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Oklahoma City Thunder 97 Utah Jazz 82 : An ugly loss without silver lining

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It's all fun and games til you lose to a crappy team.
It's all fun and games til you lose to a crappy team.
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

I'm going to ask the question:

Are you still gung-ho with this development/discovery/let young guys work through their struggles thing?

It's easy to be on the bandwagon when they win 2 of 5 in their first big road trip. But can you still dig it when they've lost 4 straight, and 5 of 6 ... including a couple they should have performed better?

Personally, I hope most of us can say it's okay, remember wins and losses aren't really the point this year, and stay happy Jazz fans.

Do the Jazz have a Malone/Stockton/Deron type leader right now? Obviously not. And it's okay.

Do the Jazz have a clear vision of who they need to get shots for in crunch time and how to do so? Obviously not. And it's okay.

Do the Jazz defend well on most possessions? Obviously not. And that's ... well, that's not as okay. This bothers me the most, honestly.

* * *

I don't know what to really say about the game. They lost to a crappy OKC team. Our bench got their butts kicked, but our starters didn't destroy the world either. It was, honestly, the least impressive performance of the entire year. I mean, the Jazz got eaten alive by Jeremy Lamb.

On the Jazz side, the starters had some decent looking box scores:

  • Gordon Hayward: 24 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals
  • Derrick Favors: 11 points, 6 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block
  • Enes Kanter: 18 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals
  • Alec Burks: 16 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals
  • Trey Burke: 12 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists

Together, that's 79 points, 26 rebounds, 14 assists, 5 steals, 1 block ... and 49% FG, 55% True Shooting. They weren't perfect, though. Hayward's 7 missed FT's and 8 turnovers are most glaring, but that also isn't as strong rebounding as the team needs, for example.

But it wasn't nearly enough, the bench contributed almost nothing, and it was an ugly loss.

* * *

But it's okay. I hope you're all okay. Because I am.

The Jazz will lose games they shouldn't lose this year. I also have pretty reasonable faith they'll surprise and win some games they probably shouldn't win this year. But for me, the early season has given me a lot of good questions to think about and good musings to opine about. Here's a few I've been thinking about recently:

Who on this roster is a keeper?

We already knew that Favors and Hayward are. And they're walking, talking, breathing, basketball playing exclamation points on that mark. While neither are looking like a top-10 kind of guy every team dreams about, both are performing like top-25 guys. They're great. Not Basketball Messiahs, but great guys to have.

So right now, the major question is about who else is proving to be a keeper. I certainly have some thoughts about some, but to me only one guy has proved himself a definitive "Yes!". Rudy Gobert. Everybody else is a TBD. Exum's probably a TBD for at least another year. Alec, Enes, and Trey have some pretty clear things they have to develop in their games before we can say "Yes!" I'm looking forward to see which of them do so (Hint: I think one is really close).

What kind of lineup works best?

This fascinates me to no end. Right now the Jazz have five starters who feel like they should be scorers. And a bench of guys who feel like they aren't.

And it leads to some ... well, issues. For example, Derrick Favors is, by far, one of the team's two best players. He's become a good, fairly dependable scorer with multiple moves in the post, on the P&R, via weakside cuts, and even a decent 15-foot Pick and Popper.

He only got 4 shots in the second half of the game. And it's an interesting thing, to me, to wonder if this matters. Some of Favors' could-be possessions go to Kanter ... who is scoring really well right now. But Favors is a better, more complete player. Does it matter if the better player has a lesser role than he could fill? Is it effective to have five high-ish usage players on the court at once? Or would the offense work better with a clearer hierarchy, with a couple low usage, high efficiency guys surrounding three main scorers?

Very specifically, I wonder if the Kanter-Favors pairing is better offensively than a Favors-Gobert or Kanter-Gobert pairing. I really don't know. But the one thing I do know is that both Favors and Kanter leave me thinking, every game, he could have done well with more shots.

* * *

There's a lot more, of course.

But I find myself really enjoying the games as I look at the questions, the issues they bring up, and just think about it. Look for what develops over they year.

This is probably not the roster that will lead the team to glory in a year or two. But I do think there are about 4-5 guys on the team today who will be on that roster.

Despite the loss, I'm still having fun.

* * *

Just FYI, I'm also scheduled to do the recap to Saturday's games. So if you want to pre-emptively blame another loss on me, that's okay. Or maybe use that for some advanced gambling info.

Eat your hearts out :)