One of the great comedies on TV today is 30 Rock. The comedic minds of Tina Fey, Tracy Morgan and Alec Baldwin make it must watch TV.
In one story strings, Alec Baldwin's character Jack Donaughy was carrying on a relationship with two women, the characters played by Elizabeth Banks and Julianne Moore. He knew he had to choose one and was torn on what to do. Eventually he chose...well I'm not going to do a spoiler here. But eventually he did choose.
The Jazz are in a situation right now where we are- eventually- going to be forced to choose between our Julianne Moore and our Elizabeth Banks.
The bain of the Jazz the last decade or so has always been length. It's been our crutch, the mountain we could not hurdle. Now, we have plenty of it. Right now, it's working out great because Favors and Kanter are still relatively raw. But eventually they should develop and command more minutes. And at the end of next season Sap and Al's contracts are up.
Teams have playing time for 3 effective PFs/Cs in a rotation. One of these 4 needs to go (in the long term--not right away, of course)
But how do we make that decision? Who should go?
Millsap is the soul of this club. He has a heart that makes a lion's seem cowardly. He improves every year and adds new facets to his game. He's only 26, he's playing like an All Star and he's getting better.
We gave up our best player for Favors. The kid has all the tools to be an All Defensive monster with an offensive game to complement it. He's still a season or so from exploding onto the scene, but there is every reason to believe he'll be an amazing baller.
Kanter is already one of the best rebounders in the league, rate wise. He shows glimpses of a post game that will become refined and effective with time. He's built like an oak tree. Offenses will struggle when he gets planted in the post just because of all the space he takes up. And he's on a relatively cheap rookie contract for several more years.
Al Jefferson- before the season started I would've traded him to the first team that offered a draft pick. But he has improved every aspect of his game. He scores more efficiently. His passing game has made strides. Even his defense has gone from deplorable to passable (Cs earn degrees) And he blocks shots. The Jazz sorely missed his post game against Toronto. And he's such a like-able guy.
You see the problem? Who do we get rid of?
Luckily, the decision is not immediately before us. Al and Sap don't become free agents until the end of next season. But here's what I would do.
If by next season's trade deadline, Kanter or Favors are showing the chops to play serious minutes, I think it's Al who goes. He'll be more expensive to resign than Sap and he makes almost 3x what Favors and Kanter do. The key, of course, is Kanter. If Kanter's glimpses of post play become regular it becomes easier to part with Al.
Now, don't misunderstand me. I'm not hating on Al. It pains me to say he will probably be the odd man out. And I'm not in anyway advocating a trade for him this season or even this offseason. No, no, Kanter needs to prove himself (otherwise I think it should be him who goes- and he's my favorite player)
So what does that make our future look like? Fast forward to when this goes down, the 2013-2014 season. We're assuming Al is gone because Kanter and Favors have proved themselves. You with me?
For one, our balance sheet will be in better shape. I expect Al to get at least $12 million a season, probably closer to 13 or 14. (Of course, things change if he could be had for say 8 or 9- but face it, Kwame got 7.) Sap can probably be resigned for 10-11 million- maybe 12, 13 is pushing it, but I doubt it. And Favors and Kanter will still be on rookie contracts.
On the court, the starting lineup depends on Favors. If he is better suited as a C, than it's Sap-Favors. If he's better suited as a PF, than he and Sap will duke it out for the PF with Kanter at C. Personally, I'm hoping for Favors to pan out as a C. I think Kanter would be ideal as a 3rd big.
That 3 big man rotation would be very versatile. Sap brings the energy and scoring. Favors the defense anchor with the right dose of offense. Kanter cleans the glass, provides solid one on one D with a low post game and some jumpers (if he pans out right he should be able to fill Al's role on offense, or at least credibly resemble it.) We round it off with a backup Center. Someone like Zaza Pachulia, or Jeff Foster or Hamed Haddai. My dream 4th stringer is Ante Tomic. I do believe by 2013-2014 he would be contractually available. 7-10 minutes a night of a 7'2" guy who can score and swat shots- we could do worse. But of course, that is only a dream. The scientific community at large is embroiled in debate over whether the man even exists.
Of course, those 3 might not end up being the 3 that we keep. I could see Sap being given a nice contract and a huge role on another team. I could see Kanter being flipped in a deal ala the way the Nets did Favors. I could see Kanter or Favors not developing into reliable starters/6th men. (Think Anthony Randolph)
At any rate, this kind of decision is still far away. But it is a decision I'm sure KOC is cognizant that he will need to be made. But my money is on Al being the odd man out.