2012 NBA Playoff Postmortem: Utah Jazz

Gordon Hayward got swept in his first Playoff series, but
he has reason to believe the future is bright.
(image by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) 

 By all accounts, the compressed 2011-2012 season should be viewed as a successful one for the Utah Jazz.

Consider these:

- They returned to the Playoffs.
- Enes Kanter, the #3 pick from Turkey, didn’t turn out to be that bad for someone who hasn’t played high-level ball in a year, though his numbers aren’t spectacular,
- Veteran pick-ups Josh Howard and Jamaal Tinsley made good use of their “second chances.”
- They returned to the Playoffs.
- Gordon Hayward has improved dramatically, despite a significant dip in his postseason numbers.

- Derrick Favors seems very promising.
- They were in league’s top 5 in scoring, blocks, and rebounds.
- They returned to the Playoffs.

And the future doesn’t look too bad, too.

All they have to do is choose: build for the present, or build for the future.

Utah GM Kevin O’Connor says he’s looking to improve, hinting that some players might not be coming back after what should be an interesting free agency.

Potentially, his most critical choice is whether he keeps his overachieving frontline of Jefferson and Millsap, or trade one or both of them for more pieces that can complement a promising, young core.

Utah has an interesting group of young guys that might
be able to take the Jazz to new heights.
(image from the AP)

I think both Favors and Kanter have a lot of upside to them, and, well, Hayward has the moxie to be much better than Utah’s version of Mike Dunleavy, Jr. I say keep those three young guns, get maybe Millsap on the trading block along with CJ Miles and see what happens.

Still, even if Ty Corbin went into the 2012-2013 campaign with this same group, or an almost intact group, they’ll still have a lot of fight in them. To quote, Gregg Popovich after Game 4, “They (the Jazz) don’t quit.”

Game Recaps:

SAS over UTA, 87-81
There will be no embarrassing first- round exit for the Western Conference's top-seeded team this year. A year after a spectacular collapse to the Memphis Grizzlies in the opening round of the playoffs, the San Antonio Spurs completed a first-round sweep of the Utah Jazz with an 87-81 victory at EnergySolutions Arena Monday. Manu Ginobili led the way with 17 points off the bench while Tony Parker and Tim Duncan contributed 11 apiece for the Spurs in an effort that was not efficient, but nonetheless was effective. Neither team shot over 38 percent from the field, but San Antonio connected on 10-of-22 three-point tries, while Utah missed all 13 of its attempts from beyond the arc. The victorious Spurs may have a shot at avenging their 2011 defeat, as they advance to face the winner of the Memphis/Los Angeles Clippers series. LA holds a 3-1 series lead after winning, 101-97, in overtime later Monday. Utah's Al Jefferson paced all scorers with 26 points and 10 boards, Derrick Favors -- who replaced Josh Howard in the starting lineup for Game 4 -- finished with 16 and 10, and Paul Millsap donated 10 and 19 in the Jazz's final game of the season.

LAC over MEM, 101-97 (OT)
Chris Paul had just two points in the fourth quarter and was unable to get a shot off before the final buzzer in regulation, but his mastery in overtime has the Los Angeles Clippers on the brink of advancing to the West semifinals. Paul netted eight of his 27 points in the extra session to go with nine rebounds and seven assists as the Clippers downed the Memphis Grizzlies, 101-97, in Game 4 of this tightly-contested NBA first-round series. Blake Griffin added 30 points, seven assists and five rebounds for Los Angeles, which took a 3-1 series edge with Game 5 slated in Memphis on Wednesday. Mike Conley had 25 points to go with eight assists and seven rebounds for Memphis. Rudy Gay poured in 23 points.

Blake Griffin steamrolls Marc Gasol as the Clips
escape for a big 3-1 lead.
(image by Chris Carlson/AP)

*Game recaps were compiled and compressed from Reuters, the Associated Press and the Sports Network.
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