That title wasn't my idea. I blame Zach Lowe.
His most recent article for Grantland described the situation the Jazz, and several other teams, find themselves in thusly:
Oh, baby. As of Tuesday morning, four teams had exactly 22 wins, two had 24 wins, the Sixers had just missed perhaps their best chance of avoiding what might be a 36-game losing streak, and two teams were at least beginning to think about protected first-round picks. This is going to be fun.
When the Pelicans flipped Philly a top-five protected 2014 first-rounder in the Jrue Holiday deal, they imagined sending the Sixers a pick somewhere in the no. 12-15 range. That could still happen, but the Pellies are one slump away from a catastrophic scenario in which they slide down to no. 7 or no. 8, and they have the second-toughest remaining schedule in the league. On the other side, getting into top-five position is probably hopeless without some lottery luck; the Pellies have more wins than every current Eastern Conference lottery team, and they're four games up on the Lakers-Jazz-Kings poop trifecta in the West.
I went with a friend -- one who is only marginally interested in sports at best, but he had free tickets -- to Monday's Jazz game against the Hawks. He was greatly amused by the possibility that it might actually benefit the Jazz more to lose that game than to win it.
And yet...as the second half progressed and the team shook off its post-road-trip funk, it was impossible not to get caught up in the excitement of a close game. This season hasn't gone exactly as I'd hoped -- although the Jazz are roughly at about the number of wins I expected at this point -- but dang it, this is OUR poop trifecta, and it's still pretty fun to watch.
And hey, the Jazz ended up losing anyway.
I'd like to hear from you guys. Are you still cheering during games? Are you even still watching? (Although, if you're reading this, you probably are, because that's just how we roll.) How do you react to these results?
One of the few reasons to continue watching is to look for progress on those now-infamous "three D's" for the season: development, defense and discipline. KSL's
Jarmon Jarom Moore had this to say about them, based on watching Monday's game:
If the game was decided by Lindsey's 3 D's, then there would be mixed results. The defense wasn't there to start, but adjustments held the Hawks to 19 points in a quarter. However, the Jazz gave up more than 30 points in two quarters.
The Jazz were missing discipline on shot selection and with foul trouble. In the third the discipline was there. The Jazz have also shown development to play with each other. Seven players scored in double-figures and the young core played together.
Burke knows what he did right and wrong and fixed mistakes in the middle of the game.
Exactly how Lindsey and the front office judges this game could be another story. As the season comes into its final 20 games the Jazz will have to prove that the 3 D's are working.
It's very hard to judge these three keys in a one-game vacuum. Even when the season is sliced into sections the 3 D's are more prevalent at certain times more than others. Lindsey and Corbin could be together for a long time, or just one season.
Games like this could shape and mold the Jazz for this season and seasons to come.
I really waver on the whole three D's thing. On some nights, I seem to see great progress in each area, only to regress the next night. I guess my biggest thing is that I still haven't seen enough of all of our key future pieces playing together to make a judgment.
Where do you rate the D's? Or do you need more info to say for sure?
FanPost time! Just a few posts from you guys this week; seems like we're all feeling a bit blah in these doldrums. But here are a few highlights...
BTork was at the Hawks-Jazz game, too, and he's given us a few of his observations:
As my wife and I watched the Hawks-Jazz game, we observed something that has been going on all season if not longer. The Jazz have a great defensive stand, steal the ball or get the defensive rebound, the team heads down the court to the offensive side of the the floor, but the Jazz player with the ball is walking down the court talking to Coach Corbin. He obviously calls the play and then they give the ball to Hayward or Burks, because the shot clock is running down, and try to make something happen.
Let me say I am Pro-Corbin, but Ty, let those kids run! Every time the get the ball run, dont walk to the other end of the floor. If there is not a fast break opportunity, back it out and reset.
Next, gplayle suggests a few ways to level the draft-pick playing field without tanking:
People in the basketball world have given out ideas about what might be done with teams that tank, or "super tank" as I had just recently called it, or "pulling a Golden State". You could even say "pulling a San Antonio" in over resting your stars so you can pad your team with a pick you wouldn't normally have.
I came up with the idea that if you have on your team a player who is an all-star either 1 year removed or has been voted in as an all-star that current year, and/or your team makes the playoffs that year, that team cannot pick in the top 10.
Another aspect that Luke through out was that he mentioned how the best of the worst should get the first pick and goes in reverse order. So I thought that this could also apply to those first 10 picks. We thought this would give incentive to win, as well as teams to not sit out your all-star players, super tank, and pull a Golden State. (Kind of what Kobe is doing with the Lakers.) You don't reward teams for attempting to mess with the system of balance, as well as you reward teams that put focus on winning and a good basketball product with the lesser teams, even if they can't win right now.
Finally, JuMu finishes up his series comparing Jazz players to their draft-class counterparts with Trey Burke and Rudy Gobert comparisons:
Our rookies are 3rd and 18th in minutes per game, not bad for being the 9th and 27th picks. Burke is also 3rd in usage and points per game. Burke is 2nd is assists per game as well. I would say the only player that has outperformed Burke objectively thus far is Michael Carter-Williams. Oladipo and Burke are fairly on the same skill level thus far.
MCW and Mason Plumlee are the only 2 rookies sporting an average PER of at least 15.
Gobert is dominating defensively leading all rookies in blocks while only playing 11 minutes per game!!! He is also 7th in rebounding overall.
4 of these rookies have a negative win share rate, all of them with less than 13 minutes per game.
Only 7 of these rookies have started at least 20 games, or a third of their games so far. This is a fairly weak rookie class but at least our rookies stand out amongst them. MCW is the only other rookie I would consider taking over Burke.
Thanks for the posts, y'all!
ESPN's been doing a series discussing the pros and cons of keeping college players in school as opposed to letting them jump to the NBA. On Tuesday, Kevin Pelton attempted a statistical analysis on whether players would benefit from staying in school:
Although we can't run an experiment on how things would be different with a higher age limit, there is a group of relevant prospects we can use as a point of comparison: players who chose to return to school for their sophomore seasons. Specifically, I looked at players from the past five drafts who were in Chad Ford's top 30 the summer before their sophomore year and ultimately were drafted in the first round. Not all of these players would have been first-round picks had they turned pro as freshmen, but many of them -- notably Jared Sullinger, Harrison Barnes and Cody Zeller -- passed up the chance to go in the lottery.
As a control group, I used players who actually were one-and-done from the equivalent recruiting classes, covering the 2008-12 drafts. This group is somewhat more talented -- it includes four of the five No. 1 picks -- but the sophomores are strong in their own right. Of the 14 sophomores who qualify, 12 went in the lottery, and James Harden and Paul George are now All-NBA contributors.
We're not interested in the overall performance of these groups anyway. Instead, we want to focus on how they developed year to year. That's where my NCAA-to-NBA translations come in handy. They allow us to put college and NBA performance on the same scale (using player win percentage, the per-minute component of my WARP rating that is equivalent to PER).
That shows something remarkable. On average, the sophomores who returned performed only marginally better than they did as freshmen.
You'll have to click through for the charts, which are Insider-restricted. But the conclusion, at least from this analysis, is that the NBA does more to develop players than the college game.
This stands somewhat in contrast to the oft-heard refrain that the Jazz's young players should be given more leeway because "they could still be in college." Regardless of their respective ages, they're in the NBA now, and that should mean faster development. (So this article's thinking goes, anyway.)
Of course, not every player is going to react the same way to the NBA lifestyle. An individual's maturity level contributes a great deal to their learning ability. And that may not be quantifiable.
Humblebrag alert: I'm headed to Las Vegas this afternoon to cover the WAC basketball tournament for UVU.
I love tournaments. They have an immediacy, a sudden-death nature, that NBA playoff series lack. (Even though I agree that a seven-game series allows the truly "better" team to win more often.)
I'm not sure how to implement them, but I'd love to see a tournament structure used somehow in the NBA. So I leave it to you: What would you like to see out of an NBA tournament? Let's hear it in the comments.