Missing the playoffs gives a lot of time for reflection. Instead of getting amped up for each next game and deluding ourselves that all our team needs is some lucky bounces or to get a particular player more involved, we can just sit back and see how far behind we are from any of these teams. In the east we'd make the playoffs, hell we'd probably be a 4-seed if we played an eastern conference schedule but we are stuck in the wild wild west.
Of the eight west play off teams the only team that looks like they might possibly fall off of the map next year is the Lakers, if Kobe can't come back strong and they loose Dwight. Denver might loose Igoudala, but their style is such that they will still run and gun their way into the playoffs. Houston is going to add a good player to their front-court. Golden State returns everybody but Jarrett Jack. Memphis has a pretty good team construct. OKC and San Antonio are just way better than us and that won't change soon either. This is all regardless of who we bring back next year.
What is a little disheartening for me are the next three teams:
Dallas missed Dirk for 29 games, and while he isn't the offensive dynamo that he used to be, just having him for half of those games probably is the difference between finishing 10th and making the playoffs. Vince Carter probably has some drop off, but Rick Carlisle>Ty Corbin. I fully expect them to have a better record than us next year.
I don't really like Portland as a team. Nothing to do with their GM's giving our young guys offer sheets. Just I don't like LaMarcus Aldridge that much, I think Lillard doesn't have a lot of room for improvement, Nicolas Batum is french. Wesley Matthews is a Bruce Bowen type player but this team seems to be stuck where most recent Jazz teams have been, their best players are almost allstars who take a lot of midrange jumpers. Still they could be better than us next year, I mean at least they have a couple of almost allstars.
Soooo many injuries for Minnesota. It just seems unlikely that happens again next year. They probably loose one of either Kirilenko or Pekovic this offseason and both are great players for them. I don't think they can make the playoffs next year but they have enough talent to "compete" for the eight seed.
Then there is us.
I don't want to look at which of our free agents we bring back next year (it makes me too sad) mainly because I don't think it makes sense to bring any back. I'll touch back on this point later. As it is our roster next year looks something like this:
PG: ???, ???, Burks???
SG: Hayward, Burks???, ???
SF: Marvin, Hayward, ???, Evans???
PF: Favors/Kanter, Kanter/Favors, Marvin, ???, Evans
C: Kanter/Favors, Favors/Kanter, ???
We have two first rounders but KOC does not have a great mid first round track record, and I don't really see any players I like. I don't think we add a lot of talent through the draft this year.
Evans could surprise me next year. He showed flashes of a jumpshot that one game, maybe he can put it together with more time next year.
Marvin Williams is the most invisible player I have seen to average 24 mpg. He plays okay defense, has an okay 3 pt shot, rebounds a little. Just a mediocre player but hey not the worst we've had in recent years. At least he 1) actually played for us and 2) did not take 8.5 shots per game while shooting 24% from 3pt range (Josh Howard you are the worst).
For Dennis Lindsay's sake I am going to refer to these next players as those four young guys upon whom reckless boggers have pinned their hopes on. That is TFYGUWRBHPTHO for short. We have one player who is a proven commodity, one very good defensive player, one mystery man and an Alex Bojorquez.
Let's start with Hayward
How do you think other fanbases or even national media would rank these guys?
Of the good young wings in the league I would not be surprised or offended to see Hayward ranked last by those outside of the jazz fanbase. Personally I think he is better than Parsons, Thompson and Leonard but I could understand arguments for the them over Hayward.
He is the most proven of our young guys and a reasonable case can be made that he is only the 6th best YOUNG wing.
His per36 numbers are about as good as any of them but if we don't bring back any of our free agents (and I hope we don't, at least the big names) he will be the first option on offense and he is going to have some growing pains as other teams load up against him.
The man who should be the defensive anchor of this team for years to come. Offensively he is a little further along than say DeAndre Jordan, and I think he should average 14 ppg next year. However it's going to be hard to be a defensive anchor on such a rudderless ship. Per Grantland's Zach Lowe:
There's also the fact that Utah's defense plays with a weird lack of discipline and unclear, unproductive rules...
There are no clear, consistent rules to Utah's defense.
The Chicago bulls have shown you can hide one bad defender if the players are committed to the scheme. I think we will see the opposite, it is easy to avoid one good defender if the scheme is only marginally existent. For this reason I do not believe we will see Favors make nearly as big of an impact as he can while the current coaching staff is in place.
Next is Favor's front court partner Kanter
I think that there is a very simple question to see if anybody has watched a jazz game this year. What do you think of Enes Kanter? If their response is anything other than, "who?", you know for sure that they have.
I really really like Kanter, he is aggressive yet controlled, miraculously plays better defense than we think, and has a good shooting touch. I also love that in the 14 games he played 20 minutes or more he averaged 12.9 ppg 7.9 rpg in 24 mpg.
He gets blinders on when he gets the ball and does not pass well out of the post. His turnovers are a problem. It seemed like he was getting better (1.5 TOpg pre allstar w/ 14.3 mpg vs 1.3 TOpg post allstar on 18.5 mpg) but this is something he has to work on.
I think he will get better but we could easily that question again. If anyone knows who he is they are probably a jazz fan.
And we know Burks isn't a real point gaurd
Burks could be a really good player. He's athletic as can be, a Manu Ginobli style contortionist and has the size, speed and length to bother even the better point guards of the league. He makes 36% of his threes which is adequate if not great (and good for 4th on the team) and can probably be improved upon.
He could also be just another journeyman player. Maybe Corbin knows what he is doing and Burks isn't playing much because he just isn't good enough to. With such a small sample size we can't really say one way or the other.
So where does that put the core 4's ceiling?
There is a possibility each member of the C4 could reach their full potential but unless Hayward is a multiple all-star type player or Favors becomes DPOY worthy or Kanter starts averaging 23 and 12 I don't see this team being better than a 4 seed. OKC is going to be good for a long long time. I think Memphis and Golden State will be as well. And all those teams are so much better adapted for the current NBA as they either have incredible 3 pt shooting (GS), a stringent defense (Memphis) or a bit of both (OKC). Other western teams are going to improve too.
It's a little depressing but our best hope is to be playoff contenders, not actual contenders.
The Jazz need to tank next year and hard. There is no reward for being 12th best in the west that's good for just the 10th pick. Also with very little money even on the books there is no financial incentive, you make more money being cheap than by signing best available FA's and missing the playoffs (that's something I learned from Donald Sterling btw).
Then throw in the fact that next years drafts is supposed to be one of those epic, once in a decade drafts with Andrew Wiggins being a guaranteed no. 1, two 6'5" pg's and Jabari Parker all likely to be top 5 worthy. There is a big incentive to swing for the fences on this one. Anyone of those guys would be flat our transformative (red squiggly line telling me that is not a real word) for this team.
So I am going to say something that almost makes me cringe. Dennis Lindsay, Kevin O'Connor, bring back Josh Howard!