Mar 26, 2012; Newark, NJ, USA; Utah Jazz forwardcenter Derrick Favors (15) controls the ball as New Jersey Nets power forward Kris Humphries (43) defends during the first half at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Jim O'Connor-US PRESSWIRE
I appear to be one of the driving forces of some legitimate or false youth movement. I'm emboldened by how uniformly some teams were brought together, and how well their pieces fit. It's almost as if their individual parts were not cobbled together based upon trying to get the best part, but with the greater idea of fit. For example, some of the teams that we got to see play deep into the playoffs were teams build for this unified purpose and gameplan. They did not pair up a plodding, ball dominant big with a ball dominating point guard who instead thrives at a quick pace. That's just one example of me being envious of some of the plans other teams have used.
That said, our greatest advantage is our youth. And to be perfectly honest, it's also our greatest question mark as well.
I love youth because youth, usually, holds potential. But potential is not reliably traded against, or realized. Right now our four main young guys all have a lot of potential. Derrick Favors could be an MVP candidate in the future. Alec Burks could be an All-NBA player in the future. Gordon Hayward could be an All-Star player in the future. And Enes Kanter could end up in the Hall of Fame for all we know. Or they all could languish here behind veterans, bounce around the league, and never reach their high potential. It's hard to guess. Why? Because we've been here (proverbially) before.
And I know I have as well, many, many times.
I think for me the biggest example was, and remains to be, Morris Almond. I love Mobe. I was one of the first non-Friends he allowed to follow him back when he had a protected account on twitter. He was a four year player in the NCAA, and could make his shot, and had legit three point range. He lived at the line. He made all his free throws. And all he had to do was play alongside of Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur, and Andrei Kirilenko -- and he'd give us all those easy baskets. The kind of easy baskets we used to get when Shandon Anderson was around, the exact type of easy baskets we used to give up to shooters who were low on the defending totem poll like Sasha Vujacic. We got easy baskets with Ronnie Brewer starting, but he didn't make you pay if you left him open. Hot shooting, explosive shooting guard Morris Almond would, though.
I would have bet my house on it.
I would be homeless now if I did.
Almond never got to play with guys better than him, he only played for the Jazz in garbage time with guys like Fes and Koof -- and when he was down with the Flash they didn't even run the Jazz playbook. Their owner wanted to win and draw in fans, so telling Mobe to do his NCAA impersonation and score 50 a game was great for the Flash. When Almond would be called up it meant nothing to Jerry Sloan, because Mobe never learned how to play in our system.
We didn't play him with the right guys. We didn't teach him the plays. And when we sent him down to the D-League, they rewarded the wrong behaviors. If you were training a dog you wouldn't do these things. If you are trying to make an NBA player you're only wasting your 1st rounders by doing this.
We often hear "if x was good, why didn't he show it after leaving the Jazz?" Well, in your rookie year you're supposed to learn most of everything and get upto NBA speed. If you can't do that, you're never going to get better. Not in this era of the league. (No one makes huge jumps in their 6th NBA year anymore. If you don't get it by your 3rd year you're most likely out.)
Morris was that hot offensive talent that just needed to learn how to play the NBA game, and stay out of the way from the guys better than him. Instead he was trained to look for his shot because he never played with guys better than him. And he's been a mercenary ever since.
Except, of course, that one game where Brewer and C.J. Miles were both stinking it up for the Jazz in a road game in Sacramento a few years ago. Sloan was forced (kinda like how he was forced years ago into turning to Bryon Russell because Edwards and Benoit were messing up) to go to him. And Morris showed me a glimpse of what he should have been doing all along -- playing with guys better than him, and giving us a lot of buckets. The Jazz were getting pounded, Kevin Martin was having his way and we went to Mobe. And on his way to a career high 25+ mins he dropped in 12 points (55.6 fg%, 1 three, 100% from the FT line), 6 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 steal, and 1 assist. He let the game come to him, and he played very solid d. And we won the game. Deron was getting easy assists, we finally had a guy to consistently know how to run through screens, get open, and be automatic from midrange. And dude was hustling.
And then we never saw him again.
Instead of being the potential 5th starter on a contender he became the poster child for "how not to raise a puppy", er, I mean high potential / high achieving rookie.
Of course the media continued to tell us it was all Morris' fault. Certainly the guy from the strict two married parent, two working parent family, military family who had 3% body fat and an old man hair cut had problems with authority or was lazy or something. Those charges are easier to stick on a Ukrainian manchild who has poor impulse control. It was the development and personal agendas that sunk the Mobe. After all, he only played 39 TOTAL minutes for the Jazz as a rookie. He never got the foundation to learn how to be an NBA player.
But that was his fault.
I'm wary of certain players now. I recognize that they have to be super self-motivators to make it on this team, and they need to be dealt with more. They need feedback. They need to be on the right track. The owner of the Flash used Mobe's 50 point games to sell tickets without making the head coach of the Flash run Jerry's sets. That was selfish. It's no wonder why AFTER Almond the Jazz rarely used the NBA-DL at all. And when they did sign a player to join the Jazz, it was rarely a person form our own development team.
Kanter didn't spend one second in the NBA DL, despite being the most likely candidate -- no available playing time at the NBA level and he hasn't played ball since high school. Instead, though, Corbin did work to find SOME time for Enes. This is displayed, collective Jazz learning from previous years. It is a good sign. It's a good way to make sure that potential can become reality, instead of a waste of a perfectly awesome, prototypical shooting guard with a textbook shot and range for all day. But hey, let it go Amar. Let it go . . .
Getting back to potential players . . . we need to find the rights guys who can develop and improve themselves, in spite of no promises for playing time and on-court experience. I guess this favors guys who have that 'motor' and desire to get better over the younger guys with more question marks. More than ever I guess I'm attracted to 'character' guys. Young professional guys who will treat being in the NBA as a job -- and not as an entitled right.
It's hard to find those guys when you spend zero time of your life scouting college ball and don't read Croatian high school hoops sections of their sports pages. But ultimately, it's up to the Jazz to pick the right guys. And not me. KOC's people read Clark's work, not mine, after all. Ha ha.
There is a chance that out of our foursome we have more than one Jeff Green, and maybe no Kevin Durant. OKC did their homework and got maybe a little bit lucky (They would have taken Greg Oden if he slipped down). I think that being lucky always helps, but as a small market team, it's more important to be smart. Part of that is being smart with getting the pieces to get good picks. (KOC is) Then part of that is being smart enough to move the right pieces to get high picks (and KOC did). Then we made the picks.
The last two parts remain: making sure that we were smart with who we picked (and I think KOC was); then handing off the picks to the rest of the Jazz brass and coaching / player development staff to train, instruct, improve, and unleash. This is the "hardest part" because it's where all the potential in the world can't transmute you into an All-Star unless you, individually, work for it.
We have all the potential in the world with these four kids, and we may even add a few more in the next draft or two. All of our late picks cannot statistically become diamonds in the rough. But by polishing up the precious metals we picked up in the lottery we can find out if what we have is truly priceless, or fool's gold.