Utah Jazz: Franchise's future rests squarely on the shoulders of its young Core Four

Published: Tuesday, May 7 2013 8:50 p.m. MDT

As it stands, the Jazz only have about $18.3 million worth of salary on the books for the 2013-14 season. The league's minimum payroll for this past season was $49.3 million, meaning Utah has a lot of money to spend — through various transaction means — in building around its Core Four.

"Whether it's via the draft, free agency or trade, there are a lot of interesting things that will come our way and we'll decide from a value standpoint if that has some merit or not," Lindsey said. "If it doesn't, we'll continue to be patient."

Jazz management, including Lindsey and executive vice president of basketball operations Kevin O'Connor, have admitted coach Tyrone Corbin was put in a difficult position this past season. Not only did the team have nine pending free agents, but it was a mix-and-match mixture of proven veterans and promising youngsters all vying for playing time.

Corbin often relied on the guys who've toiled in the league longer while limiting the younger players to mostly reserve roles. That became a sore spot for critics, who would've preferred to see more cutting-of-teeth happen, especially since it was a given that Utah was not a contender this past season.

Hayward was the exception, but he was only fourth on the team in minutes averaged (29.2 per game). Favors played 23.2 minutes an outing, while Burks (17.8 mpg) and Kanter (15.4 mpg) were even more limited in appearances.

Expect that to change next season.

Progress is something that's hard to quantify, but Corbin believes his young guys each made big steps this past season in the way they handled themselves in practice and in playing situations.

Hayward became a more reliable outside threat, and the 6-foot-8 shooting guard added a variety of offensive moves to his increasingly solid all-around game.

The 6-10 Favors, with his strength and athleticism, proved to be a dominant defensive player and offered glimpses of being a capable scorer down low and from mid-range.

Kanter, a 6-11 center with an improved physique, made the biggest leap of anyone after his rookie campaign, showing that he's able to crash the boards, score inside and out, and play tough defense in the post before having his season abruptly ended with a surgery-requiring shoulder injury.

And, after a string of Did Not Play-Coach's Decision games and inconsistent opportunities, the energetic 6-6 Burks was given opportunities to grow at point guard and as a slashing and scoring shooting guard in certain situations during his second season.

"I think we're much further ahead," Corbin said. "I think the experiences put us further ahead."

With that in mind, the biggest question during this offseason in regards to the Core Four is simply: Are Favors and Kanter ready to make the leap from sidekicks to starters?

It's uncertain whether the Jazz will try to bring back Jefferson or Millsap, and if they don't return, it's likely Favors and Kanter, the No. 3 picks from the 2010 and '11 drafts, respectively, will get huge opportunities.

"They're better. We'll see where it goes," Corbin said. "If that's where things end up, then they'll be ready to go."

Even so, Corbin was quick to point out that Favors (who turns 22 in July) and Kanter (who'll be 21 on May 20) are "still two young guys."

"It's a lot to ask of them, but the experience that we've had in the last two (years) will help in those areas," Corbin said. "They have to increase their play on the floor. We'll have a great summer of developing and getting them ready for this year (2013-14)."

The Jazz will also expect bigger things from Hayward, who averaged more points (14.1 vs. 11.8) this past season despite playing a minute less per game than he did in 2011-12.

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