FanPost

Examining the C Situation

 

Jazz Center Depth Chart

April 2010

Mehmet Okur

Carlos Boozer

Kyrylo Fesenko

October 2010

Al Jefferson

Mehmet Okur

Kyrylo Fesenko

April 2011

Al Jefferson

Derrick Favors

Mehmet Okur

Currently Under Contract

Al Jefferson

Derrick Favors

Mehmet Okur

 

If the Jazz could roll all their options at center into one player, he might well be the biggest thing in NBA history. He would have a killer low post game (#25) but with range out to the three point line (#13). He would be physical and intimidating on defense (#44), but light on his feet and athletic (#15). He would have veteran savvy (#16), be highly quotable (#44), and be married to a woman who is walk-into-a-pole gorgeous (#13). Also, because he takes up five roster spots, he would be allowed to commit 29 fouls before having to leave the game. The Utah Jazz would become one of the best known teams in the world, because their star center would be a national hero in multiple foreign countries like the Netherlands, Turkey, Ukraine, and Mississippi.

Absent breaking developments in player combination technology, the Jazz will have to decide to use their pieces individually. If you’re reading this post, odds are pretty good that you’ve read the first four in the series and know the drill by now. Al Jefferson and Derek Favors have been covered already, so let’s dig right in and talk about…

Francisco Elson

Like many Jazz fans, I was surprised that the team was able to locate Francisco… much less get productive minutes out him. I remembered him being effective at times in San Antonio, but (1) lots of people look effective when paired with Tim Duncan and (2) that was four years ago. Unlike Benjamin Button, Sco didn’t get any younger in the interim.

Francisco’s chief virtue is his ability to hold down the fort. He doesn’t do anything that particularly hurts the other team, but he also doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses that make him a liability to his own team. If you leave him open, he’ll knock down a jumper… otherwise you’d never notice him on the court.  He does everything any yet nothing, plays capably but non-descriptly.

Given that Francisco is neither an essential piece nor a player Utah expects to develop, whether he returns for a second season will basically be a numbers game. If the Jazz think Memo will be on the floor regularly, they may likely carry one fewer center than they did this past season. In such a case, Sco seems the most likely to get the ax since he played less than any of the team’s centers this past year. On the other hand, Elson is more experienced and coachable than any replacement is probable to be. Depending on what the Jazz decide to do with AK, CJ, Earl, Fes, and Ronnie, the team could be facing a substantial loss of continuity and polish. If Utah cuts ties with several of those veterans, they might take a longer look at Francisco in the hopes that he can be a stabilizing factor in the midst of substantial turnover. Even so, they might just decide they can do better. They certainly can and probably will. If you were thinking of buying an Elson jersey, you might want to hold off.

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Kyrylo Fesenko

Ah, Fes. The body of a superhero with the attention span of a goldfish. Looking at him, you would expect him to be dominant, and yet Kyrylo has never managed to put it all together. He is a bruising defender, but doesn’t quite have either the savvy or the supreme athleticism to protect the paint without committing fouls. Offensively, he has shown the ability to overpower opponents on the block. Still, he has struggled with consistency and has made little to no progress as a passer or jumpshooter.

 

Besides Handlogten, we all want Fes to succeed so badly. Not just because he’s a beloved quirky goofball, but because it seems so attainable. The man is one of the biggest and strongest players in the NBA and has had the steady backing of the Jazz organization for four years now. Surely one of these days it will all come together, right? Surely, he’ll become an effective back-to-the-basket player who also makes teams respect him when he gets the ball in the high post in the flex offense. Surely, he’ll have played enough to learn how to get to the spot before the offensive player, so that he can reject or even just alter the shot without raking the guy across the arms. Surely, he will have the confidence to follow his man out of the paint and know how to recover and plug holes should the rest of the defense collapse. These are not necessarily easy things, but many players before him have learned them… and there’s not a principled reason why Fes can’t too.

For the last four years, the Jazz organization has been sitting… waiting… hoping… wishing. At this point, I think they are ready to give up. They see a guy who doesn’t practice as hard as his teammates, who doesn’t pay attention during timeouts, and who just generally doesn’t have the drive and determination to become the best that he can be. Fesenko still has potential, but he’s been in the league long enough that you have to make the decision whether to keep him based on his production rather than his potential.

Thanks to the Deron Williams trade, the Jazz now have yet another project big man in Derrick Favors. Simply by virtue of being teammates in analogous situations, Favors and Fes are sure to influence each other. I think the bottom line will be that if management thinks Favors will be a positive influence on Fesenko, both will be back on the team next year. On the other hand, if the front office thinks Fes will be a bad influence on Derrick, it might never again let Fesenko set foot in a Fanzz retail space- much less the Jazz locker room.

Mehmet Okur

When Yao Ming went down with one of his various foot injuries, the Rockets management asked the doctors what they should expect out of Yao in the future. The doctors essentially threw up their hands and said that they didn’t exactly have a lot of case studies to draw on of 7’6" people with this particular problem. Similarly, who exactly knows what will become of a 6’11" three-point shooter coming off of what has historically been a career-ending injury.

As I mentioned back in my first ever Fanpost, Mehmet’s game is not predicated on the sorts of things that an Achilles injury takes away. His contributions come in the form of three point shooting and getting leverage in man-to-man defense. In fact, if you close your eyes and imagine a Memo highlight reel, you can probably last a fairly long time before you encounter an image of him jumping.

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                                         &nbsp via flickr user: Truthaboutit


Even though Okur doesn’t have the game of an athletic specimen, he still needs to be close to his full physical capacity to contribute on the court. After all, there’s a reason that the 55 year-old deadeye shooter from your local Y is not on an NBA roster. Three point shooting is great, but in order to earn open three point shots you have to be a threat to do other things with the basketball headfake-and-drive or hit the open man. These are things Mehmet did before, but it remains to be seen whether he can still do so after the Achilles and back injuries. Defensively he can undoubtedly still get under his man and then stick his arms straight up in the air. Unless he guards Marcus Camby every game, however, he will also be responsible for getting back in transition, guarding the pick and roll, and making rotations when the ball enters into the lane.

In the thirteen games he played this past season, Mehmet averaged five points and two rebounds in thirteen minutes. It’s a far cry from the eighteen and nine he put up five years ago, but unfortunately it’s closer to what we might expect from him next season than what he put up in his prime. His back pain is something he will probably deal with- though to a lesser extent- for the rest of his career. He’s definitely no longer an all-star, but he could be good for as many as 15-20 solid minutes a night off the bench. (In this respect he bears a strong resemblance to Peja Stojakovic.) They say old jumpshooters never die, they just fade away. Barring a trade to the Miami Heat, the next two years will be Okur’s chance to slowly fade away. There will be occasional moments when the shots are falling and the magic seems to be back, but there may also be moments when he registers a DNP-CD. Mostly, it will be nice just to see him out there contributing toughness, floor spacing, and general moxie.

Regardless of what Okur can contribute, we should expect the Jazz to give long minutes to Jefferson (the Present) and Favors (the Future). It remains to be seen which of the two of them will play more PF and which will play more C. Hopefully they develop a strong rapport that can anchor the frontcourt for years to come. It would be great if the Jazz could get additional contributions from other pieces like Memo, Fes, Sco, Ante Tomic, or any other young players the team brings in. Ultimately what’s true of the center position is true of the franchise in general: as Derrick Favors goes, so go the Jazz. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to finding out what the Future holds.

All comments are the opinion of the commenter and not necessarily that of SLC Dunk or SB Nation.

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