Looking forward: Utah Jazz hopeful their core of big men rise again

Published: Sunday, May 13 2012 7:00 a.m. MDT

"What we got to do is add to (our core)," the Jazz GM said. "I don't think we've got to blow it up and start over again, and I don't think we've got to be in a position where we're looking at it and saying we've got to trade some people."

Of course, that still could happen.

But the Jazz believe they have players who will improve the team as they improve themselves — from Harris running the offense more smoothly and being more consistent; to Hayward building his confidence, especially on outside shooting; to Favors, Kanter and Burks continuing to grow up; to Millsap fine-tuning his effectiveness from both forward positions; to Jefferson becoming more of a defensive presence in pick-and-roll situations.

"We've got to grow from within first," O'Connor said, "and then we've got some assets to be able to add some pieces."

That's Jefferson's preference. In fact, both Big Al and Millsap, who'll be in contract years, said they hope to be lifetime Jazz players at Tuesday's locker cleanout.

"If I had it my way, yes, I'd love to see everybody come back because this is a team that we did well," Jefferson said. "All of us have the same goals and all of us have the same mindset just getting better as a team. We got a little taste this year. Now we're greedy. We want more."

Though it might give him some headaches on how to divvy up playing time, Corbin is hopeful he'll have the same four post players at his disposal come training camp. The second-year coach liked the success the Jazz had when the Big Three — Jefferson, Favors and Millsap — played together. He envisions more of that next season.

"Derrick, Al and Paul together makes us better," Corbin said. "The more they are on the floor, the better off we'll be."

That combo didn't have too much success against the Spurs, barring the fourth-quarter comeback in Game 4 of the sweep, but they outscored and outrebounded opponents almost every time they were thrown together at the end of the regular season.

"It's just the versatility we have as a team," Millsap said. "It shows what different lineups we can play with."

Favors and Jefferson pair nicely to counter each other's strengths and weaknesses.

"He's a good offensive player. I'm a good defensive player," said Favors, who showed signs of his power forward potential in a strong personal playoff series. "We complement each other real well."

Playing alongside his 6-foot-10 teammates, Millsap creates mismatches with his ability to post up and rebound from the small forward spot. The Jazz are at a disadvantage when opponents stretch Millsap to the outside with 3-point shooting, but, overall, that three-headed threat gave Utah a unique weapon.

Corbin didn't tip his hand as to whether or not he'd lean to starting them together next season, but if Millsap can become even more adept at guarding small forwards and hitting some threes, it's at least an intriguing option.

Millsap was asked about his previous insistence that he's a starting power forward, something he proved capable of doing in his sixth season.

"I am," Millsap said. With a smile, he added, "I can also be a starting small forward."

As for the backcourt, the Jazz have Harris under contract for one more year, and he has capable backups in Watson and Tinsley (if he's back). O'Connor spoke highly of Harris' second-half showing — the 2009 All-Star provided a nice offensive spark — but it's uncertain if the 29-year-old is the team's playmaker for the future.

O'Connor even hinted Harris could take on more of a shooting guard role and said the Jazz will "explore" the best option for the point guard position.

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