19 December 2011
Yesterday David Locke(@lockedonsports) sent out a Tweet with the probable starters, pulled from the Jazz media guide, listed as Hayward, Harris, Jefferson, Bell, and Okur. I don’t think it’s too far of a stretch to say that most every Jazz fan’s response was, “Hmm”. Hours of debate ensued as we wondered about the pairing of Big Al and Memo.
Well, the truth about the situation is this: Jazz coach Ty Corbin has yet to solidify his starting lineup and its possible that he may set the lineup based on the opponent throughout the season. In this case, the Blazers have Camby, Matthews, Wallace, Batum, and Felton listed as the starters in their media guide. Anything stick out? They will be fielding (courting? Not courting that sounds weird) a very small lineup. Though this will create a problem for the Jazz big men in that their counterparts are significantly faster, it will provide a good test for the team defense. The Blazers backcourt of Matthews and Felton doesn’t possess significant athletic ability, so Devin Harris and Raja Bell are more than capable of keeping their men from penetrating the paint and getting easy baskets. Should these guards be in a position where they are ran off their man by any combination of screens or picks, Gordon Hayward has enough size and speed to switch or clog the passing lane to allow his teammate to recover. If the screened Blazer does manage to make it into the paint, the size of Al and Memo will create problems in making a short pass in traffic, as well as attempting to go up and over the Jazz defenders.
This also creates a huge advantage on the offensive side. The low post game of Al Jefferson would be absolutely overwhelming for Batum or Wallace, forcing Nate MacMillan to cover Al with Marcus Camby. This decision makes for an equally favorable matchup for the Jazz as Memo, stationed either at the elbow or free throw line extended, would force the smaller forwards to close out any potential shot, giving Memo the choice to drive the lane for a high percentage shot, dish to Al if Camby rotates, or hit a slashing Hayward or Harris coming from the opposite side, both of whom are very good when finishing at the rim.
While the offensive advantages created by this particular front court lineup are apparent, it is the defensive synergy between these two big men that will be scrutinized by fans and the Jazz coaching staff. Though it is highly unlikely we see these two starting any significant number of games, it’s not hard to imagine them being part of one of the Jazz’s better 5-man rotations.
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