The Downbeat #1243: Ugh ... Cleveland ... WHY?

Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland misses on the glory of Richard Jefferson, Mark Jackson, and HAVE YOU SEEN EMBIID? OMG!

Richard Jefferson stays a Jazz man.  I'm disappointed in you, Cleveland.  You would rather have Luol Deng over Richard Jefferson?  What are you sane?  When did this sudden streak of competence take over your front office?  You could have had a slam dunk trade.  Bynum plus a second rounder for Richard Jefferson, give him a key to the city, and have a "Welcome to Cleveland" banner written in comic-sans ready for him at your meat locker temperature airport today.  Instead you decided to do the "right" thing and trade Bynum and a host of draft picks for a proven all-star.  For shame, Cleveland.  For shame.

Suit up, Jefferson.  I feel another 40 minute explosion coming on.

Mark Jackson said stupid stuff about John Stockton ... again.

"Hornacek -- great shooter. John Stockton -- good to very good shooter. Not a great shooter. Don't get me wrong. He was an all-time great player. But John Stockton would not be considered a great shooter."

There's one of two ways I can go with this.

I could illustrate how John Stockton is actually one of the best shooters from the point guard position in league history which has been done across the entire internet.  But I won't.

I could illustrate how Mark Jackson's Hall of Fame resume would never give him the resume to talk about John Stockton's legacy.  But Mark Jackson is only in the hall of fame when he purchases a ticket at the gates.

I could show how Mark Jackson created a ****storm in John's last year in the locker room because he couldn't take a backseat to a legend.  Stockton was a class act and never even took part is such buffoonery.  But I won't bring that up here.

I could mention how Stockton/Hornacek's backcourt was durable and didn't rely so heavily on a weak ankle that could be hurt at any time.  But I won't.

I could mention a ton of scumbag things here.  But I won't.

The question we should be asking ourselves is why when Mark Jackson is finally showing he belongs as a coach in the highest form of basketball competition does he have to justify his place as a player by demeaning arguably the greatest point guard to ever play the game.  John Stockton has stayed above commenting, for the most part, about that final year with Mark Jackson.  Mark Jackson takes cheap pot shots at the great one.  Like he always does.

I see it as a non-story.  Mark Jackson is yet again trying to build a Tower of Babel of snide remarks in hopes of reaching Point God in the sky, John Stockton.  Nothing to see here other than a punk trying to graffiti John Stockton's career work of art.

Kevin Pelton had some great words of advice to those worried about the Jazz "winning too much", even though I don't think that it will be a particular problem.  Schedule's difficulty increases soon.

The conclusion here isn't necessarily that tanking is a bad idea under the current lottery setup. There's still an argument that Phoenix would be better off with a high draft pick than this year's unexpected success. If you believe this is an uncommonly strong draft, the value of a top-five pick might be higher than the averages indicate, and the Suns' ceiling would probably be greater several years down the road with a high pick than this group. That goes double for teams like the Utah Jazz with a strong cast of complementary players in need of a star. Phoenix might have such an anchor in Bledsoe.

Instead, the lesson to me is in the Gortat trade. Had they kept the veteran big man, the Suns would probably be as successful as they are now if not better, but their future would not be so bright because Gortat has already maxed out his potential. Better to have those minutes going to Plumlee, who might be around for years to come.

The beauty of going young as part of the rebuilding process is that the franchise wins no matter what. Either the young core overachieves, as in Phoenix's case, or a rough season is rewarded with a lottery pick. The franchise's long-term outlook improves in both scenarios.

The chance to improve from within should also hearten fans conflicted about feeling they have to hope their team loses. As long as the team's success is led by players who are part of its long-term future, winning games now doesn't have to be seen as a bad thing. So feel free to cheer on an unexpected run at a playoff spot, Suns fans. (Or unexpected wins, Sixers and Jazz fans.) Your future looks brighter either way.

[Italics added]

Kevin Pelton is completely correct.  If a rebuilding team is getting better and winning as a result of their youth then they are on track in the rebuilding process.  We should be applauding those wins and not mourning the loss of a lottery ball.  But here is where Utah's situation comes into questioning.  If Utah is winning without Kanter and Alec Burks' direct input then are they really winning?  They are not.  They are losing in the short term (lottery balls) and long term (development).  This is how to create a losing culture and organization.  This is accomplishing no one's goals except the goals of a pending free agent coach.

While rebuilding, it is difficult to have the front office goals match up with the coaching staff's goals.  Especially when that coaching staff does not have a guaranteed position with the team next year.  The Chicago Bulls will begin to feel this problem with Thibs quest to win vs the front offices' desire to mail it in for this season.

With the hopes of Richard Jefferson being traded down to a slim no percent chance, the Jazz should move in a different direction now.  If Richard Jefferson plays little minutes going forward that will show us that the Jazz were just showcasing him in the hopes of getting some cap relief and an additional asset.  I can applaud that logic.  But now that the window for that has closed it's time to move on and develop the core.

Now, if Richard Jefferson's twilight-career highs in minutes continue then Ty Corbin will inevitably bear the blame, rightfully or wrongfully so, for playing Richard Jefferson.  The short term goal of moving Jefferson seems lost.  Time to move forward with development and teaching this young core to win basketball games similar to what Phoenix has done with Bledsoe, Green, Morris, and Plumlee.

TANK UPDATE!!!!

Marc Stein talks about this week's TANK RANK.

The Jazz have been basically playing .500 ball since Dec. 13. They aren't beating anyone special, but they've been super competitive with the worst teams in both the East and West. I don't see them making a move to get better, nor do I see them trading away any of their core young players right now.

The bad news if they play .500 ball the rest of the way? They'll move just out of the running for one of the top five guys in the draft.

I don't see the Jazz playing .500 ball the rest of the way.  Youth will get in the way.  Phantom injuries could start cropping up as the Jazz are eliminated from the playoffs.  The schedule becomes brutal again soon.  The Jazz will most certainly be more competitive than they were in November, but they will still be overmatched.  The trade deadline could add more ammunition to the Jazz tank.  We've already witnessed Dennis Lindsey attempting to drill the Golden State trade for more assets.

The Jazz have veterans Richard Jefferson, Marvin Williams, and Brandon Rush who a contender might feel could give them that extra piece of depth to get them over the hump come playoff time.  Rest assured, we have not heard the last of the Jazz's name in trade rumors.  Dennis Lindsey wants more draft picks.


I know there are so many great prospects out there already (Parker, Wiggins, Exum, Smart, Gordon) but it's time to add another one to the list.  Joel Embiid.  He's much watch TV, people.   Peter Bukowski from cnnsi.com writes:

Embiid, playing on a similarly talented Jayhawks team and under a similar disadvantage (he started playing hoops at age 16), is putting up 10.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game in just 21.8 minutes per game. But per 36 minutes, those numbers grow much closer together. Oden averaged 19.6 points and 12.8 rebounds per game, while Embiid is averaging 18 points and 11.5 rebounds per 36 minutes.

Embiid only recently entered the Kansas starting lineup. But as the Jayhawks continue to feed the young shotblocker minutes (his per 36 numbers are similar to Oden's), you can expect his numbers will as well.

More to the point, Embiid, who hails from Cameroon, is not the next Hasheem Thabeet or Bismack Biyombo. Despite his newness to the game, Embiid has already displayed the type of hand-eye coordination and skillset that puts his projected game at another level.

The son of a professional handball player, Embiid grew up playing soccer and volleyball, leading to his excellent coordination. Against San Diego State, Embiid was constantly double-teamed and was still able to find teammates for open shots. That kind of passing ability is an innate feel, and hints at a skill level far beyond recent foreign-born NBA post projects. Embiid also runs like a gazelle, showing a much lower risk on his lower body and back than a player like Oden, who had a slew of red flags health-wise.

Embiid has turned into must watch TV.  I know this seems like groundhog's day for Jazz fans.

"We already have two good front court prospects!  Why add another?"

Because between him and Derrick Favors you have a defensive perimeter around the basket that is the best in basketball that's why.  Dennis Lindsey has said he wants to be a defensive minded team.  Doesn't get any more defensive minded than Derrick Favors and Joel Embiid.

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