29 February 2012
Last night hurt. We can all agree with that. There was enough underachieving and ill-formed decisions to go around to keep all of our minds running circles for weeks. It was one of those nights that makes you instantly start playing the NBA Trade Machine and NBA Mock Lottery games for an hour just to make the pain go away. It hurt for a number of reasons.
To start out the night we get this gem courtesy of Brian T. Smith:
That's how the night starts out. We get a hint that Ty Corbin wants a full lineup of veterans. Then the disappointing game of Utah vs Sacramento got underway. Even though Harris had a solid game he was outdueled by a rookie drafted with the last pick in the NBA draft, Isaiah Thomas. Harris had 18 pts, 7 ast, 1 reb, 2 stl. Meanwhile Isaiah Thomas had 18 pts, 8 ast, 2 reb, 1 stl.
That's not even the worst part of the night. The Jazz had many chances to win this. The main being when the young guys, a lineup of Harris, Burks, Miles, Favors, and Kanter finally got rolling. They clawed the Jazz back into the game. Then with minutes left in the game Corbin thanked this young core by, you guessed it, escorting them back to their seats in the bench. You know the rest of the story. Jazz veterans blow the game, make horrible mistakes (#WeConsistentlyDoDumbSh*t), and let the Kings start their 2nd half to the season with a win while we play Groundhog Day with last year's season.
This whole game was a giant allegory of the Jazz's season. There is this insistance to rely upon the veterans in order to reach the playoffs (which with every passing day looks like a pipe dream), let the young guys play about 20 minutes a game (unless you are Gordon Hayward), then when the game is in reach go to an isolation on the left block to Al Jefferson. I know it's not always an isolation on the left block to Jefferson, but the very fact that there's a HIGH chance that it will be basically tells the story of itself.
Which brings us to today. What do the Jazz do? Is there a solution? Yes. But it'll hurt at first.
Remember when the Timberwolves traded Al Jefferson to the Jazz for a conditional 1st round pick, a 2nd round pick, and Kosta Koufos? The Jazz thought they had robbed the T-Wolves. I thought Kevin O Connor had made the most brilliant trade since the Lakers had robbed Memphis of Pau Gasol. Except it wasn't that way at all. Kevin Kahn, and it pains me to even admit this, knew what he was doing. He was freeing minutes for his promising Power Forward, Kevin Love. Al Jefferson consumed too many possessions with his slow methodical post game. While Al Jefferson is a magician in the post he also is a black hole. Kahn knew this. He knew that he had Love whose rebounding rate was through the roof. He knew that Love's development couldn't take another year taking the back seat to Al Jefferson. So he traded him to the Jazz.
Fast forward to the present and now the Jazz are in the same predicament. Our Kevin Love is a two headed monster of Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. In 42 minutes last night the young duo outrebounded Millsap and Jefferson, who played a combined 54 minutes. In fact Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter's per 36 combined rebounds a game is 23 rebounds. Compare that to the 18 rebounds the Millsap/Jefferson are currently averaging now with about 36 minutes per game. That's just rebounds. Blocks would go up as well. Points would take a dip for a season but points would go up. Kevin Love's per 36 that year he sat behind Al Jefferson was at about 15 ppg. What happened when Al Jefferson left? Well....let's just say it didn't stay at 15 ppg. Try 20 ppg. Meanwhile his rebounds per 36 actually went up two more rebounds.
So how do the Jazz trade Al Jefferson? They have to wait for the team that is desperate enough. To those who say his 14 million dollar contract is too much to trade, think again. The Jazz traded for it didn't they? Last time I checked they were paying deep into the luxury tax when they did so. Trading Big Al is not impossible. It just takes a team that is desperate like the Jazz were a couple years ago. Two years ago the Jazz had lost Boozer to Chicago, Kyle Korver to Chicago, and Wesley Matthews to Portland. So is there a team desperate like the Jazz were? Yes.
First look at the Lakers who are desparate for a third big. Look at the Memphis Grizzlies who need a low post threat to replace Zach Randolph who was lost to injury. Look at Houston who was actively looking for a low post threat and almost landed Pau Gasol and without Gasol available they'll be looking elsewhere for an alternative. Look at Golden State who is trying hard to land Dwight and if unsuccessful will try other avenues. Am I saying any of these will happen? No. But to ignore the obvious that Al Jefferson can be traded is to ignore that teams get desperate when the playoffs are on the line.
The Jazz have to follow the parable of the Al and the Love. They have to learn from the Timberwolves.
*Please hold while I throw up in my mouth for that last sentence. KAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHNNNNNNN!*
But the Timberwolves made the right decision with Al and Love. They went their ways and allowed the Jazz to learn the lesson with Big Al. We have learned our lesson with Al. He's not the future. And if the Jazz thought Millsap was the future they wouldn't have drafted Kanter. The Jazz have a bright future. Unfortunately the future is being eclipsed by a present that has hit its ceiling. If the Jazz trade Jefferson then the Jazz will finally get to see true development from Kanter and Favors. Most importantly if the Jazz trade Jefferson we won't have to hear Kevin O'Connor ever utter the empty promise that the "Jazz are not rebuilding" again.
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