It's our nature as fans to knee-jerk into most any opinion we hold -- so the fantastic performances of Alec Burks and Enes Kanter in Los Angeles have even more Jazz fans jumping on the play-youth-now wagon. You all know, this has been a season-long debate: should the Jazz play veterans and shoot for the playoffs? Or should the Jazz play youth and build for the future?
Perhaps, though, we have created a false dichotomy between these two choices when both might be possible. (And if it is possible, Ty Corbin is the best coach in basketball.)
It helps to remember the dynamics of the season. This is a season with nearly-zero training camp. In addition, because the NBA wanted to cram as many games in a short window as possible (daddy gotta get that cash <- right there is where I would link to a Styles P music video, but darn it, YouTube never has the clean versions of my favorite childhood rap songs), there is virtually no in-season practice time for any team, either. Burks and Kanter had no time to learn the system, gel with teammates, or pretty much anything related to becoming acclimated to the NBA. Kanter and Derrick Favors were robbed of valuable practice time of going head to head against Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. The team also has a bunch of veterans to which it is paying quite a bit of money.
Now during the season, we see what is to many a frustrating, inconsistent coaching strategy from Ty Corbin about who plays when. But if I may paint a picture for you, here is what my head wrapped itself around this afternoon.
By keeping a fragile balance between playing veterans and youth, perhaps Corbin is getting the young players his own version of training camp and practice time without fully turning the team over to them -- getting a head start on next year's actual training camp. Because of the strange season it is, keeping the veterans on the floor and playing .500 basketball (exactly what Utah is doing) keeps the Jazz competitive and in the playoff hunt. At the same time, it allows Burks and Kanter (rookies) and Favors (really only played during last year's dumpster fire) the chance to play meaningful minutes in competitive games -- even if those minutes don't come every single night. Remember, Ty Corbin still has had zero real training camps as coach of the Utah Jazz.
After all, what would it profit the young players with absolutely no camp experience to throw them on the court, let them fall on their faces, and lose? Doesn't it mean more for their development to play in competitive games with the playoffs still in sight? If you happen to miss the playoffs or get destroyed in the first round, at least you gave the young players quality minutes during the season.
In a sense, this creates a throw-away season in which you don't necessarily care about the final-record outcome, but without totally throwing the young players to the wolves and throwing the season away with 99% certainty. Because Golden State should be giving Utah a lottery pick anyway, stakes aren't as high when it comes to getting a pick of your own.
Taking a front-office approach, look at next year's roster. The Jazz rolled through the trade deadline without making any moves, seemingly set to move into next season with the same roster. Next year, the Jazz have massive dollar amounts of expiring contracts: Jefferson ($15 mil), Harris ($8.5 mil), Millsap ($7.2 mil), and Bell ($3.5 mil). Do the Jazz really like Damian Lillard or Kendall Marshall, but our own, Golden State's, or both draft picks aren't high enough to get him? Package an expiring contract with the picks and go get him. Can the desired point guard be drafted without a trade? Great, draft the PG and use some of the expiring deals to get a shooter in a Jazz uniform (keep Millsap, though). Meanwhile, Favors, Burks, and Kanter might be more ready to roll full time than given any other strategy.
So perhaps Ty Corbin isn't really being indecisive, but rather being quite decisive in a plan to get all the young guys ready to go next season -- all in a better fashion then throwing them in this year's swimming pool and hoping they don't drown. Instead of naming a decided rotation, he plays guys situationally. If certain matchups give Burks and Kanter better opportunities to play well, help the team, and build confidence, then they play. If other matchups could get out of hand, and he trusts veterans like Raja Bell and Josh Howard to be able to handle it, perhaps that is fine. Save the beating the youngsters might have taken.
I would never support sitting youth on the bench just for the sake of sitting them, as Amar pointed out quite well earlier today in his piece about John Stockton. But perhaps the strangeness that is a 66-game, no-training-camp, no-practice-time season calls for some unconventional, situation-driven playing time management. The Jazz aren't winning the title, or likely a playoff series, no matter what combination of players see time.
So to boil down my long-winded stream of consciousness -- maybe we've had it all wrong. Maybe there is no need to choose one thing over another. If playing vets means the youngsters get to play valuable minutes in competitive games, this could be the best strategy possible.
If so, Ty Corbin is earning every penny the Jazz give him. If not, well ... then the youth is wasting away on the bench.
Am I delusional? Or is Ty Corbin a master and we're overlooking it for the sake of debating a false dichotomy? Or did I just propose another false dichotomy? :-)Brett is a managing editor on SB Nation's Vanquish The Foe