2008 NBA Preview: #5 Utah Jazz

Offseason Movement: The Jazz exercised a couple of no-brainer contract options on Ronnie Brewer and Paul Millsap, and signed Deron Williams to a long-term deal. The other main acquisition was center Kosta Koufos via the draft.
Keep Your Eye On: Carlos Boozer
Boozer has another year on his deal, but it’s a player option, and considering he can make more on the open market, he’ll probably opt out. That doesn’t mean that he’s leaving Utah, but given Boozer’s history, the team is justifiably worried. Utah has a lot of money tied up in Andrei Kirilenko (three years, $49 million) and it would be much better spent on a new deal for Boozer. Complicating matters is Mehmet Okur, who can also opt out next summer. The good news is that the Jazz locked up Deron Williams, so that should encourage both Boozer and Okur to stay.
The Big Question: Is this group good enough to get over the hump?
Utah has a nice roster, but it’s unclear if the current core – Williams, Boozer, Okur, AK-47 – is good enough to get past the West’s elite. Can Williams and Boozer raise their respective games? Will another player (Brewer, Koufos) turn into a star?
Outlook: The Jazz are right on the cusp and they’ll always play hard for Jerry Sloan, so they’ll be in the thick of things come playoff time. That means that they’re likely to advance to the Western Conference Semis or Western Conference Finals and meet a roadblock like the Lakers, Hornets or Spurs. I’d like to see Jerry Sloan make another trip to the Finals, but the odds are against that happening this season.

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