Burke, Exum and Hayward have potential to improve the mood in Utah…
After propping up the Western Conference last season, the Utah Jazz will be heading for more of the same struggle this year with a weak roster that will need time to develop.
The Jazz compiled a 25-57 record last season, which would have been good enough to land them in 12th spot in the Eastern Conference. However, the West is a different story, and they were firmly rooted to the bottom of the standings at the end of the regular season.
While they performed fairly well at home, their troubles on the road ultimately ensured that they even finished below a hapless Los Angeles Lakers, going 9-32 away from the EnergySolutions Arena.
Whether or not Salt Lake City will be treated to an improvement this year remains to be seen, but Coach Quin Synder certainly has some intriguing options at his disposal with which to rebuild for the long-term future.
Hayward must emerge as franchise player
After matching the offer of the Charlotte Hornets, Utah signed small forward Gordon Hayward to a four-year deal worth $63m, and as a result, they will be expecting him to repay the faith shown in his ability.
The 24-year-old averaged career-highs of 16.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.2 assists last season, and he was one of only five players to average at least 15 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists along with Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Michael Carter-Williams.
Hayward is undoubtedly a huge talent, but now with a new contract secured, he must continue his development and establish himself as a franchise player capable of leading this team forward.
He will have support in rebuilding the Jazz’s reputation, with promising talent such as point guard Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter all expected to improve on their numbers.
Newly drafted guard Dante Exum will also be looking to make an immediate impact, although after a shaky showing at the FIBA World Cup this summer, it is expected that the Australian ace will need time to adapt and adjust to his new surroundings.
However, one player to look out for this season is center Rudy Gobert, who was an integral part of the French team which secured a bronze medal in Spain.
The 7’1 youngster played in 45 games last season and averaged 2.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 0.2 assists per game, but he is likely to improve on those in the coming months after gaining a significant amount of confidence from his performances for the national team.
There are some exciting talents on this Jazz roster, but unfortunately in such a competitive Western Conference, it is difficult to see where they can go from 15th spot.
The Lakers may continue to struggle, while the Sacramento Kings and Minnesota Timberwolves are arguably some of the weaker teams in the West, but aside from that, there aren’t many others you could see finishing with a worse record than Utah.
As a result, they will be targeting another season with around 25 wins, but it isn’t likely to be enough to avoid being bottom of the standings for the second year in a row.