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Utah Jazz' Gordon Hayward is playing like an All-Star, yes or no, or ask again later? -- The Downbeat #1494

Is Gordon Hayward an All-star, or at least playing like one ... how can new Jazzman Patrick Christopher help the team ... more on Andrei Kirilenko's trade ... and why I really love this team.

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday was the second time all season that the Utah Jazz did not play on a Wednesday night. The last time it happened was Wednesday, November 19th, and the team had just defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder and were 5-7. Last night, Wednesday, December 10th, the team just defeated the San Antonio Spurs. Today our Jazz are 6-16. So.... let's just skip over the period in-between the two wins, shall we? Actually we can't, unless you have an agenda.

This team has earned the 6-16 record by waiting until December to have it's second good win of the year (the first was against the Phoenix Suns), and first 'complete game' of the season. Weeks ago Clark pointed out (via Twitter) that it was important to also get wins this year. I agree to a point, after all, for the most part the most obvious evidence for improvement is winning more games.

I"m happy with the team, even if there are a lot of problems. Gordon Hayward is even better than he was last season, and going to the rim most of the time, and not settling for step back jumpers. Derrick Favors is miles ahead of where he was on offense. Enes Kanter has expanded his range without being less efficient, something I don't think we've given him props for yet. Alec Burks is learning how to be useful to a team by doing more than just one thing well. Trey Burke is still our best pick and roll passer, and for the criticism he deserves on defense, on offense he is a pure point guard that helps his team score.

The starters are going to be okay, in varying degrees. The bench has a few really bright spots, with Dante Exum, Rodney Hood, Trevor Booker, and Rudy Gobert all having had excellent moments -- and those guys are 19.4, 22.2, 27.1, and 22.5 years old respectively.

When the team can run, they don't make mistakes. When the offense is working good shots are created, even if they all don't go in. At times there are brain farts, but learning a new system under a new coach, with a number of new responsibilities for players means that this is a season of learning.

Defense is hard to get. For years the Utah Jazz were actually a bad defensive team, they just had John Stockton and Mark Eaton at the alpha and omega points so it looked better than it actually was. I'm happy with this team, even if they only have six wins.



Other people are okay with what the Jazz are doing, even if they don't expect much more from the team. The power ranking round-ups that we've done every week tell us that the National Media sees what the team is up to, or even capable of, but have rightfully dropped them down during our losing streak. (Week 6 Rankings here.) The amazing and handsome Jared Dubin points out for The Cauldron, that the Utah Jazz are one of five teams that don't have anything to play for this season. To wit, "Your NBA season is over ... in December." (Hat tip to Tazz who found this story.)

Enes Kanter can't defend, Trey Burke can't shoot, Rodney Hood can't do much of anything yet, and the young foreigners  -  Dante Exum and Joe Ingles of Australia, Rudy Gobert of France - are having their growing pains. That's the bad.

This is the good: Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors look like legit building blocks. Hayward is having a bounce-back season, averaging 19-5-4 on 45.5 percent shooting from the field and 36.4 percent from three after sputtering through a terrible shooting campaign (41.3 percent from the field, 30.4 percent from three) last year, when he collapsed under the weight of carrying Utah's entire offense on his back.

Hayward is among the league leaders in drives per game this season (the only forwards averaging more are LeBron James, DeMar DeRozan and Tyreke Evans), upping his average from 5.5 a night last year to 6.5 this year. Among the 53 players averaging at least 5.0 drives per game, only five- Dwyane Wade, Dennis Schroder, Tony Parker, Goran Dragic and Stephen Curry - are converting a higher percentage of their shots on those drives than Hayward's 55.7 percent. Compare that to last season, when his 40.1 percent conversion rate on drives ranked 51st of the 58 players who averaged at least 5.0 drives per game. The improvement is massive.

Favors, meanwhile, has turned himself into quite a nice pick-and-roll dive man. He's averaging career-highs in shots, points, field goal percentage and assists, as well as offensive rebounds. He's been a tad inconsistent and isn't always as involved in the offense as you'd like him to be, but some of that is on the guards who don't always see the passing lanes to get him the ball on the roll.

The potential to be an impact defender is still there, even if it's not evident every night, or in Utah's team defensive numbers, which are better with Favors off the court this season. He's hamstrung a bit by playing the majority of his minutes with Kanter, who can't defend at all, but Favors is still a good shot-blocker and he's working on the nuances of help defense and, especially, communication.

And then there's Exum and Gobert, the international men of mystery. Hardly anything concrete was known about Exum before he was drafted, and Gobert was a cypher until he broke out at the FIBA tournament this summer. They've both shown flashes of the players they could become; they just need time. If Quin Snyder can figure out how to get Favors and Gobert on the court at the same time - they've only played eight minutes together so far this season - they could potentially form a really tough defensive front line.

- Jared Dubin, The Cauldron, 2014

No mention of Alec Burks at all, so there's that. However, this analysis of what the Jazz are right now is pretty much spot on. But is the season over, for the Jazz? I think the season is just starting. Yes, our team isn't going to the playoffs -- or will be a threat to make the playoffs. So by that point of view the season is over. But I think if that's how we're looking at it the season was over before it started. This wasn't a Jazz team built to make the playoffs in 2014-2015; but with enough learning, teaching, experience, development -- and practice -- this team could be one built to make the playoffs as early as 2015-16, or 2016-15 at the latest.

After all, none of our point guards of the near future are even 23 right now (Trey Burke 22.10, Dante Exum 19.43, Raul Neto 22.58); none of the bigmen we may be building around are even 24 yet (Derrick Favors 23.43, Enes Kanter is 22.58, and Rudy Gobert is 22.48) . . . if anything it's our wings that are super old (Gordon Hayward is 24.74 right now, Alec Burks is 23.41, and Rodney Hood is 22.16).

It's a young team so young that perhaps some NCAA teams are younger than the Jazz core. (Of course, this depends on if that college team is getting their birth certificates from Shabazz Muhammad 's parents or not.)

Because they are young they will have growing pains, but you know what? This team is actually growing finally.



The Utah Jazz have a new player, potential "Three and D" candidate Patrick Christopher. (Signing news here). Have you seen this guy play before?

This is him in college.

And this is him with Cholet, in France.

And this is what the NBADL put up for him as he just got called up.

So he can make the three, and is okay elsewhere. But what we really want is defense. If he can do that it wouldn't be hard to imagine him getting on the court. After all, back in December of 2009 no one really knew about Wesley Matthews either, right? Maybe? (Evidence suggests that statement is incorrect.) I don't know if PC (peecee?) is going to be the next Wes. He probably wont be as Pat is 26, and Wes was 23 as a rookie.

But what I do like about this is that the Jazz brass are always on the look out to add new guys to the team and see if they can improve the roster.

1 Gordon Hayward 22 777 35.32 303 13.77 36 101 35.64% 33.33%
2 Alec Burks 20 666 33.30 220 11.00 15 43 34.88% 19.55%
3 Joe Ingles 22 388 17.64 65 2.95 12 44 27.27% 67.69%
4 Rodney Hood 12 205 17.08 62 5.17 10 38 26.32% 61.29%
5 Steve Novak 12 54 4.50 17 1.42 8 16 50.00% 94.12%
6 Ian Clark 8 49 6.13 14 1.75 3 6 50.00% 42.86%
Total 96 2139 22.28 681 7.09 84 248 33.87% 36.42%

For the most part the 'wings' are doing okay from outside ... good shots are created, but not capitalized upon as they are missing way too many open threes. They make only 33.87% of their threes, which isn't nearly good enough. More than 1 out of every 3 shots is from outside, and I'm okay with that. I don't want it to be half or anything. But somewhere in-between. (Maybe 40%?) The bottom line here is that there needs to be better outside making. And if Christopher isn't a real three and D player, at least he should be able to help with the first part -- by making threes.



So Andrei Kirilenko is going to Philly, but only for a moment. The 76ers get Andrei Kirilenko, Jorge Gutierrez, a 2020 2nd rounder, and the right to swap 2nd rounders with the Nets in 2018, and cash. The Brooklyn Nets get back Brandon Davies. This, ladies and gentlemen is a salary dump -- and somehow better than Jeremy Evans + Toure' Murry? (Full details and money breakdown here) I dunno.

The main point of this was to get the Nets out of the luxury tax range. The main point of this for the Sixers was, I guess, to be the Sixers. Philly was winning too frequently (2 wins!) so had to get rid of one of their better players -- Davies is averaging 6.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg, about 2.5 combined APG+SPG right now.

The silver lining to all of this is, as Yahoo! Sports' Woj reports, is that . . .

Kirilenko is in the final year of a $3.3 million contract, and will be waived in Philadelphia once the deal is completed, sources said. Kirilenko would become a free agent, but it could still be several weeks - even months - before he's ready to sign a deal to play elsewhere this season, sources said.

Kirilenko, who fell out of favor with Nets coach Lionel Hollins, is attending to a family matter in the New York area that could limit his willingness to travel until sometime in February or March, sources said.

- Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports, 2014

For those who don't know, what this "family matter" is will make you sad and mad and angry for making such poor life decisions. Actually no, it's the opposite. This isn't some "Any given Sunday" style suspension. What is happening is that Masha, Andrei wife, is pregnant and is in his third trimester right now. If you are going to get paid and waived, why not spend more time with the family before signing with another squad?

So Andrei is going to be waived, and going to be a Free Agent. And a new dad, with kid number four. (They have two boys together, and adopted one girl.) He said it best years ago, when he mentioned that there's no better place in the USA to raise a family than Utah. Other teams may pay him more, be a contender, be in a bigger city, or whatever. But for the longest time -- since this skinny immigrant kid first moved to America -- Utah has been Kirilenko's home.



Is Gordon Hayward going to be an All-Star snub this year, or will he make the team? Or is he not even playing at an All-Star level, to begin with? I think he's have a great year so far, but I do know that it is very hard to be an All-Star on a bad team, regardless of your numbers. Kevin Love gets in, but DeMarcus Cousins didn't last year. So we also know that there's no internal consistency.

But how does Hayward's campaign this year look like when put up against the last 10 Utah Jazz All-Stars? Here are their stats for before the All-Star break, and G-Time's.

1 John Stockton 1999 2000 47 28.57 11.98 2.62 8.57 3.66 1.60 0.17 24.94 0.873
2 Karl Malone 1999 2000 47 36.68 25.53 9.47 3.70 1.16 1.02 0.96 40.68 1.109
3 Karl Malone 2000 2001 46 37.70 23.02 8.72 4.50 1.50 1.02 0.78 38.04 1.009
4 Karl Malone 2001 2002 49 38.37 23.39 8.69 4.06 1.23 1.86 0.69 38.69 1.009
5 Andrei Kirilenko 2003 2004 49 37.16 16.33 7.92 3.27 1.13 1.98 2.82 32.31 0.869
6 Mehmet Okur 2006 2007 52 33.94 18.23 7.38 1.96 1.11 0.50 0.56 28.63 0.844
7 Carlos Boozer 2006 2007 45 36.18 22.11 11.80 3.04 1.13 0.91 0.29 38.16 1.055
8 Carlos Boozer 2007 2008 52 35.02 21.65 10.79 2.98 1.21 1.35 0.44 37.21 1.063
9 Deron Williams 2009 2010 46 37.17 18.63 4.13 9.76 3.00 1.11 0.26 33.89 0.912
10 Deron Williams 2010 2011 53 37.91 21.30 3.87 9.70 2.75 1.21 0.23 36.30 0.958
X Gordon Hayward 2014 2015 22 35.32 18.91 5.41 3.91 1.48 1.68 0.27 30.18 0.855

Is he comparable even to former Jazz All-Stars? Does it matter on a team with 6 wins in 22 tries? Even AK's team finished above .500 that year.