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SLC Dunk Mailbag: Utah Jazz’s Grayson Allen, Donovan Mitchell and... Ostertag?

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Here to answer more of your brilliant, insightful Utah Jazz-related questions!

Utah Jazz v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Fresh off the Utah Jazz spanking the Sacramento Kings, 119-98, on Friday, we dive back into the SLC Dunk Mailbag!

Where’s my letter opener?

Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb): Who is your favorite Jazz player in history and why is it Greg Ostertag?

I can’t lie. I did enjoy me some ‘Tag back in the 90s. Like many Jazz fans, that era is when I fell from the team. I’ve never lived in Utah, but the beauty of Wyoming having no pro sports teams is that you can kind of shop around. And as a kid who rooted for upsets, I was dying to see John Stockton and Karl Malone beat the GOAT.

And yes, Ostertag was an important component of those teams. Defensive Box Plus-Minus (DBPM) has its limitations (Basketball Reference explains them here), but over those two years Utah went to the Finals, he was 24th in the league in that metric. In the 1998 postseason, he had an NBA-leading 6.6 DBPM.

For his career, Ostertag averaged 11.4 rebounds, 9.6 points and 3.5 blocks per 75 team possessions.

Bet you didn’t think I could answer that question that seriously, huh?

Yujeong Ha ‏(@jeongadam): How about Grayson Allen?

I received a bunch of questions on Grayson Allen tonight. That’s probably not very surprising to you all.

On Friday, he had 23 points on 10-of-14 shooting to offset six turnovers. Two days earlier, he scored a then-career-high 14 on 6-of-9 shooting against the Phoenix Suns (with another five turnovers).

Yes, Allen is showing signs of life. Right when plenty of fans had probably given up. If he can continue to hit open threes and occasionally attack sloppy closeouts, there’s a path to Allen being a positive contributor on offense.

The turnovers are a problem, though. Allen has a habit of dribbling himself into a terrible situations, and he often goes airborne without a plan. That leads to desperation attempts at dropoffs or kickouts that get snagged by the opposition. More experience at the NBA level will help with that.

He needs time on defense too. With his athleticism, there’s no reason he can’t be a capable team defender. He just needs to be more acquainted with the concepts, timing and schemes of basketball’s highest level.

SanTantheMan ‏(@righttheship45): Who’s a good statistical comparison to Donovan by year 4?

Check out the player comparisons for Donovan Mitchell in FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO projection system: Gilbert Arenas, Ray Allen, Stephen Curry, Ben Gordon, Victor Oladipo, O.J. Mayo, Paul Pierce, Monta Ellis, Quentin Richardson and Jerry Stackhouse.

Now, if you take the totals for the fourth seasons of all those players, multiply them by similarity scores on FiveThirtyEight, and then average them out per 36 minutes, you get: 20.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.4 steals, with a 39.2 three-point percentage and a 55.1 true shooting percentage.

And honestly, those numbers may represent a conservative estimate for Mitchell’s fourth year. In Year 2, he’s putting up more points per game than Curry, Allen and Oladipo did in their fourth seasons.

ccc (@2campkc): What does the Jazz offense go to in the playoffs when Donovan Mitchell is on the bench?

So, this is the beauty in still having Derrick Favors on this team. He was struggling a bit to carry bench-heavy lineups earlier this season, but as soon as the coaching staff decided to make sure a lot of those minutes were shared with Joe Ingles, Utah’s bench took off.

According to Cleaning the Glass, the Jazz have played 903 possessions with Ingles and Favors on the floor and the rest of the starters off. They’re plus-18.3 points per 100 possessions (99th percentile) in those minutes.

Defending that Ingles/Favors pick-and-roll has been a nightmare for opposing benches this season. In the playoffs, teams will have more time adjust for it, but it should still prove effective in plenty of games.

Isaac Harris ‏(@IsaacLHarris): If you could take any current Jazz player & put them on the 90s Jazz teams who would it be?

I think this one is pretty easily Rudy Gobert. He’s been the most dominant defensive force in the NBA for three or four years now. Plus, he’s a bona fide weapon on offense.

I know I just spent a few paragraphs on the virtues of Ostertag earlier in this article, but can you imagine Stockton and Malone with Rudy? Jordan wouldn’t have even gotten to the push-off.

Tim Tweener ‏(@calisurfer44): What does Jazz look like if they add Kemba in off season?

Better. There’s almost no question about it. Kemba Walker has been a top 25-35 player all season. And he should have another couple years at that level.

But I actually think a combo forward would help Utah even more than a point guard upgrade. Think about how good starters-with-Jae Crowder lineup is, then mentally sub in Danilo Gallinari for Crowder (the Los Angeles Clippers may be interested in trading for cap space this summer).

Yusuf Ahmad ‏(@iamzusuf): Who’s the best prospect for the Jazz in the upcoming draft? Or do they trade it as part of a deal for a big name?

I do think Utah will seriously explore the trade market on and around draft night. But let’s just assume the Jazz keep the pick for this question.

I examined a few targets for SLC Dunk back in February: Nassir Little, Rui Hachimura and Grant Williams. Whether any of them are available when the Jazz pick will depend a lot on the pre-draft process.

Generally speaking, a 3/4 type who can force defenses to come out of the paint is what I think Utah should be aiming for.

‏(@n_heatnation): Why did the Jazz trade up and steal Mitchell from the Heat.

Because Dennis Lindsey is one of the league’s best general managers.

Clayson searle ‏(@clayson_searle): What happened to playing Royce at the 4?

With Favors, Crowder, Thabo Sefolosha and Georges Niang all on the roster, there just really wasn’t much of a need for Royce at the 4.

An even better answer might be that when Utah goes small, two or three guys are all functionally in the same position. When Royce O’Neale, Ingles and Crowder are at spots 2 through 4, does it really matter which one is which?

Stewart Love ‏(@slove003232): Do you believe Gobert is a top 5 MVP candidate?

I know this sounds crazy to people outside the Jazz fanbase, but I do think there’s an argument for Gobert cracking the top five of the MVP race.

If you sort every player with 250-plus minutes by the average of their ranks in 10 catch-all metrics, Gobert comes in at No. 5 this season. The only players ahead of him are Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, Paul George and Nikola Jokic.

Now, of course, you can’t reduce an argument for a player being one of the five most valuable in the league down to just that, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.

The strongest non-statistical argument (which is almost an oxymoron for me) for Gobert is his franchise-altering defense. I honestly believe that he is nearly as transformative on that end as Stephen Curry is on the other. If you have him on your roster, you can pretty much bank on having a top 3- to -5 defense.

Right now, Utah is No. 1 in points allowed per 100 possessions, according to Cleaning the Glass. And the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and league leader in ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus-Minus is the driving force behind that.

Add that to Gobert being “this season’s most underrated offensive weapon,” as explained by ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, on a team that will likely finish in the top five in Simple Rating System, and you have someone who should be an MVP candidate.


Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of NBA.com, Basketball Reference, Cleaning the Glass or ESPN.
Andy Bailey covers the NBA for SLC Dunk and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@AndrewDBailey) and listen to his Hardwood Knocks podcast, co-hosted by B/R’s Dan Favale.