Playoff Result: N/A
Key Additions: Trey Burke (draft), Rudy Gobert (draft), John Lucas III (free agent), Andris Biedrins (trade), Richard Jefferson (trade), Brandon Rush (trade)
Key Losses: Paul Millsap (free agent), Al Jefferson (free agent), Mo Williams (free agent), DeMarre Carroll (free agent), Randy Foye (trade)
Predicted 2013-14 Record: 28-54 (14th in West)*
What to Expect: After being right on the cusp of the playoffs in 2013, those in charge decided it’s time to go with the young guys starting in 2014.
They’ll be a much different team and will surely have their growing pains in the new season. Gone are not only Millsap, but Jefferson as well from Utah’s frontcourt. Enes Kanter will step in for Jefferson and much like his predecessor, he’s an offensively skilled big man. Unlike Jefferson, he’s got an outside-in game. He can work the midrange, but he also has the touch to work in the post. Kanter also has the size and technique to attack the glass. Derrick Favors also gives the Jazz a different look on both ends of the court. He’s a 22-year-old, 6-10 forward who can run the floor and finish at the rim. He’s also arguably the best defender on the team.
Gordon Hayward should be the leader for this team, stepping in as a threat all over the floor as a ball-handler, three-point shooter and one-on-one defender.
The Jazz also has a wealth of injuries throughout their backcourt. Rush is still recovering from ACL surgery, Marvin Williams is on his way back from heel surgery and Utah’s top pick and Burke is attempting to heal from a broken finger.
Matchup with the Hawks: With one matchup in December and another in March, it’s extremely unlikely Utah will be at full strength in their first contest with the Hawks.
Like much of the season, the primary battles will take place in the trenches between Atlanta’s Al Horford/Paul Millsap duo and Kanter/Favors. Big Al has shown throughout his career an ability to defend from the perimeter in and can knock down the midrange shot. He’ll be a solid option against Kanter and Millsap will surely be looking to avenge his former team after allowing him to walk this summer.
Teague has the clear advantage at point guard, but the two-three combo of Hayward and Burks appears to be a fearsome duo. DeMarre Carroll is another castoff from last year’s Jazz team who’ll look to make an impact, specifically defensively, in each of these contests. Burks has a high upside, but it’s unclear whether he’ll start from opening night or if Richard Jefferson will take over with the starting five. If he doesn’t, Lou Williams and Burks could put on a show in a second-unit shootout.
John Jenkins is largely unproven and should see a large uptick in his minutes this year. With those minutes comes defending Hayward, which will likely be one of his tougher tasks in 2013-14 as he’s the focal point of this Jazz unit.
In all, the Hawks have the more cohesive team and despite Utah’s youth and athleticism, should take the season series 2-0.
*predicted record based on Bo’s ESPN Forecast projections for every team