The Jazz play again in the Orlando Summer League today! Hooray! They tip off at 1:00 pm Utah time against the Houston Rockets. Houston won their first game 88-80 against the Philadelphia 76ers, and were also idle yesterday.
In their first game they scored 88 points -- largely off the benefit of going to the line 41 times (but making only 68.3 ft%). Terrence Jones finished with 24 points, 12 rebounds, and 1 assist. The power forward even displayed three point range, but was a turn over machine (5). Beyond him the team had balanced scoring with six players scoring between 8 to 10 points (Tyler Honeycutt, Greg Smith, James Anderson, Patrick Beverley, Jack Cooley, and Casper Ware). If you've been following this site along for a few years you'll see some familiar faces. The Jazz have worked out a lot of these guys in pre-draft workouts before.
While it's fun to scout the opposition again, there are two big reasons for playing Summer League games. The first one is to see what you have on your squad; but probably the larger one is to see what other teams have on their teams.
Tyrone Corbin and Jerry Sloan are down there in Orlando right now, along with all the other parts of our coaching staff (from Sidney to Smitty). We don't see Kevin O'Connor there, but I bet you a million dollars all those full-time NBA scouts Dennis Lindsey hired are there. If you watch the games on TV / Online you see that there are limited seats at floor level. The guys running the team sit on the sidelines, but the guys running the show are sitting on the baseline.
We have a healthy contingent of people coming to Orlando, just like what we saw at Chicago.
It's fun to see our younger guys, their improvement, or getting them into game shape -- but training camp starts in October. There are a lot of months still for guys to work on their bodies and games before the season. It's fun to "win" summer league. But for the Jazz brass, winning summer league in this case means finding the diamond in the rough on another team, and snatch them up before the other team knows how good their player is. We did that with Wesley Matthews back in the day. And finding that next diamond in the rough is Jerry Sloan's primary job right now down there.
Why? Well . . .
We've been very lucky as fans of the Utah Jazz because we've always seemed to have a very strong scoring forward, and exemplary point guard play. In our history we've had Adrian Dantley, Karl Malone, Carlos Boozer, and most recently Al Jefferson (just didn't get to play power forward here much due to our roster) to put the ball in the hoop. And we've had guys like Pete Maravich (SG/PG), Rickey Green, John Stockton, and Deron Williams to get them the ball. We've been blessed.
Of course, some would say that we've been cursed at the shooting guard spot, almost if Jeff Hornacek is the mummified master of a disturbed tomb who has placed a curse on us after he retired. We have two fellows on the squad right now who could be good shooting guards: Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks. We may see Hayward increasingly more at the small forward spot, the spot he dominated in college.
And well, few have been on the Burks train longer than I have, but even I have reservations about him. Mainly, he fails my own criteria for a starting shooting guard. (I guess this is me being spoiled by Horny during my peak Jazz fan years) Particularly, Alec just doesn't shoot well enough from the free throw line (forgetting all of my other metrics for assist to turn over ratio, or three point attempts per game).
And again, I LOVE Burks. But he's got to get better. In college he went 77.2 ft% as a freshman, then 82.5 ft% as a soph, and finished with a combined 80.4 ft%. That's good enough for me (the cumulative score). He hasn't brought that to the pros yet. In his rookie year he shot 72.7 fg%, and that went DOWN last year to 71.3 ft%. He has a combined NBA FT% of 72.1 ft%. That does not meet my standards. Maybe my standards are wrong? Two guys who have been solid wing players, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, shot less than 80 ft% last season and were MVP candidates (James voted #1, Wade voted #10). But they bring more to the table and can dominate games. We haven't see that from Burks yet at this level. Therefore, for his impact to increase Alec needs to be more efficient.
So he really needs to work on his shot at the line, dude went 1/4 in his first summer league game this year -- as a 3rd year player.
Well, do any players ever meet my lofty standards? According to Basketball Reference.com, a few do.
Here are all the guys who played for the Jazz, were between the heights of 6'3 and 6'6 (removing point guards like Deron Williams), who played at least 1,500 season minutes, and shot at least 80.0 FT% and 35.0 3PT%.
First, it's a short list. Second, FG% is listed here just for fun. Third, Jeff Hornacek spoils it for everyone else for being so freakin' good.
I'm not expecting Hayward or Burks to be 50/40/90 guys. But I expect both of them to at least be reasonable at FG%, while being 35/80 guys. (For the record, for his NBA career totals Gordon is at 40/81 right now -- but again, going to play a lot of small forward this year it looks like.)
So . . . Jeff is gone and his shooting coaching is gone too. What about Dell Curry though? Dell only played one season with the Jazz, his rookie season, where he ended up going 43/28/79. Not exactly lighting the nets on fire. But he finished his career shooting 45.7 fg% / 40.2 3pt% / 84.3 ft%. He's also demonstrated an ability to help young people learn how to shoot -- just look at his sons Stephen Curry and Seth Curry. I nominate Dell Curry to be added to the team's player development coaching staff asap. Which in Jazz years means after the next coaching change.
N.B. Yeah, Wes is on this list. That's why summer league matters. We found him IN summer league . . .
Have you looked at our roster? Have you looked at our roster from last season? Last season, it can be argued, that we had one of the most balanced and talented rosters in Jazz history. EVER. We didn't have a star, but we've never had as strong a bench as a counter point. Seriously. Last season we had not only ONE but TWO young bigmen who could change a game off the bench, and if given the chance, flirt with (or seal the deal with) a 20/20 game. That's how strong our bench was inside. For parts of the season off the bench we also had two wing players who were game changers as well. And we also fielded two veteran point guards with over 15,000 minutes of NBA experience under their belts -- who could make easy shots for their squads.
We started a former All-Star at point guard who won us and lost us some games through shooting. We had a shooting guard who broke team records for outside shooting. And up front we started two guys who were very significant All-Star Snubs. We should have been a really solid team last year, but we weren't. I guess we were lesser than the sum of our parts.
But don't mistake it -- we had some really good parts last year.
This year though? This year we don't have a once-in-a-lifetime bench. We have one of the most anemic benches ever. (And I feel as though Alec Burks and his robust game is going to be our sixth man next year while Brandon Rush and his more efficient shooting starts) This season will give a lot of fodder for the "anti-youth movement" guys as we start most of our youth, and don't have the support system to back them up. So they'll be playing better competition for the majority of their on-court minutes, while also not having the benefit of having their bench guys beat up and bring the team back into games in the 2nd quarter.
It's going to be an interesting season when your top 8 rotation guys are: Trey Burke, Brandon Rush, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks, Marvin Williams, and a point guard to be named later.
There are going to be some lumps -- but necessary and long over-due lumps for sure by my reckoning. The strategy of trying to 'win now' all the time and lucking into a Deron Williams (because of massive in-season injuries) is not repeatable. The strategy of finding two Hall of Famers in consecutive drafts in the #11-20 pick range is similarly not repeatable.
Taking our lumps is the only reasonable option here, unless we decide to make a lot of wholesale changes by importing a lot of nightclubs, girls, money and beaches.
SERIOUSLY GUISE! DELL CURRY!
So . . . who leads the team in FT% this year?