I'm admittedly in my periodical rant, overreact mode right now. Everything I write may be dated, absurd, and totally obsolete by the first game. But still, I'm feeling anxious about the Jazz this year.
The Jazz just signed Josh Howard to a one-year contract.
It ought to be no big deal, right? SF is probably the team's weakest/shallowest position (especially if Hayward fits better as a SG—and I think he does). If he plays great, sweet. If he bombs—well, it's just a one-year contract anyway.
So what's the problem?
Well, my problem after the jump:
There are two primary ways of looking at this Jazz team. The first is that they are talented, deep front-court, and have a chance to make a decent run at the playoffs. There are a lot of reasons to believe this. The second is that they are a virtual lock for the lottery and ought to spend their time and resources in the young players, with the goal of building a team that can compete in 1-2 years. There are a lot of reasons to believe this.
Of course, I'm probably the Captain of the second viewpoint. But I can see and understand the first. I don't agree, but it is both legitimate and reasonable.
Well, let's see how Howard fits into both viewpoints:
A team that can make a push for the playoffs
A team gunning for the playoffs needs the best players it can get. It needs to fight to win every game it can to get better seeding, and it needs guys it can depend on for the long haul. Considering the team did NOT make the playoffs last year AND lost its best player in February, the team needs some improvement to accomplish the playoff goal.
So the question is this: will Josh Howard likely improve the team?
The answer comes from comparing him to the guy he's replacing: Andrei Kirilenko.
First, their overall careers:
AK has had better a better FG% all but one season. AK has had better assist, block, and steal rates every year. Josh Howard has a slightly better rebound rate and slightly better three-point shooting. Josh has had a higher PER three times. AK has had the higher PER five times. Josh has had higher WS twice. AK six times. Howard has missed an average of 32 games each season. AK has missed an average of 15.
Let's look at recent trends:
During the past seasons years AK has shot better overall, from three, on FT's, assisted more, blocked more shots, stolen more balls, committed fewer fouls, and played in more games than Howard every single year. AK has rebounded more two of the four years and even turned it over less once (AK's biggest flaw).
In virtually every way, Josh Howard is a talent downgrade from AK. We can go even further: Josh Howard has shot worse from the field, from three, and from the line every year (for the past four years) than CJ Miles. Chew on that for a bit.
In order for this to be an upgrade at the SF spot, Howard will have to rebound from four consecutive years of declining production and increasing injury—in a madcap, condensed season that puts strains on the production and health of the best of players—Josh Howard will need to do all this to actually help the team be better than it was last year.
What are the odds of that?
This does absolutely NOTHING to help the team if you subscribe to viewpoint number one.
Developing the Young Players
Even the staunchest supporters of the first viewpoint will admit the need to develop Hayward, Favors, Kanter, and Burks. They are the future. If the team is going to rise above a 7th or 8th seed, it's going to be because some of these guys prove to be really, really good.
There's a huge problem, though. Burks and Hayward both seem to be best at SG. So does CJ. So does Raja Bell. And with our bigs: Kanter (our number 3 pick) is most likely fifth (that's right FIFTH) in the big-man depth chart.
The young guys will never develop if they don't play. For all the talk about earning a spot, etc., etc., etc., the truth is we NEED them to develop and the only way they will is if they play. Sorry, by being lottery picks in the first place it seems to me they've passed the first test to earning playing time.
The team is also probably not going to trade anyone. So I'm staring at the paper here, struggling to see any way for Kanter and Burks to get even 15 minutes per game. All I see is the glut of players ahead of them—until you look at the SF spot.
There's really nobody there. This is where minutes are available. Divide them between the three most logical players (CJ, Hayward, and Millsap) and suddenly we have minutes for Kanter and Burks. Not tons, but enough. 10-15 consistent minutes. Of course none of the three are great fits there (particularly Millsap). But if the point is developing a team for the future, then you mess with stuff like that. Besides, we've played former PF's at SF before (see: AK, Thurl).
Bringing in Josh Howard suddenly hurts the opportunity. Hayward and Favors will still get their playing time. It's the end of the depth chart that will get crunched. And the end of the depth chart is probably Kanter and Burks. It would be one thing to do this for a guy who has at least played well over the past few seasons (Iguodala, Crash). It would be another thing to do this for a young SF with lots of potential. But to do it for a guy who hasn't been good—ugh.
Look at the minutes: 240 total available per game. Let's give 32 to Al, Sap, and Devin (the guys KOC obviously expect to be the primary players). 144 minutes left. Let's give 30 to Hayward and Favors—minutes I believe they earned last year. 84 left. Now another 24 to CJ. 60 left. 16 to Earl. 44 left. Ty seems determined to give at least 20 to Raja. 24 left. Now look at the roster, remember we still have Memo, Burks, and Kanter left. And that's before Josh Howard arrives. If you're not muttering profanities to yourself at this point, I don't know what to say. The minutes for the rookies were already crunched—and now it's worse.
The pleas for being reasonable
I've been criticized for overreacting. This is totally understandable. I tend to freak out and overreact. But lets look at the excuses:
Well, Howard will probably be injured anyway.
Then why sign him in the first place?
We need depth for the condensed season
Look at the minutes breakdown again. It was already a struggle to find ways to get minutes for our rookies. Depth isn't a problem. A balanced roster is a problem. Too many SG's and PF/C's is a problem. When a healthy Memo is the fourth big man, depth isn't your problem. Having no natural SF was actually a solution to finding playing time for the rookies.
But we need a real SF if we're going to win games this year
So the Jazz should have found a good SF.
If the young guys perform, Howard won't play anyway
This is what terrifies me. Ty played Raja ridiculous minutes even though CJ was better the entire year. Even though by mid-March Hayward was also better. That's the precedent Ty's given us. Giving a lesser player playing time over TWO superior young guys. It makes me afraid that Hayward, Burks, Kanter, and Favors WON'T get playing time even if they are better than the guys with more experience. Or even if they're not quite as good now but will be by the end of the year if they play.
To everyone saying they trust Ty on this, that they believe they kids will play more if they deserve it ... well thus far, in the only head coaching opportunity Ty's had ... he chose the opposite. He chose to play the lesser player just because he was a vet.
Does this front office even have a vision?
This is what concerns me most.
A team trying to get better and make a push to the playoffs doesn't fill roster holes with aging, declining, injury-riddled vets. A team trying to develop its young core to be great in the future doesn't fill roster holes with aging, declining, injury-riddled vets.
Do you know what kind of team does? A team going nowhere. A team stuck in neutral.
Bringing in Tinsley, Josh Howard, and Keith McLeod (of all people) reminds me of the personnel moves of the early 2000's. Armen Gilliam, Danny Manning, John Starks, Tony Massenburg, Mark Freaking Jackson, John Crotty, Calbert Cheney, John Amaechi*.
That was a team going nowhere. But it was okay, because we were happy enough to enjoy Stockton and Malone for a couple more years.
But make no mistake, these moves the Jazz have made do nothing to help them win now and nothing to develop their future. In fact, there's a lot of reason to be afraid that they will inhibit both.
And that's why I'm freaked out.
* Funny John Amaechi factoid. The year before the Jazz signed him as their marquee free agent pickup, Mr. Amaechi put up 8 points and 3 rebounds. He was a 6'10" starting center who pulled down 3 rebounds per game. 5.5 per 36 minutes. That should have been a sign, don't you think?