The Downbeat #1151 -- The "Gearing up for the preseason" Edition

Ronald Martinez

The 2013-14 NBA season is creeping up on us. We all know that. But do you know that at this time next month our beloved Utah Jazz would have already played in 5 preseason games! Yes, we would have already played the Golden State Warriors, Portland Trail Blazers, Los Angeles Clippers, the Blazers again, and then the Oklahoma City Thunder. Three games at home, two on the road, and on back-to-back set within it. Because of our schedule (which you may or may not remember off the top of your head) the Jazz have three days off between the Clippers and Blazers, and then another three days off between the Blazers and Thunder.

Jazz_2013_2014_schedule_-_01_oct_medium

That's an extra week in Utah where, ideally, the team will basically have a secondary mini-training camp. I expect the Jazz to make final cuts for the team on that Saturday. The Jazz play four more preseason games that week (Starting with the Thunder game). Then the real games start.

The preseason wins don't win much, but the preseason is super important because, ideally, it should give you a no-risk chance to try out different on-court situations. One of the no-risk. on-court situations that smart Jazz fans were eager to see LAST season was to see Alec Burks getting some reps at point guard. Why do I call Jazz fans who wanted to see that smart? I call them smart because they were able to identify that Mo Williams gets injured every year, and his two backups are also injury prone guys on the wrong side of 30. One of them (Earl Watson) is coming off of a season ending injury, and the other (Jamaal Tinsley) may or may not be good to go every game because of the greater load he will have to take as the other two guys got injured.

Well, what happened?

Last training camp the retroactively never-falliable Tyrone Corbin did not decided to try out Burks at point guard. He did try out a Randy Foye (at PG) / Alec Burks (at SG) lineup in the second quarter of the second preseason game (against the Golden State Warriors), and never went back to it. Well, that's not true. Tyrone Corbin had to go back to a Burks/Foye backcourt later on in the actual regular season when the guys some of us thought would get injured ended up actually getting injured. (What are the odds of that?)

For those who are missing the point here, the preseason is where you can try out on-court situations in a no-risk environment. During our "playoff push" in the regular season the games are explicitly true-risk situations where the games count and matter.

I hope that THIS preseason Tyrone Corbin doesn't wish to repeat his mistakes of the previous preseason. Think outside the box Ty. Learn to adapt. Ty, I think this season you really need to show us that you got better and/or are better. It honestly starts with the no-risk situations of actually coaching during pre-season again too.

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Have you been following this thing that ESPN is doing? Yeah, ESPN is the king of sports because they will do something that actually means nothing -- but cause so much reaction and force ripples all over the sports world. So it's that time of year again where they construct a council of NBA experts, and then they try to find a consensus ranking of NBA players from bottom to top.

Because this is the third season they are doing this, we're beginning to see some trends. Some trends follow logic, so when a high draft pick is drafted he has a modest ranking; but if that player increases their status around the league (through promotional work, or actual on court production), then their assumed talent increases. And this leads to a higher consensus score from the people who vote on these things. An example of this would be the rises of Kyrie Irving and Stephen Curry. Another thing that follows naturally is the decline of an older player. Over the last few years we've seen Derek Fisher drop eac season.

Sometimes an NBA vets recognized and his rating goes up -- like the case of Kyle Korver. Before he was known just for shooting, but his efforts on defense and on the glass have made people notice him more. Good for you Kyle.

Outside of logical effects, there are illogical effects which affect these rankings. The biggest one I see (because it's ESPN after all) is the perception of a player based upon where they play. There are two big examples of this in my mind . . . the first is DeMarre Carroll -- who has gone up season from season as the #397 player to #380 . . . and now that he's no longer on the Jazz, and instead playing with the Atlanta Hawks, his number from last season to this season has jumped up to #302! That's about a one hundred point jump in one season. (78 spots) Is Carroll actually a better player now than he was two years ago (making it a 95 spot rank increase)? Did he work out all summer long on his jumper? A huge part of this appears to be perception based, and the major change for Carroll is which team he plays for.

The opposite effect (a player joining the Jazz, and losing rank) is also true. Two years ago Richard Jefferson was the #130th best player in ESPN player rank. Last preseason he fell a bit to #181. This off-season, now on the Jazz? He's #306. That's almost double the drop of DeMarre over the last two seasons. Richard is on the downside of his career, agreed. But I don't think he has fallen off twice as far as DeMarre has gained. So much so that a former Olympian and NBA All-Star is worse than an energy guy who can't shoot and gambles on defense and fouls too much.

ESPN is still in the process of this so we'll see how the rest of the guys fill out. But there are a few players to watch, like Brandon Rush (who went up from 269 to 180 last year, as a "young player on the upswing" we'll see if he goes down again due to Injury and being on the Jazz -- we may need to investigate this further).

I'm putting all the data in chart form, and including 55 players in it -- so you know -- sample sizes.

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This year at the three we have Gordon Hayward and Richard Jefferson. When they return to full health, we can presume to see a lot of Marvin Williams and maybe a little of Brandon Rush here. Derpending on what our coaches do this year we may even see Alec Burks here at times (because we know he isn't a point guard -- we know that. He's just visiting Spokane because he's a huge Bing Crosby fan). I want to add one more name to the list: Jeremy Evans.

Evans can't dribble. He doesn't have a three point shot. He isn't a traditional slasher. So why mention him as a potential three?

It's called defense.

He doesn't have the foot speed or overt quickness, but he has superior length and athleticism (which, btw, quickness is a part of) to most other players on the floor, including threes. He can challenge, change, and crush shots. And he would be a good 'left hander' to bring out of the bullpen to play spot defense on a player to give them a different look for 3-5 min sections on a long night.

I'm not worried about Evans on offense. There are enough ball handlers on the court and enough post up guys. He is great at moving without the ball, and cutting to the basket. (Just how do you think David Benoit scored points for us all those years as a starter?) Guys like Gordon Hayward will always be looking for him, and having him on the court makes all point guards smile. I would not be against playing Evans at the three for a little bit during the part of the season when Marvin is still out, and Brandon has his minutes monitored.


We're used to this stuff.

But in reality Evans does more than just work on his jumping in the off-season. It shows. During the Summer League he displayed an ability to shoot spot up jumpers from 15-18 feet with a repeatable stroke with repeatable results (the ball went in). People will leave him open, and he's good enough now to make shots from that Matt Harpring distance. That's still a generation or two behind where today's small forwards make their money from, but baby steps here in Utah.

Evans has more game than he has been able to show here. I would love to see him get a chance to prove to others that he is more capable than the doubters assume. It's almost like this pre-season would be a good time to see if he can play the three on defense a bit. So this means he'll start at center in one game.

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Moni has the best Utah Jazz blog on the entire internet. SLC Dunk, Salt City Hoops, Uncle Dale's Jass Cite, etc, these are all inferior blogs.

Just click on this now.

(re-post from Diana's downbeat)

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We did a podcast. It's not replacing the old / better podcast that's headed up by Spencer. Listen to his stuff ! It's just another one that we'll use to get more voices online and interview cats and dogs online. Woof. Meow. If you did not get a chance to listen to you -- and you should listen to it in parts -- you can here.

The season IS fast approaching. And things like this are going to be on this webpage more and more; but that's not all we're going to be doing. To help us better plan how we cover the Utah Jazz this year, please vote below and tell us what you are interested in!

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