Let’s all be honest. Our current Jazz team isn’t perfect. It was a fun team to watch, it was an endearing team because of their personalities and hard work … but they weren’t a great team. They were good, but far from greatness.
So I want to look a bit at what makes a great team. I’m not going into stats here. I’m delving heavily into opinion and just thinking about it. Following my muse, if you will. I’ll be looking at several different ways of thinking about a roster … ways that can be complementary if the team-builder is smart about it.
This post also shows why I really dislike the depth chart way of looki
More after the jump.
Seven (3 + 4) and Two Halves
Basketball is an interesting sport, in that players’ contributions are limited by the game itself: There are only so many minutes available, and everyone doesn’t get to shoot on every possession. So, despite Ty’s statement that he wants 13-14 guys who want to be starters … well, that’s really not how basketball works.
Because of the restrictions of playing time and shots, I like a team based on seven main guys plus two minor specialists. Seven guys giving us about 24+ minutes per game, plus a couple guys at about 12 minutes and filling in the gaps.
[Ed. Note: This used to be a Jazz huddle from the good old days of the late 2000s]
And of those seven main guys, I like it further broken down into 3-4 leaders and their 4-3 sidekicks. The leaders are the guys have the most prominent playing roles (most shots, involvement in plays, playing time, whatever), but the sidekicks are still in that circle of main guys. Think of Antione Carr on the Jazz Finals teams. Nobody would confuse his role with that of Malone, Hornacek, or Stockton. But he was still part of the main circle.
Three-man Rotations x2
The idea is to get three guys who can all play the same two positions. These can be clustered in different ways (C/PF, PF/SF, SF/SG, SG/PG), but there’s really only room on a roster for two of these clustered rotations—again, because of the limitations of the game.
But the basic idea is this: there are 48 minutes available at each position. The best players deserve to play about 32. So there’s 16 left over. What kind of team would you rather have? A) A team with 5 players worth giving 32 minutes and 5 players worth giving 16 minutes, or B) a team with 7 players worth giving 32 minutes and 1 player worth giving 16?
I’d take B every time. Building a roster out of these three-man rotations for two positions gives us that kind of situation. You’re no longer looking at dividing 48 minutes by two, but 96 minutes by three.
Here’s an example: You get three guys who can play both C and PF great, rotating seamlessly between the two spots depending on who they’re paired with. Then you find three great guys who can play both SF and SG—again players who can shift to either position depending on matchups and who they’re paired with at a given moment. Then you fill things out with a great PG playing 32 minutes and a backup.
Because of the nature of the game, you will also need one or two additional filler guys. And the minutes really won’t be distributed evenly at 32 apiece. The guys off the bench will almost always play fewer minutes.
But still, it’s a way to use versatility to most effectively play seven main guys.
A Team of Specialists
[Ed. Note: This used to be a picture of Kyle Korver shooting an open three]
It’s how Bill Russell described his Celtics teams. It’s what I think makes San Antonio so magical to watch this year. It’s what makes me so intrigued by our young players:
Favors disrupts shots while Kanter rebounds. Kanter defends the best post scorer by himself, giving Favors more opportunities to rotate and offer the help D as needed. Hayward runs P&R’s while Burks slides off back screens, through cuts, and off curls. Hayward defends the wing who tries to post up (this is my favorite thing to watch Hayward do, by the way), Burks uses his speed to defend wings trying to iso or penetrate.
They really have a pretty fantastic set of complementary skill sets, specializing in different things to avoid redundancy, but versatile enough to give support (like Favors being a very good rebounder to support Kanter’s great rebounding).
With the specialist view, you need look at all the needs a team has on both offense and defense, and then find guys to fill those needs.
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And these things also show specific ways our roster last year was inadequate. We had two main guys and everyone else was supposed to be specialist-fillers (though you could argue Favors, Hayward, and Harris put themselves into the main guy section at the end of the season. You could also argue that Ty was determined that Josh Howard had to be one of the three leaders). We didn't have three-man rotations over two positions to enable major playing time for all good players. We had a lot of need filled to redundancy while others were left with no specialist at all.
And so, whenever I look at the future of our team, whenever I fantasize about the Jazz, whenever I put on my fan-GM hat, these are the three things I think about most. Who are the seven main guys, and who are the specialist fillers? Do I have two sets of three-man rotations to enable adequate playing time for seven really good players? Do I have players with complementary specialties, and are all needs filled by guys specializing in them?
My hope is that over the next few years, I won’t have to fantasize to say yes.