After last the last three Bizarro games against the Kings, Thunder, and Timberwolves, it's almost worthless trying to spend time looking at the team's remaining 28 games and figuring out what will happen. Let's try anyway.
Let's look back first at the unofficial first half of the season. I think any reasonable Jazz fan would have to be happy with the Jazz finishing off the first half of the season at 30-24 given the list of injuries the team has had. Six games above .500 is where the team finished last season though this season's .556 winning percentage is ahead of last season's.
That winning percentage would put the Jazz on pace for 45 wins at season's end. That will probably be good enough to make the playoffs last year. That would have been good enough to qualify for last year's playoffs as well. So, in order for the Jazz to hit that 45-win mark, they need to go 15-13 the rest of the way which seems very doable. Let's take a look at some of the remaining games.
The combined winning percentage of the teams left on the Jazz's schedule is about .530. If we break that down between home and road games the Jazz will face an opponent winning percentage of almost exactly .500 at home while battling .561 on the road. The latter stat should scare you given the team's propensity to forget their focus at home next to the car keys on the kitchen table.
Cleveland, Dallas, Portland, and Minnesota are the only teams left on the road schedule with losing records. The Jazz have to play at Los Angeles (LAC), Milwaukee, Chicago, New York, OKC, Houston, San Antonio, Oakland, and Memphis. With their current winning percentage, the Jazz would win four or five of those games. With the harder schedule I'm only willing to give them two or three. Cleveland and Minnesota seem the most likely though I could see them getting another against the Warriors. Or if they're really the Jazz that we've come to know and love this season, their three wins come against Portland, OKC, and San Antonio.
With only 2-3 more road wins on the season, that means they would have to win 12 or 13 at home -- something that's very possible. It's a tough slate shortly after the break with the Warriors, Celtics, Hawks, Grizzlies, and Knicks in 5 of the first 7 games. The only remaining .500 teams after that are the Nets -- who don't scare me -- , Nuggets, and Thunder.
If you figure that the Jazz take care of business against the sub-.500 team at home (7), that means they would need to go 6-2 or 5-3 against the rest.
Overall, very doable. If the team gets Mo Williams back for a significant portion of that and once Hayward comes back, that should help offset any increase in schedule difficulty.
The burner has been lit but the trade talk doesn't really begin to heat up until after the All-star break. As anyone with basic foresight could tell you, Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap's names are going to come up on everyone's trade rumor list.
I'll stick by by pre-season prediction and tell you that neither Al nor Millsap will be moved. Here's a list of reasons why:
- #PlayoffPush. Enough said. If you were around last year, you know.
- If the Jazz were going to move one of them, it would have happened by now. At least in the Kevin O'Connor era, trades to try to improve the team come early in the season or are made in the off-season. The trade for Kyle Korver happened in December. Memo and Harpring were dumped in December.
February hasn't yielded a significant player since the Hornacek deal. Everything else has been salary dumps or getting rid of doghouse players (Stevenson).
- They don't want to disrupt what they have now. Despite Dennis Lindsey admitting that the team is "many steps" away from contending for a title, they have a good thing going on right now with the team. Despite the many downs this season has had, they have had more ups.
- Kevin Murphy is still with the team. The Jazz haven't kept 15 players on the roster in ages. Of course, part of the reason for a full roster is Raja Bell. Having 15 players doesn't prohibit a trade, but the Jazz have always maintained that they like the flexibility of having that extra roster spot to facilitate taking on additional players in a trade if needed. Even with injuries to our guards, the Jazz haven't needed to call on Murphy outside of garbage time.
Again, it's not impossible for the Jazz to make a trade with a full roster, it just makes them a little less flexible.
- I believe the Jazz definitely want to keep either Al or Millsap after this season. An argument could be made for either one. If they trade one, there's a possibility that they lose the other as well to free agency. And while Favors and Kanter should be the future, I think it scares the team a bit to not have one of the vets stay.
- The Jazz aren't over the luxury tax this season for the first time in three seasons. There's no pressure financially to make a cost-cutting move Given that they're over the cap, they would have to take back equal value in contracts anyway in most cases, so it wouldn't alleviate things much anyways.
- Lindsey has alluded to not screwing up the copious amounts of cap space that he's been given several times. I don't believe he would take back any long-term large contracts and remove one of his biggest assets this summer.
Assuming that Marvin Williams picks up his player option -- which he would be crazy not to do given his down year -- the Jazz are only sitting on $26mm worth of contracts. The minimum they have to spend on payroll is about $50mm. If they pick up Murphy's option, they only have 7 players on the team. Minimum is 13. Millsap or Jefferson is going to get a lion's share of that $14mm difference. That leaves 5 players that the Jazz have to sign.
This summer is when deals are going to go down.
- I don't think there's a good deal to be had out their right now. Both Al and Millsap are free agents. Who's in the market for two very good front-court players?
Either one would make a nice addition to a playoff team looking for a little extra punch. What do the Jazz get back though from a playoff team? A low draft pick and an expiring deal? No thanks. There would have to be a young, rookie-scale player involved.
What about a bad team that would have a good draft pick? First, all signs point to this draft being weaker than normal. With Nerlens Noel going down with a torn ACL, a poor draft class got worse. I don't think bad teams are in the market for an Al or Millsap because they're not quite cornerstones. They're very good players, but are they franchise changers?
- Finally, it would take a lot of guts at this point to trade Al or Millsap. Both are beloved by fans and teammates alike. It would be a big chemistry hit on the team that's already fighting for the playoffs.
Time has flown and Mo Williams is already getting his pin out of his shooting hand and beginning rehab which led to this awfulsome tweet from me:
I guess it's time for rehab, said Mo, Mo, Mo. @mowilliams— Kris (@5kl) February 13, 2013
I'm not above reusing tweet material in my Downbeats.
After the loss to the Jazz, Kevin Durant got under the fans' skin a bit when he gave this response in regards to a question about if the ESA is the loudest arena he's been in,
It's not even as loud as an empty Oklahoma City arena
The truth hurts I guess. While it can be loud at times, the past few season have been dreadful when it comes to the arena being full and fans being in their seats at tip-off.
The last game I went to, I was amazed at how long the lines were to get into the building at tip-off. I'm not excluding myself in any way. Maybe we lost or confused a lot of our fan base when the name was changed to the ESA. They're wandering downtown Salt Lake looking for the Delta Center and they can't find it on their GPS.
And don't get me started on the fans that are leaving the arena even in close games. I've never understood not getting full value for what you pay for. And really, traffic after the game isn't that bad, so that's not a valid excuse for leaving early.
Sure, KD was saying it in part to bug Jazz fans and to protect his own fans, but there's truth in it. Had it not been so, it wouldn't have bothered so many people.
Twenty years. That's how long it has been since the Jazz have hosted an All-star game. When will it, if ever, be back? Don't count on anytime soon. Our esteemed BTS did an article on it last season with Randy Rigby and the Utah Sports Commission stating that nothing has been done to bid for the game and there doesn't seem to be anything on the horizon. It's not a priority right now.
Recently, the league has been awarding the All-star game to those teams with new arenas or for basketball reasons. There's a list of teams that I can think of right off that will get the AS game before the Jazz -- even with an official bid:
- Brooklyn. This is a no-brainer. State of the art arena. Gazillionaire owner. Right in the NBA's back yard, etc. In fact, I was shocked that it hadn't already been named as a future spot.
- Miami, Chicago, San Antonio, and Boston. They all have new arenas that haven't hosted the game. There are others but these teams are the biggest names.
- Portland, Toronto, OKC. They're the top locations that have never hosted the event. OKC may be at the top of that list.
If you've made it this far, I haven't put you to sleep. Just a brief explanation of why I'm going the Downbeat. First, I have some rare spare time this week. I've been having a bit of a jones to write something ever since I left. Everything is going great though I don't get to spend as much time watching/reading about the Jazz as I would like.
Things kind of fell into place where I could write something this week and there was an opening. So this won't be permanent hence me not faxing in an "I'm back" sheet. I may be popping up more often that I have been in the past year though if they'll have me. There's no schedule for it though and if I do write something, it's likely that it will be a last-minute thing.