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Utah Jazz Player Previews - Mehmet Okur

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Who is this Guy?

Do you realize that Memo is going on his 8th season as a member of the Utah Jazz? In fact, he should pass Deron Williams for 10th all-time in minutes played in a Jazz uniform this season. Hard to believe that it's been over 7 1/2 years since the Jazz signed the Detroit restricted free agent.

He was one of the core components of Kevin O'Connor's last rebuilding reloading project. He was brought on with Carlos Boozer in order to quickly build the team back into a contender. He brought a dynamic component to the team, an efficient three-point shot that opened up the middle for Boozer. Surprisingly, he only shot 27%

in his first full season in Utah. Since then, it's been Memo, Money, Three! The high arcing shot from deep has been his trademark during his tenure with the Jazz. He's probably missed out on a few hundred points though by having his toe on the line.

That next season is when he took over the starting center position for good. Since that time, Memo has played in at least 72 games a season until he tore his Achilles tendon in the 2010 playoffs against Denver and missed most of the 2011 season. In normal circumstances, he shouldn't have even been playing due to the tendinitis in his Achilles. However, it was game one of the playoffs and his team needed him. He got a pain-killing shot and went to work. He was putting his career on the line for the good of the team.

That's part of the reason why I was disappointed to hear the rumors this season that the Jazz could use the amnesty clause on him. I didn't think it would happen given that it didn't give the Jazz anything other than some cap space. Sure, he still would have been paid, but it would have been an unceremonious dumping of one of the most beloved Jazz players in recent history and one that has been nothing but loyal to the team.

Now he's in the last year of his contract, an extension he signed two years ago after he opted in on the last year of his initial six-year deal. From all accounts from training camp, he's fully recovered from his Achilles injury and looks better than ever. Even more, he hasn't reported back pain which was one of the main things that kept him out last season. He should have a typical Memo season though with reduced minutes. The dynamic he brings to the team though can't be overlooked. With a squad that lacks a consistent three-point shooter, he may be called upon more often that we think.

He'll also be tutoring and mentoring the future in Enes Kanter. The two have developed an instant bond it seems given their common homeland. Kanter has the range of Memo right now and some better post moves. In time, he could develop into the next Turkish NBA All-star. It has to be an honor for Okur to help a fellow native of his home country develop and mature in the NBA.

Memo's stated that he has about 3-4 more years in him. Hopefully he gets more than this season to help Kanter. Wherever that may end up, I look forward to him toeing three-pointer for years to come.

More after the break

How Does He Fit?

It is going to be really fun to have Mehmet Okur back and healthy on the team. While I mildly disagreed with the extension we gave him back in the day, and while he is certainly overpaid this season, I can't believe how quickly Jazz fans have just been able to sweep the Money Man under the rug. Almost every comment about Okur this offseason from Jazz fans, has been about trading him, or using the amnesty clause on him. Few have talked about how valuable he will be to a team that has been short on quality 3 point shooters since the glory days. If you don't count last season, which you shouldn't in Memo's case, Okur hasn't shot under 38% from beyond the arc in a season since 2006. He's in a word..."Money."

Memo won't be waived via the amnesty clause. And I don't think he will be traded either, although many, many teams will want to trade for him. Here's the thing: every contending playoff team that needs a stretch big, which is almost all of them, will want Okur on their team. If you don't believe me, go look at Bill Simmons' twitter timeline and count how many times he has already tried to trade Okur to his beloved Celtics or Clippers. But what could a contending team offer the Jazz that would make it worth trading him? If they are a team in contention, they aren't going to trade a good rotation player. And if they are offering picks, it isn't going to be a top 16 pick if it comes from a playoff team. Plus, and this is crazy, but maybe the Jazz just value Okur for his veteran ways and his ability to take Enes Kanter under his wing. To me, that probably has more value to the franchise than a late first round pick or Mo Williams (Bill Simmons' trade offer for Mehmet).

Two more things before I'm done. One is that I have a hard time seeing Millsap or Jefferson staying with the Jazz after 2013, but I can see Okur signing a small contract with the Jazz after this season, in order to be the veteran backup big man off the bench. And if Millsap or Jefferson is traded between now and next offseason, I think it is very likely. Utah has been and should be loyal to Okur and he might return the favor.

Secondly, I have mentioned it before and Yuccaman has certainly advocated as well, but Okur deserves to start as much as any big on this Jazz team. He won't say it and he doesn't care, so I'll say it for him. He was a starter before he was injured. He has a super unique skill set and helps the offense dramatically AND he sacrificed his own health for the good of the team. I don't think he will start, but anyone who thinks Jefferson or Millsap, or even Favors is more "deserving," doesn't have a leg to stand on. So here's to you, Mehmet Okur, retiring a Jazz man. That or else pursuing another ring after you're done here. May the Jazz never trade you. And please show Enes how to be clutch and how to shuffle run down the court so awkwardly like you.


Hopes, Dreams, and Deepest Fears

What do you hope for from your fourth big man? Look at the minutes given to Elson and Fesenko last year and repeat the question: What do you hope for from your fourth big man? Al and Millsap are the returning starters. Favors is not only the future, but ready for a big role now.

So what do you hope from your fourth big man? Last year the fourth big man played 8 minutes per game. That's with Sap and Al playing 35 each, and Favors getting 18. What's going to happen if Favors gets the 30 he deserves?

What can you realistically hope for from your fourth big man?

I'll be honest. This is the point that I really struggle with my hopes and expectations for this team. It's at this point that the roster seems so hopelessly out-of-whack.

Memo will be back. From all accounts, he's fully healthy, in shape, and ready to be the same guy we saw draining clutch threes, coming in the paint classic slo-mo-Memo style, and even making an All-Star team. And a funny factoid: Basketball-reference ranks Memo's sixth most similar player as Carmelo Anthony (based on total statistical contributions-not playing styles, obviously). We forget, but a healthy Memo is worth so, so, SO much more than eight minutes per game.

How do guys coming back from achilles tears respond? Dominique Wilkins scored 29.9 points per game. Elton Brand has been about 75% the player he was before. So there's precedent for strong hopes. And lest we forget, Memo's game was never exactly based on quickness, speed, and explosiveness.

So he ought to be good. He can do the same things that made him so valuable before: spread the floor, keep a post defender out at the three-point line, and nail the huge 3's (or toe-on-the-line 2's). His defense has never been great, but we've played plenty of guys who were worse.

So what do we hope for?

To me the Great Lessons of AK-47 are: 1) don't artificially constrain an otherwise good player into a smaller role than he ought to fill, and 2) don't pay a guy huge money and then shove him into a small role. Our team is on the verge of repeating both mistakes.

I don't feel capable of writing what the majority of us hope for and fear about Mehmet Okur this year. It's too varied.

So I'll state what I hope: I hope he stays. I hope he helps Enes Kanter feel at home and happy. I hope he puts in some major fight to get his starting spot back-a spot that was never actually earned by anyone else. I believe the best situation to help Favors and Kanter achieve everything they can is to have Memo be the third big-starting and getting more minutes than Kanter for this year, and then switching roles as Kanter develops and Memo ages.

I want to see big threes. I want to see Slo-mo-Memo drives. I want him pull defenders out of the paint, keeping it open for Burks and Hayward drives.

Memo's given everything we could have asked for. He played on a sore achilles to in the Jazz's last playoff push, and then ruptured it in the first game of the playoffs. Then he worked his butt off to come back four months earlier than expected. And I believe he'll have his uniform hanging in the rafters one day.

Jon Midget, aka Yucca

Why do we like this guy?

The second I heard Memo's voice at training camp, I smiled. He's just so darn likeable.

From his singsong voice to his perpetual bed hair to MONEY! to him mocking Kobe with a big balls dance to his annual big game against the Pistons to him giving the Jazz credibility in the hot NBA wives discussion to what he's going to do for Kanter to how hard he worked to get back last year to his awkward one-footed kung-fu push shot to how he averaged a career high 1 BPG in '09-'10 to how he spreads the floor...I am so happy that Memo is back.

He's a former All-Star. He's played for his national team. He started for the Jazz until his injury. And yet, he's saying however many minutes Coach wants to play him, if Coach wants to bring him off the bench, he's good.

What's not to love?

Utah Jazz Awkward Knuckle Bump (via mrbwnstn)