This season the Utah Jazz are struggling to make the playoffs. The fact that playoffs are even in the picture is a testament to how ahead of schedule this core appears to be. I love that our guys are fighting hard. I love beating the Los Angeles Lakers, the Miami Heat, and the Oklahoma City Thunder. That said, this is the same team who dropped games to the Toronto Raptors, Sacramento Kings (twice this year), and New Orleans Hornets.We're not a perfect team, we don't have perfect players, coaches, management, media, or fans. But We are still the Utah Jazz. The only problem with all of this is the question of 'how good a Jazz team are we'?
A Big part of that, honestly, is going to fall on the shoulders of Al Jefferson: this year, and the next two years
Very few Gestalt teams exist in the league. Some examples were the Golden State Warriors "Dubs" flash in the pan team that won 5 total playoff games; the Detroit Pistons team that beat the Shaq / Kobe / Karl / Payton Lakers team in the finals on their way to 6 Eastern Conference Finals runs in a row; and any of the more recent Houston Rockets teams that seem to go on a long win streak after either Yao or T-Mac (or both) get injured.
In our wins we look like a Gestalt team, where the Jazz play greater than the sum of their parts. However, this is still the NBA we're talking about. It's a league that caters to the "TOP" players. If your team isn't headlined by one of those happy, smiling faces you see in game promos then your team isn't going to get the calls, the benefit of the doubt, or the easy schedules. This isn't a conspiracy, this is simply marketing. If you are one of the better players, and the NBA recognizes you as such, your life (and the life of your team) becomes much easier. And if you, as a team, start to win big games and win playoff rounds, the benefits you receive are that much greater. (All those first round exits by John and Karl Jazz teams hurt the perception of what the team could do -- we have to be honest and admit that) As much as we are a Gestalt team, we do still have a headliner. At a 26.6 USG%, 12.4 AST%, and a glorious 23.4 PER -- the advanced stats say that player is none other than Al Jefferson.
I don't care if you love Big Al, or if you hate Big Al. The critical issue for Big Al is now -- "DO you think that in the next two years he will be a dominant headliner?"
Yes, I do clearly have an agenda with this multiple-post series. It doesn't have much to do with the end of "positivity month", it has more to do with the fact that my agenda is that I want our team to win a title. To do so, one of the major steps is to be headlined by a Star. Period. It doesn't happen without one. Even that '04 Pistons team still had a guy who was an Eastern Conference All-Star and All-NBA 2nd team guy on it that season. Let's not pretend that they were just a bunch of not-great-but-good players who had good chemistry. That's is historical revisionism.
Wanting a title for the Jazz clearly goes beyond loving or hating Al Jefferson. I'm going to look at some facts, and keep asking questions of you fans to consider.