Gordon Hayward has certainly been the hot topic with the Jazz lately. That will happen when you score 17 points, grab 4.5 rebounds, and dish out 3.5 assists over the last 8 games, while shooting 50% from the field and 46% from beyond the arc. Those are all-star type numbers. No Jazz player has had a bigger jump post all star game than Hayward and in the last 20 games, Gordon has arguably been our best player.
Here are Gordon's stats from before and after the All-star game this year:
In short, Hayward increased his numbers across the board by about 33% in only 20% more minutes, while raising his shooting percentage by 5% and his 3 point % by 15. No other Jazz man has made such an improvement this season. Derrick Favors has bettered his rebounding numbers significantly the second half, but made only small improvements in other areas. Devin Harris has made improvements in his points, rebounds, and assists, but is also shooting worse from the field in the second half of the season.
This huge jump in production post all star break, isn't new for Hayward. He had an even larger jump last season:
So what can we attribute the second half improvement to? Is Hayward a slow starter and strong finisher? If it was unique to this season, I would guess that playing in the sophomore game at the All-Star break gave him a boost of confidence. Maybe he was more confident after Deron Williams got shipped out last season. Or maybe it is due to the fact that both years, Hayward has become a more focal part of the offense in the second half of the season, rather than a 3 point shooter who doesn't have the ball in his hands as often. Take your pick. It's probably a combination.
I don't know many Jazz fans who love Gordon Monson as a beat writer, but he wrote a really nice piece this weekend on Derrick Favors. The article starts off with a potentially troublesome quote from Favors:
"At the beginning, because I have so much pride and confidence in my game, I was like, ‘I’m playing good, I should be playing more,’ " he says. "I didn’t say nothing to anybody, but that’s the way I was feeling. I had to deal with it."
Uh oh. Trouble brewing in Jazz land. Or maybe not. Not with a guy like Favors.
"I know my opportunity’s going to come," he says. "Everywhere I go, people tell me, ‘You should be playing 30 minutes.’ I tell them my situation — I’ve got to wait my turn. I’m playing behind two guys who could have been All-Stars this year. It’s not like they’re bums or something. I’ve got to learn, work hard, be patient."
I hope he means what he is saying. I have an inclination that he does. It's a mature approach to his playing situation, especially for a guy his age. But here is my favorite quote from the article.
"When I dunk or block a shot, I’m not going to be banging my chest and screaming, and all that. After a dunk, I run back and get on defense. The fire is there. … I’m not a showboating person. If you’re showboating, you’re weak. You don’t need to showboat. Just go out there and do the job. I just want to do my job and win games."
Nothing can kill your team more than allowing your opponent to come down the court and score because you were busy showing off for a job well done. If you were watching the Knicks-Heat game from yesterday, you may have noticed that JR Smith and Carmelo Anthony do this way too often. It's horrible. I love the fact that Favors just does his job, and stays humble about it. It's a nice trait in at least 3 of our young guys. All four of our guys just want to win which is fantastic too.
Our young guys have learned the desire to win because they have played on a competitive team all season and not been handed minutes. If they played for any other team, those guys would be totally fine with losing. All sarcasm aside, I do think it's impressive that the Utah Jazz organization has basically met their goals this season. I am all for the Jazz trying to win games and I'm all for the Jazz surrounding the future young guys with veteran players, even though I have been against how the plan was carried out, by giving the lion's share of the minutes and touches to the short-term veterans. But other than probably missing the playoffs, the front office has to be pleased with how their season has unfolded. They have made the entire season count up to this point. The games are competitive and even though it is mostly due to injuries and funerals, the young guys have increased in their roles and minutes over the course of the year. In many ways the season is turning out fairly well, with the help of fortune and circumstance. It'll be great if this season leads to featured roles for Favors, Hayward, AND Burks next year. WIth a supporting role for Kanter as well.
I thought this article was odd and weirdly timed:
Millsap isn't the type of guy to just start talking about contract extensions, so I am guessing he was responding to questions about his desire to stay in Utah and of course, he would be open to it. So would any other Jazz player as long as it was the right fit and the contract was right. But it does remind us of the options the Jazz have. Do they trade Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap before their contracts are done? Just one of them? Or do they extend their contracts, which is an option few have talked about until now? I still think that the day of the draft will be the day to look at. I think by draft day, either Millsap or Jefferson are dealt and for the first time I am thinking that maybe the big man who stays has his contract extended.
Just in case the Jazz don't make the playoffs, it is about time to start looking at the 2012 NBA Draft. It's too early to start speculating about the Jazz's options until we know if and where they are picking in the draft, but unlike last year, the top prospects are declaring for the draft which is terrific news for the Jazz. We will delve into the Jazz's draft options til our faces turn blue all summer, but just know that if the Jazz do pick in the 8-14 range, there is going to be a fantastic player available to them.