Power Ranking Every Key Utah Jazz Player Before Season's End

Andy BaileyFeatured ColumnistMarch 18, 2014

Power Ranking Every Key Utah Jazz Player Before Season's End

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    2013-14 is the 40th season of Utah Jazz basketball. 

    And this team's winning percentage of .324 would be good for 35th in Jazz history.

    So no, it hasn't been a great year in terms of wins and losses, but Utah fans still have a lot of things to be excited about.

    The most encouraging aspect is the team's youth. Utah's top five scorers are all former lottery picks and under the age of 24.

    Their accomplishments and statistics, in combination with their prospects for the future, determined where they landed in these power rankings.

10. Rudy Gobert

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    Rudy Gobert may only be playing 10.5 minutes per game (in just 37 appearances), but you can see his potential to be a game-changing defender and rebounder.

    In his limited role, he's been more efficient in those two-thirds of the game than any of the big men ahead of him in the rotation:

     DRtgBLK%REB%
    Rudy Gobert98.17.3%18.9%
    Derrick Favors109.53.7%16.3%
    Enes Kanter111.61.6%15.3%
    Jeremy Evans106.32.9%15.5%

    Gobert would be a nightmare in the paint for opposing offenses if he had a more significant role and played more minutes. 

    The problem is that he's rawer than steak tartare on offense.

    With his size (7'2") and length (7'9" wingspan), he should be a weapon at least in the pick-and-roll game. But his footwork, hands and awareness are all a couple of years away from being passable at this level.

9. Diante Garrett

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    Diante Garrett has pleasantly surprised on his way to becoming a legitimate three-point specialist for the Jazz this season.

    Utah signed him early in the season after it waived Jamaal Tinsley, and he promptly assumed the role of backup point guard by thoroughly outplaying John Lucas III.

    He's second on the team in three-point percentage at 40.6 and is only getting better. Since the All-Star break, that percentage is 46.4. 

    He has struggled as a playmaker, though. His turnover ratio (turnovers per 100 possessions) of 17 is almost double that of starter Trey Burke's (8.7).

8. Richard Jefferson

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    After appearing in 56 games and averaging 10.1 minutes for the Golden State Warriors last season, 33-year-old Richard Jefferson has shown he still has a little something left to offer.

    He and Alec Burks are the only two Jazz players who have played in all 68 games in 2013-14, and he leads the team in three-point percentage at 42.4.

    If nothing else, he's shown he can be a dangerous floor spacer from the wing. 

    Actually, he's shown that's about all he can be. His rebounding percentage of 5.9 tops only Garrett and Burke among Utah's rotation players. And even that's pretty close, with both those guys grabbing 5.7 percent of available rebounds.

    He also does little as a playmaker, as he's averaging just 1.6 assists per game.

7. Marvin Williams

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    After starting the season red hot as Utah's stretch 4, Marvin Williams has cooled off significantly. Just look at his numbers pre and post All-Star Break:

     PTSREB3P%
    Pre All-Star Break10.35.640.1%
    Post All-Star Break7.33.928.6%

    Even though his numbers are trending down, the positive effect that the veteran forward has on this team can be seen in the record with and without him.

    Utah is 0-12 when Williams hasn't played this season, compared to 22-34 when he does play.

    Because of the floor spacing he can provide (assuming he comes out of this current slump), the Jazz are much more balanced on offense when he's on the court.

6. Jeremy Evans

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    In terms of pure efficiency, Jeremy Evans has been one of the best players on the Jazz this season.

    He only plays 18.7 minutes per game, but he makes the most of his limited opportunities. Per ESPN.com, he's second on the team in player efficiency rating at 17.2 and third in player impact estimate (a new metric from NBA.com that "shows what percentage of game events did that player or team achieve") at 11 percent.

    He's first on the team in field-goal percentage at 53.8. And per 36 minutes, he averages 12.4 points and 9.6 rebounds.

5. Enes Kanter

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    Enes Kanter has had an up-and-down season, finding himself in and out of the starting lineup at the behest of coach Tyrone Corbin.

    The Jazz will go back to their usual starting lineup, with Marvin Williams at the 4 and Enes Kanter coming off the bench.

    — Aaron Falk (@tribjazz) March 17, 2014

    Expect that change depending on the matchup for the rest of the year.

    — Aaron Falk (@tribjazz) March 17, 2014

    The reasons for his benching in favor of Williams have ranged from Kanter's defense, to Williams' range and experience, to Kanter and Derrick Favors being unable to coexist.

    There are hints of logic to each, but they don't outweigh the need for Kanter and Favors to develop chemistry together.

    They constitute the frontcourt of the future for Utah, and both are talented enough to learn to adapt to each other.

    Kanter has the mid-range game to draw big men away from the rim, giving Favors more room to operate. Favors can defend the more active bigs on opposing teams.

4. Trey Burke

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    Despite his struggle to knock down shots, Trey Burke has managed to put together a solid season as Utah's starting point guard.

    He leads the team in both assists per game and assist-to-turnover ratio at 5.3 and 3:1, respectively. That kind of commitment to protecting the ball is evidence of Burke being ahead of the learning curve as a ball-handler and playmaker.

    The two players who are likely ahead of him in the race for Rookie of the Year are Michael Carter-Williams and Victor Oladipo. Their assist-to-turnover ratios are 1.6:1 and 1.3:1, respectively. 

    If Burke can become a more consistent shooter—he's hitting 38.1 percent from the field and 34.2 percent from three-point range—he has the chance to be Utah's point guard of the future.

3. Alec Burks

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    Utah's best scorer this season has been backup shooting guard Alec Burks.

    He's second on the team in points per game at 13.8 but averages 8.5 fewer minutes than leading scorer Gordon Hayward. Per 36 minutes, Burks leads the Jazz in points at 17.9.

    His relentless desire to get to the rim is on display whenever he's on the floor, and it has helped him average a team-high 4.8 free-throw attempts per game.

    Getting by the first perimeter defender isn't much of a challenge for Burks because of his great first step. Then when he gets to the paint, he shows the ability to adjust mid-air as well as anyone.

    And he is developing as a defender as well. He's done a good job of staying in front of opposing guards and recently told Salt City Hoops' Andy Larsen why he thinks he's been better: "[It’s] just the overall opportunity, just knowing how guys play and their tendencies, I’m just learning more and more. [It’s] my third year, I’ve just seen a lot of players play the game a lot, so I think that’s what it is."

    If Burks continues to improve on both sides of the ball, he could make the possible loss of Hayward to restricted free agency sting a bit less.

2. Derrick Favors

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    It's been a bumpy road for the Jazz this season, but Favors has been something of a shock absorber since opening night.

    While others have had huge peaks and valleys, he has been fairly consistent. Sure, he's had his slumps here and there, but he has still managed to post a team-best PER of 18.7.

    He also leads the team in rebounding at 8.6 per game, is second in field-goal percentage at 52.1 percent and third in scoring with 13.1 points per game.

    And just like all the other young players in Utah, Favors is still developing. 

    On Sunday against the San Antonio Spurs, he put up a career-high 28 points and scored in a variety of ways.

    When he came into the league, he didn't have much of an offensive game beyond dunking. Now he has a decent arsenal of post moves, and his touch is improving as well. 

1. Gordon Hayward

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    It should have been expected that Hayward would struggle to assume the role of No. 1 option. Even still, his shooting numbers this season are shocking.

    In his first three seasons, he shot 45.1 percent from the field and 40.1 percent from three-point range. Now in his fourth season—and first in this role—he's at 41.1 and 31.2, respectively.

    Hopefully, it's just an aberration, like Arron Afflalo's 2012-13 campaign. But even if it's not, Hayward has shown he's valuable regardless of his scoring ability.

    He's one of just three players in the NBA who average at least 15 points, five rebounds, five assists and 0.5 blocks per game. Kevin Durant and Carter-Williams are the other two.

    The 6'8" wing has proved to be a legitimate point forward. As such, he could be a perfect complement to a top-tier scorer that Utah might acquire in the 2014 draft. Someone like Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins would benefit from Hayward's vision, passing and unselfishness.

    For that reason, Utah should be willing to match just about anything under a max offer that Hayward might get in restricted free agency.

     

    Unless otherwise noted, all stats are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com and are current as of March 18, 2014.

    Andy Bailey covers the NBA for Bleacher Report.