You know what’s even more rare than an actual Utah Jazz game? A Sunday syncopation. Today, friends, you get both.
- Deron Williams is no longer on the team. LONG LIVE DERON WILLIAMS. I am surprised and astounded that there is a vocal minority of Jazz fans on the internet trashing this guy. Sure, this year he was pouty Deron, threw balls at rookies, and some would say, quit on the coach and team. I don’t know, I’m not in his head. I was not happy with how our team was ‘contending’ this season; and the front office made a number of changes. Even Deron was surprised that he was traded (at the least, this implies that he did not ASK for a trade). Deron was a soldier for the Jazz. Our recent successes would not have happened if not for him. Period.
You want to know why? Check this . . .
- Naturally, part of the conflict arises from the loyalty issue. Fans felt like they had to chose between Deron Williams and Jerry Sloan. Very few were able to see that both Sloan and Deron were both trying to do their jobs under the Jazz brass. The front office was pissing both of those guys off, let’s not absolve them of any mismanagement in this. Fewer still understand that these last few seasons Jerry and Deron needed each other. If Deron was drafted by a team that had a Don Nelson type of coach he would have gotten his way early, and failed to develop as a complete player and complete professional. If Sloan didn’t have Deron he still would have retired and be enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame. Just, well, he may have retired a few seasons ago. Some say Deron pushed Sloan into retiring. You think Sloan would have wanted to coach forever with a slew of Carlos Arroyo / Milt Palacio type of PGs wrecking his system? Jerry may have retired along before breaking the 1k wins mark if it wasn’t for Deron.
- Obviously, I think the point guard spot is pretty important in the NBA and especially for our offensive system. Devin Harris isn’t chopped liver. He’s a former All-Star, and had all the potential in the world back in the day. He’s much quicker than Deron is, but he’s also much less stout. I felt like we were going to miss Deron’s three point shooting and screening with Harris starting. Harris is a career 44 fg% and 30 3pt% shooter. Compared to what Deron did in a Jazz uni (47 fg% / 36 3pt%) this is a downgrade. In a Jazz uni Harris is bringing us 42 fg% and 32 3pt%. Of course, 11 games is way too small a sample size to really figure things out from. But I will admit that Harris is shooting better from deep than I thought (he’s tied his career high with 1.2 threes made a game, while in a Jazz uniform – which is exactly what Deron gave us), I’m really surprised by how much effort he’s put into back screens in our offense.
- I haven’t watched every game (I’m a bit behind on my DVR), but from what I’ve seen so far he’s been missing screens much less than I anticipated. Furthermore, the playbook has been expanded / edited to match his size a bit. One particular play I want to see more of is where the ball goes into the 4 at the high post elbow, and Harris sets a backscreen on the 3’s man. This was new to me (this season), and I think it works because more than anything, our 3’s are best when they are slashing to the basket / getting to the free throw line. Previously, we’d all seen (including the other team’s lowest IQ players) the ball go into the wing player, while the PG sets the backscreen for the big. Maybe this play always existed (we haven’t seen it in a while), maybe this play was put into play because Harris can’t screen bigs on every play – but I am glad to see it.
- More than Harris, of course, is the collective sigh of relief as we’re back into the familiar fold of our first option being a big forward (for those "Al Jeff is a center" fans, I really think that he’s been playing center only because the teams he has been on haven’t had a good match for him in the front court – Al Jeff at the 4 paired up with an Ostertag type would be great on the boards and blocks). Al Jefferson has turned into Optimus Jefferson of late. He’s not as efficient as Malone was (and hardly gets to the line), but at least he a) plays in the paint (unlike Carlos Boozer), and b) wants to play in the paint. The fire and passion with which he is playing with now will surely result in wins in the future.
- Of course, Al is more than just fire and passion. He’s also taking care of business in the paint. In the month of February Jefferson averaged 24 ppg and 10 rpg, while shooting 55 fg%. This month, March, he’s uppsed it to 27 ppg and 12 rpg. Yeah. 27 and 12. Carlos Boozer’s best month this season had him bringing in 21 and 10. That’s 6 less points and 2 less rebounds off of what Al Jefferson is bringing to the table. Also, Boozer’s best month was in December. This month he’s been either injured or helping his team with 13 points and 8 rebounds a game. Boozer is getting $14.4 million this season. This month he’s scoring 13 points a game. As an absurd abstraction, that’s a pretty bad deal.
- Because I brought money into the discussion, I have to then talk about Andrei Kirilenko, who is making James Bond villain money this year. This month he’s scoring 12 points a game. That’s one less than Boozer. Both are bad deals, but . . . Andrei isn’t paid the big bucks for his scoring at least . . .
[N.B. NBA Fan videos on youtube usually have cussing and other stuff in their soundtracks.]
Since I’m going a little retro here (was that a block on Jason Williams on Sacramento in that highlight reel?), I think we *all* know that a lot of our problems this year (from 1st quarter scoring, to bench production, to floor spacing, to legit 2 way players) could have been ever so slightly mitigated had Mehmet Okur been healthy. (You know, because he’s such a loyal player that we expect him to advance medical science 15 years over the course of a few months)
- Yes, now that we’ve talked all about Jerry Sloan, Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer, Andrei Kirilenko, and Mehmet Okur . . . let’s take stock of what we’ve got going for us (outside of Harris and Big Al). C.J. Miles should start. He should have been starting a while back. He should have started instead of Matt Harpring – but whatever. I have a lot of stats that seem to justify my crazy ideas, but no one wants to see this. A confident C.J. is one of our best offensive weapons because, while on average he’s a solid starter, his streaky rating is off the charts. Part of getting him on a positive streak is to get him going early. As a starter this year (7 starts), he averages 22 ppg, 5.4 rpg, and 2.4 apg, while shooting 48.8 fg% and 43.6 3pt%. Yeah, off the bench he’s an 11.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg guy shooting 40/33. He plays more minutes as a starter – but that doesn’t explain why he’s shooting lights out in more minutes / more shots, now does it?
- Paul Millsap is very quietly averaging 17 and 8 this year. It’s quiet because he started off averaging 21 and 12. I love Millsap. He always plays hard. The problem is that how hard can you play him in return? He is better in smaller doses? I think he’s doing what he has to do to deserve to start in this league. I don’t know if that means he’s good enough to start on a contender though. In his first three seasons hies total rebound % was 17.5%, 16.5% and 17.0%. He was a caged animal taking it out on the glass as he played off the bench. This year his rebound % is down to 13.9, which is the lowest of his career. Is this because he’s playing more minutes and getting tired, or playing more minutes against other teams’ better players? Or is it because he’s playing next to better rebounders himself? (Previously he played more without a Boozer type than he did with one) His block % are a career low this year as well. He’s fouling a lot less, so there’s that though . . .
- I don’t think it’s too early to try to evaluate your players, but I think the Jazz may have to look at the unthinkable situation of trying to find (or develop) a center good enough to start next to Al, while pushing Millsap back to the bench. I love Sap and his hustle, but I’m watching an NBA where other teams now have taller small forwards and we have at power forward. And I don’t like it.
- Hello Marcus Cousins goodbye Marcus Cousins
- According to Shamsports the Jazz have a number of roster holes coming up next off-season. We stand to lose Ronnie Price, Earl Watson, Francisco Elson, and Kyrylo Fesenko. These guys (plus CJ) were the swarm unit that we all fell in love with because of their hard work and penchant for getting us back into games after the starters would get killed in the 1st quarter. If you look at their production (outside of the mysteries of 5 man units), individually, it’s not hard to see why our bench has sucked this year. On paper you’d have to say that an opposing four man team of our three remaining rookies (Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, and Jeremy Evans) plus a rookie PG could give them a run for their money. I love Ronnie’s hatred for the Lakers, Earl’s veteran point guard instincts, Elson’s desire to always hit people, and Fes, for, well, I don’t even know anymore. To lose one of them, or all of them, would hurt more emotionally than on the court. And I want our team to be good on the court. I think all of us do as well.
- I know I have stuff to research / look up that you guys have asked me via twitter. I will get to that asap, but don’t expect it today.