Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE
There's really no doubt about it, unless you are the Los Angeles Lakers or Miami Heat -- you are envious of the Utah Jazz because we have some amazing bigs. We have quality. We have quantity. We have size, skill, and depth. The only thing we don't have is a nonathletic, cagey vet who has a stretch shooting ability -- but teams have survived without having a Rasheed Wallace or Mehmet Okur on their roster. (And we can play Marvin Williams at the 4 if we need to... so there's that.) In a way, we're thriving as it is. The Jazz start Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap; while bringing a group of Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, and Jeremy Evans off the bench.
Yes, there's only 96 minutes to play, and everyone recognizes that there isn't enough minutes to go around to give everyone their optimum number of minutes. That's true. But we need to change how we look at things. It's not that "Oh, Utah has too many bigs, and they can't find time for all of them." The thing we do need to focus on is still time related though. But it's not what you think. What it is, is that because of the Jazz' quality depth the Jazz will make every game a living hell for all the other teams this year for the full 48 minutes.
We'd love to have more minutes a game to spare for Favors, Kanter, and Evans -- not just because their play on the court demands minutes -- but because we'd love to curb stomp your shrimpy front line for as long as we can. The minutes problems is not that we can't play them all as much as we want. The minutes problem is that we can ONLY kick your sorry team's butt out of the paint for 48 minutes.
I'm not bragging here, but I kind of am. #BraggingBrag
While the Jazz bigs haven't looked amazing this preseason, we know that the larger data set, or sample size, is their previous history in the league coupled with what we've seen them do in the off-season. The preseason has only been 288 minutes so far. That's not a lot of time. That said, we can see some things to beat our chest about, and also some causes for concern.
The Preseason Stats (so far):
This is just a mix of some regular statistics and some advanced statistics...
If you wanted to be upset it would be for the PPS for Big Al. But to defend Jefferson, he's only taking 9 shots a game, and he's not doing so hot right now. Part of that could be due to the pace of the game that we are now playing as a team. I don't know . . . but I do know that the other 4 guys are all above league average in PPS. Paul should be shooting better from the free throw line. Derrick needs to be scoring better as well, but he gets to the line.
The Per 36 Minute Stats (so far):
Wow, so we have two guys averaging double doubles, and everyone swats the ball? Somehow this is a problem? It's not.
If anything, if you want to be upset about something it would be that Big Al isn't killing it on offense, and Derrick Favors isn't killing it on offense. There really isn't much to complain about here. Also, Enes kanter is playing like a beast. Or perhaps he is a beast, and we didn't know it before?
- The biggest problem, if there is one, is that our guys are all under-rated. None of them will be All-Stars despite playing like them during long stretches of the season. The media, the league, other fans, and yes the refs, will all be favoring the other side. No kid in China is going to be wearing an Enes Kanter jersey. And we all know that Omer Asik is going to start in the all-star game this year. Our guys aren't highly regarded -- and that may mean we get the short end of the stick on some ref calls. But hey, we're already used to that.
- We don't have a true 7' guy on the roster. Of course, if Kanter's neck was a little longer we would. Most teams have a true 7' footer on their team, and one true star. We have no star, and these five guys are between 6'8 and 6'11. I guess that's where our depth and quality comes into play. We don't have the biggest players, but overall, they are all very big. And we don't have the best players, or most highly regarded ones -- but overall, again, they are all very good. Jeremy Evans would average 20 mpg on some other teams in this league.
- Right now we don't have a dominant scorer according to the data from the preseason. That said, we know Big Al is clutch and can pretty much score on anyone (he can!), and even Enes Kanter is getting doubled hard in the paint as soon as he catches the ball now. We don't have Shaq on our team who averages 23-12 and was hyped up and 7'1. But we do have five guys who will all work their butts off who are under 7' tall, and all under the radar.
Three Huge Advantages:
- All of these guys change and block shots at an above average NBA Bigman level. And they all do it in different ways. Millsap gets to blocks through his mobility. Favors blocks shots because of good timing and solid defensive instincts + crazy athleticism. Big Al blocks shots on his man better than taller guys, because of his post IQ. Enes blocks shots because he's just too damn big. And Jeremy blocks shots because he's capable of bending time and space. Previous Jazz teams only had one guy on the roster to block shots -- be it Mark Eaton, Greg Ostertag, or Andrei Kirilenko. Right now this team has 5 guys who can wreck teams who try things in the paint. This team can block bigs isolating, they can block wings cutting, and they can block small guards going for layups. There's a good mix of help defenders and man defenders in this group. And none of these guys are foul magnets either.
- No matter what gym we play in, we own the glass. This is also partly due to our wings helping out -- but it's mostly our bigs. And they are demonstrating this so far in the preseason. Per 36 minutes -- these guys total 53.7 rebounds. That's impossible, so if you divide that by 5 (for the 5 guys) that's an AVERAGE of 10.74 boards per 36 minutes. Over the course of a game that means our bigs (over 96 minutes) are pulling down 28.7 rebounds by themselves. That's only 2 of the 5 positions on the floor. No wonder why the Jazz are averaging 47.8 rebounds a game so far this preseason. Oh, and it's not just that we're winning the battle on the boards because we're big. We're winning it because we're not leaving much for the other team to rebound. The other team is only averaging 9.7 offensive rebounds a game. Last season the Jazz gave up 11.0 offensive rebounds a game, and we were #11th best at keeping the other team off the glass (and #3 at defensive boards). We dominated on the glass last year, and we're better this year.
- Other teams will get frustrated and be "consistently doing stupid sh*t" all season long because they're getting their butts kicked -- and all of our guys don't back down from physical challenges, but don't throw the first punch either. (Sorry Darnell Jackson) Just in these last 6 games we've had something like 8 different times when we've had a 3rd or 4th chance shot. Part of this is the activity of our wings (like Alec Burks and DeMarre Carroll) -- but really, it's our bigs. Our bigs are playing big. And you know the other teams don't have the size to deal with us. They just don't. They are puny. Other teams can't even keep their bigs healthy -- Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Love, and Amare Stoudemire are all considered All-Star bigs. And all of them are already injured this season. And we have one week still before the season starts. What we will do to other teams in the paint this season would, in any other situation, be considered a war crime.
Remember it's not that finding playing time is the problem. The real Big Trouble in little Utah is going to be the little front lines we face, and the big trouble ours will cause.