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Written by Kyle Kirkham | 13 March 2012

POW
*This post does not include stats or insights from last night’s win vs the Pistons

The Jazz did what they were supposed to do last week. They started off the week by winning the 2 easy games vs the Cavs and Bobcats, and then followed that with a couple losses to the Sixers and Bulls. Not necessarily successful, but I wouldn’t call it a failure either.

 

Devin Harris

Last week’s line:  9.3 points (53%), 2 assists (1 TO), 2.7 rebounds

Despite missing the final game, Harris has kept up his recently good play. Devin may not be piling in the points, but he is still scoring efficiently, and pushing the pace to start most games. 2 assists a game is not what Jazz fans have come to expect from their starting point guard, but it is not his fault that team traded for a “shoot first” point guard. While Harris has definitely played better of late, I still think that it is unlikely he is part of the team’s long term plans. 

 

Raja Bell

Last week’s line: 2.3 points (33%), 1.3 assists (1.3 TO’s), 1 rebound, .3 steals

Ever since coming back from injury, Bell has really struggled. This is pretty obvious as you take a quick look at his numbers. It took Bell a good part of the season to get up and running, and with the way he has been playing lately you wonder if it will take him that long to get going again. However, poor play wasn’t the highlight of Raja’s week, his “rumble” with Corbin is. While none of us know the specifics of what happened between Bell and the Jazz organization, it is still an intriguing matter. Despite his poor play, is Bell complaining about minutes and touches? This could be our last week with the former fan favorite.

 

Josh Howard

Last week’s line: 10.8 points (43%), 3 rebounds, .8 assists (1 TO)

Howard’s production has slipped a little, but it is still much better than it was a few weeks ago. While I wasn’t a huge supporter of him gaining the starting spot, but I do think he plays better with the starters. Then again, he is still below average when it comes to starting wings in my opinion, and is obviously not the answer for the future. When it comes to chance of being traded this week, I think Howard is near the top of the list.

 

Paul Millsap

Last week’s line: 17.5 points (51%), 7.5 rebounds, 3 assists (1.3 TO’s)

Is Millsap back? Not yet, but he is getting closer. Paul looked  better for the second consecutive week, including a monster game vs Chicago (Boozer). He actually led the team in steals over the past week with 2.5, something he was doing a whole lot of earlier in the year. Not to mention the impressive assist (and turnover) numbers.

 

Al Jefferson

Last week’s line: 21.5 points (50%), 9 rebounds, 3.8 assists (1 TO), 1.8 blocks

Big Al had another very solid week, but skip the points, rebounds, and blocked shots and take a look at those assists, nearly four a game. You probably heard already, but in Monday’s win over the Cavs Jefferson led BOTH teams in points, rebounds, and assists. That rarely happens. Then he almost did it the next game, but co-led in assists. It may have taken the man 8 years to learn to pass like he is, but he still deserves credit.  Overall Al is just playing really, really good right now, just ask Biyombo.

 

Earl Watson

Last week’s line: 3.8 (33%), 4.5 assists (1.5 TO’s), 3 rebounds

Watson was simply Watson last week. He led the team in assists, didn’t score too much and grabbed a couple of rebounds. It’s funny, I think if you showed any other non-Jazz fan his stats, they probably wouldn’t get very excited. But I cannot tell you how glad I was to resign Earl for this and next season. While there is no official captain to this team, Watson is without a doubt one of the leaders, both on and off the court.

 

CJ Miles

Last week’s line: 3 points (14%), .5 assists (.5 TO’s), 1.8 rebounds

Nope, that is not a typo, Miles really shot a scalding 14% last week, 14%! I had to double check it myself, and sure enough, 3/22. I don’t think I have to go into detail on how bad that is. Unfortunately, Miles wasn’t a major contributor anywhere really. For the past little while I’ve been thinking if anyone gets traded this week, it’s Miles or Howard. How bitter sweet would that be? While it would free up time for Burks, it would be the end of the #Whatupdoe era, which wouldn’t be easy for me.

 

Gordon Hayward

Last week’s line: 13.5 points (58%), 4.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists (2.3 TO’s)

Hayward did a fantastic job in responding to his benching, starting with 23 points in his first game off the bench (this season). He kept up the improved play through the week and even finished second in FG%. This is the Hayward we fell in love with last year. If you think Gordon has been hitting from deep more often than not, then you are right, as he has made 5 of his last 11 three point attempts. Let me also point out that Gordon didn’t lose any time in this benching, in a matter of fact he played more than the week prior and was just above his season average.

 

Derrick Favors

Last week’s line: 9.5 points (64%), 5.3 rebounds, 1.8 TO’s, .5 blocks, .5 steals (17.5 minutes)

Derrick is playing the best ball of his NBA career right now. We’ve never seen Favors play this good on offense, and overall he is just playing hard and it is paying off. Maybe that trip to Orlando for All Star weekend gave him an extra shot of confidence? However I do have one concern, his playing time. I know, I know, Favors is splitting time with Millsap, Jefferson, and Kanter, time on the court definitely does not come easy. But 17.5 minutes? That’s about 3 less than last year, and like I said, he is playing the best ball since coming into the big league. It will likely take a trade to open things up for the sophomore, but I don’t see one of our other bigs being dealt before draft night.

 

Enes Kanter

Last week’s line: 2.3 points (27%), 1.3 rebounds (8.5 minutes)

Kanter is really in a slump right now, and Corbin has let him know, as his playing time was cut in half last week. Enes has looked lost on both offense and defense at times, and even his trademark rebounding has gone down. This is where we take a deep breath and remember this is a 19 year old rookie who hadn’t played before this season for over 2 years. To say the least, growing pains are to be expected, and a good amount of them. Kanter has met or exceeded most people’s expectations, and I believe he will continue to do that as he develops. But for now, he needs to work on getting his game back.

 

Alec Burks

Last week’s line: 5.3 points (47%), 1.3 rebounds, .5 assists (0 TO’s) (12.8 minutes)

Bell returning from injury instantly took minutes away Burks, but that didn’t stop Burks from doing his thing. I think Alec is in a similar position to Favors. Close to taking another step, but needs more playing time to do so, which will only happen if a trade occurs. Right now Burks is last in line on the depth chart of wings, which runs 5 players deep. I personally think he is our second or third best wing. A lot of this could change in the next few days though.

*Players who didn’t play (much): Jeremy Evans, DeMarre Carroll, Jamaal Tinsley

While last week was somewhat predictable, this current week is going to be the exact opposite. The Jazz have some games that will put them in position to make a run at the playoffs, and who knows what will happen with the trade deadline on Thursday. This could be the last time I write about certain players…That said, I think we have a winner.

 

Player of the Week: Week 11

POW11Al
Jefferson has bigger hands than you, and more POW Awards (Photo via Scott Winterton)

Al Jefferson 21.5 points (50%), 9 rebounds, 3.8 assists (1 TO), 1.8 block


Runner up: Derrick Favors


Special Mentions: Gordon Hayward, Paul Millsap


Thanks @sproul13 for weekly stats

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Written by Spencer | 12 March 2012

Breaking Down CJ Miles’s Inconsistency

We’ve all seen it before; CJ Miles goes out for 40 points, and then he lays a few eggs the week after.   Truly any man who is able to score 30+ on any given night has the ability to do it every night, right?   Then naturally, we raise the question of why CJ Miles is unable to knock down his shots consistently.

As of late, CJ Miles has started to replicate Alec Burks a bit by slashing/driving more to the basket, which helps explain Tyrone Corbin’s controversial decision to continually give CJ more minutes than Alec (and no, this isn’t a #FreeAlecBurks campaign).   When CJ is not settling for jump shots and is driving to the basket more, he is much more effective to this Jazz team.  However, that is not the case; he still has an addiction to those jumpers- spending nearly a fourth of his possessions on spot-ups and converting on only 34% of them throughout his career.  To see why this is occurring, we turn to Sports Science (or at least my cheap rip-off version of it).

Let’s start at the fundamental concepts of shooting a basketball.  In order to be a good shooter, you must have both a shooter’s mentality and a proper shot mechanics.  From the percentage of possessions he uses on spotting up from the 3, I’m sure no one is questioning his confidence in his shot.  Shooter’s mentality—check.  Now it’s time to look his shooting mechanics.
Screen_shot_2012-03-12_at_5.25.17_PM 

Everyone has their unique method of shooting, whether it’s Kyle Korver’s beautiful form or Rashard Lewis’s unorthodox form.  What differentiates a consistent shooter, however, is a consistent form; that is, the shooting form must be consistent on every jump shot you take, along with good balance and an optimal release point.   Keeping these three aspects constant is vital for creating a rhythm, and judging by CJ Miles’s inconsistency, there must be something wrong in at least one of the three.

Consistent Shooting Form
Consistent_shoot_form 
A true shooter should always have the same arm positioning throughout all his shots, no matter the contortion of the body.  As you can see from the above pictures, CJ Miles’s elbow position and angles are fairly the same throughout all his shots.  His shooting form has the characteristics of a true shooter, therefore there must be another aspect that is changing.

Balance

CJ_Balance_1
CJ_Balance_2

The balance of a player’s shot is all based around the positioning of the feet.  I mentioned earlier that the positioning of the arms should be consistent on any shot, whether it be a wide open three or a fade away baseline shot—the same applies to a player’s balance.  Whenever a player shoots a shot, it is important to first jump straight up with a solid foundation, and then you can contort the body however the situation allows (i.e.  all of Millsap’s “Houdini” shots).

The term “squaring up” is a simpler way of a coach telling a player to have proper balance on his shot.  All shooters are taught from day one that squaring up is the essential for knocking down a shot, from the shoulders all the way down to the feet.  Looking at the pictures above, CJ Miles only gets half the job done; his shoulders are squared to the basket, but his feet aren’t  (positioned about 45 degrees away).   In short, the mechanics of his upper body is great (consistent shooting form and squared up shoulders), but his lower body is off.

Another good way of looking for balance is by following the path of the tip of a player’s shoes from start to finish.  If the player has good balance, then the tip of the shoes will stay in the same vertical plane relative to the basket from start to finish (i.e. if you drew a line from the tip of a player’s shoes to the point directly under the basket, the front tips of the shoe should stay on that line throughout the entire shot).  Because CJ Miles’s shoes are positioned at an angle, the tips of the shoes do not stay in a straight line path throughout the shot.  This is an indication of the lack of balance because the path of his center of mass is not in line with the path of the basketball when heading towards the basket.  Aiming a basketball isn’t solely reliant on the upper body form, but also the balance from the uplift—and that is what CJ is missing.

 

Release Point/Angle
Release_Point_and_Angle_CJ 

Using Math & Physics (skip if you don’t like the technical stuff): This one was a little tricky because I do not have the advance software of ESPN’s Sport Science, so I had to rely on the old-fashion Paint application.  In this picture, I have zoomed up closer to the original size (the original size aspect can be seen at the top of this article).  I created a time lapse of the different positions of the ball, and connected them each with a line to create an approximated parabolic arc.  I then had to establish a 3-D coordinate system in order to get correct measurements, which is why I created a 3-D white box around the court.  Using this shape, I then redefined a sub-axis at the point of CJ’s release and then plotted the points to create a quadratic regression equation of the path of the basketball.  Once I figured the kinematics (motion) of the path, I needed to take into account the dynamics (the different forces acting upon the ball).  In this situation, there are only two forces; gravity and air resistance.  Gravity is constant force (~32 ft/s^2), while air resistance is differentiable force that is proportional to the square of the tangential velocity. To figure the velocity, I needed to parameterize the position of the ball into a function of time.   To calculate the air resistance, I needed to redefine another sub-axis relative the ball and tangential path because the air resistance is changing with the direction of the ball’s path.  Once I have the air resistance, I can calculate the optimal angle, which is the path the ball takes so it has the least velocity when it hits the basket (this takes into account the release velocity and the amount of air resistance used to lower the velocity while counteracting the acceleration due to gravity).

What I Found: The reason I did all these calculations for the path of the basketball was to find the optimal release angle, which was approximately 49.6 degrees for a 6’6” player.  The purpose of a jump shot in comparison to a set shot is gain additional lift.  This lift is important because the closer you get your release point to the horizontal plane of the basket (10 ft.), the smaller distance between the ball and hoop, and therefore less velocity needed to make it.  I have illustrated this with the light blue lines.  The top blue line is the vertical plane of the basket, the second line is CJ’s release point in the screenshot, and the bottom line is the release point if CJ shot a set shot.   The optimal release point therefore is at the climax of his jump, and with my calculations, requires a release angle of 49.6 degrees (assuming he jumps to his apex each time).

In CJ’s case however, he does not take advantage of these optimal conditions.  His release angle is about 55 degrees, a whole 5.4 degrees larger than the optimal angle.  In order for the ball to make it to the basket, CJ must release the ball with a greater velocity because of the increased angle.   Because the angle is higher, it will be in the air longer and the gravity will give the ball further acceleration, increasing the velocity.  The faster the ball, the harder it hits the rim and makes a “brick”.  Furthermore from the film I looked at, he did not release at the same point in all his jump shots, varying a few inches each time.  This forces him to change the release angle and release velocity (because of the changing distance between him & the basket) each time he shoots the ball, which is very difficult for any player.  A true shooter will release from the same point of his lift, therefore will only require a pre-calibrated angle and velocity which allows him to consistently knock down the jump shot.  I have no doubt that CJ puts up thousands of practice shots, but the reason it’s not working as well as he hoped is because he has to vary his shot velocity and angle each time he shoots, as opposed to a single angle like Ray Allen or Kyle Korver.

 

So it turns out that there are some things that CJ is doing right, like consistently shooting the same way, but there are also things that is holding CJ back, like improper balance and release point.  If CJ Miles can somehow change his shot to take in account these aspects, then he is bound to become a knock down shooter—however it takes years to redefine one’s form, something CJ does not have.  Therefore it can be concluded that the best option for CJ is to stop spending a quarter of his possessions on spot-ups, and start driving the basket more.  He simply isn’t a shooter, and the mechanics show it.

 

You can follow Alec Lam on Twitter @AlecLam14 (and he’s pretty awesome if I do say so myself)

 

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Written by Spencer | 12 March 2012

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Written by Alan Zaugg | 10 March 2012

Having just passed the midway point of the 2012 NBA season, I thought it a good time to offer a comprehensive look at some of the Jazz rookies and sophomores.

My focus of this piece will be centered on the development and future of Alec Burks.

Much has been made about the youngsters on the team this year. Never (at least in my memory) has a Jazz team featured four lottery picks on the team at the same time. And with the exception of Alec Burks, three of those picks are top ten. So it is fair to say there are some expectations regarding the development and learning curve for the youngsters.

Fans expectations this year center around playing time (PT). The feeling is with such a young team, playing time is needed to help with growth and development. So of course frustrations rise when the young guys aren’t getting playing time. Especially players like Burks who play at a position behind two veterans who’ve had their share of inconsistencies of late.

But from a coaching standpoint, especially with an organization like the Jazz, it isn’t just about growth and development, it’s about winning. A team that was a perennial playoff team for almost two decades, the Jazz can’t or don’t want to afford losing consecutive seasons in the name of development.

Minutes and playing time, don't always equate to development. It really comes down to the quality of those minutes. While I’m no statistician, I hope this will shed some light on the progression of the Jazz’ youngster and what the future may hold.

Notice of Disclaimer: I hate comparisons (though I am guilty sometimes). It is unfair to the player to compare. Kobe vs Jordan, Malone vs Griffin, Stockton vs CP3, Lebron vs Jordan or Magic or whatever. It builds false dreams and expectations for players. Sets them up for failure sometimes. With that in mind I will try to point this article more to a “Parallel” rather than “Comparison” of careers.



Vincent Laforet/AFP/Getty Images

Addressing the playing time fallacy, the best player of the last decade began his NBA career riding the pine on a playoff bound LA Lakers team. He averaged 15.5 minutes per game his rookie season, playing only 77 games of a possible 82 that year. In comparison Alec Burks is averaging 12.6 a game in 34 of a possible 39 games to this point in the season.

I’m not saying Burks is going to be the same caliber player that Kobe Bryant is. It stands to reason, however, that the minutes played in his very young career aren’t anything to get overworked about. Burks will have his time. Until then he will have to continue to make the most of what he is given. He will need to focus on watching the game unfold from the bench. Get to know the matchups or potential matchups he will have to face when in the game. And learn about where his spot on the floor needs to be. He is the rookie, after all. He has to pick and choose his moments when on the floor as well, play within the offensive sets that he is put in, and lean on the teachings Coach Corbin can provide. His time will come. It's up to him whether he's ready or not.

And his time could come sooner than later.

With recent events surrounding Raja Bell’s absence from the team on their trip to Chicago Saturday night, speculation is high. No official word has been given on why Bell did not make the trip. It was listed as an “internal matter” as reported by Jody Genessy (@DJJazzyJody)  of the Deseret News. But it stands to reason that it could be a matter of disciplinary nature.

It’s no secret that Raja Bell has been unhappy this season, especially surrounding his role on the team. It was reported in January by Brian T. Smith of the Salt Lake Tribune and then reemphasized a day later by SLAM Magazine that all was not happy in Jazz land regarding Raja Bell and his role as well as his relationship with Corbin:

“There’s already the making of a division on the team, with some of the more experienced players grumbling about their minutes, rotations, about coaching decisions. Raja Bell, an intelligent, articulate, strong-willed oldster, is frustrated with his role.” (SLAM Mag report)

When asked about it Raja’s response was: “...I'm not necessarily over-frustrated. I don't have a problem with anyone. I'm just not going to let myself be affected by the situation.” (Go here for comments from Bell and Corbin)

What problems exist?...well again that’s up to speculation, but it’s clear that Bell is not happy. And if there is grumblings concerning coaching and playing time that may not bode well for the veteran guard. The Jazz organization has a known history of backing up it’s coaching staff and brass.

For example Deshawn Stevenson was traded, after having a disagreement with Coach Sloan back in 2004 for Gordan Giricek. And then again in December of 2007, after multiple altercations with Jerry Sloan, Giricek was shipped off to Philly for Kyle Korver. And finally as recent as last February after an altercation involving Derron Williams and Sloan that ultimately saw Sloan step down, the Jazz traded Williams to New Jersey.

The Jazz are a tight knit organization that believe in loyalty. Loyalty to it’s coaching staff. A belief in backing the coaches in their decisions and supporting them on the road to success. It’s old school, but in a league dominated by the players the Jazz Front Office believes in the organization itself and the leadership that it can and will provide.

Speculation aside, if this proves to be the end of Raja Bell in a Jazz uniform, it could mean the beginnings for a young talented guard in Burks.

So what do we have to look forward to in Burks?

Some things that stand out with Burks in his very young career, is his uncanny ability to get to the FT line. He is aggressive, smart and extremely athletic. He has the skill and ability to put the ball on the floor and make spectacular plays. He carries himself with confidence and an air of arrogance. And from an NBA standpoint, that’s necessary. A quality that was very apparent in players like Kobe and even Michael Jordan. He’s a game changer.



(March 9, 2011 - Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America)


@AllThatAmar recently stated: “Probably the first thing you notice is that he's a superior athlete...He's an advanced prototype for the type of high energy combo guard all NBA teams want...Burks appears to be the Gestalt Guard of all of our past drafts”
(I highly recommend reading the rest of his article at SLC Dunk)

While doing research for this piece I went back to draft day to see what was said about Burks coming in. After having watched him now for half a season and seeing what he can do, and now reading the initial analysis on him...it all fits together. And it is promising.
In case you didn’t catch it here is some of what was said last summer:

From Dimemag.com - Twitter: @DimeMag:

“Like a few others in this year’s draft, Burks has a great chance to be the best player in five years...”
“Historically, the Utah Jazz have been a point guard franchise. The current roster and 2011 Draft indicate that this may soon change. Never has the franchise had a wing who could create, score and take over a game – with Burks they may find their first. The way this team is assembled fits very nicely with Burks’ game and would allow him to step in from Day One and make an impact.”

From David Locke - Twitter: @Lockedonsports:

“He has all the skills to be an 18-20 point per game scorer in the NBA.   He will be very good on a late shot clock.  If his shooting from the outside improves, he will be deadly.”

“If he has it inside himself, he could be special.”



The Associated Press  2012-03-03

Now for the numbers. I gathered what I could from www.basketball-reference.com. For parallel reasons only, I have posted both Burk’s and Bryant’s Per Game Average and Advanced Averages. Notice their efficiency ratings. But as I pointed above, more importantly notice the minutes played and per game averages. Both coming off the bench in their rookie seasons. Both making slight but minimal impact on their respective teams.

Alec Burks Per Game Average:

AlecBurksPerGame2

Advanced:

AlecBurksAdvanced2


Kobe Bryant Per Game Average:

KobePerGame

Advanced:

KobeAdvanced

Additionally I pulled up some numbers on a few other guards of note with similar minutes per game and PER ratings. Head over to Basketball Reference for more stats and comparisons. Here are the list of a guards who fit in the Burks parallel:

Arron Afflalo
Jamal Crawford
Ronnie Brewer
Shannon Brown
Tony Allen

And for you old schoolers I went back a little further and found another guard who fit this scenario: Clyde “The Glide” Drexler.

Not a bad list to be on if you’re Alec Burks. A lot of young players who have had moderately successful careers to this point. And some (Bryant, Jordan, Drexler) who are or will be Hall of Famers. So where will Burks end up in the end? That’s up to him...and only him.

As a Jazz fan I’d love to see him in the same tier as the greats. Only time will tell.

See Additional thoughts on Alec Burks from Clint Peterson.

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Written by Mychal | 10 March 2012

Admit it, you felt disappointed that the Jazz lost to the 76ers.  But, if we're being real, the past two games were teams the Jazz should have beaten.  The first one was the rebuilding Cleveland Cavaliers.  The second was the only-wish-they-were-rebuilding-but-completely-awful-and-a-mess-(pray-for-@cardboardgerald) Charlotte Bobcats.  This game was basically a penciled in loss.  That's okay.  The Jazz are still "rebuilding" (Don't tell Kevin O'Connor).  These losses are to be expected.  So let's dig a little deeper into this game.

First of all, the first challenge for the Jazz was the 76ers unique backcourt of Holiday and Turner.  David Locke talked about these two earlier in this article here.  Locke explains that Holiday does not distribute like a normal point guard.  That duty falls to Evan Turner.  Raja Bell got the first go on Turner tonight and it wasn't pretty.  Turner had 7 points and 3 rebounds during that stretch with Bell.  In fact Turner just had his way with almost every match up he had.  He was productive on every stint even if he wasn't touching the ball.  His next stint in the game he had 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal.  Then his next stint he had 5 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 assist.  He finished the game with 16 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block.  Oh yeah, did I mention that he's a SG?  

[Sidenote: Locke in his post expounds that Turner is in the role that Hayward would thrive in.  The initiator of the offense.  It's weird to see Doug Collins make that great adjustment and not have a Jazz coach make it for Hayward.  We saw Hayward last year thrive in that role yet this year the coaching staff is still dead set on turning him into a Small Forward.]

Then Andre Igoudala.  How efficient is this guy?  I mean, seriously, the guy is a machine.  An efficient machine.  Look at this stat line and it'll make you drool.  5-5 from the field, 7 rebounds, 10 assists, 1 block, 1 steal, and not too mention the most suffocating defense you'll ever see.  He can guard 4 different positions effeciently, runs like a gazelle, passes like a PG, and dunks like he's an extra on NBA Jam.  Hold on, I need a moment.  This is some steamy basketball love going on here.   All basketball love making aside, Josh Howard had one of his worst games in the past month and Iggy was most likely the reason for it.  He's large for his position and quick.  He can bully people around on the defensive end.  Instead of complaining of what Iggy doesn't have, an outside shot, we should marvel at everything else he does well.....which is everything.

So if you are keeping count at home the Sixers held the edge at the PG position, SG position, and SF position.  But now we're to the Jazz's strength.  Their frontcourt of Jefferson, Millsap, Favors, and Kanter.  Surely the Sixers couldn't match the firepower there.....right?

[Insert Groans Here]

It wasn't that the Jazz's frontcourt was ineffective, it was made ineffective by the lack of spacing.  You see, the Jazz are ineffective against teams that pack the paint.  Or in other words, teams that employ the zone defense.  The zone defense collapses on the Jazz's big men forcing them to kick out to shooters.  Many Jazz fans, me included (guilty as charged), have complained that Al Jefferson is a black hole and doesn't pass out.  Well, we have seen he has become a very willing passer the last few games.  In fact, tonight when the zone defense was employed and Jefferson was swarmed with the ball he did kick out.  Unfortunately our shooters (or so we call them), continually missed open jumpers.  This falls heavily on Josh Howard, Raja Bell, and CJ Miles.  Hayward actually was quite efficient from the field shooting 5-7.  Howard, Bell, and CJ combined for a woeful 3 of 21.  Yes, ladies and gentleman, 3 of 21.  When your outside threat is shooting 14% from the field no one in their right mind is going to stop a zone.  This fell right into Philadelphia's strength which is the Iggy-led fastbreak.  

The big men did pretty well considering they were all consistently double teamed and sometimes triple teamed with little help from outside shooters or cutters.  Al Jefferson continued to pass to open men only to see them miss shots.  He finished with 14 pts and 6 reb and 1 assist.  Even though he only had one assist that's not an indictment of his passing out of the post.  It's an indictment of the lack of shooting on this Jazz team.  Millsap also played a respectable game with 14 pts and 9 rebounds and 4 assists.  

The real joy to watch was Favors.  He is really blossoming in the post and getting a really good feel of the game.  He's in his best stretch of any season so far.  He had 14 points, 5 reb (2 offensive) in only 19 minutes.  Including one beatiful fadeaway in the post.  Seriously I got a Favorsgasm.  He's forcing his way into the starting lineup.  Legitimately making a case.  It might be time for Favors and Millsap to switch.  This is definitely a trend to watch for the month of March.  Favors is coming into his own.  Enjoy this time.  It's fun to see a player realize his potential.  Doesn't happen often.

[Sidenote: You may have noticed I left out Kanter and Burks. They're starting to hit their respective rookie walls.  Which is expected at this point of the season.  They'll play through it and burst through.  Both have valuable skills that allow them to play through them.  Kanter is really struggling but I attribute that more to being a big man and taking a beating on a condensed season with little playing time after NOT playing for almost a year.  It's understandable.  Burks is still learning the crazy nuances to playing in the Jazz's flex offense as a two guard.  It's complicated.  He'll figure it out.  Plus his shot his not falling.  It'll come.]

Philadelphia had control of this game the whole way through.  Even though the Jazz made a couple runs here and there you never thought the 76ers would let it get away.  They're just a better team and there's nothing wrong with losing to a better team on the road.  It happens.  It's not the end of the world.  So no.  There's not trading for Al Jefferson for everybody and your friends.  Just a normal road loss to a better team.  There were some positives to take from this game.  Our big men are producing.  Now our wings and guards need to make up the difference at Chicago.  I'm sure Chicago will employ the same strategy of packing the paint and forcing the guards to make a difference in the game.  If the Jazz's guards and wings don't make a difference we'll see a similar result against the Bulls tomorrow.  

Written by Clint Peterson | 08 March 2012

Sixers-Jazz Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Thaddeus Young and Devin Harris in meeting one of the 2011-12 season, Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Special treat for you today, valued readers, followers, and friends: A two-by-two Utah Jazz-Philadelphia 76ers roundtable Q&A preview featuring some of the best writers to be found around the basketball blogging world dropping dimes the size of silver dollars on you.

Vincent Heck is a freelance writer and fiction author. He has contributed sports content to sites such as: AOL Fanhouse and Yahoo! Sports. Vincent currently contributes regularly to the Yahoo! Network and has a coming of age novel set to hit the shelves late March. Follow him on his feisty Twitter handle: @HeckPhilly 

Evan Hall is an NBA addict, a Coldplay apologist, and a writer for the ESPN TrueHoop Network's Jazz blog, Salt City Hoops. Follow him on twitter @the20thmaine.

Sean O'Connor currently works as an auditor in and around Philadelphia. He is also the editor at The Sixer Sense on the FanSided Network. You can follow him on Twitter @SixerSense.

And me? Well, you know this guy...

Clint, TheUtahJazzBlog: Among Utah Jazz fans there's a sizable contingent who feel like there's a logjam at the big man positions (despite there being really only four true bigs on the roster). This is clearly the biggest strength of the Jazz's roster. Is there a similar dissent among Philadelphia 76ers fans about that stellar set of backcourt players and playing time/development?

Vincent, Yahoo! Sports: I'm not sure I'd use the word 'logjam' when referring to the Sixers backcourt. I think they all have a particular role if used right on the team. Jodie Meeks is a three point specialist, Jrue Holiday is facilitator in the making, Lou Will and Evan Turner are scorers (ET having more of an ability to create for himself).  The biggest question sometimes is who's going to go or stay when looking to make moves to improve our front court. To me,  this season is the time for the Sixers to sit back and watch these guys all the way through the playoffs and see who it is they want in their future scheme. The other(s) may be able to be used as trade bait to improve the frontcourt.

Sean, TheSixerSense: Yes, though the situation is a bit different than the one in Utah. What the solution should be depends on your perspective on the team. The casual fan wants Lou Williams to play more – he leads the team in scoring coming off the bench in fairly limited minutes, and for those that measure greatness by scoring it seems that Lou should play more often. The “for the future” fans wanted Evan Turner to start (and got their wish) and get playing time despite his lackluster performance, because he was the second overall pick. Many people still want to trade Iguodala, despite how valuable he’s proven to be, to give the younger players even more of an opportunity.

The problem that the Sixers have is that they have players with similar, but not identical, strengths and weaknesses at multiple positions. All but Jodie Meeks can all play multiple spots but the combinations don’t always work well. That’s why there’s a playing time crunch. If anything, putting Turner in the starting five will stop the complaints for now, because no one is demanding that Meeks play more. But if Turner struggles, the question again becomes how do the pieces we have fit together, and if they don’t what moves do we make?


TUJB: The Jazz got their first win of the season against the Sixers after getting blown out in their first two games. Does the team and/or fans remember this and seek payback for this dishonor?

VYS: Short answer: (Ultimately Yes.) The long answer is: We're coming off a huge win against a division rival so it takes a lot of attention off of  this game. We want to win this game for a few reasons that come before revenge: 

1. Because we always want to win these types of games (games we feel the Sixers are favorites in) and 2. Because it'd be nice to follow up such a great win with another. I think the revenge factor comes in behind other feelings that Sixers fans have right now. So, do we want revenge? Sure. But it's not the main reason we want to win Friday. 

Who we want REVENGE on are the Knickerbockers.

STSS: I certainly remember the game, though I often get the finish confused with some others. As it turns out, we’ve had our share of painful endings, with some horrible late-game coaching and execution resulting in a horrible 2-11 record in games decided by 7 points or fewer. I think the Sixers will be more concerned not with revenge but solving the problem that is the four Jazz bigs. The Jazz won without the help of Al Jefferson, who as we know has played very well as of late. The Sixerscouldn’t neutralize Derrick Favors in the first game, and Millsap can’t help but have a better game this time around. Sixers-Jazz_Al

TUJB: If you could have any one Jazzman on your Sixers who would it be and why?

VYS: Derrick Favors. He's young and able to be developed. I think he'd thrive under the coaching of coach Collins.

STSS: The answer depends on what you think of the potential of the young Jazz bigs and the Sixers team. Personally, I’d go with Al Jefferson. I believe that, with a big like Jefferson, the Sixers would be on the edge of contention for the Eastern Conference title right now. The Sixers tend to struggle with scoring inside and getting easy baskets, and Jefferson fills those holes and more. Bigs like Al Jefferson who can average 20 per game are few and far between. I’m confident that Doug Collins would be able to get Jefferson to play at least average defense, and he could help this team much sooner than Favors or Kanter could. I love Millsap too, but he becomes a bit redundant with Thaddeus Young in town for the long haul.

VYS: What are your overall feelings about the win against the Sixers? What do you think are the keys to victory on Friday and how likely is it those keys are executed by the Utah Jazz based on what you've seen from them and know of the Sixers so far this year?

TUJB: That first win of the season for the Jazz that was against a valid, if not yet validated, Sixers squad? Pretty darn good after getting punked by the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets to start the season, D-League-style. What I really remember about that game is 1) Sitting in the lower bowl for the first time, courtesy the Jazz organization, and 2) That our flighty, game-to-game, ADHD contingent of fans was ready to sell Al Jefferson, who didn't play due an inflamed ankle, for a bag of Funyuns after it. Don't worry, this is usual for this bunch; hero and goat, keeper and trade bait, exchanges hands after virtually every game.

Head coach Ty Corbin has been tweaking the lineup and rotations lately to the effect of netting 40% of the Jazz's road wins in their last two games, so they'll be rolling hard on the confidence train coming in. Utah still has a tendency to let opposing players get into the paint and to the rim far too easily, but the defense has been improved of late, especially on the perimeter (sorry, no free scouting report -- you'll have to read me on TUJB to find out why). Provided they bring the defensive intensity and the Sixers don't get too hot from range Utah should be able to keep this one close. Since both clubs have had trouble closing out, a tight one could get very interesting indeed.

Evan, SaltCityHoops: While I would love to put the first Sixers win in the trophy case of great Jazz wins this season, there are two reasons I can't: 1. In a season with such a small training camp, neither of these teams had found their identity this early (it could be argued the Jazz still haven't found their identity). 2. Any game at Energy Solutions Arena swings at least five points in Utah's favor, and a game away, swings at least five points the other way. The first win was only by a three point margin, which really doesn't tell us much about either team. 

The Jazz will dominate the paint, and the Sixers will dominate the open court and the fast break. The battle will be on the wings. When the Jazz get efficient scoring from their wing players--specifically Gordon Hayward--they can match the offensive output of nearly every team in the NBA. Unfortunately, that perimeter offense is inconsistent at best, and against Andre Iguodala, one of the premiere perimeter defenders in the association, it will be even more difficult to come by.

VYS: 
What seems to be the Jazz organization's overall pattern when building a team? Is this season's Jazz indicative of that pattern, or are they trying something new? How do you feel about the overall current direction?

TUJB: Much of the team-building for the Jazz is dictated by the market size, which is about the size of a single New York City borough, so a big name free agent destination it isn't. Utah depends on drafting well and filling in the gaps through smart scouting and trades. We've seen something of a new pattern as Jazz GM Kevin O'Connor has been stockpiling lottery picks, y'know, since "the history of the NBA is written in the top five draft picks" and all.

I'm pretty impressed with how the team has progressed overall. Most fans would like to see all four young gun lotto picks, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, and Alec Burks, starting and playing 40 minutes a game, but the "old dogs" aren't really that old and still coming up with new tricks, doing some developing of their own. What they can pass on to the this next, as-yet-unripe generation is invaluable.

ESCH: The Jazz typically couple veteran presence with young talent (a fairly normal trope for building a team in the NBA), hoping to contend while still developing said talent, and this year is no different. What is different this year is the amount of talent on the roster. With such a deep roster, Coach Ty Corbin has struggled to find playing time for all of his deserving players, and the result has been a hefty dose of DNP - CDs. While this can be frustrating for fans excited to hype the next face of the franchise, it's nonetheless a great problem to have.

VYS: What is your overall prediction for the Utah Jazz this season? What reasonably is their crescendo, and what reasonably is the lowest they can drop?

TUJB: I said 35-31 at the beginning of the season, even knowing how difficult the closing schedule that's mostly on the road is, so I gotta stick to my guns. That might be good enough for a 6 seed with this lockout schedule that's squeezed tighter than an accordion at a first recital in banjo and washboard band country, we'll have to see. 

But there's a worst case scenario in play here for many. You see, the Jazz potentially have two first round draft picks in what's being billed as the deepest draft in years, but if they make the playoffs their own goes to the Minnesota Timberwolves, and if the Golden State Warriors get too much worse they'll get to keep their own first round pick, top seven protected, that the Jazz acquired.

It's kind of a chicken and the egg thing: The Jazz need the playoffs to maintain a winning culture for the up-and-comers and to survive in this small market long term, but it's hard to get ahead when you don't land all-timers. Nevertheless, Kevin O'Connor has positioned the Jazz to have about as much flexibility as is possible.
Personally, I think the current roster has a lot more to give yet, more than many are willing to give them credit for -- Devin Harris, Josh Howard, and Raja Bell have only just returned to form, while Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson are still adding angles and facets to their games, really barely learning to play together efficiently. Thanks to the lockout and last season's Deron Williams dump-off for assets the main starters have played less than two-thirds of a usual full NBA season together.

As local afternoon 1320KFAN radio host Ben Bagley recently pointed out, "A coach who prepares his team for the future prepares his team for the next coach."

ESCH: Without dipping into my admittedly deep pool of homerism, I don't believe the Jazz can reach beyond a 7th seed in the West. The conference is too deep, and the Jazz have too many issues closing out games on the road. The potential nadir for the Jazz --dropping out of the playoff race and into the lottery-- is not an irredeemable situation. This would open up more opportunities for the youngsters to develop, and then maybe we could finally figure out just how good Derrick Favors really is. That said, I believe that if you can compete for a playoff spot, it's your obligation to do so, and I can't fault Corbin for choosing line-ups that he believes will give him the best chance to win.

ESCH: Both the Jazz and the Sixers have rosters loaded with young talent. If you could trade one of those young, talented players on the Sixers for one of the Jazz's, what swap would you make?

STSS: While it would not be an equitable trade, I think the two rookie centers are actually better fits for the other team. Enes Kanter was a much higher draft pick, deservedly, but Vucevic has matched Kanter’s production and taken on a more prominent role with a team that desperately needs him. However, I believe this is just the result of opportunity. Kanter is a beast on the boards, averaging a rebound per 3 minutes, and has the size to be a very effective post defender. Vooch, meanwhile can stretch the floor (and yes, he attempts threes) and is a very effective in the pick-and-pop game and on the offensive boards. Vooch’s game is a bit more polished and he’d fit nicely with Jefferson and Favors. He’s not as strong as Kanter, but alongside Favors or Jefferson he wouldn’t be exposed much.

I think Kanter will be the better player down the line, so the Sixers would have to add something to sweeten a swap with the Jazz, but the fit is there.

VYS: Hard to say. As I've said in my answers to Clint, I'd like to see more out of my young talent before I'm comfortable with trading any of them and seeing what is feasible. Also, as I've pointed out in my answers to Clint, I would like to see Favors on the Sixers. 

Sixer-Jazz_TurnerThe reason I'd have to wait is because it's possible I'd consider a trade involving Jrue Holiday if Evan Turner proves he could run point in the NBA.

ESCH: Jazz fans are accustomed to watching at least one player from the opposing team have a career scoring night against the Jazz's oft-porous perimeter defense. Which Sixers player is most likely to gash Utah's defense?

STSS: Evan Turner played the point against Boston with a great deal of success, with Iguodala retaining his normal role as the do-it-all forward and Jrue Holiday as the off-ball scorer. I think Jrue can eventually flourish in this role, and with Devin Harris struggling defensively since leaving the guidance of Avery Johnson I can see Jrue having a big offensive game. He scored 22 points in the first meeting, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him repeat that performance.

VYS: Evan Turner. He's got a new role on the starting lineup in which he thrived against the Celtics on Wednesday. There's a possibility he could present some problems for the Utah Jazz on Friday.

ESCH: With the trade deadline approaching and the Sixers firmly entrenched in the middle of the Eastern Conference pack of quasi-contenders, should the front office stand pat or make a move? If a move is necessary, what would it be? If not, what is the ceiling for the Sixers roster, as presently constituted?

STSS: I’m not sure there’s much the Sixers can do at the trade deadline given the state of the NBA today. With a lockout shortened season, it’s likely that most teams will wait until the summer to make a deal. The Sixers should be at the top of the list of teams unlikely to make a move now, especially since, with the amnesty clause, they can maneuver into a position where they have room for a max player. There’s certainly needs, such as a go-to scorer or defensively dominant big man, but those players rarely are available and often aren’t worth the price.

As presently constituted, the ceiling I believe is a 2nd round exit. Obviously, given the right match up and circumstances, they could do better. But they aren’t as talented as the Bulls and Heat and likely won’t acquire anyone to put them over the top. They could make a 2ndround series versus the Bulls interesting, if that occurs.

VYS: Stay as they are. 

The Sixers goal this year isn't to win the NBA Finals. Should some sort of miracle scenario work out then that's different. As a franchise and as a reasonable outlook, this year is a setup year for them. This offseason will be the time they move in to try to be a contender. 

As they are - this year - their absolute max could be the ECF. Reasonably, they can reach second round. Easily, they could lose first round, as well.

STSS: Gordon Hayward was, for the lack of a better term, abused last year by Andre Iguodala in the Sixers-Jazz showdowns. Back in December, Hayward looked like he improved immensely over last year, adding strength and scoring an efficient 15 points. But his stats, save for playing time and an uptick in rebounding and assists, have regressed (especially his shooting). Is he a player to build around, or is his inconsistent play a major concern? 

ESCH: Gordon Hayward's problems have far less to do with his own abilities than with how he is used. He thrives with the ball in his hands, as a scorer and a facilitator. He's also a great finisher in the open court. Unfortunately, with the kind of offensive sets the Jazz run, Gordon often slips into the background, acting as nothing more than an entry passer to Al Jefferson. Corbin's recent decision to move him to the bench, though initially criticized, has helped Hayward to play a more prominent role. When he's involved, he's dynamic. When the youth movement comes to fruition, I truly believe Gordon Hayward will be there leading it. While he may never be the no. 1 guy on a championship team, he could definitely be a sidekick to be reckoned with. 

TUJB: It's a concern to a degree in that Hayward finished last season looking like a player ready to take the leap to that next level. Clearly, that's not happened to the extent most had hoped, including Ty Corbin, based on the playing time and starts he received. At one point Hayward led the Jazz in minutes played on the season. He didn't progress beyond what you see now. Until a couple of games ago he was the only Jazzman to start every game. It became time to temper expectations when he wasn't moving forward anymore.

Then something happened that had Jazz Fan all abuzz all over again; he got moved to the bench and dropped a season high in his first game from it.

The reality is that Hayward isn't ready yet to compete with the top tier talent in a wing-centric league where he was expected to match up with the likes of the Kobe Bryants and LeBrons Jameses in only his second year. He may yet -- lofty expectation -- but for now he'll develop a lot more quickly getting far more touches with the second team than he would as a fourth option on the first. And if he's playing well Corbin has shown he'll ride Hayward right to the end of a game. It's not so much who starts as who finishes. 

STSS: The Jazz have been a mild surprise to many NBA observers, at the current moment sitting only a game out of the playoffs in the Western Conference. If they were in the East, they'd be a playoff team. How surprising has the season been, given your expectations and the expectations for the Jazz players? And would you rather make a move to make the playoffs or one which gets you another nice lottery pick in a deep draft? 

ESCH: To be a .500 team this far into the season really isn't surprising. Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, and an attacking Devin Harris could probably carry most teams to a .500 record. Probably.

Philosophically speaking, I believe that if you can contend for a playoff spot, you should. Memphis was in a similar situation last year, only to find out their roster was better than they had initially conceived. I believe the same is true for the Jazz. There is a ton of talent in this collection of players, and with a little more polish and a little more battle experience, they could compete in the playoffs. The Jazz have enough young talent; it's just underdeveloped and unproven. Patience is all that is required here. 

TUJB: The Jazz have been a great surprise to many. However, I was one of the few who felt like they'd excel with more time together, and they have exceeded most of those expectations laid them by naysayers in preseason predictions where Utah was expected to be one of the bottom three or four teams based on last season. That last third of 2010-11 got a mulligan in my book. It was unfair to judge this team based on that hodge podge of leftovers thrown into Ty Corbin's lap like a soggy meatball sandwich. The players, brass, and staff all want to see the playoffs. If that is their wish I will support it all the way. They're the pros and the ones that have to deal with the consequences, after all, be it for better or for worse.

STSS: Utah is historically a better home team than road team, and the effects are seemingly more pronounced with the Jazz than most teams.. I remarked during the previous game that the Jazz just seem different at home, because refs seem to allow the players to be more physical. As devoted fans of the Jazz, do you see this effect, or have I overstated it? Do they play much different on the road, and could that be the difference for tonight's game?

ESCH: That's an interesting point, and I have thought the same thing. If you were to ask most Jazz fans, they'd reply that the refs never allow Paul Millsap to be physical, home or away. However, though that may be true, generally speaking I think the Jazz play less physical on the road, regardless of the officiating. It's probably a chicken-egg scenario, but the Jazz team that I see in Energy Solutions Arena feeds off of the crowd's encouragement. Without that crowd, they appear to be more prone to lethargy, complacency, and even softness.
 
The good news is that on this particular road trip, the Jazz have been gift-wrapped two consecutive games from the Cavs and the Bobcats to help build their confidence. If ever this team was going to be poised for an upset on the road, it would be against [the Sixers] in this game.

TUJB: They have struggled on the road, no question. That's generally a mental toughness issue -- great players and teams get over it, knowing that that great fanbase back home is with them in spirit. Some fans in every fanbase will readily go to pulling the officiating card when things don't go their way, expecting officials to be infallible, not allowing any wiggle room for the human element. That said, we should remember that officials are also on the very same truncated and compressed schedule this season too. Not to make any excuses for them, but they're gonna miss stuff, maybe more than in a usual season.

 

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Written by Chad | 08 March 2012

I took a welcome respite from the drama of Jazz fandom to watch the results of the Republican Primaries on Super Tuesday. If you can’t find the irony in that, you have clearly never heard of Newt Gingrich. The sad fact is, discourse in the Jazz fan twitterverse has become virtually indistinguishable from partisan politics, and I blame twitter. It is a poor medium for debate. It doesn’t allow us to really express ourselves effectively, leading to frustration, everything comes off more arrogant then it really is, and really conversations just devolve at an alarming rate. So let me preface this by saying, this is just my opinion. I know that should be obvious—quite frankly I really know absolutely nothing about basketball—but unfortunately the tone set by twitter lately has necessitated such a disclaimer. Just because we have a different opinion, doesn’t mean that one of us is an idiot and one of us is a genius. For obvious reasons, I wasn’t able to write an article about your opinion unfortunately.

Forget about the whole concept of making the playoffs versus getting a draft pick for a second. The crux of the problem for the Utah Jazz right now comes down to one simple statement: If we still don’t know what we have in players like Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Alec Burks one year from now, we have failed.

Notice that I have left out Enes Kanter. The reason for that is typically the natural progression for a player entering the NBA means there are still more questions than answers, even into their sophomore year. There are some players that show that they are ready for an accelerated pace of development and Alec Burks has shown to be a player like that. Considering where he is at right now, and how little he has actually played this year, there is no reason to think he is not. This doesn’t mean that if you threw him out there for 30 minutes a night right now against first teamers, he wouldn’t struggle, wouldn’t shoot a low percentage, average a lot of turnovers, or make a lot of stupid mistakes. What it DOES mean, however, is that Alec Burks has shown he is the type of player whose development will not be hindered by throwing him to the wolves too quickly. In keeping with David Locke’s “Oreo Analogy,” drop him in the milk. He isn’t going to rise right to the top immediately, but he isn’t going to turn to mush either.

Let me start of by telling you a few claims I am NOT making before asses-er assumptions are made. I am not claiming that every lottery player on our roster is going to be a star (and by star I mean a perennial All-NBA player). In fact, I am NOT claiming that ANY of the lottery players on our team will be stars, nor am I claiming that about the 1 or 2 players we do or don’t draft this year. What I am saying is that every one of them has the potential to be. Some more than others, and while Enes Kanter is showing incredible potential to match his massiveness with massive skills, it’s hard to see him as anything other than a solid number 2 player. So for now let’s just talk about the other three. Three lottery picks, one a number 3 pick in a semi-decent draft and the physical talents to be awesome (if he can ever figure out how to catch the ball), that all have a 1% or greater chance to be stars. Why? Because they are lottery picks, and if you want to ever get a star in Utah, that is where it has to come from.

That leads me to the next “fact:” this is a stars league, and you absolutely have to have a star to win a title. Unless you are able to lure All-NBA talent via free-agency, you have to find them in the draft. This is basically a three step process:

  1. Obtain lottery picks (the higher the better!).
  2. Draft smart and get lucky.
  3. Find out what you got.

Kevin O’conner has done an amazing job in doing number 1 without having to actually bottom out. The fact that we have the last two year’s number 3 draft picks and neither of them required us being bad enough to get a number 3 draft is quite the testament to KOC’s savvy. I would argue (and many of you would argue back) that KOC has also done a great job with number 2. Anyone that wants to knock him for taking Enes Kanter number at 3 and start comparing him to other number 3 picks need to make a case for a player taken after Enes being a better pick if they want to appear to have a modicum of credibility to their argument. The Jazz had the luck of getting the number 3 pick in a draft that was 1 star deep. Furthermore, KOC has done a brilliant job of finding two potential All-NBA players at the number 9 and number 12 positions. Don’t assume I am looking at them with Jazz colored glasses, either, as both Hayward and Burks have a chance to be stars, even if that chance is in the 5-10% range, that is the game you must play to find stars.

That brings us to number 3, the step in the process where I would argue that we kind of sort of suck. Again, the reason for that is because of history. Besides Deron Williams, the last time the Jazz drafted a player 12th or higher was Thurl Bailey in 1983 (point of reference: I was born in 1984!). The Jazz are used to being a winning team that doesn’t need to find its next big star, but rather is always searching for the one or two pieces that can complement their current roster and put them over the top. Despite a great history of drafting well late, the draft has always seemed like more of a luxury than anything, like playing with house money. If we get lucky, great! If not—no big deal—wasn’t really part of our overall plan anyways. We are used to having time on our side (or thinking we do anyway), and acting like it. There is probably no greater example of that than C.J. Miles who we drafted in 2005 and there are still people talking about his potential…

Here is the thing, that is ok with a guy like C.J. Miles (to some extent anyway), who we drafted 35th overall in 2005. He is cheap, he doesn’t come in expecting time, and even more than that, he certainly doesn’t start playing like he deserves time in his first year or two. And there is very little expectation that he will ever become a star (except of course by Jazz fans), so you play the game of developing a role player instead.

That same process will not work with Gordan Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, and Alec Burks. Each one of these guys has star potential, although there is a statistical probability that none of them actually are. In order to find their star—which they must do to contend for a title—and do it through the draft—which they must do because we live in Utah—the Jazz have got to find out what they have in the guys they have drafted high and they need to do it sooner rather than later. Rookie contracts for first round draft picks are for two years, plus two more years of team-options, and then—if still not signed to a longer deal by that point—they become restricted free agents. Keep in mind as well that the Jazz are statistically likely to end up with two more lottery picks from the next draft, a very deep and talented draft (supposedly, anyway) in which a team drafting in the 10-14 range has a legit chance to drafting a good player, maybe even a star. Barring a trade, the Utah Jazz are going to have 6 lottery picks on the roster in their 1st, 2nd, or 3rd year to open up the season. And there is a legitimate concern that they are going to be no closer to knowing what they have in their 3rd year players than they do right now.

David Locke (@lockedonsports) did a great piece on “why starting matters.” If you haven’t read it, stop what you are doing now, go read this

So, you have to have a star to win a ring, and when I use the term star I specifically mean an All-NBA player who at least occasionally makes 1st team or comes close. Don’t believe me? See Figure 1…

Figure 1. Last 21 years of NBA champions and how many All-NBA players they had on their team.

Out of the last 21 years of NBA champions, everyone has had an All-NBA player. All but one, the 1995 Houston Rockets, had at least 1 2nd teamer, and that rockets team had two 3rd teamers. 18 of 21 have had a 1st teamer, and 13 of 21 have had at least 2 All-NBA players. Not convinced?

I am a believer in the Jazz mentality of making all rookies, no matter their talent level, earn their minutes so that they develop the right way, as much as this may have pissed off Deron Williams (in retrospect, what doesn’t piss off Deron Williams?). That is why when the year began I was perfectly ok with the course we were on. However, they have done so. Gordon Hayward has gone into a very predictable sophomore slump, and instead of being allowed to play his way out of it—the luxury afforded to Devin Harris and Raja Bell—he was yanked for Josh Howard. I have nothing against Josh Howard, other than the fact that he is the most selfish player I have ever seen on a fast break, but he is not going to be part of a our future and there is pretty much nothing left to discover with him. Gordon Hayward may have a small chance of ever becoming even a 3rd team All-NBA player (although larger than most think, if he can consistently shoot above 35% from outside and combine that with his other talents), but the probability is greater than the 0% chance that Josh Howard has. I’m fine with this move as long as it is very short term and only meant to help Hayward progress by forcing him to become more aggressive, but all signs are pointing to it being a long term move designed to win 1 or 2 more games this year so we have an outside chance of limping into the playoffs. I am not fine with that.

My good buddy Ben Bagley (@benbags) pointed out that, Ty’s job is to win games, not develop for the next year or the year after that. Even if he was given a direct mandate to do that, it is his permanent record to be tarnished. As much as I like to think we do things differently around here, and that Ty has a long enough leash to grow and to foster the growth of our team, history would suggest that doing anything other than winning is not in Ty Corbin’s best interest, even if he is told to do so. The man whose job it is to develop for the future is KOC, and unfortunately the ball is in KOC’s court. While we may not have an All-NBA talent (yet) on this roster, we don’t really have a legitimate bench warmer. Even C.J., as frustrating as he can be, could be a rotation player on a lot of teams in this league. As long as Jefferson, Millsap, Howard, and Bell are on the team, it is going to be difficult to find

I do not want to see the youth “given” minutes because I think we have the next Kobe Bryant and Tyson Chandler on our team. I want to see them get the time they have earned, and be given the opportunity to show they are stars; the opportunity to learn, to struggle, to grow, to persevere or not persevere. Finding out they aren’t stars is not the worst thing that can happen. Never finding out what we have in these players until they are on a different team is. The jazz are going to have to make a lot of tough choices starting at the end of Hayward and Favors 4th year about who to keep and pay the big bucks and who to let walk. There is not going to be the option of “giving it another few years to see” like we have with C.J. unless one of them is looking like a total bust. Nothing should be more important than being best prepared to make those decisions when they come!

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Written by Kyle Kirkham | 06 March 2012

POW

*This post does not include any stats or insight from last night’s win over the Cavs.

The Jazz had an interesting week. They started it off with a disheartening loss to the lowly Kings, followed that up with fantastic wins vs the Rockets and Heat, then fell short in Big D. Considering the Jazz had gone 1-5 in 6 games previous to last week, this is definitely an improvement and I would say a successful week overall. At this point we don’t know what to expect from the Jazz. I mean, they lost to the Kings and beat the Heat just 3 days later, not many teams can say that. Surprisingly, Utah is only 3 games out of playoff range at the moment, and showed last week that they can play at that caliber. However, they will be fighting with Portland, Denver, and Minnesota for that final spot, and don’t exactly have a favorable schedule.

 

Devin Harris

Last Week’s Line: 14.3 points (49%), 5 assists (1.3 TO’s), 1.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals

Devin Harris has continued his good play through last week, and now has fans praising him instead of begging for a trade. This is the Harris the Jazz need. While he isn’t playing like an All Star (and he may never play to that level again) he has been more than serviceable. He was second on the team in points while shooting just under 50%, and was also first in assists while out turning the ball over 1.3 times a game. Harris played great in the week’s two wins (he also had a good game in the loss to the Kings), and don’t forget the game winning shot in what turned out to be the best win all season.


Josh Howard

Last Week’s Line: 12.3 points (46%), 7.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists (2 TO’s)

Josh Howard could be finally back into his pre-injury form (and by pre-injury, I mean this year’s injury..). Thanks to a Raja Bell’s injury Howard got the nod at starter, and definitely made the most of it. Not only was Josh third on the team in scoring, but he was also second in rebounding with over 7 a game. Howard also brought energy and hustle, something we haven’t seen much of from him lately. However, he didn’t play perfect. The 2 turnovers are not ideal, and he still leads the team in screwed up fast breaks. With Bell returning to the lineup this week, Corbin announced that he would keep Howard in the starting lineup and send Hayward to the bench, depending on how this plays out, it could be permanent move. 


Gordon Hayward

Last Week’s Line: 9 points (44%), 3 rebounds, 2.3 assists (1 TO’s)

It was nice to see Gordon bounce back from some pretty poor play to have himself a nice week. Then again, it wasn’t good enough to retain a starting spot as G-Time will be send to the bench in favor of Howard. Corbin said it wasn’t a demotion, but I’m not sure what to think. Playing with the young guys could be a great thing for Hayward, who in my opinion, was underutilized as a starter. It could also be a bad thing though, and possibly hurt his confidence.


Paul Millsap

Last Week’s Line: 9 points (55%), 5.3 rebounds, 1.7 steals, 2 assists (1 TO’s)

9 points and 5 rebounds is the sort of thing Paul gave us every half, not game, earlier this year. He’s obviously still pretty far from that level of production, but his 24 point game vs the Mavs could be sign he might being trending up; we’ll see. It was also nice to see him get back to 55% in field goal percentage, that’s 13% better in his previous 6 games. While multiple things could be the reason Millsap is in a slump, it could very well be a mental thing. The reason I bring this up is because the trade deadline is in 10 days (March 15th) and is possibly affecting his play.


Al Jefferson

Last Week’s Line: 14.3 points (44%), 8.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists (1.3 TO’s), 1 block

The biggest dig on Jefferson’s game has always been that he’s “a black hole”, and once the ball goes to him, it never comes back. Well aware of his critics, Jefferson has done a lot to improve this part of his game. Right now he ranks #8 amount centers in assists per game, and #6 in assist/turnover ratio. He averaged nearly 3 last week, and I don’t think I’ve seen him pass much better. His chemistry with cutting wings has been great as of late. Not only does it make him a better player, but it makes the Jazz a better team. I hope he keeps that up. On the down side of things, he didn’t shoot too well, only 44% (5% drop from prior week). Everyone has bad shooting nights, that’s just called being human. The problem with this, is when a player keeps throwing up shots despite the poor accuracy. If Al is 3/10 at halftime, I don’t necessarily want him shooting 10 more times in the second half.


Earl Watson 

Last Week’s Line: 2 points (25%), 4.5 assists (2.3 TO’s), 4 rebounds, 1.3 steals

Like I said last week, we don’t see Earl’s impact in the stats usually. 2 points on 25% shooting? That’s terrible. His assist and turnover numbers are alright, but not great. But that’s not what Earl does. I don’t know how many times I can say this, but Earl brings his “win or die” attitude and goes from there. I took a look at Earl’s +/- stats from the past week, and he led the team with an average of +3.5 and was the only player to have a positive +/- in the final 3 games. I can’t complain about Earl, he plays injured, he plays hard, and I’m definitely glad he is leading our group of young ones off the bench.


CJ Miles

Last Week’s Line: 16.8 points (43%), 2.5 rebounds, 1 assist (1.3 TO’s), .8 steals

There goes CJ, making it as hard as ever to form a personal opinion on him. Miles played great last week. He led the team in scoring, including a 27 point outburst vs Houston, all while shooting at a decent clip. CJ had probably the best week of his season, and he deserves some praise. He of course still has the cons in his game, I don’t think I need to go over them. The question is whether or not he can fix them. So far the answer this season is no, unfortunately. In his prior 6 game to last week, he was scoring under 6 points a game, now 17? Who knows though, maybe this is the beginning of a nice streak for him..


Derrick Favors

Last Week’s Line: 7.5 points (41%), 6.8 rebounds, .8 blocks, 1.5 TO’s (22.5 minutes)

Despite the low points and the poor shooting percentage, I like what I’ve seen out of Favors for the most part. He has looked ‘a lot’ more active (on both ends) since the All Star break. He even had 3 assists vs the Rockets, a career high. He also played really good vs Dallas. Favors has an immediate impact on defense, and while he is still far away from having an offensive game, he is slowly developing a few moves. Locke mentioned in his “Emptying the Noggin’” yesterday that Favors might be ready to take a big step, he could be right.

 

Enes Kanter

Last Week’s Line: 4.5 points (47%), 4 rebounds, .3 TO’s (14.3 minutes)

Kanter’s production (and minutes) slightly dipped last week, but nothing that concerns me. In a matter of fact, he made some improvements that impressed me quite a bit. First off, Kanter had just 1 turnover the entire week. That is great for him. The other thing is something I think we all love. Kanter has been doing a much better job of keeping the ball high after rebounds, and it’s been benefiting him nicely, getting him a few extra buckets that he might have not gotten otherwise. He also has earned himself the nickname “The Wall” on the defensive end, a name that I think speaks for itself. Kanter is huge, and once he fully figures out to use his size to his advantage he will be a major problem for other teams.


Alec Burks

Last Week’s Line: 7.8 points (54%), 2 rebounds, 1.5 assists (2.8 TO’s), .5 steals (18.5 minutes)

It’s no secret, I love what Alec Burks is giving us lately, I think we all do. He is going to be a scorer in this league, to what degree is the question. But Alec is also showing us he can be more than a scorer; he can defend and pass as well. His assists numbers are not that great, but it seems like a few times a game he makes a pass that just makes you go “Wow”. His defensive pressure has been awesome lately, no matter who he is guarding.

BTS_burks_wade_tweet

Here are his defensive numbers via Synergy.

burks_defensive_numbers
(Take a good long look at these numbers)

*Players who didn't play (very much): Jeremy Evans, Jamaal Tinsley, DeMarre Carroll, Raja Bell (injured)

The Jazz played much better this week, and I didn’t have much of an problem picking this week’s winner. Hopefully they can continue this improved play as they hit the road for a couple games this week.

 

Player of the Week: Week 10

HarrisPOW10
(Photo via Trent Nelson, SLTribune) Harris is congratulated by CJ after winning this week's award.

Devin Harris 14.3 points (49%), 5 assists (1.3 TO’s), 1.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals


Runner up: CJ Miles


Special Mention: Alec Burks

 

Thanks @sproul13 for weekly stats

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Written by Spencer | 05 March 2012

We don't see road wins very often anymore, last night was only the fourth of the season. I know that the Cavs are not a good team, but a road win is a road win. Last night marked the sixth time that Gordon Hayward has hit the 20 point mark in his young career. The Utah Jazz are 5-1 in those games. Hayward showed me three things last night:

First, he followed Ty's requests, showing that he would take one for the team.  
Second, he played like he was pissed at the change. He should be pissed.  
Third, he showed some "Nasty". His anger showed up in his good play. 

Utah Jazz\'s Gordon Hayward (20) splits the defense of Cleveland Cavaliers\' Ramon Sessions (3), Alonzo Gee (33) and Tristan Thompson (13) for a basket in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Cleveland on Monday, March 5, 2012. (Associated Press)
 I this point I don't know if the Corbin knows what the Front Office wants. I am not saying I know that this is true, I just get the feeling that he trying to win every game because that's the kind of coach he is. I don't see a coach who is getting enough information to plan for the long term or even until the end of the month. Like usual, I could be wrong. We always got the feeling from LHM and Sloan that they were involved and talked about trades, pics, signings and what not. I have not got the feeling that Greg and Corbin are in the same situation. Why is this relevant you ask? Because if he does not have a road map of where the team wants to go, he is basically driving solo doing the best he can, hence the Hayward change.

Coming into last night, Hayward had started every game this season and has averaged 27 minutes a night. Last night he played his average of 27 minutes. He also scored 23 points on 8-11 shooting and had five assists, four rebounds and one steal. He played like he had been snubbed from the All-star team or had just been pulled from the starting rotation. This change would fall into Sloan's famous words,"It doesn't matter who starts, it matters who finishes." This will be interesting as it plays out. 

Hayward showed some "Nasty." I like a pissed off GH it is good for him to play with a chip on his shoulder. Last night may have been the first time in a while that he played with a chip on his shoulder. I don't know how long this will last, but I know that last night was a great move by TC.
 
Al Jefferson had a career high in assists with seven. I know it is not a lot but Al has improved his APG every year since coming into the league. Right now his AST% is at 12.1 also a career high. Al is also having an incredible year taking care of the ball and is on pace to break the all time NBA record in least ammount of turnovers in a season. 

The game was not perfect, and I think we all knew that the Cavs would make a comeback, and the Jazz handled the run. We beat a team that were supposed to beat on paper. 

Stat of the Night... Last night was our best three point shooting night of the season % wise. The Utah Jazz shot 5-9 for 55%






























(Associated Press) 

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Written by Spencer | 05 March 2012

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