22 years old
Prior NBA Experience: None. From: Rice. Acquired: First-round draft pick.
UPSIDE: The senior from Rice was billed as one of the top two pure shooters in the 2007 NBA Draft, along with Italian Marco Belinelli, and so far Almond is living up to the billing. He has a picture-perfect shot, and — rookie nerves aside — it seems to fall with relative ease. He's a solid catch-and-shoot type, too, which fits well in a Jazz offense designed to feed shooting guards coming off screens. Having played four seasons in college, Almond might also be more NBA-ready than many younger draft picks. He's also smart and seemingly coachable.
DOWN: As much as the Jazz need solid shot-making from the 2-spot, shooting alone isn't a guarantee for big-time minutes. For that, Conference USA's 2006 Player of the Year must show he's not too slow to defend at the NBA level — one reason he didn't go higher in the draft — and that he can stay in front of his man. Confidence also is bound to be an issue, as it seems to be for so many Jazz rookies. Though he averaged 26.4 points per game and hit 45.6 percent from 3-point range as a college senior, the draft's No. 25 overall pick may be integrated slowly into the Jazz's regular rotation.
25 years old
Prior NBA Experience: 5 years. Other NBA Team: Cleveland. From: Duke. Acquired: Free agency.
UPSIDE: A first-time NBA All-Star last season who hopes to play in next year's Summer Olympics in China, Boozer was a 20.9-point, 11.7-rebound double-double man in 2006-07 — his second double-double season in the last five years. The starting power forward can score from just about anywhere down low, and with either hand, though he prefers his left. A career 15.8 points-per-game scorer, Boozer has established himself as a bona fide go-to guy who also has a nice short-distance fadeaway jumper.
DOWN: Boozer missed 80 games during his first two seasons in Utah due to foot and hamstring issues — and another eight last season, plus the All-Star Game, with a fractured fibula head in his left knee. This season's question will be where his head is, since young son Carmani is fighting sickle cell anemia back home in Miami. He missed the first two weeks of training camp/preseason as a result. On the floor, opponents think Boozer coasts on defense — and aren't afraid to go at him.
Shooting Guard/Small forward
22 years old
Prior NBA Experience: 1 year. From: University of Arkansas. Acquired: First-round draft pick.
UPSIDE: Brewer is in much better shape and oozes much more confidence than he did during his rookie season. NBA retiree Ron Brewer's super-athletic son runs the floor well, can slash (he likes to go to his left) and gets on top of the basket at will. Quickness and long arms also make him a deflection/steals threat on the other end of the floor. If he continues to improve his defense, the 2006 lottery pick could wind up being Utah's starting shooting guard throughout the season.
DOWN: Playing regularly and establishing some rhythm could help matters, but Brewer struggled with his outside shooting as a rookie. He has a terrifically awkward release, the result of a freak childhood waterslide accident that resulted in a broken arm. Even if he does start as expected, it's defense that will determine if the ex-Razorback is on the floor at the end of games — and Brewer still struggles some when it comes to keeping quicker shooting guards in front of him.
28 years old
Prior NBA Experience: 6 years. Other NBA Teams: None. From: Stanford. Acquired: Second-round draft pick.
UPSIDE: What Collins lacks in athleticism he makes up for with plenty of professionalism and smarts. After six seasons in Utah, he understands coach Jerry Sloan's system inside and out, and runs it accordingly. He sets solid picks, and can shoot off of them up to about 15 feet. A sneaky flopper on defense, too. His effort is also consistent, making Collins — who didn't miss a game last season — quite capable of handling the 10-to-12 minutes he'll likely log behind All-Star center Mehmet Okur.
DOWN: Minutes were down from a career-high 21.9 per game in 2005-06 to just 11.1 last season, evidence that the continuing presence of big men Okur, Carlos Boozer and Paul Millsap makes it unnecessary to overextend Collins. With limited hops, he has virtually no shot-blocking ability — recording just eight swats, in fact, in 82 games last season. Collins also has had a slow start in this year's preseason, though he will still play ahead of rookie No. 3 center Kyrylo Fesenko.
20 years old
Prior NBA Experience: None. From: Ukraine. Acquired: Second-round draft pick via trade.
UPSIDE: With a 7-foot-4 wingspan and 9-4 standing reach, Fesenko has a decent NBA frame — and, at age 20, should have plenty time to develop it. He can finish down low, and gets to the basket on the dribble fairly well. He's a banger, fights for rebounds and plays with a sense of toughness and physicality the Jazz seem to be sorely lacking among their bigs. He seems to have a good attitude, and with some time to grow his game — probably including stints this season with the D-League's Utah Flash — could grow into a steal at No. 38 overall in the 2006 draft's second round.
DOWN: The young Ukrainian is raw, very raw, and hasn't played against much top-notch competition. Conditioning must improve, and Fesenko also must learn how to channel his ample energy on the court. He has better around-the-basket moves than originally anticipated, and supposedly has shooting range out to about 18 feet, but still needs to develop virtually every aspect of his game to become a regular contributor at the NBA level. Until he does, he's probably pegged for now to be the Jazz's No. 3 center with lockers both in Salt Lake City and in Orem with the Flash.
Shooting Guard/Small forward
30 years old
Prior NBA Experience: 5 years. Other NBA Teams: Memphis, Orlando. From: Croatia. Acquired: Trade.
UPSIDE: He's a veteran playing in a contract year, which in a glass-half-full world could spur Giricek to his best season since joining the Jazz from Orlando in 2004. He also has starting experience — 104 games while in Utah — that could serve should the Jazz's youngsters falter this season. And while he's a streak shooter, Giricek hit a career-high and team-high 42.6 percent (52-of-122) last season. Reported to camp in decent shape, down about 10 pounds thanks to an improved offseason diet.
DOWN: It remains to be seen how Giricek will react to the fact that the Jazz spent much of the offseason trying to trade him. If he gets selfish because it is a contract year, that could also prove quite problematic. He is often at odds with coach Jerry Sloan, which is never a good thing in Utah. Giricek's intensity comes and goes, and opponents see him as a poor defender who doesn't like to be played physically on either end of the floor. A likely bench player this season.
31 years old
Prior NBA Experience: 9 years. Other NBA Teams: Orlando, Cleveland, Philadelphia. From: Georgia Tech. Acquired: Trade.
UPSIDE: When his injury-burdened body allows, the veteran always gives all-out effort. Versatility is a huge benefit, as — depending on matchups — he can go anywhere from shooting guard to power forward. Harpring plays with a football mentality, fighting through screens and knocking down jumpers coming off curls virtually at will. A double-digit scorer 51 times in 77 games last season. He'll probably come off the bench again behind Andrei Kirilenko, but look for him often at the end of close games.
DOWN: Harpring had August surgery to clean out scar tissue in a problematic right knee that twice previously (in 2004 and 2005) was repaired via microfracture surgery, limiting him severely throughout training camp and the preseason. He also underwent September surgery to address bone spurs in his left ankle, though the knee seems to be the bigger problem. He has played at least 71 games each of the past three seasons, but — with three years remaining on his current contract — it's tough to tell just how many are left in him.
Point guard/shooting guard
28 years old
Prior NBA Experience: 6 years. Other NBA Teams: Milwaukee, San Antonio, Charlotte, Sacramento, Los Angeles Clippers. From: Syracuse. Acquired: Free agency.
UPSIDE: With stops in five previous NBA locales, Hart — even though he's only logged 240 regular-season games — has a fair share of experience. Confidence soared while running the Los Angeles Clippers as an injury replacement late last season. A pass-first point with shooting range limited to 18 feet, he can run an offense but won't take over within it. Solid assists man, low turnover count. Good size and above-average defense for a point. Also can play some shooting guard against smaller matchups, something the Jazz may have him do more and more as the season progresses.
DOWN: He's not a big scorer (5.7 points per game career average), and not a 3-pointer shooter (24.1 percent last season) either. Hart doesn't drive the lane much, and has a rather awkward-looking shot with little arc. He lost out on the backup point guard position to teammate-again Ronnie Price with the Kings last season, prompting his eventual departure from Sacramento. He may beat out Price for the top-reserve job in Utah this season, but in most games probably won't play much more than 10-to-12 minutes behind starter Deron Williams.
26 years old
Prior NBA Experience: 6 years. Other NBA Teams: None. From: Russia. Acquired: First-round draft pick.
UPSIDE: Kirilenko started each of the 70 games he played last season, and has started all but 10 in which he's played over the last four years. When he's at his best, the 2004 NBA All-Star is a long, athletic stat machine who produces not only double-digit points but also ample rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. A great off-the-ball shot-blocker, he can cover up the defensive deficiencies of teammates. Earning MVP honors for his native Russia at this offseason's European Championships proved his abilities, but also may have implanted unrealistic NBA expectations.
DOWN: When it comes to playing for demanding coach Jerry Sloan, Kirilenko is a mental mess. He made it known this offseason that he wants to be traded — the Jazz considered it — and that could cause all sorts of trouble throughout the season. Teammates even ripped his work ethic from last season, further muddying matters. Thinks he can shoot the 3, but can't (hitting just 21.3 percent last season). Scoring average dipped from 15.3 to a career-low 8.3 last season. He can be a double-digit scorer again, but only if he'd forget about long-distance shots and focus instead on simply slashing and cleaning up garbage.
27 years old
Prior NBA Experience: None. From: Temple. Acquired: Free agency.
UPSIDE: Lyde survived the first round of cuts and still was with the Jazz for the preseason's final week, with an outside shot at making the regular-season roster. The burly center, trimmed down considerably from seasons past, made a favorable impression playing for Utah's Rocky Mountain Revue summer-league team. He moves fairly well for his size, and isn't afraid to throw around his weight. Last season, the undrafted Lyde helped lead the Dakota Wizards to an NBA Development League championship.
DOWN: Though he left Temple in 2002, Lyde still hasn't played a regular-season NBA game. Instead, he's spent parts or all of four of the last five seasons in the D-League. He's also played in Argentina, China and Italy. Partly because of his weight, however, he's never stuck in the NBA. Now that it's seemingly under control, it may be too late for much more than a short-term NBA shot. If he happens to see action in Utah this year, it could be because the Jazz feel second-round rookie Kyrylo Fesenko isn't quite ready for prime-time play.
Shooting Guard/Small Forward
20 years old
Prior NBA Experience: 2 years. Other NBA Teams: None. From: Dallas (Texas) Skyline High School. Acquired: Second-round draft pick.
UPSIDE: The biggest upside on Miles has to be that even though he is entering his third NBA season, he still is only 20 years old. If there truly is an NBA game deep within, and it manages to soon emerge, there can be plenty of seasons ahead of him. The lefty also has great range with his fundamentally sound shot when he does get going, and will both run the floor and get on top of the basket. Playing on just a one-year contract, there certainly is incentive to perform as well.
DOWN: Miles has struggled with his shot during the preseason. Personal confidence continues to be a huge question mark, because when the Texan gets down, he really gets down. Not playing for the Jazz this past summer while dealing with contract issues could prove to be a major setback, both in terms of conditioning and development. Miles still needs to get stronger and learn how to be more physical — fighting through screens, for example — and still needs to gain the confidence of coaches.
22 years old
Prior NBA Experience: 1 year. From: Louisiana Tech. Acquired: Second-round draft pick:
UPSIDE: Based on his rookie season, the Jazz indeed managed a steal with the No. 47 overall selection in the 2006 NBA Draft. Utah's backup power forward didn't miss a game while averaging 6.8 points and 5.2 rebounds in just 18.0 minutes per game. He's versatile, and can guard just about anything from a quicker shooting guard to a bigger center. Millsap is a monster on the boards, has a nose for the ball and can block shots to boot. Big-time find.
DOWN: With Carlos Boozer on board, the toughest challenge when it comes to Millsap may be finding a way to get him more playing time. Besides power forward, it could come in a reserve role at small forward this season as well. Beyond that, it's hard to find much downside here. He works hard, learns fast and has a great attitude. Some added height might be nice, but there is not much Millsap can do about that.
28 years old
Prior NBA Experience: 5 years. Other NBA Team: Detroit. From: Turkey. Acquired: Free agency.
UPSIDE: Named as an injury-replacement, Okur was a first-time NBA All-Star last season. He has averaged 17.8 points over the past two seasons, including double figures in 70 of 80 games in 2006-07, and last season the super-shooting big man set a Jazz single-season record for both 3-pointers made (129) and treys attempted (336). He gives Utah a bona fide outside shooting threat, and that opens things up inside for power forward Carlos Boozer. A good passer and rebounder too, he's not afraid to shoot when a game's on the line.
DOWN: Opponents know Okur prefers not to be played too physically, and try to bang him around accordingly. Matched against much-bigger Yao Ming in the playoffs, his offensive game disappeared. Though he's missed only two games over the past three seasons, his lower back bothers him on occasion. He faded big-time late last season after the All-Star Game, and after a slow preseason start it will be interesting to see if playing for his native Turkey this past summer will wear him down as the coming season progresses.
Point guard/shooting guard
24 years old
Prior NBA Experience: 2 years. Other NBA Team: Sacramento. From: Utah Valley State. Acquired: Free agency.
UPSIDE: Price is a solid athlete, and after his memorable poster dunk on Carlos Boozer last season no one can question his ability to get up in the air. More of a scoring point than Jason Hart, whom he beat out for the backup job in Sacramento last season. He may wind up as the Jazz's No. 3 point this season, losing out to teammate-again Hart, but could also play some shooting guard, since his shot is at its best when he's coming off a curl or slashing to the basket. The Jazz consider him something of a project, so expectations won't be too high.
DOWN: A shooting guard in a point guard's body, but not a lot of experience playing the point. Not a big assists man, and never has dished more than three in any one game. Not a good 3-point shooter (29.3 percent career), and never has hit better than 39 percent from the field in the NBA — despite liking to take the ball to the basket. Still learning the Jazz system, and will have to adjust his favored game to make things work. Suffering a broken nose during a preseason game against his old Kings club has helped matters, either.
23 years old
Prior NBA Experience: 2 years. Other NBA Teams: None. From: University of Illinois. Acquired: First-round draft pick.
UPSIDE: The 2005 of draft's No. 3 overall pick played at an elite level for most of last season, and one of his chief incentives early this season will be starting a string of what could be many his NBA All-Star Games. Playing this past summer for Team USA, with a chance to play in next summer's Olympic Games, helped his confidence tremendously. Williams is a threat to either shoot or drive the lane, keeping opponents off-balance. He's a good defender, but more importantly knows how to run a team. Not afraid to speak his mind, either.
DOWN: The biggest knock on Williams last season may have been that he tried to do too much on his own in the playoffs, especially in the Western Conference Finals. But if that's the worst that can be said of someone who was fighting until the bitter end, the Jazz would seem not to have too many worries here. He takes some tough shots at times, yet they frequently fall, so that shouldn't be a major issue. Their biggest concern, in fact, may be trying to convince Williams it is not in his best interest to log 48 minutes a game.