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Starters, Benchwarmers, and Closers- The Downbeat #869

Looking at lineups of the Utah Jazz


For starters, lets talk about the starters. Is there any doubt at this point of what the starting 5 for the Jazz will be on Halloween night? Tyrone Corbin is going to roll out Mo Williams, Gordon Hayward, Marvin Williams, Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson. You will hear from reporters, possibly, that the starting 5 isn't set in stone at this point. It is though. I mean, what other reason would Coach Corbin have for rolling that starting 5 out the first game of the preseason and then sticking with it as long as those 5 guys were available? I'm surprised at how quickly Corbin showed his hand in this regard. The preseason is the perfect time to play with lineups, try and err, but by the look of things, Corbin and the other coaches had the lineups decided after training camp and used the preseason to just see what those lineups look like.

I have serious reservations about that lineup. Really it comes down to the fact that Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson have been the 4 and the 5 of a frontcourt that just can't cut it defensively. Even if the Jazz were to become the best offensive team in the NBA, if they don't vastly improve their defense, they'd be looking at a ceiling of a 54 win team a 3rd seed, and a team that wouldn't be able to defend anybody in crunch time. And that's the best case scenario. The real question is, can exchanging Marvin Williams for Small Forward X from last year, improve our defense enough to cover up for Millsap and Jefferson's liabilities? As impressed as I am with Marvin Williams, I believe that is a little too much to ask.

In essence Tyrone Corbin and the other coaches have to become acrobats, performance artists, mixing and matching their paints and medium to make a work of art...or an amateur entrance in a 4th grade art show. The difference isn't that far apart. Will the coaches use their instincts to create lineups that appear to work on the court? Will they use logic to balance out the teams with proper spacing, shooters, and slashers? Or will they use statistical analysis to figure out the best mixes and matches? Will they make a beautiful painting on a clean canvas of basketball life?

Well, however it happens, I have compiled my preferred lineups. Let me explain my logic. First, let's assume that starting Mo, Hayward, Millsap, Favors, and Jefferson is out of the question, not matter how successful it has been. Now we need to balance the rotations offensively and defensively.

So whom of Millsap, Jefferson and Favors should we not start? My answer is Jefferson for two reasons. First, who benefits most, and therefore the team, by going up against second units? The answer is Jefferson. Secondly, who is he least effective of the 3 in the new up tempo, run and gun offense. Again, it is Jefferson. So if the Jazz could start the game with Mo, Hayward, Marvin, Millsap and Favors, they could maximize their defense and running game, while maximizing their offense against the second unit, by running things through Al Jefferson.

The closing unit is much more interesting. In my opinion, you have to have Favors on the floor because you need stops. And you should have Jefferson on the floor for his ability to get late buckets. And you should have Millsap on the floor because he is the best player on the team and also has his share of late game heroics, probably the most on the team. Mo Williams is the best point guard and Gordon Hayward is the most versatile wing. Which leaves me with:

Starters: Mo, Hayward, Marvin, Millsap, Favors

Bench: Jefferson, Kanter, Foye (shooter to play with Jefferson), Carroll, Burks.

Closers: Mo, Hayward, Millsap, Favors, Jefferson

Just in case I don't ever get a chance to share or predict how the West will turn out, here is my prediction for teams 1-8.

1. Oklahoma City Thunder (60-22)

2. San Antonio Spurs (57-25)

3. Denver Nuggets (56-26)

4. Los Angeles Lakers (55-27)

5. Los Angeles Clippers (50-32)

6. Memphis Grizzlies (50-32)

7. Utah Jazz (48-34)

8. Minnesota Timberwolves (45-37)

Open Poll Question: Now that you have seen the Jazz play 6 preseason games, how many games will the Jazz win this year, and who will lead the team in points? Comment below.