Utah Jazz basketball: Team chemistry, young talent have Jazz brimming with optimism

Published: Saturday, Oct. 27 2012 10:00 p.m. MDT

Corbin calls that depth "a great thing" for the Jazz.

But even after subtracting Raja Bell (contract limbo) and rookie Kevin Murphy (hello D-League?), that's 13 guys with seemingly legitimate arguments in their playing-time favor. The third-year coach will have tough decisions to make while divvying up 240 position minutes each night.

Let the backseat coaching begin.

"It can be frustrating for the players at times. Guys deserve minutes on the floor," Corbin said. "It's going to be a thing that we have to manage all year long. It's going to be a good headache for us."

Considering Ironmen basketball players like John Stockton and Karl Malone are a rarity these days, Corbin would rather have too many good players than not enough.

"It's a good situation for the team," he said. "It's a long season. A lot of things happen, a lot of guys (will be) in and out of the lineups. We feel very good about the number of people we can put into the game."

Corbin has been pleased with his starting unit, and he feels just about as comfortable when the cavalry comes in. At times in the preseason, groups that included only backups were among the best combos the Jazz had.

"We got a good nucleus of veteran guys and younger guys, too," Millsap said. "We're going to try to put it all together, but our strength is our depth. We know that going in."

DEFENSE: The Jazz struggled mightily defending the pick-and-roll last season, and they were in the bottom third of NBA teams in points allowed (99.0 per game). So the fact they were the fourth-stingiest defensive team (91.0 ppg allowed) in the exhibition season was encouraging even if not an absolute indicator of a guaranteed turnaround.

Corbin was impressed with defensive improvement made in training camp, especially when compared to last year.

"Communication and the accountability of each guy holding each other (responsible)," he said, "should get us off to a better start than we did last year."

The Jazz have tried to improve on weaknesses from last season: pick-and-roll defensive breakdowns that yielded easy buckets, weakside help and rotations, outside containment.

"I just think we're going to communicate a lot better this year than we did last year," said Jefferson, who considers himself the key to defensive struggles or success. "(We have) defensive-minded guys that love to play defense on this team, especially on that second unit. I think once we get on the same page, communicate and talk, it's just going to make us better overall."

Jefferson also loves how this rendition of the Jazz crashes the boards, especially Millsap, Kanter and Favors.

"Rebounding. I think rebounding is going to be big for us, too," he said. "We've just got to get stops on the defensive end."

OFFENSE: There were some similarities with each of the three veterans the Jazz acquired this past summer. The Williamses and Foye all have NBA experience, are well-respected, seemed genuinely excited to be in Utah and possess an important skill the Jazz were low on: reliable outside shooting.

If guys like Hayward, Burks and Carroll can be consistent from long range, that will go a long way in helping reverse Utah's shooting woes that led to opposing defenses collapsing in the lane.

Leading the NBA in 3-point shooting in the preseason (42.9 percent) gave an exciting sneak peek of the possibilities.

"We got shooters," Jefferson said. "Guys that make you pay."

Outside and inside.

"If we can make perimeter shots and especially 3-point shots consistently, it'll give us more opportunities there at the post with our big guys to be one-on-one," Corbin said. "If you get Al and Enes and Paul and Derrick in one-on-one positions with most guys in the post, we'll feel good about our chances there."

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