Updated: Oct. 27, 2006, 12:05 PM ET

SPECIAL PREVIEW EDITION
Booz, AK-47 potent Jazz combo

Jazz

Team Page | Schedule | Roster | Hollinger Stats

Where will the Utah Jazz finish in the Northwest Division and the Western Conference? Get 10 takes from ESPN's NBA experts.

ANALYST COMMENT
Marc
Stein
ESPN.com
Stockton and Malone were so durable that you have to wonder: Is it all evening out now? Jerry Sloan has playoff talent but will have an unfathomable streak of four straight non-playoff seasons if AK-47 (Andrei Kirilenko), Carlos Boozer and Co. can't stay healthy again.
DIVISION RANK: 2 | CONFERENCE RANK: 10
Chris
Sheridan

ESPN.com
In his 19th season with the Jazz, Jerry Sloan will finally win Coach of the Year. He has the right mix of veterans -- if they stay healthy -- and hungry youngsters to hang with Chicago for NBA's most improved team.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 4
Jim
O'Brien

ESPN.com
Kirilenko and Boozer, if healthy, will do wonders for the Jazz's chances, and Deron Williams should be much improved in his second season. They execute and rebound, and they'll challenge the Nuggets for the division crown.
DIVISION RANK: 2 | CONFERENCE RANK: 9
Tim
Legler

ESPN.com
This team defends, shares the ball and has balance offensively, with seven guys capable of getting 20 points on any given night -- Williams, Kirilenko, Boozer, Gordon Giricek, Mehmet Okur, Matt Harpring, and Derek Fisher.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 4
Scoop Jackson
ESPN.com
Giricek will open it up from 3 and AK-47 will do his All-Star thing and Dee Brown and Williams are together again, but until Boozer decides he wants to seriously play ball, the Jazz will find another kind of blue.
DIVISION RANK: 2 | CONFERENCE RANK: 10
John
Hollinger

ESPN.com
The Jazz's potentially awesome frontcourt has rarely played together, but if Carlos Boozer, Andrei Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur manage 200 games between them then this team is playoff-bound. The upgraded backcourt (Derek Fisher and Ronnie Brewer) should also pay dividends.
DIVISION RANK: 2 | CONFERENCE RANK: 7
Chad
Ford

ESPN.com
Now that Kirilenko and Boozer are healthy and Deron Williams has a full season under his belt at the point, expect Jerry Sloan to have the Jazz back in the playoffs for the first time in a while.
DIVISION RANK: 2 | CONFERENCE RANK: 7
Ric
Bucher

ESPN Mag
The talent suggests they could win the division if Denver implodes, but I'm not buying. I don't see enough shooters or a transition game. They will be efficient in what they do, however.
DIVISION RANK: 2 | CONFERENCE RANK: 10
Chris
Broussard

ESPN Mag
If completely healthy, the Jazz could take the division crown from volatile Denver. But Kirilenko, the key, is already having back problems, and it's hard to believe Boozer won't go gimpy at some point.
DIVISION RANK: 2 | CONFERENCE RANK: 9
Greg
Anthony

ESPN.com
Can Boozer play the whole season? Who's going to play shooting guard? Can Okur have another great season? Regardless, I don't see this being a playoff team.
DIVISION RANK: 4 | CONFERENCE RANK: 14
 
Average ranks

DIVISION: 2.0 | Standings
CONFERENCE: 8.4 | Standings


The Russian Front
Kirilenko
Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images
When opponents try to score on the Jazz, it must seem as though Andrei Kirilenko is all over the floor.


Lineup Breakdown

STARTERS ANALYSIS
Deron Williams
Point Guard
6-3 | 210
Better grasp of system minus body fat means attention must be paid.
Gordan Giricek
Shooting Guard
6-5 | 210
Hits open shots, but isn't big or quick enough to get many of them.
Andrei Kirilenko
Small Forward
6-9 | 225
No one doubts his D, but whatever happened to his O?
Carlos Boozer
Power Forward
6-9 | 258
The back-to-basket scorer has the stench of trade bait.
Mehmet Okur
Center
6-11 | 249
New wrinkle to old Jazz pick-and-roll: nailed 80 3-pointers.
Bench: Matt Harpring still has his moments, and speedy rook Ronnie Brewer is about to have a bunch more. Get well, Derek Fisher. The Jazz need your J.

ESPN The Magazine's NBA Preview hits newsstands Oct. 25.



Hollinger's Player Spotlight
Derek Fisher
Player efficiency rating
projection: 12.60
vs. NBA avg.: -2.40
Jazz profiles

Scouting report: A left-hander who loves to shoot high-arching jumpers, Fisher is powerfully built but rarely uses that advantage on offense. He prefers to pull up from 20 instead, especially in transition. Fisher penetrates enough to keep defenses honest, earning a decent rate of free-throw attempts despite all the jumpers, but he's not a great finisher -- he barely shoots better on 2s than 3s for his career, and that trend held up again last season. Fisher's natural position is the point, but because his instincts are as a scorer rather a passer he can often fill in at shooting guard.

Fisher's other calling card is defense, where his strength, tenacity and considerable thespian skills make him one of the better guards at getting stops. Lateral movement is the weakest part of his portfolio so quick guards can sometimes give him trouble, but overall the Warriors defended better with Fisher on the court than off it for a second straight season.

2006-07 outlook: Fisher's strong season allowed the Warriors to climb out from under his contract, shipping him to Utah in return for expiring deals. The Jazz might be disappointed with what they get. Fisher's season didn't technically qualify for the Fluke Rule, but it's the same guiding principle -- it's rare for guys to suddenly get better at 31, and he's probably going to slam back to earth this season.

At least he'll get plenty of chances to prove me wrong. Fisher will play a similar role to the one he filled at Golden State, being the primary backup at both guard spots and starting as situations dictate, and in Utah's weak backcourt there should be plenty of minutes to go around.


Super Soph
Williams
Kent Horner/Getty Images
He's no John Stockton yet in the hearts and minds of Jazz fans, not to mention the box score and standings, but Deron Williams is the next best thing Utah's seen.


SportsNation Speaks
In light of Utah's .500 finish last season, SportsNation is interested in a deep, deep sleeper called the Jazz. Will they surge into the playoff ranks this season, or sink into Blazerland?

What do the Jazz most need to get back to the playoffs?
61.4% Good health
14.4% Better play by Carlos Boozer
10.3% Better play at shooting guard
5.6% Better play by Deron Williams
5.3% Better play by Andrei Kirilenko
2.9% A new coach

Vote: Jazz in 2006-07



Ask A Blogger
Jazz

What would it take for you to get a tattoo of the Jazz's logo on your chest?

I'd get inked if it meant Deron Williams would remove his orange tattoo. But I'd settle for him leading a healthy version of the unholy starting lineup of four 4s (Boozer, Okur, Kirilenko, Harpring) that wreaked havoc at the end of last season.

And what's not to love about the Illinois Era in Utah (Dee Brown, D-Will, and Roger Powell)? The perfect fit for the team with famous second-place finishes.

Speaking of tats, the Post-'Tag Era means the Jazz exchanged Fred Flintstone for Hoffa Araujo, bringing some serious custom skin work as well as six hard fouls. I'd call it an upgrade.

Spencer Hall, AKA Pichi Campana Aguanta of FreeDarko



Coach's Corner

JERRY SLOAN COACHING FILE
Experience: 21 years
Record: 984-658
Playoffs: 78-80
NBA titles: 0
Coach's profile

As the rest of the league's coaches try to go small, Jerry Sloan will have the option to go big (and slow). Utah's bigs can really hurt teams inside and the presence of superfreak Andrei Kirilenko makes up for some quickness mismatches inside.

Sloan will need to develop rookie Ronnie Brewer, a 6-foot-7 athlete who can play multiple positions.

He will also need to devote the early season toward developing a true team leader, a necessary ingredient for most playoff teams.

David Thorpe, ESPN.com NBA analyst



Hollinger's Team Strength
Rebounding. With a frontcourt of Boozer, Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur, the Jazz are a big team that can attack the glass. Throw in players like Harpring, Brewer and rookie board beast Paul Millsap off the bench and it gets downright fearsome.

The Jazz were the league's top offensive rebounding team a season ago, which helped make up for their incredibly shabby results in other areas of offense.

The Jazz didn't have a single player putting up awesome numbers. Instead, it was a team effort. Boozer, Kirilenko, Harpring and Okur each ranked in the top 15 at his position in rebound rate. Surprisingly, the best offensive rebounder was Harpring; his 9.76 offensive rebound rate ranked fourth among small forwards.

Unlike many good offensive rebounding teams, the Jazz also held their own on the defensive boards. Boozer ranked 10th overall in defensive rebound rate, and Okur was also outstanding. Overall, that gave the Jazz the league's highest rebound rate at 52.6 percent, inching ahead of Miami for the honor.

More Hollinger Jazz analysis Insider



Fantasy Fix
Williams
Williams

Sleeper: Deron Williams. When the Jazz signed Derek Fisher, immediately questions arose about how each would be used. Those questions still haven't been answered officially, but Williams really finished strong last season and he'll have a starting job. He's an above-average shooter and will post an impressive assist-to-turnover ratio.

Bust: Gordan Giricek, who started last season before an Achilles injury ended his season, is a score-only fantasy player at best. Even if he's the starting shooting guard again this season, Utah has too many other options for him to offer anything positive fantasy-wise.

Keith Lipscomb | Fantasy Hoops Index

 

Search Arrow