The Downbeat #846 - The New SLC Dunk Edition

Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Welcome to the new SLCDunk layout! We like it a lot, for a bunch of reasons. Of course, it's newer, more modern, and flashy, but it also does a number of things for us pragmatically. One problem that we kept running into was the strict ordering of posts: if we wanted to feature an important story, or give a writer some credit for doing some excellent work, we had to tell others not to put up any content at all for a brief time period. Now, though, we have the ability to feature whatever work we'd like, however we'd like, and I'm really excited for the possibilities.

It's also shiny.

But what do you all think? Let us know in the comments.

The Jazz hired Johnnie Bryant yesterday, in an interesting move filling another hole in the Jazz' coaching staff. Bryant previously worked as Paul Millsap's personal trainer (as well as working with guys like C.J. Miles, Deron Williams, and Ronnie Price while they were in Utah). Millsap got as excited as possible about Bryant's hiring:

It works out, man. It works out. Pieces are falling — that's how I look at it. He's going to be around everyday. So any time I need to get exercise or any of the other guys need to get up extra shots, he's there for them.

- from BTS' interview of Paul Millsap in the Salt Lake Tribune.

The thing that's so impressive about Paul Millsap's game is his insistence on adding a statistically significant facet to his game seemingly every season, something that's really hard to do. Let's walk through them:

  • Last season, he finished 3rd in the league in steals, after not finishing in the top 20 the previous year.
  • The previous year, he also added an important facet: the outside shot. The previous season (2009-2010), he shot 4.2 shots per game outside the rim area. In 2010-11, he shot 8.1 FGA per game. Remarkably, he was almost as efficient: 53.1 FG% compared to 53.8%. The increase he took on in USG% without a sizable decrease in efficiency must have stupefied Dean Oliver. Also supporting this was the leap in FT% he took: in his first 4 years, Millsap never shot above 70%. In 2011, Millsap shot 75.7%, and last season shot just shy of 80%.
  • In the summer of 2008 and again in 2010, he became a much better passer, moving up from an assist percentage of 6.7% his rookie year to 9.8% in 2008-09 to 12.4% last season.
  • Of course, the Adj +/- jumps have been remarkable, culminating in his 4th place finish this year in basketballvalue.com's Adj. +/- numbers.

There are some downsides, to be sure. He hasn't maintained the blocking or offensive rebound skills of his electric rookie year, something that has hurt his overall effectiveness (may I hypothesize it is due to taller competition as a starter?). But his basketball skills have undeniably improved, and if Johnnie Bryant deserves any credit for that improvement, then the Jazz just made an excellent hire.

And thus ends this week's Paul Millsap's promotional segment! This week's segment was sponsored by DeAngelo Simmons. Be sure to see the feature film Ambition in theaters, coming "soon".

In all seriousness, Millsap does seem really happy and excited about this season. I really encourage you to read the whole interview, but I agree with his quote from BTS' final question:

"Man, this year's going to be great for the NBA, for basketball, period... It's going to be a good year for us."

Gordon Hayward felt the same as well, in his interview with Jody Genessy of the Deseret News:

"I expect us to do better than we did last year," he said, reflecting back on a better-than-expected 36-30 record and first-round playoff appearance in the lockout-shortened campaign.

"I think as a player you kind of want to improve both as a team and individually from year to year," Hayward added. "I've done that from my rookie to sophomore year. Hopefully I'll do that again this year. Same goes for the team. We missed playoffs first year (39-43 in 2010-11), made it barely the second year, so this year needs to be better than that."

The season is coming!

It's that time of the week for another SLCDunk podcast, and this one is a fun one. This time, Clark and I got together with Peter J Novak, famous on the Internet for being the Utah Jazz go-to guy should Bob Hyde ever go missing.

In this week's podcast, we do some roleplaying, trying to make trades happen for the Utah Jazz; with the Boston Celtics, the Phoenix Suns, and the Golden State Warriors prominently involved. Each of us has a turn roleplaying Kevin O'Lindsey (as we like to call them), the opposing GM, and moderating these trade debates. Do the Jazz end up making a move? Does Clark have a ridiculous accent chosen for Phoenix GM Lance Blanks? Find out below!

SLCDunk Podcast #4

By the way, we're still available on iTunes and Stitcher Radio, for all of you podcast downloading fanatics out there.

The other story in Jazzland today was the continued Raja Bell saga. It's a little bit like the Dwight Howard multi-year kerfuffle, but instead of with a top-5 player in the league, it's with the worst player on the roster! I like our version better.

In lieu of a detailed update, one a responsible journalist would deliver, here instead is a proud moment of Raja's career, along with a recognition that we've talked a little bit too glowingly of someone named Bryant in this Downbeat:

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Have a good day, everyone!

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