Wednesday , Oct , 19 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

Utah Jazz 2005-06 Season Preview

=== Utah Jazz 2005-06 Season Preview ===

By Warren Blatt, NBA Editor

2004-05 FINISH: 26-56

OFFSEASON ADDITIONS: Devin Brown (G) – Free Agent; Greg Ostertag (C) –
Acquired from Memphis in five-team trade; Milt Palacio (G) – Free Agent.

OFFSEASON SUBTRACTIONS: Raja Bell (G) – Signed with Phoenix; Curtis Borchardt
(C) – Traded to Boston in five-team deal; Raul Lopez (G) – Traded to Memphis
in five-team deal; Kirk Snyder (F) – Traded to New Orleans in five-team deal.

2005 DRAFT PICKS: 1. (3) Deron Williams,(G, Illinois); 2. (34) C.J. Miles
(G, Skyline HS); 2. (51) Robert Whaley (F, Walsh University).

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Carlos Arroyo, SG Gordan Giricek, SF Andrei
Kirilenko, PF Carlos Boozer, C Mehmet Okur

COACH: Jerry Sloan

(Sports Network) – Utah was a big disappointment last season, as it registered
just 26 victories in the 2004-05 campaign and missed the postseason for the
second straight year. The Jazz dealt with a series of injuries to their key
players and were never able to get on track.

The Jazz, who have not participated in the playoffs twice since the 1982-83
season, addressed a pressing need in the draft. Utah was well aware that it
needed to fix its situation at point guard. On draft night, the Jazz made a
big trade, as they dealt their two first-round selections in the draft (sixth
and 27th overall) and a 2006 conditional first-round pick to the Portland
Trail Blazers to move up three spots to No. 3.

With the third pick overall, Utah selected point guard Deron Williams of
Illinois and passed on Wake Forest’s Chris Paul. The 6-3 Williams is more of a
pure point guard, while Paul is more of a scorer and plays with the mentality
of think shot before pass.

By selecting Williams, the Jazz hope that they have found their answer at the
point. Utah’s strength is its frontcourt as forwards Carlos Boozer, Andrei
Kirilenko and center Mehmet Okur makeup a solid trio. The 23-year-old Boozer,
who averaged 17.8 points and 9.0 rebounds in 51 contests last season, and
Kirilenko, who was limited to just 41 games because of injuries, give the Jazz
a youthful duo that should be able to provide years of productive service,
while Okur is still developing his game and should continue to improve.

Williams has excellent playmaking abilities and seems to be able to find his
open teammates for some easy baskets. With Williams handling the rock,
Boozer and Kirilenko should be able to benefit offensively from his strong
passing skills.

“I’m looking forward to playing with those guys,” said Williams. “Carlos
Boozer, Andrei Kirilenko are definitely two great players in this league and I
definitely feel they’ll enjoy playing with me. I’m best when I’m out there
making plays for people and making my teammates better and make the game just
easier for them.”

The Jazz also added free agent guards Devin Brown and Milt Palacio, and re-
acquired veteran center Greg Ostertag from Memphis in a five-team deal. The
6-5 Brown, who spent the last two seasons with the Spurs, showed a lot of
promise last season for the Spurs, while the 27-year-old Palacio gives the
Jazz a solid backup at the point.

Gone are center Curtis Borchardt, who was traded to Boston in the five-team
deal, guard Raul Lopez, who was dealt to Memphis in the five-team transaction
and forward Kirk Snyder, who was sent to New Orleans in the five-team trade.

Raja Bell also found a new home, as he signed with the Phoenix Suns as a free
agent. Bell’s defensive ability as well as his 12.3 scoring average will be
missed.

Head coach Jerry Sloan returns for his 18th season as the general of the Jazz.
With a new young point guard at the helm and some healthy players, Sloan will
be up to the challenge and will do a great job.

Even though last season was filled with disappointment and injuries for Boozer
and Kirilenko, the talented forwards are still the keys to Utah’s success.
They need to be healthy and must be able to produce on both ends of the court.
Boozer can be a monster down low, while Kirilenko is more athletic and is one
of the top defensive players in the NBA. Their games complement each others
very well.

Utah hopes it has found its lead guard for the next 10-plus years in Williams.
The Illinois product should mesh well with his new teammates. He is not going
to make Utah forget about John Stockton, but Williams is a hard-nosed player
who plays the way a point guard was meant to. It will be the start of a new
chapter for Jazz basketball in 2005-06.

BACKCOURT

Williams will get the chance to play right away. He has some nice options to
pass the ball to, as Boozer and Okur can score down low and Kirilenko is not
shy about driving to the hoop. Williams will get on the job experience and
should be able to handle the pressure.

“I’m just honored to play for the Jazz and to play after John Stockton, to
wear the same jersey he wore and be on the same floor he was on because he’s
one of the best players of all-time, one of the best point guards of all-
time,” said Williams.

Veteran shooting guard Gordan Giricek averaged 8.8 points per game in 81
contests last season. He shot just under 45 percent from the field, including
36.2 percent from beyond the arc. The 28-year-old Giricek needs to be more
consistent if he wants to be a productive starter for the Jazz.

Keith McLeod, who averaged 7.8 points and 4.5 assists in 53 games for the Jazz
in 2004-05, will compete with Palacio for playing time behind Williams, while
rookie C.J. Miles, who was the 34th overall selection of this year’s draft,
will try and earn some minutes.

Williams is the present and future of the Utah backcourt. The rookie has a lot
to handle in his first year in the league.

FRONTCOURT

Boozer, Kirilenko, who averaged 15.6 points and 6.2 boards in 41 games last
season and Okur makeup a decent starting frontcourt. Veteran Matt Harpring,
who can also play shooting guard if needed, gives the Jazz depth off
the bench at small forward. The 6-7 Georgia Tech product averaged 14.0 points
per game and 6.2 rebounds in 78 contests last season..

Thirty-two-year-old Ostertag, who spent the first nine years of his career
with Utah, will work with 6-11 Jarron Collins to backup Okur, who played in
all 82 regular-season contests in 2004-05 and posted 12.9 points and 7.5
boards per game.

Kris Humphries played in 67 games as a rookie last season. He averaged just
4.1 points and 2.9 boards during his first year in the league. The 6-9 forward
played 13 minutes per contest, but should see his playing time increase and
will need to pick up his production in his sophomore campaign.

The Jazz will rely heavily on their starting trio and will need Harpring to
have another decent season. After those four, there is not much left for Sloan
to work with. Health is the key to the Jazz frontcourt in 2005-06.

OUTLOOK

Utah should be able to get back to being a .500 team. But, it won’t be good
enough to get it back into the postseason. Forty-one wins doesn’t cut it in
the Western Conference, and that is the best that can be expected of the Jazz,
who will not qualify for the playoffs for a third straight year.

UTA