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More of the Same in 2010-11 for Utah Jazz?

I can’t even remember the last time the Utah Jazz did not make the Playoffs.

Well actually, I do. (now)

I looked it up.

They’ve managed to qualify over the last three years (2007-2009) but they have had a teeny-tiny, gap in 2004 through 2006. Prior to that three-year break, the Jazz have CONSISTENTLY made the playoffs from 1984 to 2003. Since 1984!

Consistent. That’s simply the best word that can describe the Jazz. But what happened during that three-year gap? It’s simple. Recent Hall of Fame inductee, John Stockton played his last season for the Jazz during the 2002-2003 season, while the  2005-2006 season was Deron Williams‘ rookie year. By the way, 1984, was Stockton’s rookie year.

Call me a mad, conspiracy theorist all you want, but I really think this franchise owes a bulk of its success to the talent and abilities of two of the greatest point guards in NBA history.

Don’t worry. Deron’s still young. He’s going to get there. You’ll see. I’ll throw it down now. D-Will is a future Hall-of-famer.

But calling Deron Williams (of today) “the new John Stockton” of the 80’s,

… is kind of like calling Lady Gaga (today) the “new” Madonna (80’s).

I’m not exactly sure how I came up with the comparison, it seemed like a good idea when it first popped into my head.

Besides, I think you get what I mean. Or maybe not.

What do these modern day icons have in common with their 80’s counterparts?

Well now, where do I begin? They have similar all-star-caliber talent in their respective fields, iconic status, awesomeness, and no NBA championship rings. I’m not too sure if Madonna has one though. Dennis Rodman might have left one of his at her place.

Where the “Deron Winds” blow, so goes the direction of the Utah Jazz, similar to another Western conference team that’s led by a PG who’s name rhymes with “cash”. Now if there’s any truth in that, then the Jazz are in for a blast of a season. I was one of the few, the proud, who personally ranked D-Will in their fantasy top 10 last season. Finally, the rest of the world has now followed suit and is projecting ma’ boi at the appropriate draft bracket.

He’s improved on his threes, steals, and rebounding. I believe that (last season’s improvement) is only the beginning. We’re in for a statistical thrill ride in 2010. He’s got it in him to surpass Wade and Curry in  the PG-eligible ranking race, by season’s end.

Since I have a position bias when it comes to fantasy basketball – I love the PG’s, at times a bit too much – I will inhibit myself from further pimping D-Will, lest I be accused of “overselling” the guy. As part of my therapy to become “a better fantasy basketball manager,” I believe I should own up and admit that calling it a bias is actually an understatement. Allow me to illustrate this obsession in video form. In a fantasy basketball draft, the little girl is ME and the stuffed unicorn represents POINT GUARDS.

That says it all. Don’t worry. I’m working on it. As a challenge, I should try to see if I can live with punting assists in one of my head to head leagues this year. We’ll see if I can muster up the conviction, but let’s save that for another post.


Moving on…

As they say, “It’s a team sport,” and this team did quite well during the off-season considering Carlos Boozer, Williams’ primary partner in the Jazz offense, left for more Bullish pastures. Here’s the rest of the crew.

Depth Chart

PG Deron Williams, Ronnie Price, Sundiata Gaines

SG C.J. Miles, Raja Bell, Othyus Jeffers

SF Andrei Kirilenko, Gordon Hayward

PF Paul Millsap, Andrei Kirilenko

C  Al Jefferson, Mehmet Okur

Boozer is gone, but I really feel that Al Jefferson is a legitimate consolation, and actually even a potential upgrade down the road. One of the biggest questions looming over the Jazz at the moment is “How well will Williams and Jefferson jell together as teammates?

Al Jefferson can potentially provide you with Top-20 caliber value, but he’s clearly going to be available in the third-ish round, so no need to overpay. He’s more than a year removed from his ACL injury and is only now, going to get a chance to be teamed up with an all-star caliber point guard.

In the Boozer vs. Jefferson debates, we can probably put them at par as far as being able to deliver 20-10 scoring and rebounding averages. Boozer will be the more consistent and superior free-throw shooter, while Al will be able to improve on blocks – a dimension sorely lacking in Carlos’ game.

Why is Jefferson starting C and not Mehmet Okur? Okur is currently still undergoing rehab after the repair of his ruptured Achilles. The timetable for his return is still uncertain. Stay tuned, we’ll keep you updated on his status. For now drop him in your rankings, until better news surfaces.

Everybody’s excited about Paul Millsap this season. People may just be hung up on the “…when Boozer’s gone, Millsap will be a beast!” bandwagon. While that may have been true, Al Jefferson will now be the likely scoring low-post presence and primary lane clogger on defense. Millsap will produce better numbers than he did last season, but it won’t be as mind blowing as many people expect.  We’re looking at something like 12-14 PPG, 7-8 RPG, 50+ FG%, FT% in the high 60’s, and roughly one steal and block per night. That projection comes from the ballpark of what he was able to deliver in 2008-2009. He should serve as a solid, second string power forward on most fantasy teams, but that’s as good as I see his fantasy value reaching.

This fantasy preview will not be anywhere near complete without the glaring irony that’s seared into my brain as I was prepping for this post. Two words. Andrei Kirilenko. I have him both high on him possibly making a comeback this season, but at the same time wary that something will conk out in this counting stats generating machine. Quandary? Yes, but not for everyone. Some people have been so burned by AK’s injury history, that they’re simply done with him. Period. On the other hand, there are guys who believe in him, almost religiously. The key with AK and his valuation is to accurately mitigate his potential with his ever-looming injury risk, to come up with a sane ranking.

I know what you’re thinking. You’ve heard this song and dance routine before. So what makes 2010 any different?

  • AK’s on a contract year this season.
  • He’s found his way back as a starter.
  • There isn’t much depth in the Jazz’s front court, so AK will be playing minutes both at the three and four.
  • Kirilenko will be tasked to be the team’s defensive catalyst from tip-off.

These are some significant differences from last season. Upside? If it looks like upside, feels like upside, and smells like upside; odds are it’s upside.

Make an assumption of X games played. Multiply that with Y, his per game averages, and you should get a rough ball park estimate of his roto value. I would pass on him altogether in the middle rounds if I were in a daily changes league, for fear of X games/weeks of a “dead roster slot.” For weekly set leagues, I’d say his upside is worth gambling on a bit, because you can always sit him on your bench and still feel relatively at ease. We at GMTR are generally averse to drafting “Injury Prone guys,” and yet we’ve got AK-47 pegged at 61st overall, ironically sharing the spot with Yao Ming.

Raja Bell might be a bounce back candidate this season. My Jazz depth chart research has C.J. Miles as the starter at SG. Things might change. If Bell can receive close to 30 minutes a night, which is actually realistic, he might be a good source of threes and the occasional steal. – shades of Phoenix days, but that was several years ago.

So let’s get down to it and bring to you, for your fantasy drafting guidance (12-man), GMTR’s round-by-round advice.

Deron Williams – Round 1 – and that’s not just because Erik thinks he’s so “fluffy!”

Al Jefferson - Late second to early third

Andrei Kirilenko - Round 5; Round 6 – if you’re pessimistic

Paul Millsap – Late 6th

Mehmet Okur – Round 7

Raja Bell – Last Round

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