We're inching closer to training-camp time, when some of our questions about this young Jazz team can finally be answered.
One question I'd almost forgotten about is regarding Trey Lyles, the Jazz's #12 pick in June's draft. I've been so preoccupied with Dante Exum's injury and Rudy Gobert's European dominance that I haven't given much thought to the young big man from Kentucky.
NBA.com's Shaun Powell, as part of the site's "30 Teams, 30 Days" series, questions whether Lyles will play much of a role this season (or if the Jazz should have made a different pick):
Anyway, Utah isn't a destination place for A-list free agents, so the Jazz must keep adding help mainly from the Draft, and the latest arrival is 6-foot-10 forward Trey Lyles.
He fits in one respect: He's only 19. Lyles stayed only one season at Kentucky and his upside is considerable -- he only played 23 minutes a game on the deep Wildcats, where playing time was rationed. But he'll need lots of grooming and practice time and it wouldn't be beyond consideration for the Jazz to drop him to the NBA D-League for a stint. Otherwise, he'll get just a handful of minutes behind Favors.
Also, was Lyles the best prospect at No. 12? The Jazz took him one spot ahead of Devin Booker, Lyle's sharpshooting college teammate and, over Bobby Portis, the next-rated power forward in the Draft who went to the Bulls at 22. When you're building through the Draft as Utah's doing, mistakes can be costly, and the better Utah gets in the standings, the lower their Draft position will get.
What do you think? Have you forgotten about Trey, or are you champing at the bit to see him on the court (after a somewhat lackluster Summer League)?
Speaking of Rudy Gobert, his French team plays Latvia today at 1pm Mountain in the Eurobasket quarterfinals, and you can watch it online via ESPN3. Here's ESPN's Mark Woods breaking down the matchup:
The hosts have yet to put together anything resembling a perfect game with Tony Parker frequently outshined by ex-Spurs teammate Nando de Colo. The upside is that others have contributed even in Parker's moments of struggle on a roster that is giving up a tournament-low 64.7 points per game.
"Tony brings a lot of attention," Gobert added. "So the consequence is that it makes it easier for all his other teammates. He's not been making shots but he's not been having bad games. We have guys coming off the bench, impacting on the game, playing great defense. That's one of the great strengths of our team."
I love that Gobert's the spokesman for the French team. And I'm glad he's getting to play meaningful games this summer, even with the accompanying injury risk.
Two FanPosts for you this week. First, ALLeigHOOPS refutes Tom Ziller's argument that Scottie Pippen was the second-best player of the '90s behind Jordan:
Tom, we all love and appreciate your tireless efforts for SBNation but dude, c'mon. The 2nd-best player of the 90's is unquestionably Karl Malone. The Mailman just kept delivering, night after night, city after city, game after game and he still doesn't get the recognition he deserves. Why does no-one respect Karl?
Then Fesenko For President gives some early thoughts on next year's NBA Draft class:
Unlike past years, in 2016 (absent some unexpected trade to move up in the draft) I am not looking forward to possibly drafting a marquee player such as Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Dante Exum, Stanley Johnson, Emmanuel Mudiay, Kristaps Porzingis, Ben Simmons or Skal Labissierre with any of the Jazz picks. Rather, my expectations are much lower for this upcoming season. Yet, we are all well-aware that very good players can still be drafted in the mid-to-late first round (and even in the second round) of the NBA draft--with Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Serge Ibaka, Nicolas Batum, Rudy Gobert, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson being a few good examples of that reality.
Thanks, folks! Keep 'em coming.
And now for something completely different:
Retired NBA referee and noted Utah Jazz championship thief Dick Bavetta entered the Basketball Hall of Fame last week, and apparently he didn't feel at home without people yelling at him.
Sorry, Dick, but until you lead a crowd in chanting "Jordan pushed off," we're not okay.
File under "LOLakers": D'Angelo Russell thinks they're making the playoffs. Via Yahoo's Dan Devine:
"Expectations are high," Russell says, "but this Lakers squad will most definitely be a playoff team."
That's ... well, that's just dynamite, D'Angelo. I love your moxie. Get out there and reach for your dreams. Shoot for the moon; even if you fall short, you'll still wind up searching for your wallet in El Segundo.
It will be an awfully tall order, of course, for a Lakers team that has gone a combined 48-116 over the past two seasons to crack the top eight of a conference competitive enough that a 45-win Oklahoma City Thunder team didn't make the postseason last year. That's especially true considering that while two of last year's playoff teams (the rebuilding Portland Trail Blazers and the DeAndre-devoid Dallas Mavericks) seem to have taken a step back, the Thunder are getting "the best player in the world" back, the Utah Jazz have their sights set on taking a major step forward after a strong finish to the 2014-15 campaign, and the Phoenix Suns could boast a stronger squad, provided they can straighten things out with their starting power forward.
We're not talking about just putting one or two pieces together for a little extra boost that puts a team over the top; the Lakers ranked 23rd among 30 NBA teams in offensive efficiency last season while posting the league's second-worst defense. An awful lot of improvement needs to happen in an awfully short period of time for the Lakers to catapult themselves from the bottom of the conference to the lower reaches of postseason contention.
I laughed out loud at the El Segundo line.