364 days ago, I wrote the Downbeat on the morning of the first game of the season. I used this video as the first Downbeat item:
At the time, I was excited to see what would happen when Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors were finally given "the keys to the Ferrari." Unfortunately, we know how that turned out. Even a Ferrari feels slow if you drive it like a Dodge Neon.
The good news is that we have a new driver: Quin Snyder. And he likes to go FAST.
Okay, not that fast. Under-control fast. Playing-with-the-pass fast. Please-don't-murder-me fast.
The point is, we hoped to see more development last year than we did. Whether that's down to injuries, or players not meshing together, or "vetzz," or the previous coaching regime, or our roster just not being as talented as we hoped, it doesn't really matter. Last year was supposed to be a Season of Discovery, and we really didn't discover much.
This year, there's both more and less at stake. Less, because we have a brand-new coach and a brand-new system, and one year's performance isn't going to be that big a referendum on his quality. (At least I hope not. If the Corbin Era taught us anything, it's that the Jazz organization does NOT have an itchy trigger finger.) But more, because we have "young" players that are quickly becoming not-so-young, and the Jazz have important decisions to make regarding a couple of them (no news on Alec Burks or Enes Kanter extensions at time of writing).
So while few are expecting this Jazz team to be playoff contenders, there's still a lot riding on the season that begins tonight with a home matchup against the Houston Rockets. I can't wait.
Of course, it wouldn't be a new NBA season without some jerkstore making dumb Utah jokes. Step right up, Jim Cavan of The Cauldron:
What You're Watching: Sell-out oceans of the whitest people you've ever seen chanting "GOR-DIE!" whenever Gordon Hayward touches the ball; Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter collecting so many three-second calls the paint actually becomes a sinkhole to the center of the earth; Quin Snyder's statuesque face and gorgeous locks aging and shriveling like Walter Donovan drinking from the wrong goblet in The Last Crusade.
What You'd Rather Be Watching: Security footage of a 7-11 manager sleeping in a beer cooler; An Easter egg hunt at a polygamist compound; Honey Boo Boo's mom bouncing on an exercise ball; chickens being mechanically separated; a Korean knockoff of Field of Dreams that somehow ends up being a snuff film; static on an analog television through a storefront window that's covered in ice and birdsh*t.
White-people reference? Check. Nickname we don't actually use? Check. Polygamist reference? Check. Some things never change.
But I shouldn't let this kind of stuff get me down. OPENING NIGHT FANPOSTS!!!
bjtninetynine has MANY CHARTS (note: you have to click through for the charts):
I was playing in Tableau and made a dashboard of some comparisons between the 2013-2014 regular season and the 2014-2015 preseason. I just used percentages because they were easy, and there was some interesting data. This is not comprehensive by any means, but I thought I'd share.
Jordan Cummings has MANY WONDERINGS:
I keep telling myself it's "just" preseason. I keep reminding myself that we're playing games against rosters that aren't cut down to size, that aren't complete. That schemes aren't fully in place yet, and that regular season games will be much more difficult.
But that doesn't stop my brain from wondering ... "What if?"
And qsTep47 has MANY NUMBERS (and a great post overall):
I'm not as good as anecdotal evidence as Amar, so I won't try. What I do dig as much as Amar, however, is numbers. And numbers back up my sometimes unreasonable (but not this time!) reasons for confidence. We will even get into the way my numbas are not just what I think will probably happen, but how they are very very likely to happen.
A few of you saw my mid-pre-season shoot-up of this same thing, so I won't post the boring stuff again. What I have done, though, since then is add some key factors like roster change% and preseason point differential, to make simple, quantifiable sense of a team's level of improvement. I also added 95% and 68% win ranges, meaning there is a 95% chance of each team's final win total falling between the 2 numbers, and a 68% chance of falling between the next two.
Read and comment on these as you
ignore work because you're too excited to focus do an excellent job for your boss as always.
Good job, kids! SPACE TACOS FOR EVERYONE.
Most preseason prognosticators have pretty much ignored the Jazz as far as end-of-season awards and honors, but at least Woj loves us:
Truthfully, we don't have much of a shot at any of these, barring something miraculous. The one exception is that Most Improved Player category. With so many young candidates on our roster, the chances aren't bad that one of them makes a leap this season.
But who are we kidding? Outside of those anyone-but-Jordan MVPs for the Mailman, the Jazz have historically been pretty overlooked for these awards. Remember how Jerry Sloan somehow never won Coach of the Year honors? Yeah. If it's not good enough for Jerry, I DON'T EVEN WANT IT.
Remember how Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose came down super-hard on the Jazz in their preview video? Yeah...that was pretty clearly filmed before the preseason, because Bill's singing a different tune now. Kind of. He can't make up his mind, actually. Here's a transcript of the Jazz portion of his over/under podcast with buddy Joe House:
BS: Utah, 27.5
JH: I liked it better when it was...didn't they open in the 24-25 range?
BS: They got people liking 'em.
JH:...people getting excited about them. So I liked them better when they were at 25, I loved the over when they were at 25, because they won 25 last year, and I think that Quin Snyder is gonna be a tremendous upgrade at coach, and I like very much what his bona fides look like. I love him coming with an Atlanta kind of mindframe, and you know he ran the D-League team for San Antonio. I think these guys are gonna play UP-tempo, they're gonna be launching threes. If Trey Burke can stay healthy, I think that he and Hayward are gonna be a dynamic combination. There's a lot of talent on this team, and young talent. It just feels like 28 might be a hair too many wins.
BS: So you're going under? Okay. (pause) I'm going over! (pause) I...I've...after watching them play...and, uh...oh, what am I doing? I'm gonna go under.
JH: (laughing) I was about to let you talk me into the over.
BS: I think they're gonna be fun to watch, and... (pause) you know what, I think I'm gonna do over.
JH: You think Exum's gonna get any run this year?
BS: I do, I think he's gonna have a Kobe-esque, Kobe-as-a-rookie type of first year where hopefully he can play 15, 16 minutes a game and occasionally look really good. And do enough that it'll get us excited. I watched enough in the preseason to feel like that guy...that there might be real potential there.
JH: (interrupting) I'm gonna take the over, too, because I don't want to root for the under on this team.
BS: Okay, good, let's both take the over.
JH: I want to enjoy rooting for them.
BS: The thing is...
JH: If we're wrong, we're wrong. I don't care.
BS: The thing is, they're gonna be one of those six or seven worst teams anyway. But I think Hayward's a pro, they have multiple forwards, they have...the backcourt might be pretty good if Trey Burke is good.
BS: Exum off the bench is fun. Rudy Gobert!
JH: I know!
BS: That guy might actually be, you know, a real asset this year. I like this Jazz team. They're gonna be fun to watch.
JH: We're doing the over for the fun factor.
So a couple weeks ago Bill spent ten minutes whispering about how terrible Dante Exum is, and now he's Kobe-as-a-rookie? Cool story, Simmons-bro.
Honestly, though, the point I draw out of that conversation is that even national dudes are starting to come around on the idea that the Jazz will be fun to watch, and that 27 wins is too low.
On the other hand, this chart proves that all NBA fan bases are homers:
(That's from SBN's Drew Garrison, bee tee dubs.)
So, last chance to get your pick on record. The SBN chart uses the over/under Vegas set for the Jazz on October 1, while Simmons is using the updated number of 27.5. We'll go with that one in the poll below.
BONUS DOWNBEAT ITEM!
I have to mention this just because: notable NBA players as D&D classes and alignments. I'm still working on a post like this for the Jazz.
(Sans illustrations, unfortunately. I paint with WORD PICTURES. Also gifs. I'm a simple man.)
Game tonight. Go Jazz. Shums out.