As we've said elsewhere today, the Utah Jazz fans will get a chance to see three former players tonight: All-Star power forward Paul Millsap, sharpshooter Kyle Korver, and energy guy DeMarre Carroll. Those three guys are playing big roles this season for this oft-injured Atlanta Hawks team. Millsap has played 1,815 minutes this year and started in 54 of 55 games. Korver has played 1,936 minutes this year and started 57 of 57 games. And Carroll has played 1,686 minutes and started 54 of 54 games. Sure, part of this is due to injuries, but the only other player to have had these types of minutes this year for Coach Mike Budenholzer has been Jeff Teague. This new version of the Hawks also features Lou Williams, Elton Brand, and a fun collection of mis-fits (poor fits for other teams). But the results seem to be the same - Atlanta is on a collision course with a low seed in the Eastern Conference and will most likely be another easy out in the first round.
I guess all it takes to make the playoffs in the East are former Utah Jazz players - we only need to look so far as the Brooklyn Nets (Deron Williams, Andrei Kirilenko) who are going to the playoffs this year, and the Chicago Bulls (Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer) from a while back to see that this is true. So on one hand; perhaps, if the Jazz never left New Orleans they'd have a better record today. (You are all welcome, because now that I mentioned it -- it now exists in some other universe.)
On the other hand, you have to face the fact that guys you cheered for are doing good things in other cities. So how high are these three Hawks flying? Let's find out.
Okay, we know Sap is awesome. I think that's been established already.
We also know that he had a great history here.
For his career in a Jazz uniform Thrillsap has played in 540 regular season games, and started only 49.1% of them, that's a huge difference from the near 100% starting rate he has right now. When you look at the numbers the Atlanta Millsap looks to just be a better player across the board.
Part of this is role. Millsap didn't start for the regularly until his last three seasons. And to be fair, when Sap started to start regularly with the Jazz he did start 216 of 218 games, so that's about equal in proportion to what he's doing in Atlanta. What about his stats?
Well, okay, he's barely playing more but he's a much bigger straw that stirs the drink there this season. Also he's been given the green light to take the three, and he is using that as a legit weapon this year. Millsap isn't averaging a double-double, but he's putting up All-Star numbers on a "playoff" team in the East. He was basically the same guy HERE, but you know . . . that's just how it goes in the Western Conference.
You may remember this guy as the guy who made those shots from far away.
Kyle was a very important part of what the Jazz were doing, but over his years in Utah he only started 2 of 180 regular season games. He wasn't an everyday starter with the Chicago Bulls, but in two seasons with the Hawks he almost is: 117 starts in 131 games. He also is a bigger piece of what he is doing and it's not like he's doing anything too crazy (it's not like the same role change from Millsap as the "sometimes" bench big to being the starter). He's just playing more, and playing like a starter.
His shooting has been even BETTER in Atlanta and that goes with more shot attempts. We already looked at this green light effect a while ago, and it holds true for Deron's BFF in Atlanta this season. He's taking nearly 6 threes a game, which is like Randy Foye territory. And he's still being used as a spot up guy. He's not dribble driving anymore, or creating his own shot. They're just using MORE of him.
Let's not beat around the bush. Before he came to the Jazz our Junk Yard Dog was having trouble even staying in the NBA. He had been cut by several teams and that made him hungry. We brought him back for another season and he didn't really do much except gamble of defense. But that's his game. Or so we thought.
He's the starting small forward for the Hawks this year and he's taking a lot of threes and making them. I guess he is a three and d guy now. (Little d, not Big D because his style is still based on gambling)
His role has changed and that's not all. It seems like he has totally changed his game on offense. It'll be interesting to see the reaction he gets tonight and what he does on the court.
Roles and the Players who play them:
So the Hawks are using these guys differently. With Millsap it's MOREsap. With Kyle, he's not starting and his shooting is benefiting from a green light. And DeMarre is looking like a real NBA player right now. I imagine somewhere Josh Howard is thinking he gets too many assists, but hey, no one is perfect.
I'm impressed with what the Hawks are doing, and also happy that some of our Jazz guys are doing well this season. I think we're also building evidence here that not every player who leaves our franchise gets worse. It's no longer our system that's infallible. Sure, Ronnie Brewer, Gordan Giricek, and C.J. Miles didn't set the world on fire. But Deron Williams is still an All-Star, Carlos Boozer is still yelling at his center to get rebounds, and don't even get me started on Wesley Matthews.
Anyway, tonight Jazz fans will get a chance to see three of their more favorite players of the last few seasons. And probably see them thrive in roles they didn't always have here.