by Nico Fiscella | The Utah Jazz may not have made many moves this offseason, but general manager Dennis Linsdey made the moves he believed would help this team emerge as a top team in the western conference. I would not be surprised if the Jazz continued to make moves this offseason, but with the market buzz winding down, here is how the Jazz have done so far.
Drafting Udoka Azubuike: B
After trading down in this year’s NBA draft, the Jazz took senior Kansas center Udoka Azubuike with the 27th overall pick. After trading centers Ed Davis and Tony Bradley, the Jazz made it clear that Azubuike will be following in the footsteps of all-star defender Rudy Gobert.
Azubuike and Gobert have very similar play styles as both can be described as traditional centers. Last year with the Jayhawks, Azubuike averaged 13.7 points, 10.5 rebounds, and over 2.6 blocks per game.
The Kansas star will be leaving the NCAA with an all-time record, as Azubuike holds the record for the highest field-goal percentage in college basketball history.
Azubuike did not attempt a single shot outside of twelve feet, but he is a scary big man to both defend and score against when sitting in the paint. His 7’0” 270 pound frame is going to make it difficult to get anything past the 21-year-old.
Before the draft, the Jazz had met with Azubuike over zoom multiple times and expressed a large amount of interest. With Vernon Carey Jr. was still on the board with the Jazz on the clock, this pick was a surprise to me but Utah secured their future center late in the first round.
After letting go of centers Ed Davis and Tony Bradley, the Jazz went out and signed veteran center Derrick Favors to take over the backup center role, however, it will not be long until Azubuike takes over that role.
I would expect a lot of pick and rolls and lob plays designed around Azubuike, as those were two of the strongest parts of his offensive game. Combining this with his defensive talent, Utah selected their center for the future.
Drafting/Trading for Elijah Hughes: B
With the 39th overall pick in this year’s draft, the Jazz traded for the draft rights to ACC leading scorer Elijah Hughes.
Hughes averaged 19 points last year and his offensive playstyle is NBA ready right now.
Hughes excels at shooting three-pointers. He can splash in both transition and with a defender in his face. Although it shows he only shot 35% from downtown, don’t let the numbers fool you. If put in the catch and shoot opportunity, Hughes is more than capable of providing a quick three point shot.
Hughes can also score when attacking the rim, but he struggled against big defenders. There is still a lot for the 22-year-old to learn.
Hughes played the majority of last season as a power forward, but with his skill set, he is a born small forward.
Hughes’s weakness lies in his playmaking and ball-handling skills. I would not trust him running a pick and roll, but that is something he can develop over time. Poor decision making led to costly turnovers last season. With a new role in Utah, Hughes can become a lights out shooter on an already impressive three-point shooting team.
Goodbye Ed Davis and Tony Bradley, Hello Derrick Favors: B+
The Jazz brought in two new additions to the frontcourt, therefore, they also let go of their previous backup centers.
Ed Davis was traded to the New York Knicks for cash considerations. Davis was not a vital part of last year’s team, as he averaged ten minutes a night. Davis was not considered to be a long time asset to the Jazz, and unloading his contract helped Utah pay for new backup center Derrick Favors.
Since being acquired by the Knicks, Davis was later shipped to the Timberwolves in exchange for Omari Spellman, Jacob Evans, and a future second-round pick.
The second center to leave Utah was former first-round pick, Tony Bradley. Similar to Davis, Bradley did not get much playing time with eleven minutes a night. However, in limited minutes, Bradley was still able to put up nearly five points and five rebounds a night.
Both Davis and Bradley have had very similar offseasons. Like Davis, Bradley was traded for cash considerations. However, Bradley was sent to the Detriot Pistons along with this year’s 38th pick which turned into Saben Lee.
Bradley has more value than Davis in my opinion, as he is entering his age twenty-three season. Like Davis, the Pistons moved on from Bradley as he was traded to the 76ers for Zhaire Smith.
To upgrade the center position, the Jazz brought back long time Jazz Derrick Favors to a three year deal worth $30 million dollars.
Favors left the Jazz after the 2017-2018 campaign and only spent one year with the New Orleans Pelicans. In his lone season, Favors averaged nine points and 9.8 rebounds. He was never seen as a long-term asset to the young Pelicans roster. After the addition of Steven Adams, it was clear Favors would not be returning.
Favors spent the majority of his career as a starter for Utah, but with a starting frontcourt of Bojan Bogdanovic and Rudy Gobert, Favors will be the backup center with newly drafted Azubuike right behind him.
Resigning Jordan Clarkson: A+
In my previous article, I expressed the importance to bring back point guard Jordan Clarkson. The Jazz did just that by signing the 28-year-old to a four year $52 million dollar contract.
Clarkson has turned into one of the best scoring sixth men in the league. Since coming over to the Jazz during last year’s trade deadline, Clarkson averaged over 15 points on efficient shooting splits of 46% from the field and 36% from behind the arc.
Locking up Clarkson for the next four years solidifies the Jazz bench for the future and allows them to have a continued spark off the bench. Surrounding Clarkson with a defensive-minded frontcourt to help his defensive woes will continue to allow the Jazz to not worry when the second unit takes the court.
Although the Jazz may not have had an electric offseason, there is nothing to fear. The Jazz retained the core of their roster from last year while acquiring young assets that can boost this team in the future. Many teams will overlook the Jazz when looking at the top-heavy western conference, but the Jazz are ready to compete next season.
Featured image courtesy Deseret News