Commentary: For the Jazz, it's all about 2016-17

By Nate Gagon

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 17 2013 11:55 p.m. MST

2011 Jazz draft picks Alec Burks, left and Enes Kanter, hope to see themselves in an NBA game sometime soon.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

For those Jazz fans that have been living in a cave or under a rock for the past couple years, here’s a quick update to get you caught up:

Through Monday's contest against Miami, the Jazz have played 27 games and have the second-worst winning percentage in the NBA with a record of 6-21.

The statistics don’t look any better. The Jazz have been outplayed by their opponents in virtually every meaningful statistic: points, field goal percentage, three-point percentage, rebounding, turnovers, assists, steals and blocks.

Now, before you go stark raving mad, here’s the good news: Nobody cares, and neither should you. This is the season of discovery. It’s the year of the youth movement. It’s a beginning point for the future.

In other words, this season for the Jazz is not about winning games. Virtually no one predicted the Jazz would make the playoffs or contend for a championship this year and, well, sometimes the experts are right.

If there was a Jazz player, coach, fan or front office member that was optimistic enough before the season to believe the Jazz would compete for the playoffs, surely they have adjusted their thinking after just six wins in 27 tries.

So, under the assumption that the Jazz have no chance of making the playoffs this season, what then is the purpose of the team’s final 55 games?

The purpose is for the Jazz to do everything they possibly can to set themselves up for future playoff runs and serious contention.

The target is the 2016-17 season.

Coach Tyrone Corbin has 240 minutes to give out per game. These minutes should be divided up with an eye toward the 2016-17 season. Every strategy the Jazz implement, every play call they make, should be done with an eye toward the future. Everything the Jazz do should be with an eye toward that season.

The 2016-17 season is three years from now and is the earliest anyone can realistically expect the next title-contending era of Utah Jazz basketball to begin. If the Jazz play their cards right and avoid major injuries, that season could be the beginning of a very nice window for the Jazz to compete for an NBA championship for a number of years.

Here is a glimpse of what the 2016-17 team might look like:

Starters

Center Enes Kanter: Kanter, the former third-overall pick, will be 24 years old and going into his sixth NBA season. Look for Kanter to be making $8-$12 million that season based on his current growth curve.

Power forward Derrick Favors: Favors, another third-overall pick, will be 25 years old and going into his seventh NBA season. Favors is already under contract for that season and will make about $11 million.

Small forward Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker: Assuming the Jazz are able to get one of the top three picks in next year’s draft, they should be able to land one of these two guys. Wiggins or Parker will be going into their third NBA season in 2016-17 and will still be on a rookie contract, making between $4-$5 million. To contend the Jazz will need their first pick in the 2014 NBA draft to be a top-10 NBA player by his third season.

Shooting guard Gordon Hayward: Hayward will be 26 years old and going into his seventh NBA season. Look for Hayward to be making $12-$15 million by then.

Point guard Trey Burke: Burke will be 24 years old and going into his fourth NBA season. He will be on the final year of his rookie contract that will pay him about $3.4 million.

Bench

Guard Alec Burks: Burks will be 25 years old and going into his sixth NBA season. Look for Burks to make $7-$10 million that season.

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