Utah Jazz management has some tough decisions to make on Free agents
Lennie Mahler, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin, as Raja Bell described it, "has some brainstorming to do" this offseason.
Corbin wouldn't disagree with that — he might be breaking down gametape from last season right now, in fact — but Jerry Sloan's midseason replacement believes the Jazz have a solid core group coming back in 2011-12.
"I think," he said, "we have talent on this team that we can build around."
Therein also lies the heavy workload sitting on general manager Kevin O'Connor's desk. And not just him. From the coaches, to scouts, to the front office, the Jazz organization has big decisions to mull over and make in the next few months.
Among the pressing issues:
Is Raja Bell, C.J. Miles or Gordon Hayward the answer at starting shooting guard?
O'Connor insisted defense must improve next year, so how important is it to pick up a defensive-minded center or other players with strengths on that side of the court?
Can one or more of the players under contract step up and be the team's leader(s) and go-to guy(s), or is it necessary to seek elsewhere for someone to fill that role?
Which Jazz unrestricted free-agents-to-be will be brought back? Do Andrei Kirilenko, Kyrylo Fesenko, Ronnie Price, Francisco Elson or Earl Watson have a future in Utah?
How about C.J. Miles: Let him go, pick up the one-year team option or give him an extended contract?
Are a legitimate shooter and another big man to complement Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson and Derrick Favors the highest priorities heading into the 2011 NBA Draft?
Corbin said he won't make new hiring decisions until after the potential lockout scenario is sorted out, but who will he bring in as his assistant(s) to work alongside Scott Layden and Jeff Hornacek (assuming they return)?
Will this finally be the year the Jazz's stashed-away European center Ante Tomic — the promising 7-foot-2 2008 second-round pick who played for Spanish power Real Madrid — crosses the pond?
Who will the backup point guard(s) be?
With those questions in mind, here's a look at who the Jazz might turn to for answers:
JAZZ FREE AGENTS
Position: Small forward
Upside: Obviously, AK-47 knows the Jazz system and fits scoring and non-scoring roles. Now 30 years old, Kirilenko possesses skills and length that are bothersome to opponents and effective for his team.
It also can't be overlooked that Kirilenko likes living in Utah, even calling Salt Lake City his second home after Russia.
"It's definitely my first choice (to return to Utah). So many good memories here. Ten years you don't want to throw it out so quick. So Jazz are going to be definitely player. ... It's a matter of waiting when the lockout is over, see where the team going, how we going to get new players."
O'Connor said the Jazz don't have a decision to make.
"I think we want Andrei back," he said. "Now the decision's going to be a little bit on his part — what's good for him and what's good for us? ... We said it to him. We said it to his agent that we would like Andrei back."
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