Hey folks, just wanted to take a look at what the Utah pick will mean to us now that Sloan is out of the picture. After the jump I'll look at the protection that the pick has left and Utah's schedule for the rest of the year as well as a brief glance at their outlook. I'd assume most people would be happy if we didn't get that pick this year, so if we can push it off until next year or the year after, that'd be ideal.
First off, the pick protection:
2011: Top 16
2012: Top 14
2013: Top 12
2014: Top 9 (more below)
And here's where we have to take some caution. And also where the language seems a little hazy. I'm hoping someone can clarify this for me. Hoopsworld says "top-9 protected from right to swap in 2014, else 2014 second-round pick." So does this mean we have the right to swap picks, unless ours is lower, then we just get their second rounder in 2014? Or do we just get their second rounder and this is confusing for no reason? Anyways, however unlikely it is that Utah becomes a bottom 10 team, if they are in 2014, the pick could come to us as a second rounder. Ouch. If any of this info is wrong, I'd appreciate any corrections.
Now to the standings:
Well, near the beginning of the season, I argued adamantly that Utah was not as good as their record. They started off 15-5, including comeback wins over Miami and Orlando. Since then, their record has dropped to 31-24 (56.4%), including losing 11 out of their last 15 games. Now, I don't believe that they are quite as bad as they've shown in the last 15, but they're certainly closer to a 56% team than a 75% team.
There are currently 18 teams worse than the Jazz. But those teams include quite a few who could challenge the Jazz in the coming weeks if they trip up in the slightest . Portland and New York seem to be our best bets for knocking them off, though Denver could also drop behind them if they lose Melo for little in return. Then we've got Memphis, Phoenix, and Houston in the West and Philly in the East who could potentially surpass the Jazz. The [very] dark horse candidates would be Milwaukee in the East and the Clippers in the West to have a late season surge. I, for one, no longer think it's a lock that we get their pick this year (yes, that would be a tremendous thing).
Their schedule for the year (Bolded games are the most important games, not home/away):
February: Phoenix, GSW, Dallas, Indiana, Detroit, and Boston. I'll give them at least 50% to finish the month. Phoenix is the biggest game with Indiana in a close second.
March: Denver, Sacramento, New York, Toronto, Minnesota, Chicago, Philadelphia, Minnesota, Houston, Memphis, OKC, New Orleans, Dallas, and Washington. Looks like we have a hand in our own fate in March. We better win those two games. Hopefully Denver can pull it off without Melo and New York will easily win with Melo. I'm giving them 8 wins for March.
April: Lakers, Sacramento, Lakers, Portland, Spurs, New Orleans, Denver. Seems like we could catch a break if the Lakers and Spurs are battling for home court with Miami and Boston. There are no real gimmes in this month except maybe the Kings. Even that might be a stretch. I think it'll come down to the wire (unless Utah completely falls apart, which I doubt). Should be a fun thing to watch for the rest of the year. Hopefully Shrink will keep us updated on this.
So assuming we get lucky and don't end up with the pick this year, let's take a look at where the team is headed:
Coming off the books in:
2011: Andrei Kirilenko and a lot of backups. I'm guessing Kirilenko leaves, especially now that the team is in 'turmoil.' CJ Miles has a team option, which I would assume Utah picks up. Depending on where the cap comes in, it doesn't look like they would be able to do anything tremendous to boost their team with the exception of signing AK47 to a smaller deal and finding another vet who is desperate.
2012: Utah has a guaranteed $54.5M (including Miles and only 7 other contracts) on their books already. Okur's $11M salary comes off the books at the end of next season. CJ Miles needs a raise or he's gone. They have quite a few roster spots to fill and not a lot of cash to do so.
2013: With Okur off the books, Utah has $43.5M going into the 2012/2013 season. This is assuming Deron Williams picks up his player option for $18M. As things currently stand and with all of these super-teams coming about, I don't see this happening. Actually, I'm not 100% convinced he will be there after the next trade deadline anyways. Assuming their best case though, they have a core of Williams/Milsap/Jefferson with Bell and Hayward taking in $43.5M. Unless Hayward turns into a stud, this seems a little problematic. Especially without Sloan. Not enough to put them into the bottom 10, which, IMO, is a good thing.
Ideally, we'd get the pick next year after handing the Clippers the 13th pick (am I shooting too high? I don't think so.). Though it'll be interesting to follow the Deron Williams story line from here on out. Will he get frustrated and make behind-the-scenes (or public) requests for a trade? Will he stick around now that Sloan is gone? Will Jefferson learn defense? But I don't think the Jazz end up below 16 this year and above 14 next year. While possible, it just doesn't seem likely. I think Williams is gone if they don't make the playoffs this year or if they get smoked in the first round (which, I believe, they will). Without Williams, they've got the same problem we did with Jefferson/Love, except with Millsap. I'd guess they would be starting over with young guys (maybe from the Wolves???) and would drop a few spots for at least a year, if not more. While I can certainly imagine some scenarios where Utah ends up in the bottom 9 in 2014, I just don't see it happening with Jefferson, Millsap, and Williams' trade haul. So basically, I think Sloan leaving Utah was a godsend for us this year. We don't end up with 3 picks in a crappy draft, we have a chance to get our pick replaced next year, or maybe we'll get a nice infusion of an extra middle pick when we are starting to edge the playoff teams out of the picture. I think it looks good for us. And I think it'll be fun to follow this year. I am no longer cheering for the Jazz. My apologies to Big Al.