The season has not started, but there are still questions surrounding this year's Jazz squad...
The 2008-09 season is finally beginning. The Jazz will be without Deron Williams to start the season, but that looks to be a short term arrangement for Utah; as Deron should return to the starting line up shortly. On paper the 2008-09 Jazz team looks very good, but there are still some serious questions surrounding this season. List here are the top five question that will be answered by the Jazz this season:
#5: How are Boozer, Memo, Millsap, and Korver going to handle the contract year?
If you want to be technical about it, Millsap is the only player on the list that is in a contract year. The other three players(Boozer, Memo, and Korver) all have option that they can exercise to make themselves free agents. Yet, everyone really knows that there is little to no reasons for any of them to stay in their current contracts. They are all going to opt out at the end of the season, and they should all receive pay increases for their services next season. Now what needs to be seen is how these players who are in a contract year will respond. The Jazz offense is all about passing the ball to the open man, and getting high percentage shots. The offense breaks down when players are trying to take shots outside of the offense to pad their stats.
Boozer got short chained by playing for the Olympic team. He was downgraded to no more than a human victory cigar, playing only when the game was firmly in hand for the United States. Boozer could try to send a message to the league that he is better than what he showed during the Olympics. That could lead to Boozer becoming more of a black hole on offense looking for his own shot. That would hurt the numbers of Memo and Korver, both of whom get many of their shots by Boozer passing them the ball out of the low post. Typically having a player in a contract year is good, because the player is looking to play their best ball; however, having four players in contract years could lead to problems of players putting their personal interests above the interests of the team.
#4: Can the Jazz stay healthy?
Last year the Jazz were fairly lucky with the injuries that the players sustained. Deron Williams' injury in the early part of the playoffs did slow him down, but didn't hamper the Jazz in their efforts to make it out of the first round. Kirlenko and Boozer have both proven that their bodies aren't able to hold up to the rigors of an 82 game season. The question isn't if they will go down, but how much time they will miss this season.
Deron Williams starting the season injured isn't a good sign. It is important that the Jazz keep Williams off the court until he is healed. It is better to be cautious and struggle to start the season than to have Williams with a lingering injury for months. Matt Harpring is a huge question mark this season due to his injury. Harpring may never have played healthy since coming to the Jazz. His knees have always bothered him, and limited his minutes; however, the knee injuries have expanded to the rest of his legs. His ankles and feet are starting to go out. Plus, last season's mystery disease that caused Harpring to miss multiple games could rise again and give him problems this season. For the Jazz to be successful this season they need to stay healthy.
#3: What will change this season with Larry Miller stepping down and his son Greg taking over the team?
Greg Miller might have more of an impact on the Jazz during the off season. Yet, Larry H. Miller has always had impact on the Jazz during the season. He was always there to give a bode of confidence to Jerry Sloan, always siding with him over any player. Larry would always say five or six really stupid comments during the season that would cause some sort of falling out with a Jazz player. Larry was always the face of the Jazz crowd, sitting in his normal court side seat. Plus, will we still get the emotional speeches from Larry, when he will break down due to his deep love for _______. (You can really insert anything there. His wife, the crowd, D-Will, his weird bump on his elbow.) Seeing how Greg interacts with the team will be very interesting to see this season.
#2: Will Andrei Kirilenko come of the bench the entire season?
AK is already getting some early votes for sixth man of the year. Sloan seems to have like the way that Kirilenko played coming off the bench, and will start the season using AK as the sixth man. The real question is whether Andrei will continue to keep his emotions/ego in check and fully commit to the role of coming off the bench. It almost seems too perfect for Andrei to fill that role. Kirilenko plays much better with Boozer off the court. AK gets more touches on offense, and he doesn't have to pick up fouls covering Boozer's defensive weakness.
Harpring is the other element that could complicate AK coming off the bench. Whose minutes do you take away and give to Harpring? Miles has played well since being inserted into the starting lineup, and AK's minutes have been cut with him coming off the bench. You could play Kirilenko at the same time as Harpring; however, that would limit the offense of the Jazz and most likely take away minutes from another player(Most likely Millsap). On paper the move of having Kirilenko come off the bench looks really good, but the move does have the danger of killing team chemistry.
#1: How far can the 2008-09 Jazz go?
Likely, this is the last year that the core players of this team will be together. Last year this team made it to the second round and were eliminated by the Lakers, the year before to the Western Conference Finals losing to the Spurs. Just how far can the 2008-09 team go?
A NBA title has to be the goal of the team this year. Anything besides winning it all would be a disappointment. The Jazz added very little from last year's team, but they are relying on the players they have whom are young improving this season. The Jazz don't expect another disappearing act by Boozer in the playoffs. The Jazz are also relying on the fact that many of the core players are improved from last season. This year's Jazz team already looks like they will be in better shape than last year's Jazz team.
Memo, Brewer, Williams, and Miles all look like they dedicated themselves in the off-season and improved their physical conditioning. Okur is the best example of the conditioning change. He appears to have dropped a lot of weight and added muscle. Okur has especially added upper body muscle.
This is the most talented team on paper that the Jazz has ever had. This might be the last chance for this team to win a title due to contracts. It is all or nothing this year.