As the regular season nears and the Jazz winnow down their roster, we'll be learning more about the roles each player will fill. Starters are a part of that, but a team's best five players statistically are not always the starting five.
Take last year, for example. As CBS Eye On Basketball reports, last year's best Jazz lineup in terms of plus/minus consisted of Trey Burke, Gordon Hayward, Joe Ingles, Derrick Favors, and Rudy Gobert. Zach Harper writes:
This was the fourth highest-used lineup (128 minutes) by the Jazz and it put up a plus-14.9 net rating. Defensively -- as was the case for the entire second half of the season -- the Jazz demolished opponents. This lineup allowed just 89.8 points per 100. This lineup was very sloppy with the ball (21 percent turnover rate) and yet they still dominated. The amazing thing about this lineup is the difference between Gobert and Kanter. When you swapped those two big men, the Jazz were a minus-17 per 100. That's a difference of 31.9 points per 100! The Jazz could've traded Kanter for a broken down tractor and it would've been a good deal.
It's almost a guarantee that any "best" Jazz lineup will feature Hayward, Favors and Gobert. It's like picking character classes for the original Final Fantasy on NES -- if you've got a Fighter, a White Mage and a Black Mage, it doesn't really matter who else is in the party. (And now I definitely need to write a post assigning a Final Fantasy "Job" class to each Jazz player.)
Anyway, Harper takes a guess at the best Jazz lineup for this upcoming season, and unsurprisingly, it features those three:
This Season: Raul Neto, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert
If you were hoping Dante Exum was going to be involved in their best lineup, he tore his ACL this summer. Burke was a part of their most effective lineup last season, but newcomer Raul Neto is the type of playmaker who could make a big difference. You're also adding a healthy Alec Burks to the mix, and he can also do a lot of playmaking from the wings. This lineup still maintains its defensive intensity and effectiveness under Quin Snyder, but you get better offense and more control of the ball. This could be the lineup that gets the Jazz back to the playoffs.
Again, Harper isn't necessarily presuming Raul Neto will be the starter -- just that he'll be part of the Jazz's most effective lineup in terms of plus/minus. I'm inclined to agree, since Neto's offensive deficiencies can be hidden in that lineup more easily than Trey Burke's defensive flaws.
But like I said, it doesn't really matter. Any lineup featuring our Fighter, White Mage and Black Mage will excel.
Speaking of the Jazz's Big Three, they've finally all been revealed in ESPN's #NBArank. Gordon Hayward topped the Jazz at #32 overall. (An auspicious number for Jazz fans.) But as JuMu points out, that leaves a bunch of players above him:
The 31 players ranked over Hayward on #NBARank (Part 1 of 3): Melo, KD, Westbrook, Ibaka, Lillard, DMC, Kawhi, Aldridge, Duncan, Wall, Bosh— JuMu (@JuMuJazz) October 19, 2015
The 31 players ranked over Hayward on #NBARank (Part 2 of 3): Draymond, Harden, Dwight, PG, Paul, Blake, Jordan, Marc, Conley, ZBo, Monroe— JuMu (@JuMuJazz) October 19, 2015
The 31 players ranked over Hayward on #NBARank (Part 3 of 3): Davis, Horford, Sap, Big Al, Butler, LeBron, Kyrie, Love, Andre D, Curry, Klay— JuMu (@JuMuJazz) October 19, 2015
(Disregard Greg Monroe's and Al Jefferson's names in those tweets; JuMu was going off erroneous ESPN info and later corrected himself.)
Most of those seem pretty fair to me, although a few are definitely arguable. (By Real Plus/Minus and WAR, Hayward is at least above Butler, Irving, and several others.) As I mentioned a week or two ago, though, about a third of the teams in the league have three top-50 players, and the Jazz are one of them. If these rankings are good for anything -- and I'm not entirely convinced they are -- it might be to show the kind of company the Jazz stand in.
So last week I attended a concert at Abravanel Hall featuring symphonic arrangements of music from The Legend of Zelda series. (It should surprise approximately no one that I choose to spend my free time listening to live performances of video game music.) The FanPost by hansenjames I'm featuring this week, then, is apropos:
In the land of Hyrule, sometimes known as Utah, a young Gordon woke to a very obnoxious fairy.
"I choose you," said the fairy, "You will prove to be great in time."
"Wut?" said Gordon waking from the slumber of the offseason.
"No comment!" said the fairy with an annoying smirk and flitted around the room. She thought that remark was so funny.
Also, this FanPost involves intentionally bad Photoshop jobs. I'm not gonna spoil it by posting them here. Click through. And thanks, James.
Here's a good recap of Joe Ingles' recent preseason performance from Aussie hoops blog The Pick and Roll:
Joe Ingles will be entering the 2015/16 NBA season in fine form. Backing up from his encouraging game against the Trailblazers a few days ago, Ingles had himself a game against Portland again today.
Although the Jazz eventually went down in overtime 111-116, Ingles provided plenty of highlights. In 20 minutes of game time, Ingles took 7 shots, all of which came from beyond the arc, and drained 5 of them. He finished with 16 points, 2 assists, 1 rebound and a steal.
In the third quarter Ingles scored 9 straight points in a span of just 1 minute and 22 seconds. It was triple after triple for Ingles, and it was beautiful to watch.
I admit, I often fail to take Ingles into account when I think about the depth of the Jazz roster. He's an easy player to shortchange, and I'm as guilty of that as his opponents. Games like Sunday's remind me of his potential as a shooter, but his best asset is that he makes other players better and doesn't get in their way. He's a Bard, basically -- sort of useless on his own, but his presence is invaluable. (I won't vouch for his singing ability, though.)
Trevor Booker's Beefmeter status, according to Grantland's Jason Concepcion: Double Cheeseburger. Love ya, Book.