NBA Preview: Utah Jazz

NBA Preview: JazzNo frills, no thrills, no superstars.

Welcome to the world of the Utah Jazz.

Just seven or eight talented players meshing as a team, hitting 3-pointers and playing solid defense under Coach Jerry Sloan, who learned a thing or two about defense when he shared a backcourt with Norm Van Lier on the stingy Chicago Bulls teams of the 1970's.

The strength of this group is the frontcourt, where Mehmet Okur emerged as one of the most productive and versatile centers in the league a year ago and forwards Andrei Kirilenko and Carlos Boozer round out what is potentially a Top 5 NBA trio. But Boozer must stay healthy, and Okur needs to prove he wasn't a one-year flash for that scenario to play out. Veteran small forward Matt Harpring adds depth.

Derek Fisher has been added to a decent guard combination that also includes Deron Williams and Gordan Giricek. Rookie Ronnie Brewer, whose namesake father also played at the University of Arkansas and in the NBA, will likely receive significant playing time as well.


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One reason the Jazz get little publicity is location. Another is they feature no flashy players. But you can bet if they stay healthy they will play better than 500 basketball and stay in the thick of the playoff race.

Key additions: G Fisher, G Brewer

Key subtractions: G Devin Brown, G Keith McLeod, C Greg Ostertag

Sportsbook odds: Bettors are looking at the Jazz as a 500 team with the best chance to finish directly behind Denver in the Northwest Division.

Player to watch: Boozer has proven a disappointment since he skipped Cleveland to take a huge contract with the Jazz. It hasn't been all his fault, however. Injuries have sidelined him for more than 80 games since he hightailed it to Utah two years ago. His presence as an offensive threat down low and rebounding machine when he's on will be a tremendous benefit for this team, but he can't do it wearing street clothes and sitting on the bench. Boozer is capable of averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds a game. Offensive threats presented by Boozer and Okur inside would help provide room for 3-point specialists such as Kirilenko and Williams.

Outlook: The Jazz certainly play in the right division. A 500 record could mean a second-place finish and a playoff berth. A healthy Boozer and continued development of Okur, Kirilenko and Williams should translate into a 45-win season. Kirilenko, Williams and even Okur are tremendous 3-point threats. But aside from Fisher and Harpring, there isn't much depth here, particularly in the frontcourt. The Jazz can't afford any serious injuries. Odds are in favor of a playoff spot, but that is a risky bet. They are one major injury away from watching the postseason on TV. places them at a +10000 (100-1) to win the NBA title with an over/under victory total of 41.


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