….it’s still Sunday Afternoon somewhere…
Free Agency isn’t Free
I like our team. I like our team for a variety of reasons: our history, the colors, the other fans I’ve met, our tradition of loyalty (unless you are Dee Brown), and so on. As a result, or as a consequence of my love for the Jazz is that I fall widely in love with the vast majority of our players. Which is bad because a) all of them do not get the playing time that I think they should (unless you are Raja Bell, or a broken down Matt Harpring – then you get too much), and b) all of them could never possibly get treated the way I think they deserve to be treated (what? Fesenko doesn’t get the same respect from the refs that Shaq does?). The biggest disparity is probably between what I think a player is worth and what the player actually gets paid. (Carlos Boozer made $13.5 million in his last year in Utah. How did this ever happen?)
Falling in love with your team hurts when it’s time to deal with free agency. This year we have no restricted free agents to worry about (thanks Portland.); but we have five unrestricted free agents. They are:
The one I like the least is still a guy I love. He’s a half European African who is a quarter Chinese and a quarter South Asian. He knows kung-fu. He’s from Rotterdam. And he makes Utah sports reporters eat crazy fish cheese. (or something) He’s awesome, and a vet who has a ring. Why would I ever want to start (and finish) a season without him on the team? I guess one of the reasons would be because we already have Al Jefferson, Mehmet Okur, Derrick Favors, and Enes Kanter at the center spot – without even touching free agency at all. Clearly I want all of the guys back. If the Jazz brought in more jerks I’m sure I wouldn’t feel this way but each of those five guys are guys I want on "My Jazz". Not everyone probably feels that way, but these are my overly sentimental feelings.
Earl Watson is a "must sign" type of guy. Our team would fail to function without him, as he’s the only pass first point we have. Ronnie Price will live in my heart forever for his absurd high lights and hatred of the Lakers. If you are going to war you want a fearless guy like Price on your side. There’s no point in even mentioning how I admire Fesenko. Not having him on the team wouldn’t kill me, but he is the avatar for all of our innocent hopes and best wishes. You may never root for him, but you would never in a million years root against a silly man-child who sounds like a drunk disabled man.
And Andrei . . . at times I think he’s my second favorite Jazz player ever. EVER.
We don’t have a lot of space on our team inside, and we don’t have a lot of money to throw at end of bench guys. I may be repeating myself here, but with a gun to my head you have to pick need over sentimentality. If you have to keep on guy it’s Earl Watson.
Basketball is a simple sport. The point is to score more points than the other team during a fixed limit time duration. There are many different types of players out there: passers, utility men, defenders, rebounders, and so forth. However the main goal is still to work together to score more points than the other team. I am perhaps at fault for over emphasizing the non-scorers out there, as I respect them deeply. However, it’s the guys who put the ball in the basket who get the job done when it comes to winning and losing. That’s the bottom line. Who were the guys who scored for us last year?
No surprise here that it was pretty much feast or famine when we had Deron Williams on the squad and when we did not have him. Deron did not play a full season with the Jazz last season, but still managed to score more 10+ point games (54) than the rest of the PGs combined (29). I’d love to talk all day and all night about him but he’s not even on the team anymore. Devin Harris, on the other hand, is. No training camp and no idea what our plays are makes his grade quite incomplete. He’s a pass first point guard, and by that I mean he passes up his team mates a lot. A more precise statement would be that he’s a shoot first point guard. But hey, this isn’t me trying to make this post any longer by adding in filler . . . of course not. Harris did okay by my books though, he didn’t score 20 a game every game, but he did make a showing in each category. With time, and more familiarity we’ll see less consistency across these three categories, and have more of the steep step that we seen in Deron’s section. Earl Watson isn’t a scorer, and it shows. Ronnie Price is a nice energy player. Kyle Weaver’s mom makes a great chili. (?) Again, totally not filler. Especially not in the case of Weaver who had 19 points in a game last season – I think he should be our #3 PG and #3 SG next year – behind Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks, love you Raja – but if you want to be 4th string (or coach) then you are welcome to stay.
A lot of teams in the league have one (or more!) dangerous wing scorers on their rosters. That’s just not how our Utah Jazz teams have been built though, and last season was no exception. C.J. Miles shows the most surprising consistency in his scorer ever – he had a similar number of games scoring in each of the three categories (all between 15 games and 19 games). Again, no step pyramid action here (point of reference was Deron Williams who had a huge number of big scoring games, and fewer and fewer lesser scoring games). This only confirms what we already knew about C.J. last year: he can score anywhere from 10 to a billion points on any given night. We just don’t know how much we’re going to get. Andrei Kirlenko and Raja Bell both are on the other side of the ‘step pyramid’ action that we got from Deron. This is more the ‘support’ pyramid, or display of decline that a lot of these role playing veterans gave last year. To be fair to both of them, we’re not putting them out on the court to take enough shots to even get close to scoring 20+ points a game. As a result, between them there were only 3 games last year where they made that score. (crazy…) They both did their jobs scoring over 10 a game, almost every game they played in. Gordon Hayward is a young player who got better as the year went on. While his section looks like the declining older player display, neither Bell nor Kirilenko exploded like he did at the end of the year. We expect him to be a bigger scorer next year. Jeremy Evans’ home planet has a stronger gravitational pull then here on Earth, which helps to explain his crazy hops. He chipped in with three games of 10 points or more last year. It would have been more but refs kept calling him for basket interference because they couldn’t believe his hangtime was humanly possible.
As long as the sun comes up every morning the Jazz will be running things inside-out. And last season was no different from any other season – Jefferson and Millsap both went for at least 10 points at least 70 times each last year. You can set your watch to that. Out of that total 144 times, they both went for at LEAST 15 points 110 times. That’s 76.4% of the time. That’s pretty remarkable. Both are dependable and both displayed quite a bit of durability last season as well. Big Al had that Deron Williams style steep step where his value for the 10 to 14 points category (15) was less than half of what his value was for the 20+ points category (37). Thrillsap, on the other hand, was Mr. Bellcurve because he was going to frequently give you a solid number, with an explosion here or there. (See: Miami) Derrick Favors scored more for the Nets than he did the Jazz, but I look for him to make significant strides next season. (This season?) He didn’t do much, but he did a whole lot better than Mehmet Okur, Kyrylo Fesenko, Marcus Cousin, and Francisco Elson all put together. If you told me a year ago that in 2010-2011 Fesenko would have half as many 10+ points games as Memo I would have said "that would either make me very happy or very, very sad." Well? The answer is "very, very sad." Okur is a legit scoring threat. I want to see what he can do this next year.
All together now . . .
The big scorers for the Jazz last year were Big Al, ‘Sap, D-Will, C.J., and AK-47. That’s not a bad starting group if you ask me. The next five guys were Raja, The Precious, Devin Harris, Earl Watson, and Derrick Favors. That’s not a bad bench group if you ask me. Sadly, that’s not going to be our bench and our starting group this year. But looking back at last year it’s clear that:
A: We had some bigtime scorers (Deron, Al);
B:We had some reliable scorers of non-elite level (Millsap, Andrei, Raja);
C: C.J. Miles is as inconsistent as ever;
and D: we only averaged 99.4 ppg last year, and had only 6 guys who averaged over 10.0 ppg last year. And one of them was Deron Williams.
We’re going to have to score more next year if we want to improve. After all, the point of the game is to score more than the other team. That’s how you win games. I’d like to see Memo bounce back, while we get some more wing scoring from Hayward, Burks, and C.J. All of those things are more likely than us getting better at defense, which is the only *other* way to help us win games.
Wanna see the whole chart with all the players on it? Click here!
Free agency . . . part deux
Well, what about the other teams? Well, out of all the unrestricted FAs out there the ones I would be interested in are Jose Juan Barea, Shane Battier, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Roger Mason Jr., and Antonio Daniels (if we don’t get Earl back). I love our guys more than I love these guys though. Jub Jub would probably be a bit redundant on a team with Devin Harris, but has legit experience and can create his own shot (and make it too). Battier is a great character guy, and way better at this stage than Raja Bell. But it’s not like we’re contending, having one of these guys is always a good thing but may be unnecessary right now. CDR is a fav of mine for a number of reasons, but we need to figure out what’s going on with our wings. Adding more young guys to the mix doesn’t always help. Daniels would be nice if we can’t get any solid back up PG in the mix. Roger Mason? How U?
I’m more inclined to see what this group of guys have before chopping out team up and shopping for other players right now. Harris has 2 more years under contract, let’s see what he can do in our system first. Big Al, Millsap, Favors, and Kanter will settle things in the way the paint has always been settled: dominance. One of these guys will emerge as the alpha big, and the rest will either live under him, or need to find a different pride to be a part of. There’s no need to make one of them the alpha bigman by forcing a transaction. At least give them a season to find their roles. Big Al is a legit back to the basket scorer. Millsap is Mr. All-Around, but not great at any one thing. Favors and Kanter are the real question marks. Our team may find out, shockingly, that the worst of the four may actually be one of either Favors or Kanter. It is possible. It would also be stupid to get rid of one of Big Al or Millsap prematurely then. Our front office knows this, and will act accordingly.
What do you think? Which unrestricted FA do you love?
So, you may have heard that
Istanbul Beşiktaş New Jersey Net Deron Williams has announced (through all the regular channels: his agent, the media) that he is going to opt out of his last year under contract in 2012-2013 (via his player’s option) in order to test the free agency waters. This may not have been a surprise to anyone on the Utah side of the Rocky Mountains; however, many individuals will look at it with some level of shock. No, the shock doesn’t come from the prospect of bailing out on a potential New Jersey dynasty, nor does it come from second guessing a choice that would only anger a Russian billionaire playboy who may or may not have mob connections. (C’mon, we all were thinking it…) The shock comes from the fact that he’s going to be leaving $17,779,458 dollars on the table. Even if your team is a joke, I’d be willing to get paid that type of money for showing up to work 82 times in 7 months.
Deron did leave the team he was drafted by, the Jazz, but not in the same way other ‘franchise’ players have in recent memory. Chris Bosh did not pull a Vince Carter on the Toronto Raptors – but he still left the team with nothing to show for his years there when he took his talents to be in the chorus line in South beach. LeBron James destroyed the Cleveland Cavaliers in a similar, but much more public, move. Deron? Deron was traded by the team before we even got to this point. (As opposed to Carmelo Anthony who was traded after a half-season side show.) Utah got quite a bit back, and I’m talking about more than just younger players. Utah got rid of a problem before it became an even bigger problem – fanned by the media who would just love to make a mountain out of any molehills.
All that said, the Jazz fans should never boo Deron Williams; at least not in the same way that Cavs or Raptors fans lustfully boo their former franchise players when they return. In fact, I would be curious to know how Jazz fans would think of the possibility of making an offer to Deron Williams after his current contract is up? Now, this is a far out there dream. It’s highly unlikely, but it would be a coup for Kevin O’Conner if he was able to pull such a thing off.
According to ShamSports.com, the Jazz currently only have $43 million set aside for the team salary in 2012-2013. Of course, that’s distributed to only 6 players (Al Jefferson at $15m, Paul Millsap at $8.6m, Devin Harris at $8.5m, Derrick Favors at $4.7m, Raja Bell at $3.5m, and Gordon Hayward at $2.7m). Mehmet Okur’s contract comes off the books that year; and besides him our only key free agents that off-season would be C.J. Miles and Jeremy Evans. If Kevin O’Conner is smart enough to get Deron Williams back on the line then he’d be smart enough to get all three of those guys signed for less than $15 million total. Added to that would be the salaries for Enes Kanter and Alec Burks (going by what Favors and Hayward make – probably another $7m there). If the Jazz can package one of the other bigs (if they are still around by 2012/2013) and Harris for something then we’ll have even more room for Deron’s max contract. We’ll even have enough space to actually hire some other plays as well. Add in a few scrubs, add some sugar, and stir. What you have is the perfect "The Jazz will have enough money to make a run at Deron Williams" Kool Aid.
Video of the Week:
Drink up my friends . . .
Thanks to Memoismoney for making yet another amazing vid. You can follow him on twitter @prodigyJF. You should if you do not do so already..
Hope you didn’t miss . . . .
Image by Celticslife.com
Former Jazz Assistant coach Kenny Natt showing school kids in Delhi, India "the art of the perfect jumpshot." (via @Hoopistani ) For those who don’t know (or obviously don’t read the SS) – Natt is currently the senior men’s national team coach for India’s basketball program. And also, I follow Indian basketball. Furthermore, Natt has a careen NBA FG% of 41.7. So, yeeaaah.
And also a professional journalist making a gaffe on twitter . . . REDACTED.
Did you know . . . ?:
… that Morris Almond has scored 5 or more points in an NBA game 11 different times? I guess this means that when you are the NBA Development League’s 2007-2008 Impact player of the year you still aren’t a legit NBA player. I love Morris Almond, but I kinda expected him to score a little more in his NBA career. Seeing how the only reason why he made it to the NBA was his scoring ability.