Utah Jazz: Inquiring minds want to know — who's going to start for Jazz?
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Now that we know the Utah Jazz will begin their 2012-13 season on Halloween, an obvious question has been raised.
And, no, this one is not about whether you should dress up like Captain America, a hobbit, that sparkly vampire or a princess.
With three experienced additions to the Jazz roster, many are now wondering this simple question:
Who's going to start?
Assuming the squad remains intact over the next few months, that question will likely be debated on sports radio shows, in social media spheres and around water coolers until Oct. 31 arrives.
And then a new starting argument might break out.
When asked whether or not shooting guard Randy Foye would be in the opening rotation, Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor avoided answering directly.
"Coach Corbin's question," he said.
O'Connor also referenced a saying his longtime friend Larry Brown (not to mention Jerry Sloan) used to use.
"It's not a question of who starts," he said. "It's a question of who finishes. Who knows?"
For the record, nobody asked O'Connor if Foye would be a finisher.
Foye, a six-year veteran, said he hadn't talked to anyone in the Jazz organization about what his specific role would be with his new team, either. The 6-4 combo guard prefers playing shooting guard, a position in which he does well because of his outside shooting and tough defense. But he'll take the point if needed as well, and O'Connor commended his ability to work well in a structured system like the Jazz's.
Whether or not Foye will be the Jazz's starting two guard or back up either Gordon Hayward or Alec Burks in that position depends on what happens over the next couple of months, especially in training camp.
"I think (with) playing time, he recognizes there's an opportunity here," O'Connor said, "and he will compete for that."
Another point O'Connor wanted to emphasize about the organization's decision-making process when it comes to starters and minutes: "We don't play contracts. We play players."
And he's pleased with the amount the Jazz now have, saying, "I like our depth."
With that in mind, here's an overview of the players, not contracts, and how each position's potential starters and reserves might shake out:
For a little while this summer, it sure seemed like this starting spot was going to be a controversial topic. But shortly after the Jazz traded to bring Mo Williams back into the fold, management shipped previous starter Devin Harris to Atlanta (opening up another debate in another position, of course).
Utah still has oodles of experience at the point guard spot, but Williams is clearly the starter ahead of capable backups Jamaal Tinsley and Earl Watson.
It's not a reach to think Foye will see playmaking time. That could especially happen if Watson is not fully rehabbed from knee surgery when the season starts.
Lead man: Mo Williams
Supporting roles: Jamaal Tinsley, Earl Watson, Randy Foye
Foye's addition to the team crowds this position, but Gordon Hayward's progression last season and overall potential make him seem like a natural fit as the go-to man. That will especially be the case if Hayward finds more consistency from the outside and continues to be aggressive.
Alec Burks is a wild card here because he has shown moments in which he can drive to make things happen and hit from long range. His athleticism and fearless nature on the court are big assets, and his summer-league play in Orlando only seemed to whet the appetite of fans who clamor for him to get a bigger role.
Throwing Foye into the mix bolsters the Jazz's backcourt depth and gives the team a reliable long-distance shooter and an aggressive defender (kinda like what the organization envisioned Raja Bell being before injuries and a soured relationship).
Minutes will be hard to come by for second-round pick Kevin Murphy if he makes the team this fall.
Lead man: Gordon Hayward
Supporting roles: Randy Foye, Alec Burks
Landing a re-energized Marvin Williams — the No. 2 pick of the 2005 draft — could be a big boon for the Jazz. Williams is an upgrade from Josh Howard and C.J. Miles, especially if he shoots from beyond the arc like he did last season (38.9 percent). The Jazz also like his defensive skills.
It's possible Corbin could insert Foye (or, heck, maybe Burks) into the starter spot at shooting guard, which would put Hayward into the pole position to be the starting small forward.
Another outside possibility: Based on the success of the Big Three at the end of last season, Corbin could decide to start Paul Millsap at small forward alongside Derrick Favors and Al Jefferson.
DeMarre Carroll provided the team with instant energy and hustle last season while helping Utah make the playoffs, so he also figures to get his share of playing time off the bench.
Lead man: Marvin Williams
Supporting roles: DeMarre Carroll, Gordon Hayward, Paul Millsap
This might be the toughest call out of all of them for Corbin to make.
Then again, maybe it won't be (or shouldn't be).
Considering how well he played late last season — and factoring in his enormous potential — the time has probably come for Derrick Favors to be put in the starting power forward role for good.
If the powerful and athletic U.S. Select Team member develops a more reliable go-to post move and improves his mid-range game at all, Corbin's decision becomes even easier. Let the future begin.
But Millsap being Millsap — a hard-working overachiever — won't make that as easy of a call for Corbin as many outsiders might think it should be. The sixth-year pro has proven naysayers wrong many times and showed he can be a productive power forward in the NBA after taking over the reins for the departed Carlos Boozer.
Corbin began last season with Favors in the starting four spot and Millsap coming off the bench, but that was a short-lived, two-game experiment.
Utahns can smile while daydreaming for the rest of the summer about how tough their frontcourt could be if Favors continues his progression and Millsap becomes an early season sixth-man-of-the-year candidate. As Jazz fan Robby Cox put it on Twitter, "Kid doesn't have a future, he IS the future." And many are convinced that future begins now (or began last spring).
Don't be surprised if NBA dunk champion Jeremy Evans receives more opportunities this season as well after signing his three-year deal.
Lead man: Derrick Favors
Supporting roles: Paul Millsap, Jeremy Evans
Al Jefferson has turned himself into one of the best offensive big men in the NBA, and he was the Jazz's most consistent player last season. That makes this the easiest position to pick.
Big Al is friends with fellow Mississippian Mo Williams and he played with Randy Foye for two seasons, so that should help team chemistry.
Jefferson could be the biggest beneficiary of the offseason moves. If the Williamses and Foye — not to mention the Jazz's youngsters — can hit from outside like the team is counting on, that should prevent teams from playing defense with "one foot in the paint," as O'Connor admitted opponents were able to do last year.
"I can't project it, but I think what it's going to do," the Jazz GM said about the increased outside firepower, "is it's going to create an opportunity for a little bit more space."
On the other hand, O'Connor only half-jokingly said, "Maybe we can talk to our bigs about making sure they pass it to them."
The Jazz will count on an increased presence — including on the offensive end — from Enes Kanter now that he's no longer a teenager or a rusty rookie.
The possibility of Favors at center is intriguing, too, given his strength and quickness edge over the majority of NBA bigs.
Lead man: Al Jefferson
Supporting role: Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors
Projected Utah Jazz lineup
PG: Mo Williams
SG: Gordon Hayward
SF: Marvin Williams
PF: Derrick Favors
C: Al Jefferson
PG: Jamaal Tinsley, Earl Watson
SG: Randy Foye, Alec Burks
SF: DeMarre Carroll, Gordon Hayward, Paul Millsap
PF: Paul Millsap, Jeremy Evans
C: Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors
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