Posted by Royce Young
Quietly, the Jazz are building.
Building a championship contender? To be determined. Building a quality, in-the-mix team in the West? Absolutely.
Yeah, yeah, Utah lost Kyle Korver and Carlos Boozer to other teams in free agency. Yes, Wesley Matthews may be playing in Portland next year. But the Jazz may already have Matthews' replacement lined up in Ronnie Brewer. And it appears they have Boozer's in Al Jefferson.
Can Jefferson replace the All-Star Boozer? I suppose that's yet to be determined. But Jefferson is an actual center more than Boozer who was a four that often masqueraded as a five, while Mehmet Okur hovered around the 3-point line.
Coming off a second knee injury, Jefferson managed a quality season of averaging 17.1 ppg and 9.3 rpg. Boozer went for 19.5 and 11.2 last season. Having Jefferson allows Utah to move Paul Millsap into the starting lineup, something the Jazz clearly kept him around to potentially do when they matched Portland's four-year, $32 million offer.
Now with Jefferson, Utah has a more complete starting five. Deron Williams at point guard. Ronnie Brewer/Wesley Matthews off the ball. C.J. Miles playing small forward. Millsap at power forward with Jefferson teaming inside with him at the five. That's a pretty stout group. Especially when you think about Jefferson playing with Williams. If you can't see Jerry Sloan's mechanical pick and roll offense flowing beautifully between those two, you're probably a Nuggets' fan having nightmares about it.
And you know who Utah matches up much better with now? That team in purple and gold.
This all hinges on Jefferson continuing to heal and regain his form. Again, it's not like he was bad last year. Heck, he played in over 70 games. Though it was pretty obvious that he wore down late in the season, with another summer of conditioning and rehab, one should expect him to return to his old, dominant post-playing self.
And if he does, look out. I'm not saying Williams to Jefferson is the new Stockton to Malone, but it's certainly not that far off.