is the part where I normally dissect the team’s off-season moves, but there’s not much to say here. The only additions to this squad are their rookies – Eric Maynor and Goran Suton. Maynor should fit in nicely as Deron Williams’s primary backup; this is a very good pick-up for a team picking 20th in a weak draft. Suton is still unsigned at this point and it is unclear whether or not this 24-year-old rookie will make the roster, especially one with a frontcourt rotation as crowded as this one. Let’s move on.
The biggest story in Utah, going into the season, is how the Carlos Boozeer/Paul Millsap situation will unfold. After expressing his desire to be moved to Chicago or Miami and stating that he couldn’t see himself back in Utah, the fans in Salt Lake can’t be too pleased with him. He’s back, though, at least for now, and he probably won’t be traded unless the Jazz get an offer that makes sense from a basketball perspective. The only way they were going to ship him out in the summer was to save money this season, by trading him into another team’s cap space. They needed a trading partner that a) had the cap space and b) had confidence that Boozer would re-sign with them when he hits free agency next summer. No teams fit this criteria, so here we are. Recent Hall of Fame inductee Jerry Sloan has stated that Boozer will have to compete with the re-signed Paul Millsap for the starting job and Booz isn’t having it. Let’s see how this goes. My gut tells me everyone will get over it, Boozer will start, and both will get reasonable minutes in what will be the Duke alum’s final season with the Jazz. Who knows, though? Maybe the right deal comes along and they can trade him for a solid wing player. That’d certainly be a way to make a leap in the standings.
Even if everything remains status quo, roster-wise, the Jazz should improve on last year’s mark if they can just remain healthy. No doubt they were successful last year given the circumstances, but the previous season they won 54 games and that’s the kind of mark we should expect from them this year. No, they’re not at the level of the Lakers and they’re probably not up there with the Spurs, either. Still, don’t discount them. People didn’t think the Orlando Magic or Denver Nuggets were elite squads a year ago and, if a few things go their way, these Jazz could have similar success. They’ve got an elite PG, competent wings, and a very above-average frontcourt, especially offensively. They’ve also got one of the best coaches in the game, a guy that ensures his team comes to play every night on both ends of the floor. Not much has changed here, but sometimes that’s a good thing.