While doing research on this I just had to look up 'Fes' in google -- you know, just to see if there was anything that I had missed. The internet responded in its familiarly unique, yet terrifying, way. Fes can mean anything from functional electrical stimulation; the flower essence society; fertilizer equipment specialists (Old Jer would love that); to the ubiquitous flat earth society. To Jazz fans he remains an enigma, and to the Jazz brass, a $870,000 question mark. (That's the minimum cost of the Team Option the Jazz have for 2009/2010)
Lemme tell you straight, Fes did not do anything to suggest that he's going to be a starting center on a playoff team this last season. In fact, he seems to be firmly placed as the 3rd stringer on a team that desperately needs an interior defensive presence. Conversely, Fes did not do anything to suggest that he's not going to end up being on an NBA roster for the next few seasons. It cannot be stated that the absence of evidence is evidence of absence.
He remains a question mark because of how little we, as fans, have seen of him. The coaches know much, much more than we ever will; after all, they saw enough of him after the NBA draft to buy him out of his contract in the Ukraine and pay him over $800k the last two seasons to learn our system.
Fesenko is two years into the 'hard to get' Jazz system and just removing him now and starting over from scratch seems like an epic waste of time, money, and a draft pick. Those three factors alone should 'sell' hesitant Jazz fans to get on the Fes bandwagon. Of course, that's not enough.
Take a look at this guy, and compare him to the rest of the guys who man the paint for us. Millsap's enthusiasm cannot carry him farther than his 6'8 frame can. Boozer may not be back next season. Memo is a finesse player who isn't going to be Mark Eaton -- even if he has the beard. Koufos is closer to Dirk than he is Damp. Jarron Collins is a 6'11 Benjamin Button (his game gets worse every year). Fesenko, like it or not, is a 7'1 guy who's frame can handle bulking up a bit more (he's already 280+lb.) who has wide shoulders and takes up space in the paint. Furthermore, he seems to be getting some defensive fundamentals down while still using his athleticism and vertical to contest and change a number of shots. (After all, he's roughly the same size as Greg Oden, with the same wingspan, a better vertical, and ZERO injuries in his career.)
But wait . . . there's more! Fes seems to have the size and body to bother other bigs, be them Brittle Bynum or Yao Ming. He's done so whenever he's been matched up with them over the last two years. He's even played solid man defense on Shaq (his hero) and stripped the ball from him a few times. The Jazz aren't going to play against a really big guy every game, but for those games where size matters -- I'd rather go with Fes in the paint than Collins or Millsap on defense any day.
So far this has just been a dissertation on Fes based on my opinion of him and some measurements that anyone can get from nba.com. Let's look at some stats then, shall we? In the NBA Fes has played a whopping 226 minutes. In that time he's accumulated 62 rebounds and 18 blocked shots (against 54 fouls). Those aren't numbers that'll open the pocket book for sure. When you convert 226 minutes into a number of games that becomes 4.7 games (at 48 minute games). Fes is never going to play 48 minutes. Let's adjust it so that a game is 12 minutes. That means that we need to divide each stat by 18.8 to find out what a 'reasonable' per game average would be. That becomes 3.3 rpg and 0.96 bpg, at the cost of 3 fouls.
You have to be pretty crazy to expect a project 3rd string center who barely makes over the league minimum to do better than 3+ rebounds and block shot in 12 minutes of frantic action. If he can convert those three fouls into three hard fouls he can clearly become an intimidator. (And I'm not even looking at the offensive side of the ball, you know, the place where he had a 58.3 fg% last season . . . it's not like he's taking many shots he's not able to make)
You don't have to take my word for it, if you hop over to basketball-reference.com you can see that for all of his crappy play this last season, his per 36 minute stats were 11.3 ppg, 8.5 rpg and 3.5 bpg. It's not like he was stinking it up when he was on the floor, he was doing exactly what we'd want from a young bigman. If you look at the actual games he played in this last season, in games were he averaged 12+ mpg he averaged 5 rpg. That's pretty close to a rebound for every 2 minutes on the floor. What more do you want from a young bigman?
Blocks? Oh, Fes will give you blocks. He averaged 2.6 bpg in those games where he played 12 or more minutes. This past season he had a 0.43 blocks to foul ratio. That's not great . . . but . . . it was bested only by Andrei (0.61) and Kosta (0.44 -- beat Fes by 0.01) on the entire team. (Millsap was 0.25, for those who wanted to know)
What about improvement? Fes is still young -- not as young as Kosta -- but still learning. Two seasons ago in the D-League he averaged 10.1 ppg and 7.7 rpg -- this last season he averaged 12.2 ppg and 8.5 rpg, both seasons he played 25 mpg. His turn overs also went down from 2.62 per game to 2.14 this last season. His fg% and ft% went up as well. His blocks to foul ratio went down a bit, but stayed in the same ballpark. (0.51 down to 0.49)
So, to recap -- cheap, young bigman with same size as current crop of 'star bigmen' who has two years under his belt in the Utah Jazz system who is capable of improving and has done what has been asked of him is currently on the free agent market. Still not sold? Just think how much better the Jazz would be with a competent young big defending the paint instead of the Boozer/Collins team we saw in the playoffs. Fes could very easily become part of a great defensive tandem for the Jazz. It's a deal so good that even the flat earth society would be a fool to pass it up.
Or the Jazz brass.