Posted on: July 11, 2011 6:23 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2011 10:23 pm
A look at what is at stake for the NBA's Northwest Division if a whole season was lost due to the lockout. Posted by Ben Golliver.
Talk of losing an entire NBA season is a bit ridiculous. But it's a possibility. And with all this hardline talk going on, it seems like neither the players nor the owners are wanting to budge. There's incentive for teams to get a deal done and not just for the money, but because a year without basketball and more importantly, basketball operations, could greatly affect each and every NBA franchise.
Earlier this week, we took a look at the Southeast Division, the Atlantic Division, the Central Division and the Southwest Division. Let's continue with the Northwest Division.
The NBA's worst team won just 17 games last year, had the league's seventh-worst home attendance and is generally mentioned at the top of the list of examples that "prove" the NBA's economic system is broken. That's because their local television, ticket and memorabilia revenue simply cannot compete with the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics of the world. Despite all of that, the Timberwolves might very well have more to lose than any other team in the Northwest Division if the league were to miss an entire season.
Let's start with 2009 lottery pick Ricky Rubio, who against all odds took the plunge and decided to finally join up with Minnesota. For multiple seasons, Rubio has represented hope, carrying Timberwolves fans through ugly winters and late-season collapses. The wait was excruciating. The uncertainty about whether he would or wouldn't stay in Europe further into the future made it worse. Now that he's on board, he's been greeted at an airport, introduced to his teammates, sold some jerseys and rallied the collective fan spirit a bit. To lose an entire season would make that interminable wait that much longer. It would also rob Rubio of a valuable development and acclimation year, which would be an absolute disaster. This is a point guard who needs to start on Day 1, entrusted with the full support of his coaching staff and allowed to make mistakes and build chemistry with his teammates while learning on the job. No season means no opportunity to do any of that.
Aside from Rubio, there are financial risks as well. That might be surprising, because the Timberwolves currently are the only team in the NBA that does not have anyone on their books for more than $6.3 million next season, a fairly astonishing accomplishment. Of course, there's a catch: All-Star power forward Kevin Love is on his rookie deal. Indeed, Love is heading into the last pure season of his rookie deal before Minnesota either must issue him a qualifying offer or sign him to an extension. Worse yet, it's possible that Love, one of the league's premier rebounders, will command a mini-max extension or close to it. The point here? He's set to make just $4.6 million next season, a bargain for his production. If the season is lost, the Timberwolves miss out completely on that outstanding value and are one year closer to biting the bullet on extending him without having reaped full benefits. That's tough.
Last but not least, a lost season is the perfect excuse for any franchise to delay tough decisions or to talk themselves into trying to make things work. With an imbalanced roster full of mixed and matched pieces, the Timberwolves, despite their accumulated talent, are going to struggle mightly again next season. The pains of those struggles, theoretically, could be enough to finally convince owner Glen Taylor to pull the plug on president David Kahn, a man who hasn't shown the ability to construct a team and outright wasted two second round draft picks on technical mistakes during the 2011 NBA Draft, by trading a hurt player (Jonny Flynn) and drafting someone who lied about his age (Tanguy Ngombo). A year without games, then, is a year without losses, which means another year for Kahn to preach patience and wiggle out of responsibility for this mess. The sooner Kahn is gone, the sooner this ship turns around. A lost season will make "sooner" feel like never.
OKLAHOMA CITY Thunder
While the Timberwolves need to get headed in the right direction, the Oklahoma City Thunder are already there. With the best designed roster in the league, two young All-Stars, an undisputed Northwest Division title and a Western Conference Finals appearance under their belt already, and a passionate fanbase that is guaranteed to provide 40+ home sellouts next season, the Thunder would happily start the season today. A lost season, then, would be a nightmare.
Name something, anything, and it's at risk for the Thunder. They lose the value of Russell Westbrook playing on a rookie deal. They lose the value of James Harden on a rookie deal. They lose the value of Serge Ibaka on a rookie deal. They lose one year of Kevin Durant's Hall of Fame playing career. They lose another season of playoff experience. They lose a very good chance at making a run at an NBA Finals. They lose a season of having their top eight players (Durant, Westbrook, Harden, Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, Thabo Sefalosha, Nick Collison, Eric Maynor) all locked into affordable contracts. They lose the chemistry and momentum that goes with having an entire nucleus together for multiple years.
What's worse: they have nothing to gain from a work stoppage, other than perhaps the money that would come with increased revenue sharing. Without a single bad or untradeable contract on their books, there is no financial reason OKC would root for a year away from the game. In fact, any change to the Collective Bargaining Agreement that firms up the cap would make it more difficult for the Thunder to keep all this talent in house. That means they wouldn't get the chance to win now and their ability to win later could be compromised.
Usually, young teams that make a deep run through the playoffs can't wait to get back on the court for a second go-around. Multiply that feeling by about 10 and that's the situation facing OKC.
PORTLAND Trail Blazers
You might think the injury-plagued Trail Blazers would welcome some time off to lick their wounds and assess the damage, but missing an entire NBA season wouldn't necessarily be a good thing for this franchise. Really, it's a muddled picture.
The main benefit is clear: the Blazers have a very difficult cap situation next season, thanks to a mini-max contract for guard Brandon Roy, who is apparently no longer capable of reaching his previous All-Star level of play. Saving the $15 million owed to Roy, as well as the $10.5 million owed to aging center Marcus Camby, would be a tempting proposition for most small-market owners. Money aside, saving the miles on Roy's knees wouldn't hurt either.
Blazers owner and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, however, has dealt with serious health problems in recent years and is clearly in spend-big, win-now mode. He would cut a check tomorrow for five times his team's total salary cap if it meant a shot at the NBA Finals, no questions asked. It's difficult to imagine a financial enticement that would make it worth Allen's while to take a year off.
Aside from Roy, the other big question is center Greg Oden. Missing an entire NBA season doesn't play in Oden's favor, as he hasn't taken the court for an NBA game since December 2009. A lost season means his layoff would extend nearly three full years to October 2012. That's a long, long time to be away from basketball. Complicating that further for the Blazers is the fact that Oden is a restricted free agent this summer. The Blazers would retain matching rights on Oden if a season was lost but they would be forced to offer him an extension without being able to see whether he recovers fully to be able to take the court and, more importantly, withstand injury once he's out there. Oden could command a mid-level type of offer on the open market, which would be a major investment for Portland, because the Blazers have already committed to nearly $80 million in salary for next season, with contracts to Roy, forwards LaMarcus Aldridge and Gerald Wallace and guard Wesley Matthews already on the books into the future. Without another center on their roster who is in their long-term plans, though, the Blazers wouldn't have a choice. They'd have to pay up. Given that situation, you want as much information as possible; a lost season would mean no information.
Finally, the Blazers have a big question at the starting point guard position. His name is Raymond Felton, and he was acquired in a draft day trade for previous point guard Andre Miller. Felton is in a contract year and hasn't played meaningful minutes with any of his current teammates, except for a stint in Charlotte with Wallace. Felton will require a good-sized contract extension next summer as well and the Blazers would surely like to see how he gels with their core, particularly Aldridge, before they commit to him long-term. Without any starting quality options on the roster, they would again find themselves stuck in a corner, forced to do what it takes to retain Felton without a readily available back-up plan.
To boil it down: the Blazers have enough questions without a lost season. Missing a full season would simply create an array of complications and made some tough roster decisions that much more difficult and, potentially, costly.
Sure, the Denver Nuggets lost franchise forward Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks, but they did an excellent job of stripping their roster down to allow for a quick bounceback rebuilding effort. The Nuggets, somewhat like the Thunder, are in a financial position where their salary cap situation makes it more advantageous for next season to take place unhindered. The Nuggets currently don't have a truly horrible contract on their books, although the mid-level deal for Al Harrington and the $15 million or so left to be paid to Chris Andersen over the next three years are regrettable. Indeed, the Nuggets have committed to less than $40 million in salary for next season, pending a potentially major financial commitment to big man Nene, who has decided to test the free agency waters, and a decision on guard J.R. Smith.
The biggest risks for Denver would be missing out on the value of point guard Ty Lawson on his rookie deal and managing whatever concerns might arise about Denver's ability to use its salary cap flexibility to continue work on its rebuilding situation. Most analysts believe teams with salary cap room will be in a position of strength, regardless of how the new CBA shakes out, so perhaps that uncertainty is more of an annoyance than a true concern.
The Nuggets have a lot of questions. How will they spend their money? Who will they bring back? Who will they let go? Are the players under contract currently good enough to compete for a playoff spot in the Western Conference next year or is it better to continue slashing and burning for another season? These are good questions to have because they all point to one fundamental truth: The Nuggets have flexibility thanks to their young, cheap assets. The worst case scenario is that Nuggets fans have to wait a year to watch a promising, athletic upstart group entertain. That's not too bad.
If I'm the Jazz, I'm totally cool with taking a year off. A lost season means that Utah would save $14 million owed to Al Jefferson, $10.9 million owed to Mehmet Okur, $9.3 million owed to Devin Harris and $8.1 million owed to Paul Millsap. While Millsap is probably worth his number, the other three certainly aren't worth theirs, especially on a team that lost its foundational identity when it shipped franchise point guard Deron Williams to the New Jersey Nets at the trade deadline.
Right now, Utah's finances are pretty tight, with $61.5 million already committed for 2011-2012. Look ahead just one year, though, and that number drops to $48.7 million. To make things even nicer, Jefferson, Harris and Millsap will all be expiring that season. The Jazz will be poised to take advantage of their new-found flexibility, keeping the parts that fit (probably only Millsap) and dispensing with the rest.
The biggest risk in a cancelled season for Utah would be the lost development for younger guys like Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward and 2011 first-round picks Enes Kanter and Alec Burks. In Favors, they have a potential franchise forward who needs to start enjoying a loose leash so he can blossom into the player the Jazz expect him to be. Forcing him to take a year off does him no good and, depending on how he responds, could do him some harm. Kanter, meanwhile, looks like an even bigger risk on paper because he was forced to sit out last year at Kentucky, his only year at the college level, due to eligibility issues and because he hasn't yet tasted the NBA game. A lost season would mean two full years away from competitive basketball, not an ideal situation for someone the Jazz selected with the No. 3 overall pick in this year's draft. As for Hayward and Burks, they are lesser concerns. Both have shown promise and clearly have room for improvement. Losing a year wouldn't be critical, but it would be better for them individually if it could be prevented.
On balance, the financial rewards seem to outweigh the development risks for the Jazz.
Salary numbers courtesy of StoryTeller's Contracts.
Tags: Al Harrington, Al Jefferson, Alec Burks, Brandon Roy, Carmelo Anthony, David Kahn, Denver Nuggets, Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, Enes Kanter, Gordon Hayward, Greg Oden, J.R. Smith, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Marcus Camby, Mehmet Okur, Minnesota Timberwolves, Nene, Oklahoma City Thunder, Paul Allen, Paul Millsap, Portland Trail Blazers, Raymond Felton, Ricky Rubio, Russell Westbrook, Ty Lawson, Utah Jazz
Posted on: March 25, 2011 11:51 am
Posted by Royce Young
Last week, the Jazz officially announced what many of us already had figured out: Mehmet Okur was done for the rest of the season. Okur had been battling an Achilles injury, an ankle injury and a back injury. He tried to come back briefly during January, but as Okur admitted, it was too soon.
But with Okur shutting down after a lost season filled with injury, some thought he might be leaning towards retirement. Okur says not so fast.
"The smart thing was just to shut me down and get rehab and get ready to go next year," Okur told the Deseret News. "I should be OK. I'm not that old. I'm just 32. It's going to be a huge summer for me. Obviously, I'm going to keep getting rehab, especially start with my left leg and make it stronger, then my back. I can't wait."
Next year is the last year on Okur's contract (he's owed $10.9 million by the Jazz), so obviously he's looking to go ahead and cash those checks. But Okur said that he's got a few more years left in the tank and is hoping to play until his later 30s.
Easy to forget that Okur was a pretty darn good big man before injuries started slowing him down. He was an All-Star in 2007 and as a seven-footer with range past the 3-point line, he always was a difficult matchup for anyone. If he can get healthy, he'd surely make a difference for the Jazz next season and might be able to wrangle another contract after that.
Posted on: March 17, 2011 12:49 am
Utah Jazz center Mehmet Okur has been ruled out for the season with a back injury. Posted by Ben Golliver.
When Utah Jazz center Mehmet Okur looks back on the 2010-2011 NBA season, he will view likely it as a lost year. Okur began the season rehabilitating from a ruptured Achilles suffered last April, and while he made it back to the court briefly, he strained his back in January.
The Jazz announced on Wednesday that the lower back strain had reached the point where it was in Okur's best interest to shut it down for the remainder of the season.
Following a complete and in-depth evaluation with Mehmet Okur, Jazz team orthopedist Dr. Lyle Mason, Utah Jazz medical staff and back rehabilitation specialist Dr. Graham Hill, Jazz general manager Kevin O’Connor announced today that it has been determined to be in Okur’s best interest to discontinue any further attempts to return to play this season.
“His efforts and determination to return from his combined left Achilles’ surgery and back issues may have put undue stress on his body,” said O’Connor. “We feel that a concentrated effort to return his back and Achilles’ conditions to acceptable levels is our main concern. Mehmet is expected to be at full speed for the start of the 2011-12 Jazz training camp.”Things could be worse for Okur, 31, as he's under contract through the end of next season and set to earn $10.9 million in 2011-2012. He'll have the entire summer and any work stoppage to get his body right before making a run at his next payday.
On the season, Okur played 13 games and averaged 4.9 points and 2.3 rebounds in 12.9 minutes per game. In his absence, the always steady Jazz have imploded, as head coach Jerry Sloan resigned, franchise point guard Deron Williams was traded to the New Jersey Nets and the team is currently on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. If the Jazz don't make a late-season push, they will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2005-2006.
Posted on: December 13, 2010 8:06 am
Edited on: August 14, 2011 9:33 pm
The Denver Nuggets spin with the Carmelo Anthony situation, Avery Johnson says Kobe Bryant could be better than Michael Jordan, the Miami Heat could let an asset go to waste, the Sacramento Kings owners whoop it up while the Los Angeles Clippers owner trash talks his own players and two Western Conference big men are on the mend. Posted by Ben Golliver.
Posted on: November 26, 2010 12:40 pm
Edited on: November 26, 2010 6:08 pm
Your NBA Black Friday Fantasy deals: come find the bargain fantasy guys you're looking for.
Posted by Kevin Goodwin
Well, folks, it's that time of year again. The day we shake off those paralyzing turkey chemicals and drag ourselves out of bed in the wee hours. The day we maraud from store to store like a pack of ravenous credit-wielding zombies. The day we do the ridiculous in the name of big deals and unparalleled savings. Black Friday hath cometh.
Fortunately, Fantasy owners don't even have to leave their couch to find great bargains … and it's the right time of year for those as well. I've got 10 super-saver steals that could put your team on the track to success in the New Year. Don't let those other fantasy shoppers beat you to the bargains!
Fantasy Shopping Cart: Calderon's Fantasy value is sky high, and Fantasy owners are clearing out long-term roster space to snatch him up. Since Jarrett Jack was traded to New Orleans, Calderon will see the lion's share of minutes up in Toronto. He has been producing at a high level recently, and is averaging 12.3 points and 6.5 assists over his last four games entering Black Friday. He should continue to perform for the Raptors, and for Fantasy owners from here on out.
Real Deal Equivalent: Squinkies Bubble Pack - $11.99 at Babies"R"Us
Fantasy Shopping Cart: Flynn still doesn't have a timetable for his return, but it's getting closer. Minnesota brought in veteran guard Luke Ridnour to push Flynn for the starting job this year, but a hip injury to Flynn deflated any competition. Now, Flynn will have to prove his worth to coach Kurt Rambis. We all know Rambis was limiting Kevin Love's minutes to start the season, so it's unclear how he'll treat Flynn when he does return. But Fantasy owners who are hurting in the guard position should keep an eye on Flynn. He has more of an upside than Ridnour, and can offer you around 13-15 points and 4-5 assists per game. He also shot 35.8 percent from downtown last season, which is a nice gift for Fantasy owners around the holidays.
Real Deal Equivalent: 1/3 Carat Diamond White Gold Bypass Bridal Ring Set - $219 at Wal-Mart
Fantasy Shopping Cart: Murphy has been inactive for five games now, and is sitting behind Kris Humphries and rookie Derrick Favors on the depth chart. Coach Avery Johnson hasn't been able to figure out what to do with Murphy. He missed the preseason and the start of the regular season with a back injury, but is now on the shelf because of his conditioning. The Nets traded for Murphy with the hope that he could be a starter, and now he's not playing or bringing in any Fantasy points. Not what anyone wants from a Round 5 or 6 draft choice (his average in CBSSports.com Fantasy leagues). Still, in leagues where he's available, Murphy would be worth grabbing while you can. If he gets traded by the Nets, he could go back to his 15-10 stat line, and smart Fantasy owners could get him on the cheap if they can afford to keep him reserved until he sees more court time. Keep in mind, Murphy also has a history of late-season success -- Since the 2006-07 NBA season he's averaged 11.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game before the All-Star break and 14.8 PPG and 9.1 boards post All-Star.
Real Deal Equivalent: Samsung SMX-F40 SD camcorder - $119 at K-Mart
Fantasy Shopping Cart: Okur hasn't played yet this season, and is available in almost half of Fantasy leagues. With the Jazz playing so well to start the year, owners with room on their roster may have good reason to add the veteran big man. As a career 37.8 3-point shooter, Okur is hardly a typical center, which makes him a nice player to own in category-based leagues. Utah's addition of Al Jefferson may scare some owners off, but nabbing Okur now before a timetable is set could pay nice dividends.
Real Deal Equivalent: Yankee Candle Pine & Cinnamon Jar Candles - $17.99 at Kohl's
Fantasy Shopping Cart: Przybilla is set to make his season debut on Black Friday, which gives Fantasy owners a perfect opportunity to check him out. He'll likely be rusty coming off knee surgery, but is a center worth keeping tabs on or adding in deeper formats. He doesn't score many points, but is a good source of rebounds and shoots with high efficiency from the field -- 55.5 percent for his career. Also, take in to account that Portland needs bodies on the frontcourt, which means Przybilla will get plenty of playing time. Remember he should be targeted in deeper Fantasy formats, not standard leagues.
Real Deal Equivalent: Craftsman 179cc 24'' Two-stage Snowblower - $583 at Sears
Fantasy Shopping Cart: Butler isn't having a very good start to the season, which means now is the time to buy. Some Fantasy owners may want to drop him, but realize he's worth too much to just throw away. That being the case, they may be willing to part with Butler for next to nothing. He hasn't fully adjusted to being in Dallas since coming over from Washington, and the one thing that would help Butler's Fantasy appeal most is being traded. So, owners that like to gamble could make the move for Butler now. Last year, Butler averaged 15.2 points and 5.4 boards with the Mavericks, so the potential is there for Fantasy owners to see a nice return on their investment.
Real Deal Equivalent: 55" Westinghouse 120Hz, 1080p LCD TV - $799.99 at Best Buy
7. Brandon Roy, guard, Portland Trail Blazers (Owned 99 percent/Started 22 percent)
Fantasy Shopping Cart: Roy should be owned in every Fantasy league out there, but while he battles knee injuries, owners are definitely grinding their teeth for drafting him so high. Some owners may be looking to jump ship, since this is the lowest Roy's Fantasy value has ever been, and that means it's the perfect time to get an upper echelon guard for dirt cheap. If you can pry Roy away from another owner, there's a good chance he would make your team better immediately. Portland may limit his court time to preserve him for the year, but Roy has the ability to produce solid numbers in 20-25 minutes of action.
Real Deal Equivalent: High-Performance Samsung Laptops - $150 off at Best Buy
Fantasy Shopping Cart: Collison was undoubtedly overvalued entering this year. He was taken with an average draft pick of 40, based solely on his 18.8 points, 9.1 assists and 3.5 rebounds as a starter last year in New Orleans. This means that current owners are probably very disappointed with his 14.3 points and 4.3 boards per game through the first five weeks of the season. I smell a sale. Collison still has the potential to be a 17 and 7 guy, and owners should check their league and see if they can strike up a deal.
Real Deal Equivalent: All adult jeans - $15 at Old Navy
Fantasy Shopping Cart: Carter is currently dealing with some bumps and bruises which are keeping him out of the Magic lineup. He's also averaging career-lows in points, rebounds and assists: 13.9, 3.2 and 2.5, respectively. Clearly, Carter is no longer the high-flyer he once was, but he does have the capability to go off on any given night. Again, we've got a player who could be reeled in for cheap based on the disappointment tied to inflated preseason expectations. If you don't mind being patient with the veteran, trading for Carter could be a steal.
Real Deal Equivalent: Radio Flyer Big Wheel - $35 at Wal-Mart
Fantasy Shopping Cart: Andersen just made his season debut for the Nuggets, which is why he's available in 90 percent of CBSSports.com Fantasy leagues. He's coming off an offseason knee surgery, so he's a bit of a risky option, but there are definitely Fantasy owners out there who are in desperate need of a big man. Injury bug, anyone? Those owners might be happy to see Andersen fill a void in their lineups. He's not worth owning in standard leagues, but is definitely worth a flier in deeper Rotisserie formats. He's a bargain and a half right now.
Real Deal Equivalent: 46" APEX LCD TV, 1080p 60 Hz - $449 at Target
Tags: Blazers, Brandon Roy, Caron Butler, Chris Andersen, Dallas Mavericks, Darren Collison, Denver Nuggets, fantasy, fantasy basketball, Indiana Pacers, Jazz, Joel Przybilla, Jonny Flynn, Jose Calderon, Magic, Mavericks, Mehmet Okur, Minnesota Timberwolves, Nets, New Jersey Nets, Nuggets, Orlando Magic, Pacers, Portland Trail Blazers, Raptors, Timberwolves, Toronto Raptors, Troy Murphy, Utah Jazz, Vince Carter
Posted on: September 24, 2010 1:32 am
Posted by Matt Moore
Losing your second best player to free agency should be the kind of thing that sets your franchise back coniderably (don't tell the Suns). But the Utah Jazz, the model of consistency in the NBA since Jerry Sloan took over back in the Paleozoic Era, they just keep plugging right along. Making smart, well-reasoned decisions have led them to replacing Carlos Boozer with Al Jefferson. The question is if they can pick up where they left off. And that's where we begin the latest of our Preseason Primers with the Utah Jazz.
Training camp site: Salt Lake City, Utah
Training camp starts: September 28th
Key additions: Al Jefferson (trade), Raja Bell (free agency), Francisco Elson (free agency)
Key subtractions: Carlos Boozer (free agency), Kyle Korver (free agency), Wesley Matthews (free agency), Kosta Koufos (traded)
Likely starting lineup: Deron Williams (PG), C.J. Miles (SG), Andrei Kirilenko (SF), Al Jefferson (PF), Mehmet Okur (C)
Player to watch: Paul Millsap. Al Jefferson was brought in to replace Carlos Boozer, after Paul Millsap was given a huge new contract to replace Boozer. Now that Jefferson has arrived, Millsap finds himself in one of two positions entering camp. He either needs to battle on the glass and play "big" enough to prove he can play in tandem with Jefferson, or he needs to detonate to a degree where Sloan has a legitimate quandray on his hands between the two. Under the right circumstances, either is possible, though neither is likely.
Chemistry quiz: This really all comes down to Jefferson. Deron Williams is still the floor general, and many of the Jazz players have been there for years. Jefferson faces tremendous pressure not only to make an impact immediately, but to work in tandem with Deron Williams and commit himself to Sloan's defensive principles. The Jazz aren't exactly a superstar-centric team, and Jefferson has to prove he can fit that model from the get-go.
Camp battles: Outside of the aforementioned Millsap-Jefferson rumble, shooting guard should be lively. Raja Bell has had enough time off to be completely healthy, but he's got a lot of miles on those wheels. C.J. Miles has a fresher set of treads, but he's also maddeningly inconsistent.
Injury issues: Deron Williams was severely banged up at the end of last season, so keeping him in the best health possible is top priority. Mehmet Okur may or may not be available by start of the season, so that will be the biggest injury to keep an eye on. The Jazz have been banged up in general over the past few years, and that's before you factor in the knee problems of Al Jefferson. Keep the tape handy, trainer man.
Biggest strength: Versatility. The Jazz have the ability to get up the floor, to slow it down when need be, to work out of the post to an improved degree, and to hit from the perimeter. They play solid defense and can compete with anyone. Those elements shouldn't shift much with the new additions.
Glaring weakness: Cohesiveness. The Jazz have mostly had positive runs over the past six years, but the lows tend to be really low. Jerry Sloan will need to work with what is now a younger team to develop consistency. Additionally, while the Jazz have been very good, they've lacked a ceiling of great. That's the level they need to get to if they want to contend in the West.