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Can Favors Top the Big O? - The Downbeat - #661

Despite the 6-3 start, it was hard to know where the Jazz really were. Too many wins were close wins against mediocre teams missing their best players. But the schedule has a way of balancing itself. First the Lakers last night. And then the next 15 games are against: New Jersey, Denver, Clippers, Dallas, Minnesota, Toronto, Dallas again, Sacramento, Portland, Clippers again, GS, Lakers again, New York, Indiana, and Oklahoma City.

That's a set of games more reflective of an entire season: some bad teams, some decent teams, some championship contenders. The good news is they only play five of those games on the road and only three back-to-backs. If they are going to take their early successes and make them sustainable habits, this will be the time we see it.

When you look at the current roster, the number of young guys on the team, the depth of this upcoming draft, and everything else, I don't think it's saying too much to claim that the future of the team will be based a lot on how the next fifteen games go.

The Derrick Favors Assist Watch continues.

To date he's played 216 minutes in ten games, with no assists. Out of curiosity, I went through the entire history of the Jazz to figure out who has contributed the least number of assists in each of their 37 seasons. To make it a bit fair, I looked at guys who played at least half a season and at least 10 minutes per game. The winner is ... Greg Ostertag. In 1995-96 (his rookie year), the Big O played 681 minutes (12 per game) and contributed 5 assists.

Indeed, Ostertag's low assists totals were truly epic, and I don't think we all appreciated them as we ought.

During the shortened 1998-99 season he gave us the highest number of minutes per game for a team low assister: 28 minutes per game, 23 total assists. He is also in the number two spot for his 96-97 season: 24 minutes per game, 27 total assists. I find this second season actually more impressive, considering he played more games and more total minutes.

Ostertag was also dead last on the team for his first five years (to the 1999-2000 season). Sadly, in his sixth season Quincy Lewis managed to break his streak. Thus, depending on where you want to begin your decades, you may not be able to say Ostertag gave out the least assists for the Jazz during two different millenia.

Favors had 39 assists as a rookie last year, which tops all but Ostertag's top 5 seasons. So Favors may have to really dedicate himself to break Tag's incredible run.

The highest low assists were given by Mr. Korgasm himself. In 2009-10, Kyle Korver was last on the team with 89 assists (using the minutes/games rule). Yes, that team passed like hell and was unbelievably good when healthy. Sigh.

More fun low assist trivia will come in subsequent Yucca Downbeats. Assuming Derrick can continue some level of assist futility and not go all Gordon Hayward on us.

Once again, the Lakers beat the Jazz last night. Once again Al had a bad game against them. For his career Al has shot only 42% against the Lakers, averaging 15 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 1.6 assists in 31 minutes. Last night he put up 11 points on 17 shots (on 29% shooting), 11 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, and 3 blocks.

In another familiar strain, once again Millsap had a good game in a losing effort against the Lakers. For his career he's played 25 minutes, scored 11 points off 50% shooting, and 6.4 rebounds and 1.1 assist. Last night he gave the Jazz 29 points (58% shooting), 9 rebounds, 1 assist, and 3 steals.

And nobody can figure out why he was inbounding the ball on the last possession while Al was on the court. Maybe Coach Ty didn't know Sap can hit last second three's. Maybe Coach Ty headed for the exits early in last season's Miami game, certain that the Heat had wrapped up the win.

Anyway, if Millsap could just give Al a few tips on how to score against the Lakers' twin 7-footers, we'll have a decent chance to get a win next time we play them. Particularly with this team's newfound interest in effective defense. It was a much better game than the season opener.

The foursome I like to call "the kids" played 45 combined minutes last night. They took 17 shots and 2 free throws. Their average before the game was 75.2 combined minutes, 22.8 shots and 9.4 combined free throws. It could have been just one game (a game in which Hayward, in particular, was not playing great). It was also the first close game against a historically good team.

Looking at the schedule, there will probably be more games like this in the coming weeks. Will Ty give the kids increasing roles and minutes as they go? Or will he rely on the vets more and more? Millsap and Howard have been consistently good, and it will be tempting to give them all the PT. It will be something to watch for during the next 15 games.