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Sunday Syncopation #27

Last year we had a pretty exciting off-season of ups and downs: with the draft, with free agency, and then with trades. New to the team was Gordon Hayward, the highly coveted and protected Knicks draft pick – as a result he would be under the microscope. Lost were Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, Wesley Matthews and others. The Jazz traded for Al Jefferson and our team was back. We’d end up sweeping the preseason and with Mehmet Okur’s impending return the Jazz would be well on their way towards clinching homecourt – something the Jazz failed to do every year Boozer was on board. Well, 82 games later and we know that’s exactly the type of season we had, right?

  • First of all, I gotta say that this was one humdinger of a season, wasn’t it? Sweeping three Eastern Conference contenders (Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Atlanta Hawks) in the same road trip; numerous come from behind victories; Jerry Sloan swearing up a storm . . . it is all so distant now, that November was but a happy memory of an era long forgotten. In reality those were just games 4 to 19.
  • Second, I really expected something different from our team. I was super optimistic about our chances, forgetting that teams integrating in 6 new guys rarely are sharp. The preseason domination really fooled me up. I thought that our schedule would allow for us to go close to 50 wins, if not surpass that mark. As you know, we missed the playoffs with a grand total of 39 wins. I felt like we could handle some injuries . . . but you know how that goes with our team . . .
  • According to Basketball Prospectus among the many, many games Jazz players lost to injury and were unavailable this past season, our team ranks only 11st hardest hit in the NBA. That seems hard to swallow as our team was suiting up something like 7 guys during some stretches. At least, that’s the perception of it – we lost 144 games. The Milwaukee Bucks lost the most, 267 games, over 15 players. Which team was 2nd least hardest hit? The Oklahoma City Thunder only had 53 players lost to injury game metric thingy. I really don’t know what this is called. Available player games? Who knows? Anyway, the Jazz are more harder hit than average – but far from the most injured.
  • For the record, I don’t think these numbers include Mehmet Okur’s missed season – as a result he was totally forgotten by the media as pundits continued to trash our team based upon an injured and unfinished roster.
  • Losing a lot of guys only make it seem like our bench was worse than it actually could have been. In theory, we had some good bench parts. I just don’t know how well they worked together with some of the other players on the team. A group of Earl Watson, C.J. Miles, Gordon Hayward, Mehmet Okur, and Francisco Elson seems like a solid group back in the pre-trade days. Not to belabor the point here, but Okur played in only 168 minutes this season. I’m pretty sure at one point TheShums had played at least 120 minutes this year. It’s easy for the bench to suck when the team is all kinds of injured, and the only consistent guy who can score on the bench played in only 13 games.The Jazz used 59 different lineups this season. Let’s play finding Memo (not Nemo) and see which lineups, if any, he appeared in:
  • Watson-Price-Miles-Kirilenko-Okur (26 mins) +/- of +9
  • Williams-Bell-Miles-Okur-Elson (15 mins) +/- of -3
  • Williams-Bell-Miles-Millsap-Okur (9 mins) +/- of -2
  • Watson-Price-Miles-Okur-Elson (8 mins) +/- of -7
  • Watson-Williams-Miles-Kirilenko-Okur (8 mins) +/- of +4
  • Wait, what? Oh yeah, Deron Williams used to play shooting guard for us at times. I totally forgot about that . . . anyway. These sample sizes are so tiny. But that first line-up had an Offensive rating of 1.36. If that team played the whole game, they would score 124.4 points, and they shot it at a rage of 63.8 fg%. It wasn’t the best defensive line-up out there, nor the best rebounding one, but it’s was painfully obvious that adding even a little bit of Memo to our Swarm-y type lineups paid huge offensive dividends. Making one player change (from Okur to Kyrylo Fesenko) changes the points per 48 mins from 124.4 all the way down to 96.0. Of course, Fesenko isn’t without his own talents (the rebound percentage from this change went from 45% to 56%). Still, the point I’m trying to make is that we really missed Memo, and we can’t evaluate our current team without seeing him at least back to 80% and running with our crew. A second string bigman set of Derrick Favors doing his inside work while Memo draws people outside = dominating other team’s second string bigs. Write it down. Put it in a book. Put that book in the Library of Congress. And shoot the Library of Congress into space so distant civilizations can learn about how Okur and Favors can own other team’s 2nd string bigs.
  • It seems like this episode of the Syncopation is very high in Memo-rabilia. (see what I did there?)



  • I don’t think I can get away with flashy movies (flashy? Really?) and simple observations of injuries when trying to talk about this season alone. Jerry Freakin Swanson Sloan was a heck of a player and a heck of a coach. If he was ever in a fight against Phil Jackson – be it in 1970 or be it in 2010 – you know Sloan would have clowned his punk fake-zen @$$ into the nursing home. It’s the guy who’s willing to die that’s going to win a life or death fight. Sloan fought for this franchise for years. I miss him still, but he knows in his heart that he didn’t have anything left to give. He didn’t hold back. He’s not in it for records (which he could have sleepwalked to), or money – he was in it to do his job. He did his job. He turned countless boys into men. And transformed men into Western Conference champions. He took dirt, spit in his hands, rubbed them together, and made a team that almost made the playoffs with Ben Handlogten as the first big off the bench. The only adversity Jackson had to deal with was bending over to reach his cane. Jerry Effing Sloan.
  • Similarly, Deron Williams was a beast for the Jazz. We took him 3rd in the draft and he did everything on offense for us from bringing the ball up the court, passing the ball to the right guy in scoring position, setting tough screens, to even playing 2 guard and knocking down threes. He had the best handles in the league. I don’t even know what’s going on with him in Jersey, but the Jazz traded him and avoided a Melo-drama. For better or for worse, his chapter in the Jazz history books is now closed. He didn’t go down with the ship in our most tragic season; but don’t forget that he also powered us to 9 playoff wins in his first trip to the post season.
  • Devin Harris wouldn’t be half bad if he knew how to pass the ball . . . a whole training camp with the Jazz will no doubt help us. I’m prematurely calling him a stop-gap, and not another in the long, nearly unbroken line of great Jazz point guards. If you’re a transformers fan I think it’s fair to call him Ultra Magnus. He may be very good, but he’s not the leader we want and need for our team.
  • Did someone say leadership? Apparently some people think that Gordon Hayward is the leader of this team. I think we all love Gordon, but he’s got a long way to go before we can really start saying something like that. I have a hard time trying to categorize his game – he can rebound better than a guard, but handle the ball better than a forward for the most part. He says he’s more comfortable getting the ball on the perimeter, but he’s one of the best finishers off of cuts on our team (according to SynergySports). He can be quite good, and I think we’re all going to be following him closely. I just hope that he doesn’t, suddenly, jump from being "no expectations guy" to "lots of pressure on me guy" next season. I think he could be a great ‘third banana’ guy on a contender. That doesn’t mean he’s bad. It just means that I’m really only focused on looking at things from the viewpoint of what a championship contender needs. I’m not going to be satisfied with him being one of the best players on a bad team. And he’s not going to be satisfied with that either.
  • Even more urgent than Hayward, appears to be our collective fan concerns with Derrick Favors. We want him to get as many minutes as he can safely take, and we want him to get all the proper coaching possible. He’s going to go home for a bit, naturally; but apparently the Jazz are assigning him a coach. I don’t have the details, but I think it would also be good to send him to P3 – that’s where Al Jefferson is going to be spending his summer vacation. Working on your body at P3, working with a coach, and working one on one vs Jefferson is probably not a bad way to spend your summer (especially when the alternative of spending it in a remote log cabin in the woods with Karl Malone and Mark Eaton isn’t on the docket). I’ve been very impressed with his shot blocking ability. But I don’t see him being a pure defense guy. I think he’s an all-around player who is just young. We shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel here. We’ve seen it before in The Mailman and Millsap. The main thing is that those two guys were self motivated and had chips on their shoulder. Favors was the #3 pick.
  • There are going to be a number of posts this week . . . and all summer long the syncopations will continue, so please keep checking into SLCDUNK!
  • Lastly, thanks to all the fans, haters, lurkers, supporters – and over all – Jazz fans. This year wouldn’t have been half as fun without all of us around here (and other places online).