It's good to have actual basketball to talk about instead of scouring the internet for rumors and stories. I've been able now to watch the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Lakers games in their entirety and listen to the Warriors game. It's preseason and obviously there isn't tons to take from the games. But I think there are some trends we can discuss, which is what we will do today.
Let's start with Enes Kanter. He has improved, but I think we can pump the brakes a bit. He was already an elite rebounder, who is probably going to average nearly a rebound every two minutes he is on the floor. That hasn't really changed. He has added to his offensive game, although he was resorting to the same moves from last year, down in the post when the defender held good defensive position. It is obvious that he is more fit and quicker and has added an ability to face up a bit and drive to the basket. But Cole Aldrich and Robert Sacre are backups. Kanter has improved, but we can all just take a collective deep breath. You already know this. But just to reemphasize, every point he scored in the 4th quarter was on Ronnie Aguilar and Greg Somogyi. They are the Jazz equivalents of Brian Butch and Darnell Jackson.
Instead, I'd like to focus on one of Enes Kanter's latest tweets.
I'm worried for Enes. I did a google search of things to do in LA on a Saturday Night and I am afraid of some of these things appearing on Jazz box scores this season under his name:
DNP- Gastric Distress
DNP- Invited to Ashton Kutcher's party
On the other hand, people seem to be concerned about Derrick Favors' lack of offensive improvement. It is absolutely true that Derrick appears to be a similar offensive player to last season and that's on Derrick. What isn't clear is why that seems to be a justification for not starting/playing Derrick major minutes. If it isn't clear to anyone reading this, from the last 20-30 games last season that Favors needs to start and play 30 + minutes a night, then he may never be "starter material" for you during his career. Here are two things we do know:
b. For whatever reason, the Utah Jazz have chosen not to play to Derrick's offensive strengths.
Kevin Pelton is describing Detroit Piston's rookie Andre Drummond, but I think his point is applicable to Derrick Favors' situation. Favors has been put in offensive situations that exploit his weaknesses so far this preseason and we've all wondered why he hasn't produced. He, and the Jazz, need to get back to what he does well.
Here is a rundown of each of his offensive possessions against LA, for instance.
Isolation right elbow- ended in a blocked shot on a drive
Isolation left elbow- made basket and the foul on a drive
Isolation left elbow- missed jump shot
Defensive rebound went coast to coast- foul and two free throws
15 foot baseline jumper- miss
Left block Isolation- turnover
Two missed alley oops- one poorly thrown
Dunk off a cherry pick
Pick and Roll with Hayward- shooting foul- 2 FTs
Def Rebound taken coast to coast- shooting foul- 2 FTs
All of that adds up to a very pedestrian 2-6 shooting, 4-7 from the line, 8 points and 2 turnovers. But only one pick and roll and no offensive rebound putbacks. Mo Williams has actually been impressive to me this preseason, but he missed Favors on 3 pick and rolls that would've ended in either dunks or free throw shots. I still believe that Favors should probably start, but now I'm starting to think that he might benefit from playing with a point guard like Jamaal Tinsley.
Speaking of Jamaal Tinsley, he has been fantastic as well. If you didn't see the Laker game, then you probably only saw his assist to Jeremy Evans for a dunk on the highlight reel. It was only his third best pass of the night. He is a pass first point guard who makes several great passes a game that help his teammates. The backup point guard spot is going to be interesting with basically 4 guys vying for time there. So far, if Ty Corbin is basing his decision on recent play, the job should be Tinsley's, hands down. Although Earl Watson should get a fair shot as well, when he gets healthy.
Al Jefferson has pretty much been Al Jefferson. He has taken some questionable shots, made some beautiful post moves, shied away from contact, played handfuls of possessions of brilliant post defense along with stretches of poor defense when rotating is required. The great news is that the Jazz don't look like they will have to depend on Al Jefferson as often the way they are running the floor. Guys like Marvin Williams and Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors are going to get some transition buckets. Mo Williams has looked pretty good running the break and taking transition threes. This change in play has to be credited to Ty Corbin and I think it is going to turn out well for the Jazz, utilizing Big Al in the halfcourt and letting the other guys run. Now about that defense...
The wings are unquestionably better this year. Marvin Williams is similar to Kirilenko minus defensive disruption and passing, and adding shooting and durability. Burks is bigger, stronger, still gets to the line and plays much better defense. Randy Foye has been poor on both ends of the floor thus far, but that's a situation that definitely needs to play out before making a judgment. Gordon Hayward is who he is and improving subtly. And for the 3rd straight season, he needs to be a more aggressive shooter and driver. But we are going to be much more balanced this season. It simply makes Corbin's job harder. The way people mesh and play together will make a big difference in the team's performance. The last two or three preseason games will give us a better idea of what those rotations will look like.