- Improve Basketball IQ – this was this team’s ultimate undoing. The head scratching decision making, blowing second half leads, continuing to take bad shots, and getting away from what was working all were repeated throughout this frustrating season. Another season and offseason under their belt will undoubtedly serve them better. The ‘inexperience’ excuse can’t be used next year.
- Become physically tough – the frontcourt was soft all year, period. That coupled with their collective inability to finish at the rim leaves a lot to be desired. Spalding needs to add bulk this offseason and improve his hand strength. More often than not, any contact when going to the rim resulted in two free throws instead of an and-1 opportunity. Same goes for Mahmoud. How he missed as many layups and dunks this year as a 7-footer we’ll never know. Jaylen has the ability to be the ‘tough guy’ but he often disappears in long stretches. Imagine this year’s team if they had a Trez or Nanu-type in the paint. Yikes.
- Improve free throw (‘chance tosses’, ‘hope heaves’) shooting – shooting 69% as a team from the foul line is inexcusable. But often it came down to the big men performing poorly – Anas at 46%, Ray at 55%, and Jaylen at 62%. The best shooters – Donovan 81%, Deng 77%, and Q 71% – didn’t get to the rim as much as they needed to in order to improve the overall percentage.
- Less talking, more doing – how many times did we hear the players say “we didn’t do the little things” or “we made a bunch of mental errors”, etc. Next year’s team needs to walk the walk instead of just talk the talk. It’s nice for the players to admit what went wrong, but it’s past time for them to actually go out on the court and practice what they preach.
- Leadership must emerge – not having a true leader really hurt this team, especially away from the Yum! Center. This team needs someone – most likely Donovan Mitchell – to step up and grab guys by the jerseys if need be to get them back on track and encourage them when needed. Too often when the going got tough way from the Yum, the tough got going. That can’t happen if this team wants to live up to its likely Final Four-hype.