The Utah Jazz are 5-9 right now, a few weeks after what 'could have been' a winning record if the Indiana Pacers / Atlanta Hawks games finished differently. Our boys just lost to the New Orleans Pelicans, so are currently -1 win from my preseason idea of how this early season would go. If you look at the W/L record and the team is essentially 'win one every three tries' that isn't that great (35% actually). Last season the team won three times in ten tries.
I feel like the on court improvement from year to year is actually larger than 5%. It's hard to quantify my gut feeling about this team. But with two possible more wins in the first month of the season I'm not mad. Last season it took till December 18th for the Jazz to get seven wins. And like I said, it could happen weeks earlier this time around. The Oklahoma City Thunder and Denver Nuggets aren't that scary.
Obviously point guard play will be one of the persisting stories of this season. Trey Burke's performance against starters hasn't been equal to how well he was playing as the starting point guard late last season, or even in the preseason. Dante Exum's play as been ahead of what we expected and some feel as though he should be the starter as soon as possible. I understand that Quin Snyder is going to have a difficult time balancing this as the season goes on.
- Trey Burke is averaging 10.6 ppg, 5.5 apg, 2.1 rpg, 1.1 spg, 0.5 bpg, and shooting below expectation.
- Dante Exum is averaging 5.3 ppg, 2.7 apg, 1.6 rpg, 0.6 spg, and 0.3 bpg, while shooting above expection.
It should be known that expectations were not similar for the two players. (Due to a variety of factors like age, experience, and player type)
I remain an odd-ball here because I believe that they both can be useful as players for the Jazz this season, and seasons beyond this one; and that the ace-in-the-hole configuration against the evolving NBA is to have TWO point guards on the floor at the same time.
Over the weekend (I think?) I wrote about how the Jazz are staying ahead of the curve in Xs and Os for the first time in a long time. I believe that having a strong rotation of possible ball handlers is going to be necessary with how the offense evolves under Quin.
Remember, the sets the team uses today are the first release sets. What Quin is coaching our players to do three years from now can be almost infinitely more complex. And the type of players Trey and Dante are going to be three years from now (one of them Gordon Hayward's age, the other still only 22) are so far ahead of who they are today.
Of course, there are still other fans out there who feel like Raul Neto is going to emerge as the conductor of our offense, supplanting one of the two PGs on the current roster.
Let's hear that sweet music, Maestro!
Personally, it's not a zero-sum game right now between these cats. They are our two most marketable players right now, even NBA TV does interviews with them. It would be silly to call the race five weeks into their careers together.
And really, this season is the grand experiment we didn't get last year. As a result wins and losses don't interest me. Even on court production (shocking!) isn't the most important barometer for me either. Being better as a team, a unit, or an individual relies on so many different processes. And as a result it's only natural for progress to be charted in so many different directions that you can only see it through the big picture. Quin Snyder feels similarly.
Via Moni's amazing site (VISIT IT NOW JAZZFANATICAL.WORDPRESS.COM !)
Do you measure progress in wins and losses, or in other things we don't see?
I think the majority of it right now is some of the other things, although the wins and losses especially, being put in those situations, I think, are part of the growth process.
You know, so even if the game doesn't turn out exactly the way we want, I think to put ourselves in a position to compete, you know, and have that experience too, is, I think is part of the growth.
And it's still not visible in the won-loss column, but I think it's about learning to win, and learning to close games, and you know, and putting yourself as a team in those positions that, you know, eventually you draw on that experience as well.
But you know, I'm hesitant to really peg down our group on the numbers, especially given, you know, our schedule's been so tough and it just affec-you know, it affects you in so many ways, that that's why I don't want our guys to evaluate themselves in a group based entirely on that. Although it's, you know, it's...obviously a factor and a part of it. ...
For us right now to define ourselves right now in terms of wins and losses, I don't think it's healthy for our team, and certainly not for our individual players either.
Yes, this is how I feel. And that I feel like the Jazz are better than 5% better than last season. You'll see. You'll all see!
(This Gif used without permission from the Shums, but not in competition with him either.)
Oh, let's play a game. Guess who these two players are. These are some of their extrapolated (per 36 minutes) and advanced stats (PER, etc) for their NBA careers from age 22 and below.
Yeah, both look kinda similar in some respects yes? Well, Player A is none other than Karl Malone. Player B is our very own Enes Kanter. You may not see some similarities to their games, or their numbers, and that's fair. Some of the stats are more convincing than others. (And you can check them all from Basketball-Refernce.com here)
Just some food for thought. Kanter isn't going to be the next Malone. But if you look at just how young he continues to be (22, aka, Dante Exum's age in three years -- ye Gods!), it's hard not to see WHY it was right for Quin to keep playing him and not replacing him in the starting lineup with Trevor Booker. (Hmmm, maybe his decision to keep starting Trey will also pay off, sample size?)
This weekend I got a chance to chat with one of my best "non-Utah" Utah Jazz fans, Dyl. We talked a little about Jeremy Evans. I think that Evans is motivated to do what it takes to help the team. He's not going to be looking for his own self-glory or try to derail what's going on. He has always been a team first individual who continues to spend part of his off-season doing free publicity and good faith work for the Jazz brand in far flung places that can only be accessed by roads of questionable construction.
He's a good guy.
He's also in a contract year.
I think we've identified that he may not have the three point shot needed to fully space the floor like a Steve Novak, Rodney Hood, Enes Kanter, or Trevor Booker. But none of those guys are defending at a high enough level right now. Hood is a huge energy guy who can create his own shot. Kanter rarely misses midrange shots. Novak is a true floor spacer. Hood could be the best of the bunch in the end. But I feel like Jeremy Evans should be getting some burn.
Maybe he isn't working hard enough (?) in practice? Or, more likely, it's the Corbin theorem. Enes Kanter could not beat out, in practice, Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson -- and therefore could not get on the court much back in the day. This did not address any of the points that Kanter, while inferior in one on one, did not have some of the collective disadvantages that Millsap or Jefferson had in game. Not being able to beat out specialists did not mean you couldn't beat out the opponents.
In practice with that group of five that he's in he's obviously the worst shooter. He's up there in hustle and energy, but isnt bulky enough to be considered a physical rebounding four (like Enes and Trevor can be). He can put the ball on the floor, and isn't a deep threat.
One thing he COULD be is a guy who defends those guys we haven't been able to defend all year -- stretch bigs. He has the athleticism, quickness, and length to challenge jump shooters. I wish Snyergy still existed for consumers, because I could give you his up-to-date defensive numbers while closing out.
I'm not saying Jeremy Evans needs to start or even play every game. But there are situations where he could be useful out there on the court. And we know that he does amazing things on offense without ever having a play called for him.
I say bring him out of the bullpen once in a while to do some relief work and jam up some guys in that Ryan Anderson (didn't kill us this time), Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, Patrick Patterson, Pero Antic echelon. It could prevent the other team from scoring a few points a game, and can't possibly be worse than the current stretch big defense right now. He's not going to stop Dirk Nowitzki. But no one can.
Right? Also... dunks?
Play this guy a little more, Q!