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Utah Jazz Continue to Improve - The Downbeat #1563

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Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Last week Bill Simmons [finally] posted the second part of his 2015 NBA Trade Value. The first player on his list, under the section "GROUP K: "No Thanks — We Don’t Want Him to Come Back and Haunt Us" is our very own Rudy Gobert. Go check out the post, as this one of the better posts Simmons' does.

Earned a top-40 spot after unleashing these promising January splits: 27.6 mpg, 9.4 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 3.1 bpg and 4.8 super-fun screen-and-rolls per game (unofficial)

And my favorite part...

..."Winner Of The Best NBA Nickname Of The Decade." Ladies and gentlemen, please, give a round of applause to the Stifle Tower, Mr. Rudy Gobert!

(Copyright, Jody Genessy, 2014)

The Jazz had a pretty great February. I'm sure Amar will have a much more in-depth analysis, but here's a quick look at what they did:

Jazz Feb

jazz advanced

All stats provided by basketball-reference.com

That's enough fun with spreadsheets. The Jazz have looked like a much improved team to the eye, and on paper. Last month they had wins over the Pelicans, Spurs, and Blazers while (for the most part) taking care of the teams they should beat. One of the most impressive things is that they have been doing this with a rotation that includes heavy minutes from rookies and D-League players that probably would be end of the bench guys. It's easy to start to get drunk on the kool-aid, but if you take the season in-stride, you can see real improvement and reason to be optimistic. This is especially true of the defense over the last month. Jazz fans have been longing for a good defensive team for, what seems like, at least a decade. It's good to have a team with a strong defense. It's like a guarantee for those nights when the offense struggles. Who doesn't like a good guarantee?

The Jazz may have modeled themselves after the Spurs, but the truth is that they have won games looking more like a version of the grit-and-grind Grizzlies, and that's just fine.

The Jazz have now played 5 games without Kanter. We've all seen the stats to show how good the Jazz defense has been in that span, but one of the biggest things to come of the lineup change is that things seem to be easier for Favors. No longer having to bare the majority of the defensive burden, Favors has seized the opportunity to improve his offensive focus. Over the span Favors is averaging 17pts, about 6 FTA, and shooting 56%. Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune has more:

Gobert realizes that a lot rests on his shoulders. Offensively, Favors' improvement has been huge overall. He's now scoring regularly from midrange, for the first time in his career. His athleticism allows him to finish in the paint, and he can score with his back to the basket.

Another day, another great post from SBNation's Tom Ziller. You're all well aware of my Ziller love, by now. Today he writes about some ways to solve the NBA's "one and done" problem. For some reason the NBA thinks it's their problem, but the reality is it's the NCAA's issue. That any owner would want to leave the development of a talented player up to a college team is baffling to me. This, like everything, comes down to money. The owners want to save themselves money by leaving training in the hands of college teams, and saving themselves from.... themselves, by taking away their ability to draft high school players.

The crazy thing about basketball is that it could very realistically follow the models of MLB and MLS. Expand their scouting and make their own development pipeline by instituting youth academies and competitions. They can sign young players to small contracts and keep them in their system to guide their growth. Help players that are in bad economic situations and give them a living wage. Take the temptation to take money from questionable people out of the equation. But this would do huge damage to NCAA's billion dollar March Madness business.