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Vegas Win Total Projection: 40.5
As far as the Jazz go, they've been gathering first-round lottery picks for quite some time. The core of their team is young and talented. When I spoke with Amin Elhassan of ESPN, he mentioned the Jazz as the team that could have the biggest turnaround. With guys like Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert, and youthful players like Trey Burke, Trey Lyles, and Rodney Hood, their team is on the right path. They've loaded up their roster and should be increasing their win total from last season. I think they could be a 44-48 win team this season, with a shot at making the playoffs. They're young, athletic, and have one of the most underrated players in the league in Gordon Hayward. As far as depth and youth, they're one of the best in the NBA. I think they will surprise some people as they progress through the season and get better. The injury to Exum recently doesn't help them, but I still expect a better season from the Jazz this season.
Top Fantasy Options
As far the best fantasy options go, I see Gordon Hayward as a great option. Averaging 19.3 points, just under 5 rebounds, and 4 assists, he does it all. He always gets a ton of minutes around that 34-35 range and adds a ton of value at the small forward position. An all-around all-star caliber small forward, Hayward hasn't been surrounded by great players. That issue should change, and he should start to see more open opportunities and more assists. I think a lot of his stats should go up because the team around him is continually getting better. He'll be the go-to-guy and I can see him get more shot attempts, more minutes, and more free throws. Another reason I see his stats going up is the Jazz should be "in" games more often than not, unlike previous years where games get out of hand and they would sit starters.
I think Trey Burke should be the overhyped player, but with the Exum injury, he should be getting a lot more run. A lot of people like him and the way he plays, but he isn't the most efficient. He shot a mediocre-at-best 36.8% from the field, his 3-point field goal percentage is an average 32.4% for his career, and his assists per game are only an average of 5. I think the guard position's for this Utah Jazz team will be hard to figure out until 1/4 of the way through the season. With Cotton being a good back-up and Trey Burke not being a player who has all-star potential, I don't see Burke getting many more minutes than last season, even with Cotton's injury. In his two-year NBA career, he's averaged 31.2 minutes per, last season he averaged 30. It's not typical for a rookie going from more minutes his first season and less in his second, unless he's not a cornerstone piece and they are grooming an Exum, or going another route (because Exum tore his ACL). Am I saying Burke is going to have a worse season than last? No. I am just saying the expectations put on Burke in his 3rd season are as if he can be an all-star and I don't see that. I see a player who averages 13-14 points, 5-6 assists, in a favorable 35 minutes a night. In 35 minutes a night, I'd pick another point guard instead of Burke.
I think Rody Gobert could be an athletic, dominant force in this league. Besides having a couple bad defensive errors in games and not having the best of positional awareness, the guy can still play. He went up 6 minutes per game played from last season, compared to career numbers. By now, he should be receiving more minutes, as Enes Kanter is gone, and there isn't much depth in the front court on the Jazz team. I'd expect Gobert to get more of everything, points, assists, rebounds, blocks. He's a quality big, just needs to remove the raw aspects of his game. He's my sleeper on this Jazz squad.
Another sleeper on this team could be Favors, he's always been overlooked in a deep Western Conference filled with good power forwards. Favors is an excellent grab at 23-years old, averaging 16 and 9 last season, I can expect him to keep that up and push towards 18 and 10. Averaging almost 31 minutes a game, Derrick Favors could become a 35 minutes per game guy. Averaging over 50 percent from the field and continued to add blocks, assists, and 8-10 rebounds per game, I can see him increase those numbers and become a discussion point for a possible all-star appearance.
I think the Jazz are headed in the right direction for being a playoff team. I wouldn't be surprised if they got an 7 or 8 seed with the current team they have. Averaging only just above 95 points per game, I can see that number increase by 2 or 3 this year. With the offensive talent they have at their disposal, they should be a force to be reckoned with, even in the west. I just like overall what their team presents. With Favors coming off a great year last year, Hayward still young and improving, and the third year for Rudy Gobert, we should expect to see them improve.