I'm still buzzing about that Clippers game on Monday. Wasn't that a blast, even though the Jazz lost? That kind of exciting, competitive effort that gives hope for the future -- that's all I've really wanted from the Jazz during this rebuilding period. I love that we're finally getting it.
Here, have a GIF if you missed the game.
I KNOW, RIGHT?
Not everything went perfectly, of course. I mean, the Jazz lost the game. (Although that was as much a result of playing on the road against a very good team than anything the Jazz did wrong. Staples Center gonna Staple.)
More specifically, a couple of sub-optimal trends are beginning to surface. One is Trey Burke's poor play. The second-year starter managed just six points on 1-5 FGs, with four rebounds and four assists (to go with four turnovers and four fouls). After a sparkling preseason, Alfonso has come plummeting back down to earth. And he's also got a hungry Aussie nipping at his heels like a...an Australian...something. I dunno. I'm not great with Australia metaphors.
It's definitely premature to write Burke off, or elevate Dante Exum into the starting lineup, or anything dramatic like that. It's only been four games. And besides, this isn't necessarily the worst problem in the world to have. We'll come back to this in a moment.
The other negative trend is that Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors can't seem to both have a decent game at the same time. By that I don't mean that they can't play together on the court at the same time -- we heard all about that last season, and I'm still not convinced one way or another. No, I mean that while Fav-O went off for a career-high 32 against the Suns, Kanter managed a measly three points, and when Kanter bounced back with 17 against the Clips, Favors dropped in just six.
There are extenuating factors in both of these cases -- foul trouble, opposing matchups, etc. -- but Favors has already sealed his future with the Jazz, while Kanter's is up in the air since failing to agree on an extension before Halloween. Yahoo's Kelly Dwyer describes the situation thusly:
[Kanter] has always been a bit of an odd duck, and he's working within a Utah Jazz setup that might not be to his advantage. Kanter, clearly, does not play well alongside Derrick Favors; which is unfortunate, because you'd assume their somewhat versatile skill sets would allow for some ham-and-egging. Kanter is a thick, nearly-7-foot big man that can walk and chew gum at the same time, but the necessity for those sorts of talents has diminished in recent years, and Utah's decision to hand shooting guard Alec Burks an eight-figure yearly extension (at a similarly diminished position) is telling.
Again, I'm still not 100% ready to write off the Favors/Kanter combo (and I acknowledge I may be foolish to keep hoping). But I don't think their struggles to shine simultaneously are necessarily a bad thing.
Here's where I'm going with this, and with the headline at the top: These are GOOD problems for the Utah Jazz to have. They -- and we as fans -- are finally finding out how good these players are. It's unfortunate that it has taken this long, sure, but isn't this what we've wanted all along?
I consider it a positive thing to have a talented young stud like Exum pushing Trey Burke to excel. If he responds and justifies his starting role, great! That's more growth for our roster. If not? Well, at least we know, and there's a guy waiting to step right in.
Similarly, the good play of Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert, combined with the contract situation, will help us find out sooner than later if Enes Kanter is a good long-term fit for this team. And if he's not, the Jazz can explore trade options now, rather than waiting for a team to sign him away for nothing. (Dwyer goes on in that Yahoo article to predict that some NBA team will throw a large sum of cash at Kanter next summer. Trading him now would mean the team that picked him up would have right of first refusal on matching those offers.)
The point is (and I can't believe I'm 700 words in and only on the first DB item, it's like I'm Amar or something), the Jazz have direction at long last. We're learning and improving, and the team's been crazy-fun to watch while doing it. Any problems they might have now, I'll take.
Speaking of people named Paul, this Hardwood Paroxysm article finds some interesting similarities between the early-season play of new Jazz fan favorite Trevor Booker and former fan favorite Paul Millsap:
Another trap to avoid early in the season is making too much of small sample sizes, but it appears that Trevor Booker is experiencing a similar transformation to the one Paul Millsap underwent during his first season in Atlanta - namely, he's added three-point shooting to his game. If the pattern holds, Booker is morphing into a power forward who can stretch the floor, rather than solely a banger in the post and a pick-and-pop midrange artist. In Paul Millsap's 540 game Jazz career he tried 113 threes, but during his first year with the Hawks he shot 212 of them in 71 games. In Booker's first four seasons in the league, he attempted 10 threes (and made 1 of them) in 235 games. Through four Jazz contests in 2014, Booker has already matched that total, and has knocked down 5 of the 10 outside shots.
I've never been sure what to think of the narrative that Millsap "transformed" his game by leaving Utah. The article in question here rightly acknowledges that previous Jazz offensive schemes did not really allow for Millsap to explore his long-range ability, and Atlanta's coaches (including one Quin Snyder) did give him more opportunities to shoot. But I'm not convinced that Millsap suddenly "blossomed" into an All-Star just by exiting the 801. Three-pointers aside, his numbers for Atlanta last year are very similar across the board to his best Jazz seasons.
Maybe the common denominator is Snyder. Because while Millsap (and his agent) always insisted he could shoot threes, there's been no indication prior to this season that Trevor Booker could do any such thing. In fact, he's already attempted as many long-range shots through four games this season than in his four years in Washington combined. We all talked about Enes Kanter adding three-point shooting to his repertoire in the preseason, but maybe we forgot about Tre(vor).
In any case, I don't want to just stick Booker with a Millsap 2.0 label. That's a disservice to both players. For one thing, Booker's a little more outwardly nasty than the tough-as-nails-but-mild-mannered Millsap. And Paul's obviously the better midrange scorer.
Then again, I don't remember Millsap getting up like this very often:
Anyway. Let's all have a bowl of cereal and just let Book be Book.
FanPosts! Here's the trio I've got for you this week.
Remember when I said we'd come back to Trey vs. Dante? TooTallJazz takes a look (in his first-ever post!):
My opinion is that it is too soon. He is still only 19 years young and it is a lot to ask for a rookie to take control of a team that is implementing an anti-corbin style of basketball. At this rate though he could be ready to take over come the trade deadline. Would Trey be willing to come off the bench? What could we get in a trade for Trey? Maybe a late first rounder or several second rounders to pair up with our 50 draft picks coming up in the next few years? Are there any playoff teams that need a decent point guard to come off the bench and not turn the ball over? Just a few thoughts.
In case we haven't talked enough about Enes Kanter, Beeblebrox42 does a deeper dive:
I looked at a few things while trying to figure out what the market could be for Kanter. The first was the free agent class for rotation level bigs (rotation level was based on ESPN's projected depth charts before the start of the season), then team needs, and lastly team payroll. A lot of these things will change over the course of the season, but these are my thoughts on things as they stand now.
And Uber_snotling tells us how brutal the Western Conference is...again:
The T-Wolves are taking a step back with the hope of stepping forward in 2-3 years. The Nuggets hope to return from injury and improve. The Pelicans front-court is imposing with Asik, Davis, and Anderson, but their back-court remains an issue. The Kings aren't going anywhere. The Lakers are a dumpster fire. The Jazz will leap forward, but I don't see them getting to 0.500, much less the 50 wins needed to guarantee a playoff spot.
Great job, everyone. You've all done splendidly.
Grantland's Zach Lowe mentioned this little tidbit at the end of his column this week:
4. The Golden Championship Patch
Fashion mavens can debate whether this is stylish, but it's unquestionably a cool addition to NBA jerseys. Winning even one championship is so, so hard. A single ring deserves never-ending celebration, and each franchise that has snagged one should be able to gloat in perpetuity.
The void of gold on the jerseys of franchises that have yet to earn it highlights the challenge and the promise of future accomplishments.
I was at the Houston game on opening night, and I definitely noticed the tab on the back collar of the Rockets' jerseys...and the empty space where one might go on the Jazz's threads. What do you think, fellow uni-watchers? Is the patch a tacky piece of brag-flair, or does it really evoke "the promise of future accomplishments?" Jury's still out for me, but I'm leaning toward the former.
Stealing this final item from Twitter to turn into a poll question below:
Serious question for the Jazz fanbase: Would you rather get 45 wins and miss the playoffs or make the top 3 in the lottery? @slcdunk— Tyler Gray (@TylerHGray) November 4, 2014