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The Utah Jazz's Strategic Advantage: The Downbeat #1716

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The Jazz are shoring up a certain position and it's not point guard.

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It's the offseason.  I get it.  Even worse it's August.  The month in which we see grainy international highlights and get excited about the future.  It's also the time teams are filling up their training camp rosters.  There was a move recently by the Utah Jazz.  The Utah Jazz signed yet another center, Jeff Withey.  This kind of move seems like "nothing to see here" move, but it isn't.  It actually tips the Jazz's hand a little at what they believe is their strategic advantage It is also a sign to other teams what they're willing to do to preserve that advantage through a full 82 game season and possibly a playoff run.

What's so important about Jeff Withey?

Let's talk about Jeff Withey, shall we?  Jeff Withey coming out of college was considered a late lottery prospect.  Let's not forget he's only 2 years removed from being drafted.  He has good size at 7 feet tall and an average wingspan of 7 feet 1.5 inches.  His potential was a long term backup center.  He was 23 when he was drafted and most thought he took advantage of his age and maturity at the college level, hence his good numbers.  So what's so important about Jeff Withey.

Jeff Withey is now another big man the Jazz have brought on during the offseason.  After Withey's signing that brought the number of big man on the Jazz's roster to 8.  If the Jazz kept all 8 big men that would be half of the roster devoted to just the Power Forward and Center positions.  There's a pattern.  Right now six of those big men are guaranteed to make money from their contract.  One of which, Grant Jarrett, is not even projected to make the opening season roster.  So what is going here?

What can't be replicated?

Right now there is only two players on the Jazz roster that cannot be duplicated on the court and only one of those two players is rare in the NBA.  That player is Rudy Gobert.  National writers are becoming more aware of Rudy Gobert's gifts and talents.  Not only that they are seeing that Rudy Gobert is unique and one of a kind.  Rudy's ascension into the starting lineup coincided with Utah's ascension into above .500 basketball and a top 5 defense.  Rudy is the key to the Jazz's success long term.  So it makes sense to protect that investment.  So how do you protect that investment?  Reduce the wear and tear on that player.

But to reduce the wear and tear on Rudy Gobert the Utah Jazz need to have players that can match his skill set in limited minutes.  But as we have talked about Rudy is one of a kind.  Rare.  So what makes him rare?  Let's list them.

  • Height
  • Length
  • Shot blocking awareness
  • Athleticism
  • Mobility
  • Age
  • Passing Ability
  • Defensive Awareness
  • Defensive Anchor
So to find individuals that can spell relief for Rudy Gobert the Jazz have to find players who fit most of those categories.  Think of Moneyball when Billy Bean goes into the scouting room and tells his scouts that they're just trying to collectively recreate the players they lost through committee.  They aren't trying to find another player of that same caliber (though it wouldn't hurt) because it's too expensive and they're not in the position to recruit or pay for one.  They just need to fill as many of those categories as possible.  That's where Tibor Pleiss, Jeff Withey, and Jack Cooley come into play.  Now how do they fit in those same strengths?
  • Age (All are young)
  • Height (Pleiss and Withey are both above 7'0)
  • Length (Pleiss has good length)
  • Passing Ability (Pleiss)
  • Shot blocking (Withey set a tournament record for shot-blocking in college)
  • Defensive presence (Pleiss and Withey both have height advantages and can fill the lane.  Cooley is a mountain of a man.)
  • Mobility (All 3 are limited)
  • Defensive Awareness (Withey and Cooley both have above average)
  • Defensive anchor (None possess this.)
Now the Jazz are not going to be able to build another Rudy Gobert from committee.  He can't be replicated.  But they can create a Frankenbert.  That can become close.

But there can only be 15 players on roster.

Wrong.  The Jazz can have sixteen because of the Disabled Player Exception.

This exception allows a team to replace a player who has been injured and will be out the rest of the season or for the entire next season (if the injury occurs during the off-season).

via

SportingCharts.com

And guess what, they're not going to spend it on a point guard because the point guard position is not a position of strength and does not need to be reinforced.  The season does not depend on the point guard position, but it will rest on the growing shoulders of Rudy Gobert.

So the Jazz could quite possibly keep both Tibor Pleiss and Jeff Withey for the season.  In fact there's a better chance of Withey making the final opening day roster than Bryce Cotton because without Dante Exum for the season the Jazz will need Rudy Gobert more than ever.

30.4

That's the amount of minutes per game the Jazz would like to see Gobert play.  It's also the same amount of minutes Derrick Favors played last year.  There will be nights where the Jazz will need and require Rudy to go the distance but the Jazz would prefer those nights to be few and far between.  If the Jazz can have their front court players average these amounts then they will reinforce their strategic advantage and have done their part to ensure their players health and stamina.

  • Derrick Favors - 31 mpg
  • Rudy Gobert - 30 mpg
  • Trevor Booker - 18 mpg
  • Tibor Pleiss - 15 mpg
  • Trey Lyles - 7 mpg
  • Jeff Withey - 6 mpg