The Downbeat #1238: The Twenty Fourteen Edition

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

What you're looking forward to in 2014, questions of alignment between Jazz front office and coaches, Big Al's improved defense, FanPosts, and gifs.

So. 2014, am I right?

(Actually, I'm writing this on Tuesday, so it isn't 2014 yet. YOU ARE READING THIS FROM THE FUTURE. That's how science works, right?)

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via i.imgur.com

Anyway, I thought about doing a New Year's Resolution thing for this Downbeat but decided against it. So you get the usual mix of stray thoughts and observations. And your FanPosts. And gifs. Always gifs.

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via i.imgur.com

What I'm most looking forward to in 2014 is this guy.

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via moni

Did you know that when Trey Burke plays 25 minutes or more, the Jazz have a record of 9-8? IT'S TRUE.

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via i.imgur.com

Of course, there are other factors, including overall team health and depth, and Marvin Williams' solid play as the starting power forward. But I'd still say that's a pretty strong correlation, if not causation.

Everything flows better with Trey on the floor. He makes smart decisions. He doesn't turn the ball over. He's an outside shooting threat. He even hustles for rebounds when necessary.

I don't have a lot of analysis here. I'm just saying, the dude is good. And if I had to pick one Jazz-related thing to look forward to in 2014, Trey Burke would be it.

My_Lo spent part of his Downbeat yesterday discussing the Jazz's distribution of minutes. I won't rehash it all -- you can go read his impassioned and well-reasoned arguments. But what I'm trying to figure out is what the front office actually thinks of it, and what that means going forward.

Dennis Lindsey has basically disavowed all personnel decisions, saying the distribution of minutes is Ty Corbin's alone. So does that mean he's okay with Corbin giving seemingly unnecessary minutes to players with expiring contracts, rather than players in the Jazz's long-term plans? Is Corbin just trying to prove he can win games, to make himself more palatable to other NBA teams who might consider hiring him?

In a Grantland article last week (which I think already got discussed here, but I'll mention it anyway), Zach Lowe posited that the skewed distribution of minutes and the lack of court time for Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter together signified "an instance in which the priorities of the coach and the front office are not perfectly aligned."

So is that really the case? Because when the priorities of an organization and its employee do not align, you know what typically happens? The employee gets fired.

I don't mean that as a banal #FireTy remark. I just mean...that's what happens when you have a job and you don't do it the way your boss wants. You are informed of the company's expectations, and if you don't meet them, you don't work there any more.

I have to think that Dennis Lindsey has been clear about what he expects from Corbin and how he is being evaluated. As has been documented here and elsewhere, Lindsey expected a defensive foundation, disciplined play, and development of the young players as a team.

Clearly, Item 1 is a failure; the Jazz are dead last in defensive efficiency.

Item 2 is difficult to quantify; how do you measure discipline? But let's assume things are fine there.

Item 3 is development. Gordon Hayward has been inconsistent. Derrick Favors has had his ups and downs. And while Alec Burks is unquestionably playing better than ever, Enes Kanter seemingly can't earn enough court time.

Coaches get an unfair share of blame. Ty Corbin can't magically make every player better by himself. Maybe the young Jazz players just aren't as good as most expected. But whether it's fair or not, these were the expectations set for Corbin. And he hasn't met them.

Yet he still has a job. And he seems to be using that job to actively thwart the expectations set for him. But is that because he believes, if he doesn't show other teams he can win games, he may never get another coaching job?

I mean, which is better? Disobey your current boss, or alienate any possible future ones?

I dunno. I'd like to think NBA executives would be smart enough to look at the situation and say, "Wow, the Jazz dealt Corbin a really tough hand, but he did exactly what they asked, and sure, he lost a bunch of games, but he also showed he knows how to develop young players and commit to an organization, even when he has no personal future with that organization."

If I were a future employer, I'd love to see those things. That would mean a lot more to me than winning a few more games.

I don't have any conclusions here. I'm just trying to consider all sides of the situation. What say you? Am I just overthinking it?

Anyway, that's enough rambling from me. Let's get to your FanPosts!

First up: Boufant Puffydoo asks if the Jazz can possibly contend in the future if they don't get a good draft pick now:

There is only a very small chance that one of the current players will develop into the first-team all-NBA player required to contend, and virtually no chance the Jazz can acquire a first teamer in a trade or through free agency. By far, the best chance for contention the Jazz have had, or will have in years, is by drafting 1-5 in this year's loaded draft.

So does that mean the Jazz's 9-8 record when Trey plays 25+ minutes is hurting the team's long-term future? Discuss.

Next: longtimejazzfan polls the Jazz fan base to see how they feel about the team's direction:

Recently, I have become even more conflicted as the Jazz have been winning more and more. I find myself going back and forth like a tennis ball during games, wanting to win which is more my competitive nature and wanting the Jazz to lose in order to get a top draft pick in a loaded draft. (There are a number of top draftees who I think would stay in SLC long term due to their back ground) Can the Jazz win just enough to keep fans excited? what is your number?

Finally, Jason T. Silverman suggests that Gordon Hayward's shooting inconsistency may be due to fatigue:

Rather than play type or shot selection, Hayward’s three-point shooting woes may well be related to fatigue. The Jazz have already played 29 games this season, more than any other team in the league, and Hayward has started them all. The team has played eight back-to-backs this season, second in the league only to Milwaukee (9). The team has also played just three games coming off of two or more days of rest; they are tied with Philadelphia for fewest games in this category. Meanwhile, Hayward has seen his minutes spike from 29.2 minutes per game in 2012 – 13 to 36.0 minutes per game in the current season. In addition, SportVU player tracking data reveals that Hayward has traveled 75.0 miles on the court this season, more than 4 miles farther than any other player in the league.

Great first post, Jason! Welcome to SLC Dunk. Click through to his well-researched article and give him some love, y'all.

Andy Larsen, Fell Lord of Salt City Hoops, had an interesting quote from Bobcats coach Steve Clifford on the team's much-improved defense -- one that includes former Jazz defensive scapegoat Big Al Jefferson:

Remember, last year, Zach Lowe said this about Al:

"We have almost a decade of evidence now that Jefferson's failings on defense outweigh his very real value on offense. His teams have generally been worse with him on the floor than with him on the bench, and that's been true on the defensive end in almost every season in which he's played meaningful minutes, per NBA.com and 82games.com."

Then, today I asked Bobcats coach Steve Clifford about Al's defense before the game:

"His pick and roll defense has been good, but you know what, he has good lateral quickness and he has good instincts. He moves well that way. His help defense has been very good. His coverages and stuff like that have been very good."

He's saying things like this about Al Jefferson! And they're true! This is the result that's really forcing me to reconsider everything I know about evaluating NBA defense, especially individually. I'm lost.

So what do we draw from this? Is it an indication that Ty Corbin simply isn't a good defensive coach, or at least not good enough to have helped Al improve while he was in Utah? Did we misunderstand Al's defensive effect on the team? Or is it just due to a change of scenery in Charlotte, and there's nothing more to extrapolate?

Like Andy, I'm pretty much lost. But it does seem kind of a bummer that Al's playing good defense now, given his scoring ability. Then again, the Bobcats are below .500 in a very weak Eastern Conference, so maybe it doesn't matter.

So what are you most looking forward to in Jazzland in 2014? Check the poll below, or add your own option in the comments.

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