The season is winding down, now only EIGHT (8) games on the season remaining, but do not fear -- expect these to continue throughout the off-season.
- Since the Boston game (February 28th) this team has been playing with more passion on the court. I think this is a good thing. During the stretch since then and today we’ve had superb nights from Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and C.J. Miles. Miles can get real hot on some nights and play like a version of J.R. Smith that has seen the wizard of Oz once or twice. Thrillsap has been able to channel his Miami mode on occasion. Most importantly we have seen more and more of the ‘Sota version of Al Jefferson, he who likes to play in da paint, and occasionally falls on his butt-oxs.
- The carefully managed minutes of C.J. Miles (only 28.7 mpg during this stretch because Raja Bell only appears like a value add if you play him a lot of minutes) has not been able to prevent him from helping the team. He’s averaging 16.1 ppg (43.1 fg%, 33.3 3pt%, and 88.0 ft%), 4.0 rpg, 2.0 apg, and 0.9 spg. He’s not shooting consistently from game to game (average of shooting % (not the same thing as absolute shooting average) is 39.56 % ± 18.21%) -- which is a crazy large range in ability. Yup, on any given night during this stretch he’s been as scorching hot as 57.77 fg% or as ice cold as 21.35% on average. He’s had better nights (like when he shot 77.8 fg%), and worse nights (like when he shot 16.7 fg%) – but those would be outliers. If he could be a little more consistent I think we Jazz fans would be easier on him. Still . . . these numbers are better than Raja’s . . .
- No stranger to being a solid contributor, Paul Millsap (in only 9 of 14 games) managed 17.7 ppg (55.1 fg%, 40.0 3pt%, 76.5 ft%), 6.7 rpg, 2.7 apg, and 1.6 bpg in 33.7 mpg. This guy simply does not take bad shots. He has been a little soft on the offensive glass (only 2.2 offensive rebounds per game), but it would be silly to suggest that he’s not all kinds of banged up at this part of the season. He’s a true warrior (not to be confused with a tru warrier), and his numbers do not tell the full story of his on the court impact. It’s a testament to his ever developing game that he’s capable of scoring 18 ppg without getting in the way of Jefferson (an inside player).
- Last, but not most least, would be Al Jefferson. During this stretch he has stepped up and in 38.9 mpg he’s averaging 24.7 ppt (53.4 fg% and 78.3 ft%), 11.9 rpg, 2.3 apg, and 1.9 bpg. If Amar’e Stoudemire was averaging 25 / 12 / 2/ 2 they would build a statue of him today. But let’s stop talking Amar’e, let’s talk about Carlos Boozer – the guy Al Jeff appears to be immediately replacing (unless you want to talk about Paul Millsap doing that, and we could go that route too).
- Carlos Boozer’s years with the Jazz went like this: 18 and 9 (2004-2005); 16 and 9 (2005-2006); 21 and 12 (2006-2007); 21 and 10 (2007-2008); 16 and 10 (2008-2009); and 20 and 11 (2009-2010). Boozer ("Mr. 20 and 10", according to some fans) actually averaged at least that only three seasons out of his long tenure with the team. He didn’t even achieve that mark until his third with the team either – despite playing with a slew of good players all passing him the ball. Jefferson, who started the year off like poop, has a chance to average 20 and 10 in his first year (a year of complete turmoil where the starting PG (Deron Williams) gets traded).
- Of course, 20 and 10 doesn’t mean anything if you are losing games. But for those who are hung up on that category – Al Jefferson needs to average 28 ppg and 13.75 rpg over the next 8 games in order to reach it without rounding up (like I did for Boozers numbers two bullet points above). He could reach it, but we already know that he can be a 20 and 10 guy. No point in straining him right now.
- Not that Al Jeff is against strain, remember that nasty shooting hand injury he got in Game 2 of the season? Yeah, Al is on pace to play in every game for the Jazz this season. Carlos? In six seasons wearing a Jazz uniform he’s never done that. In fact, Boozer averaged 59 games a season for us. (How many times did we miss home court by 1 or 2 games? Every year?) Glad he got that pay raise "regardless."
- Three good players on any given night a championship team doesn’t make, but it is a start for sure. In the 14 games (Boston till now) the Jazz have won four (4) times. In overtime against the Sacramento Kings who were playing with Tyreke Evans. Against the Toronto Raptors up in Canada on an Al Jefferson tip in at the end of regulation – so another game that probably should have gone to overtime. A game against the Philadelphia 76ers in, you guess it, overtime. The last was a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves (who had drubbed the Jazz by 21 five nights earlier) that wasn’t close. Three nights ago the Jazz lost a game in overtime to the
CharlotteNew Orleans Hornets, so you count half victories. (And we Jazz fans should have enough pride still to never do that)
- Our team is losing. We’re in most games, but we are losing. Players are getting T’d up, and fans seem to give a darn, which is a far cry from a few weeks ago. I don’t know if the Jazz are actually losing on purpose (tanking), or losing despite trying to win every game. I think Head Coach Tyrone Corbin is trying to win every game. He’s not playing the young guys more playing time (injuries to other guys have allowed them more playing time more than any protracted effort to actually develop them), and he’s stuck to some bizarre shortened rotations. Either the Jazz are super good at tanking without looking like they are, or the Jazz (as they currently are comprised) are super inept that with our collective backs against the wall our team is still losing to the Timberwolves and Houston Rockets of the world.
- The Glass Half-Full is that our team is stealth tanking. The Glass Half-Empty appraisal suggests that we’re just a bad team. The truth is probably in the middle somewhere. I think the Jazz *are* a bad team, and just barely winning games against bad teams means that we’re also bad at tanking.
- I don’t think there’s any honour playing hard to make the playoffs and get destroyed. It’s not like the young guys will get valuable playoff experience in four blowouts. It’s almost more important for them to get experience during the 82 games before that, instead of the 4 or 5 games after. (Tell that to the coaches – who probably think the NBA-DL is a mirage or something) So, to me, I think that the Jazz should have started to actually tank earlier. It would be an unpopular opinion, but really – one step backwards for three steps forward is how a lot of teams get ahead of us every year. It’s not like wins are needed to financially support the team – when the Jazz won 26 games they still had 18.8k average home game attendance – which was good enough for 8th best in a 30 team league.
- Tanking now, even all out tanking, isn’t going to help much because we’re at 14th right now, and at the most we MAY be able to get as high as 13th with our own pick. Furthermore, the pick we get from the New Jersey Nets appears to be no better than #6 this year. Provided we don’t move up after the lotto, it may just be better to either a) package BOTH picks to move up to get one good player, or b) package both picks to trade to another team for a good player who isn’t a rookie, or future considerations.
- For what it is worth, one pre-draft site has us using the #6 pick for Jan Vesely. Whom? Well, he seems to fit a lot of our perceived needs: he’s white, he’s super skinny, he’s European, and he’s a forward. He’s projected to be an Andrei Kirilenko / Mike Dunleavy Jr. type. Really? While I know that YouTube videos are the zenith of playing scouting (remember that Mohammad Saer-Sene video? I’m surprised he’s not punking Dwight Howard . . . if you don’t remember that video then you may remember Karl Malone gushing about him and telling the Jazz, and anyone who would listen, that he would draft this ‘hungry’ kid) I think this video suggests that Vesely plays nothing like Dunleavy, or even AK for that matter.
He is, essentially, the white Jeremy Evans .
If we are keeping both picks, what do we do with our second one? I’m no draft guru, but I’d try not to shoot for the stars on this pick, and try to get a solid back up PG who can play some semblance of defense and hit a good percentage of his open threes. I love me myEarl Watson and Ronnie Price – but I’d rather have a Steve Blake type or Luke Ridnour than those two. We may be able to get one at #14 if we’re lucky.
- Naturally, the lotto is all a crap shoot. WE can’t control it. No. Only David Stern controls the lotto. The Jazz do have eight more games remaining. Tomorrow we host the Washington Wizards before starting our yearly trial by fire the NBA Schedulers like to call "April". We play the LA Lakers twice, and have away games at San Antonio and New Orleans. The Jazz also host Portland and Denver. The only "easier" game is on the road against Sacramento. You know, for that franchises’ 3rd last home game ever. You know it will be quiet there.
- Still, the Jazz will manage go somehow go 3 and 5, and secure the 14th pick in the draft. Go team go.