It has been years since the Utah Jazz were those Karl Malone and John Stockton led perennial contenders that many of us remember. They'll be forever recalled for the ridiculously short shorts that Stockton sported.
Now, they are a young team that has a lot of talent. The question is whether they'll be able to turn that talent into winning anytime soon.
Last year, the 25-win Jazz were the worst team in the Western Conference.
The last time they made the playoffs was 2011-12.
Why the hope?
Some of their young core is growing up as they build around Gordon Hayward for new head coach Quin Snyder, who many recall as the former Duke assistant coach and player who left Missouri midseason in 2006 with a 126-91 record through nine seasons with the school.
The Jazz also feature Michigan grad and guard Trey Burke.
The big question mark
The one player who has been endlessly debated is draft pick Dante Exum, a 6-foot-6 point guard from Australia.
Exum has a ton going for him, leading with his athleticism and speed. He's simply hard for anyone to handle. But there are also plenty of detractors.
Exum's shooting leaves a lot to be desired, which Michael Kidd-Gilchrist can attest will limit his ability to score in the NBA. And, during the FIBA World Cup, he struggled to get minutes and didn't necessarily impress anyone.
One Eastern Conference scouting director, in fact, told the Sporting News that “He’s not ready for the NBA, that is for sure. But a lot of guys are not ready for the NBA and they have got to learn on the fly. He is no different. But he is not going to jump into the league and all of a sudden average 20 points a game. There’s just no way.”
So how good will they be?
The reality is that the Jazz probably aren't a playoff team again this year. But, two years down the line, they might just become one.
That will give the team time for Exum to mature into more of what he can be rather than what he is currently.
“From what I have seen, the guy is a 1 all the way,” the scouting director told the Sporting News. “You can try putting him at 2, but his shot is just not something you fear right now — he needs to adjust his mechanics and he needs more confidence in it. If he plays a lot of 2-guard, I would hope it does not hurt his confidence and set him back a little. That’s not his game right now.”
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