What? The Jazz won on a Friday night? They did. Read Yucca's recap here. It's good to get these wins against non-playoff teams. Particularly those who are 'resting' their best players like the Phoenix Suns did with Goran Dragic, and the Portland Trail Blazers did last night with LaMarcus Aldridge. I'm not taking anything away from the Jazz here. I'm pointing out that this seems a lot like Deja Vu from last season and how we backed into the playoffs through a combination of the other teams being injured and our team going on a good run.
The run hopes to continue tonight as we play the Brooklyn Nets at home, the return / revenge game for Deron Williams. In 14 games so far in March, D-Will is averaging 22.0 ppg, 7.5 apg, and playing 36.8 mpg. The Nets are having an up and down March -- they were pretty hot in the middle after dropping the first two games. And now they just lost last night to the Denver Nuggets on the road. They currently sit 8-6 this month, and by direct comparison we're 6-9 this month. At one point we had lost 9 of 11 games, but we've pulled ourselves out of a tailspin with wins against the 76ers, Suns, and Trail Blazers.
If we win tonight we'll finish March on a four game win streak, and be a much nicer looking 7-9 this month than 6-10. Of course what stands in our way is a motivated Deron Williams who is in the middle of his own playoff seeding race (the Nets could still work their way up to #3 in the East if they are lucky), who has never had a good game as the visitor in Utah. Should be fun tonight.
How's your NCAA bracket looking? I honestly couldn't care less about how well the teams do in the NCAA, it's the players going to the NBA that I care about. (This is, sadly, precisely how the Lakers and other big market teams look at lotto teams who draft breakout stars.) Of the top 10 NCAA Point Guards this season only 6 went to the NCAA Division I tournament. They were (in order of best prospect to least):
- Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State, 6'4, 200, Freshman
- Trey Burk, Michigan, 6'0, 180, Soph
- Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse, 6'5, 175, Soph
- Lorenzo Brown, N.C. State, 6'4, 180, Junior
- Shane Larkin, Miami FL, 5'11, 162, Soph
- and Russ Smith, Louisville, 6'0, 160, Junior
(The others who were ranked but not in the tournament were C.J. McCollum (Lehigh), B.J. Young (Arkansas), Erick Green (Virginia Tech), and some Myck Kabongo (Texas) dude -- never heard of him)
Four of the above PGs led their team to the Sweet 16 (with a few advancing beyond), and the more games you play in the tournament the more exposure you get. Some of these players have definitely helped their draft stock so far. You could argue that they moved themselves out of range of our Jazz even being able to pick them. There are their tournament averages (so far):
Yuup, some of these guys are having good tournaments. Well, at least they appear to be having them when you look at scoring. I guess this is the "new" point guard in the NCAA game where they're either shooting it themselves, or the defense is focused on getting the ball out of their hands. Only two PGs here have assist to turn over ratios of that baseline level of 3:1 (represented here as 3.0), Brown and Larkin. Both of those guys project to be 2nd round picks, if picked at all.
There's more to evaluating a player than just their numbers though. Last night Trey Burke pulled a D-Will (from D-Will's tourney days), put his team on his back, and helped them score a crucial come from behind victory in overtime. He went for 23 and 10, and added four threes against #1 seeded Kansas. That gets you noticed, but it was his 'take over' mentality and clutch ability that got his team the win. General Managers look at that. Burke was (depending on the mock draft) going to go in the late lotto, but now looks like he'll be in the middle lotto for sure. If we're going for the playoffs we're going to have to middle to late 1st round picks which are just about garbage on the open market. And we don't have the "assets" to move up this year as we have a ton of free agents. And btw, you can't TRADE an unrestricted free agent to move up in the draft. The Draft is in June and free agency is in July. And July is AFTER June. If we were going to move up, it should have been last year to get Damian Lillard when we had assets galore (inc expiring contracts).
So, let's hope that the suspension and lack of exposure the tournament brings will have made Myck Kabongo go under the radar long enough so we can draft him. Most of the good PGs could be gone already.
There's some crazy stuff happening on the internet for sure. A lot of it happening here at SB Nation. I'm interested to see your takes on these things:
- Derek Bodner (@derekbodner) of Liberty Ballers (Sixers blog) wrote a really long piece on the "Great Tanking debate" and goes into it on a lot of angles, what the team is saying, what the standings are saying, and so forth. It is refreshing to see OTHER fan bases that have to deal with the same philosophy differences as we do. Check it out here, and tell me what you think in the comments.
- Xiane (@Xiane1) of The Dream Shake (Rockets blog) wrote a rebuttal of sorts to David Locke, in response to Locke's comments about bloggers from the podcast Locke did a while back with the Rockets crew. Some parts I agree with, and it's nice to see someone else take a look at this interaction between people who write for the team who are 'insiders' vs people who write for the team because they love the team and are fans. Check it out here, and tell me what you think in the comments!
- Tom Ziller (@TeamZiller) of everything, including Sactown Royalty (Kings blog), wrote about the current/former part owner of the Warriors who is now joining a group to buy the Kings -- Vivek Ranadive. He's, duh, South Asian. In the post Ziller talks a bit about India as an emerging market for basketball, I wrote a comment in there as well. It's an interesting topic for sure, at least with bloggers. Two of the SLC Dunkers (UtesFan89 and I) are South Asians; heck, at least three of the current roster at HP Basketball are as well. If anything, there are a lot of South Asian bloggers, even if there are zero in the NBA right now. You can check out the post there.
- I didn't want to include this link, but it bothers me. So I am including it. It is infamous now, the comment section is a train wreck, and even Rush Limbaugh (sp?) had to talk about it yesterday. It was a humor piece by Bill Hanstock, and well, look at it. Tell me if you want us to include this type of variety and humor into our posts at SLC Dunk. I'm sure it got all the hits in the world. That's not why I'm running this though. So tell me what you think.
Looking beyond tonight's game against the Nets, the Jazz conservatively have only 4 hard games left this season. April 3rd we host the Denver Nuggets. Then on Sunday, April 7th we are on the road facing the Golden State Warriors. On Tuesday, April 9th, we're at home to the Oklahoma City Thunder. And our last game of the season, on Wednesday, April 17th, is on the road to face the Memphis Grizzlies. Those are four tough games, and we have 4 easier ones.
The more I look at it, we have the fast track to the playoffs here as we already OWN the tie-breakers with both the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks. So, if the Jazz make the playoffs again this year -- is this season a success? Did we remain stagnant from last year? Or did we waste another year of potential fast-track development?
And yes, a part of me still roots for Deron's success in the NBA. He gave us so many great memories.
Once a Jazzman. Always a Jazzman.