Ideally your team is well rounded, deep, and have players who can cover for one another. When you develop your team through the NBA draft, Free Agency, and through trades it's likely that if you stick with it you can achieve that. If your team is mostly built up of draft picks you do get a funny skew. And this is precisely where the Utah Jazz are right now. If you look at their season stats this year you see that the leaders are Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors. They got the most minutes during critical development time, and have had the most consistent roles through the three coaches from the 2010 NBA draft till today (Jerry Sloan, Tyrone Corbin, Quin Snyder).
Sadly, when you do build through the draft you are not building with known quantities or established products. You essentially are rolling the die for each pick. Some picks work out, some do not. Right now it's too early to tell with some of our players like Dante Exum and Trey Burke. With others we get a very strong feeling that they are not only going to be good one day, but are good right now -- the key example for that is none other than Rudy Gobert. The Jazz missed out on Damian Lillard with the 2012 draft, and right now are playing without any players from the 2011 draft -- Enes Kanter was traded, and Alec Burks is out for the season.
If you build through the draft you are taking a risk. And right now at this early stage in our newest rebuild we find that Hayward and Favors are leading the team on the court. The numbers agree with the eyeball test. But what else do the numbers say?
This season the team started off with great expectations for their young point guards. Trey Burke seems to figure things out in the second half of the season, and Dante Exum was ready to wow people. With two young guys at this spot you expected inconsistency, and that's really what the Jazz have had this year. Dante is the starter now, after Trey had that job for over 40 games. Neither is lighting the world on fire. In fact, if you look at their shooting numbers they do not yet inspire confidence. Both can play really well. And I believe that both will down the line. It's just that both have not so far.
Beyond them the Jazz had Troue' Murry, an NCAA SG, play some point guard in practice, but didn't play him in any real meaningful games. He did get a few seconds (rounded up to one minute) and jacked up a shot. But what did you expect? He was a shooting guard. Dude isn't going to shoot? In the NBA-DL he played many games and many roles for the Idaho Stampede -- everything from PG, SG, SF, and PF. He's versatile, but did not really get a chance here at all.
Bryce Cotton exists here as a DL call-up and an actual point guard. He has yet to play a game.
As far as the point guard play this season goes, this season hasn't looked that good by the numbers. Exum appears to be a capable defender who can at times take and make a spot up three pointer. He does not yet know how to use his body to his advantage but his talents are apparent. As a pass first guy with that size and speed he can eventually be an All-Star. But NBA History is littered with tall PGs who never panned out as well. Time will tell. Trey isn't shooting well enough to justify all the shots he does have to take in a game -- others will not so he has to. I'm not crazy about his floor vision on some plays, but you can tell that he is a real leader and that while he isn't killing it, he knows how to win games.
Ideally Alec Burks wouldn't have gotten injured. This season is not an idea situation though, and he did. In his stead the Jazz have tried many people at this spot. Beyond Elijah Millsap, I don't think there's any other consensus happiness to be found. Joe Ingles, originally thought of as just a security blanket for our baby Kangaroo (a Joey, to be technical), has actually become the starter. And to be fair, he's just not that good. He can get better. He can shoot well at times, and out of our entire guard crop he seems to be one of the only ones who can play defense. But I can't help think of him as the Adam Keefe of this team. He hustles, he knows what he can and cannot do. But I don't think that even he believes he is a full-time starter on a good team in this league.
Lilsap plays defense, and I don't just mean he gets interception steals. He actually makes other players on the other team not want to be guarded by him. He's also someone who can hit the three. Furthermore, he is just a monster on the glass for his size. Dennis Lindsey, the Jazz GM, may have found that NBA-DL, undrafted 3 and D guy that our squad really was missing.
Ian Clark is a shooting guard, but the Jazz do not play him at shooting guard except in blowouts. They want him to continue transitioning to point guard, and have sent him back to the NBA-DL for more seasoning. The four year NCAA player and Vegas Summer League MVP hasn't seen the floor much. When he does he can still make the three, but his play-making skills leave something to be desired. I just don't know who he defends on the court as a 6'3 shooting guard; which may be the bottom line for the Jazz trying to get him to be a point guard.
Gordon Hayward good. Everyone else? Not as good. Rodney Hood was supposed to be the steal of the draft, and I still hope that he will be just that. I like what he can do on the floor, and he adds more than just spot up shooting, but also ball handling, passing, and some more length out there on defense. His injuries this season have made it hard for him to have the rookie season that we all hoped that he would have. The team may have to manage his minutes his entire career -- like how D-Fav can't average much more than 32 minutes in a season. It's a shame. He's a good kid, with a great heart. When I met him at the Draft last year he really made a great impression on me.
Patrick Christopher got injured and got axed. Which is so crazy because the Jazz did not sign him to a 10 day contract, but do a mult-year deal. On the same lines, Jordan Hamilton had that as well and we know how that ended up.
Derrick Favors started the season off as a center, and is now playing power forward as Enes Kanter has been traded. Favors is working his way into the brains of national writers, and he is being accepted as a legit bigman despite being so "out of sight / out of mind" for a few seasons behind Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. It's complete recency bias to worry about free throw shooting now that Kanter, 78.8 FT%, is no longer inside. But C'est la vie.
Trevor Booker brings a lot of energy, has made a bunch of big shots this year, dunks with enthusiasm, and is actually a limited player. Which is kind of why the Wizards, a team that used a 1st round pick on him, decided that he wasn't part of their future. With the Jazz he is a great change-up player off the bench who bangs and hustles, and now is by default the best stretch big on the team. I had ideas that perhaps Hood may have gotten some time at the 4 this year, but that's not the case. And Steve Novak hardly got any time at all when he was here. Jeremy Evans consistently wows, but doesn't get to play either.
The Jazz traded away Kanter and Novak, and part of what they got back was Grant Jerrett. The 21 year old is a legit stretch big, but has seen more time in the DL this year than on the court. He has yet to play for the Jazz. Jack Cooley, a power forward, is probably going to play center for this team at times. He was in training camp for the Jazz after a few stints in free agent minicamp. As a player for the Stamps this season up in Idaho he did not impress, but the team needs warm bodies now.
Rudy Gobert made trading away Enes Kanter less harsh than it needed to be. He looks to be a huge part of this team, particularly on defense. Kendrick Perkins was traded for and bought out. It really is the Rudy show here, and it's a good job by the Jazz to finally figure out that when you have great potential, you move guys out of the way so that potential can quickly become production.
Who are the best players this season?
Beyond Hayward and Favors it's clear that Rudy Gobert is establishing himself as a cornerstone of this team. Enes Kanter was having a nice season, but not a great one. Alec Burks falls in the same category -- we were not happy with that we got from him when he was here, but without him we see what we are missing. The major problem, if there is one, is that the team isn't getting much from the guards this season. You could argue that Trey Burke and Elijah Millsap are the best this year, and those two guys aren't really killing it.
But if this team needs to make the next step, they are going to have to evolve from a Big Three, to a deep team. Getting Alec Burks back next season will be huge. But for such a young team the main ideas seems to be you just need to keep them together, and develop them together. When you are forced to almost fully commit to the draft in order to improve the roster this is what must happen.
And thankfully it finally is.