NBA Offseason Preview: Utah Jazz

The Jazz are probably the Western team in this year’s lottery most likely to make the playoffs next season. They’ve done a near-perfect rebuilding job since trading Deron Williams and managed to do it without completely bottoming out. Jazz fans are deservedly ready and eager to get back to the postseason.

The Jazz core is solid. Rudy Gobert has morphed from late first-round pick into one of the best rim protectors in the league. Derrick Favors is one of the league’s more athletic big men and is a great defender. Gordon Hayward has improved with every season and has done surprisingly well as Utah’s No. 1 scoring option. After CJ McCollum, Rodney Hood was the league’s best second-year player last season.

The two biggest question marks for Utah are bench depth and point guard. Dante Exum, the 5th overall pick two years ago, missed all of last season with an injury and the Jazz struggled all year to find someone to run the offense. Raul Neto, Shelvin Mack and Trey Burke are all quality players, but none is league-average starting point guard.

The Jazz second units were also a weak link. Injuries to Favors, Gobert, Exum and Alec Burks all got hurt and the Jazz simply couldn’t come up with enough depth to compensate. Too often they would fall out of games in the second and fourth quarters.

With Burks and Exum back and another year of experience for Trey Lyles, the Jazz should have move in reserve next season. They also hold the No. 12 pick and could find a young player to groom, but may try to move it for a veteran presence to help them make the 2017 playoffs.

Depending on what they decide to do with Devin Booker, the Jazz could have more than $30 million in cap space this summer. They could go after a player to help them now, but they would probably be better served to conserve that space for the future. Next summer both Hayward and Favors can be free agents and will both likely see considerable pay raises.

That makes this summer and next season even more important. The Jazz need to decide quickly if this core is good enough. Favors and Hayward their clear leaders, are still young and improving. Do they have enough to bring the playoffs back to Salt Lake City?

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