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Jazz Jam Session: Utah Jazz early season impressions

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The team has five wins and five losses. How do you feel about this?

AllThatAmar

So the Utah Jazz are 10 games into the 2015-2016 NBA Season. That’s not a lot, there’s some data there, but let’s remember that while the sample sizes are small, it’s still 12% of the regular season in the books. A 5-5 start isn’t bad, but it’s not like they are swinging from win to win to win. But I do believe the team will be making some sweet music by the time the season gets important. We’re making some sweet music here too, a Jam session about the early season Jazz with Alec Lam, Diana Allen, Prodigal Punk (Dustin), Yucca Man (Jon), and JuMu (Justin). Let’s get to it!

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1. The team is 5-5 after 10 games. Surprised? Frustrated? Enraged? How do you feel?

Alec: Optimistic. I feel like the 5-5 record on paper is deceptive. While the first 6 games of the season were relatively light for the Jazz, this recent 4 game road trip was brutal (both in terms of travel schedule and player health). What we can take away from these games, however, is how important matchups will be this season. The Jazz are really going to struggle when there is a strong guard line that blows by the primary defensive line (PG/SG) and forces the attention of the tertiary defensive line (PF/C). It is very clear how Quin has adjusted his defensive scheme due to the loss of Exum, but communication between the secondary (SF) and primary (PG/SG) still need improvement—which will come with time.

Diana: I feel okay. I didn't expect the team to start 8-2 knowing that 8 of our first 10 games were on the road. I am not really surprised or frustrated. I feel just fine. There seems to be a few games that we could have/should have won when watching the games. But 5-5 is just fine for now.

Prodigal Punk: Actually, pretty good. They face-planted in the home opener, but other than that hey have been in every game, so that is encouraging. Considering they've only played 2 home games, have the 10th toughest schedule, and have had a few injury problems, things are looking good.

Yucca Man: I feel fine. It would have been awesome to pull off the Cavs and Heat games. But it's okay. I really don't quite get anyone upset about a 5-5 start. It's been a tough early schedule for the Jazz. I always thought that a .500 record in November would be a successful first month. The team's half-way there.

JuMu: Based off of 8 games being on the road, Gobert being out for a couple of those games, and Hayward being in a bit of a funk, I will gladly take being 5-5 so far this season. The stars didn't align to get a couple games that we should have won. But we are still on track to be in that playoff hunt this season (especially with a couple other teams' unexpected horrible starts)

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2. What has been the biggest "good" surprise so far?

Alec: The obvious answer is Favors, but I’m going a different direction by saying the Leadership. This is the first year that I have seen Hayward really embrace his role as the in-game coach. In the first half of timeouts, the players and the coaches are always apart (the coaches huddle midcourt to discuss game plans). Hayward consistently takes advantage of this period to talk to the players about defensive positioning, off-ball movements, and reminders of what was discussed in film session. An example of this was during the Grizzlies game when Rudy was being eaten up by Gasol on the left block. In the first timeout, Hayward told Rudy to shade Gasol’s right side and allow the guards to shade Gasol’s left side. Once the coaches returned to the huddle, they emphasized the same thing. After that timeout, the Jazz effectively contained that move by Gasol.

There have also been occasions where I’ve seen Hayward convince Quin to change his play call. Not a D-Will/Sloan clash, but a civilized conversation. I like that.

Diana: I love the way Alec Burks is playing. He has kept us in so many games when our offense has gone stagnant. It is a surprise to me because I thought he might take awhile to find his groove after missing so much of last season.

Prodigal Punk: Trey Burke. He has been playing so well. His distribution still isn't what it should be, but he is shooting so much better, and his finishing around the rim is much improved. Plus, he can actually run fast breaks.

Yucca Man: Derrick Favors. He's been simply fantastic.Here's his non-sick game averages: 18 ppg, 9 rbd, 2 ast, 2 stl, 2 blk, ... 57% FG, 69% FT, 60% TS. He's become the team's clear best player. I did not expect him to be quite this good.

JuMu: Our guards may not be as big of a liability as we've been saying since we learned that Exum was out for the year. Burks is feasting against 2nd units, Burke figured out how to shoot 3 pointers well, Hood is looking like a promising piece of this team (I could see him becoming a team's 2nd best player at some point in his career). Favors' dominance has been nice as well.

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3. What has been the biggest "bad" surprise so far?

Alec: Decision Making by Playmakers in Late-Game situations. SportsVU data suggest that the offense flows more smooth when either Gordon Hayward or Joe Ingles are on the court—when both are off the court, the spacing and movement on the court is atrocious. Unfortunately, the performance by Hayward offensively has been lack-luster in late situations. Since the efficacy of the offense has been so dependent on his performance, I believe that is why the team struggles in closing games well.

Diana: Gordon Hayward's play. I expect a lot more from our "max" player. I hear so many excuses of a new baby stress or he always takes a long time to warm up during the season but yeah his play has been really a "bad" surprise for me so far. Favors has twins and he is fine. Burks missed most of last year and he is not needing the time to "warm up". Hayward is somehow supposed to be our #1 option but I am just not seeing it.

Prodigal Punk: The pace of play. They are still playing so slow. Right now they are 29th in the league. It would be nice to get that up around league average.

Yucca Man: The lack of depth. I didn't expect amazingness, but I thought that between Neto, Lilsap, Withey, Booker, Lyles, etc., the team would get, you know, something. Right now the entire team is 4 starters and 3 bench guys. That's shallow.

JuMu: Depth.... I foolishly did not foresee how big the drop-off in our team's talent outside of our top 6 to 7 players would be. I would love for a couple of Booker, Neto, Lyles, Millsap to make a jump to at least league average this season. Although, I won't hold my breath.

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4. Quin Snyder got a technical foul in the last game. Do we need him to get a few more, or are the players still responding to his murder faces in timeouts?

Alec: Quin is one of the most hands on coaches I have every seen. He is constantly giving feedback to players on the court, as well as pointing out mistakes happening midgame and using them as teaching moments to players on the bench. Quite honestly, I don’t think it matters how many technical fouls he picks up because I truly believe the players have bought into Quin and his philosophy. In Quin we trust.

Diana: Yes I think we do need to have Quin get a few more technicals. I love his murder face and his silent timeouts but that only helps the players. Quin needs to get the attention of the refs .The Jazz have not received respect from the refs so far this season. Quin needs to help the refs see that since our play on the court isn't helping that.(BTW Gordon's constantly playing to get the call and moping when he doesn't isn't helping our relationship with the refs)

Prodigal Punk: Eh. If it helps.

Yucca Man: I think Quin's murder-faces are more entertainment than important. Same with the T's. I've long belived that about 80% of what a head coach does is out of the game. Considering how small a part T's or TO scoldings are in the other 20% (game stuff), it's really fairly inconsequential.

JuMu: Tough to say. At times this team can seem to lack the passion we want. But it may very well be a result of our players playing the balancing act game of hustling while simultaneously trying to implement Quin's fairly strenuous game-plan into motion. I'm not sure which players on this current squad would play better with a fiery Quin going full-on super saiyan from the sidelines. Different techniques motivate different players.

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5. Give a letter grade for each of the following groups:

(I made a table, because, well, how else would I do it?)

Utah Jazz 2015-2016 Grade after 10 Games Alec Diana Prodigal Punk Yucca Man JuMu
1 PG (Dante Exum, Trey Burke, Raul Neto) B- B- B C C+
2 SG (Rodney Hood, Alec Burks, Elijah Millsap) B A- B+ B+ A-
3 SF (Gordon Hayward, Joe Ingles, Chris Johnson) B+ D D C C+
4 PF (Derrick Favors, Trevor Booker, Trey Lyles) A B+ C B+ B+
5 C (Rudy Gobert, Jeff Withey, Tibor Pleiss) A- C B B- A-
Coaches (Quin Snyder, et al.) A B B A A-
Front Office (Dennis Lindsey, et al.) A C A B- B

Here are some individual ideas from the panel:

  • Diana re: SF grade -- "It has not been good. I only gave such a low grade because I expect a lot more from Hayward"
  • Dustin re: Coaching grade -- "There have been some questionable style decisions"
  • Jon re: Coaching grade -- "Trey and Alec are direct results of coaching, imo. Plus they are teaching and patient. Love the coaches"
  • Jon re: Front Office grade -- "DL has some nice socks. RR's is sitting in his chair weird though ... really, I don't know how to judge a FO in 10 games of the season"
  • Justin re: Power Forward grade -- "Favors is manning this team and frankly, is our team's best player by far in this young season; He's become a great 2-way player and is continually progressing to being the league's most underrated player by laughable proportions. I couldn't give this position an "A" with the quality of play that both backup power forwards have displayed thus far."

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Thank you to Alec (@AlecLam14), Diana (@dianaallen), Dustin (@prodigal_punk), Jon (@YuccaManHoops), and Justin (@JuMuJazz)! Follow them on twitter. They are smart and attractive!