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We need to talk more about how great Gordon Hayward is playing - The Downbeat #1524

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Utah has to beat the Lakers ... Gordon Hayward's understated improvement ... The Gobzilla effect -- Utah's long-term play with Tre' Bussey ... and how is the rebuild going?

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The Utah Jazz face the Los Angeles Lakers tomorrow night, and the team is hurting for a win right now. They lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder 99-94, Houston Rockets 97-82, and then most recently, to the Golden State Warriors 116-104. The Jazz suffered a 4th quarter collapse in OKC, losing the 4th quarter 25-18, and the game by 5 points. The Jazz were tied with the Rockets after one (23-23), but their sloppiness put the game out of reach after 23-14 and 32-20 second and third quarters. And well, the Jazz were up by one after the first quarter, and tied with the Warriors at the half -- then gave up a 44-27 third quarter. You could argue that the three game losing streak has been a series of ups and downs but the bottom line is that the team has lost three in a row.

For a while now I've been suggesting that the Jazz are both winning better (more blowout wins) and losing better (fewer blowout losses). Part of the situation right now is due to injuries and the schedule. Another part is that all three of these teams style themselves as potential NBA Finals clubs. So sometimes you take one on the nose. Ouch.

The Jazz will tip off against the Lakers tomorrow, as I said. And they are going to be hungry for a win. The Lakers (playing tonight against the Cleveland Cavaliers on TV - TNT) are currently 1.0 games behind the Jazz. Utah has a chance to push LA in the mud a little bit more if they beat them.

And I really hope that they do.

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I don't think enough has been said about what an amazing job Gordon Hayward has done this season. I count myself as someone who doubted that he could be a first option, or how he would perform this year with a new coach (Quin Snyder) who seemed to run a ball-sharing offense. I felt like last year, his first season as "The Man" had him be forced into poorer shooting percentages because he was invariably left with the ball in his hands with the clock going down. I wasn't impressed with his one on one moves / iso ability either. The Jazz of 2013-2014 had the 25th best offense (by ORTG) and was 29th in PPG. I knew that coaching was a big part of that, but the actual output made me feel like G-Time wasn't ever going to be Big-Time.

His 16 / 5 / 5 / 1.5 looked really good on the boxscore, but it's easier to be good than it is to be great. For his career Scottie Pippen averaged out to be a 16 / 6 / 5 / 2 player, and he is known primarily as a second banana. Pip averaged 19 or more ppg in only six of his 17 years in the league -- obviously who he played with limited his output. But last year Hayward had the on court production of a Pippen, without a Michael Jordan in front of him.

This season (at 18.9 ppg right now), Hayward has increased his scoring by 2.7 ppg, while playing fewer minutes, but shooting much better and generally being a much more efficient player all around the court. He plays offense and defense, and not only is our engine -- but also the player called upon for last second scoring opportunities. Recent events where we've seen Trevor Booker break the laws of physics -- and situations where in a "must score" situation Hayward turns the ball over -- may change that though.

Gordon has never shot more, and he is shooting much better than he had the previous two seasons. He did finally get better and/or be better.

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The guys over at The Lottery Mafia (Dan, Nick) posted a great article about The Gobzilla Effect! They break down some of the more traditional numbers and try to quantify how great he has been for the Jazz so far this season. Read it here! Here is an excerpt!

While his numbers are taking a jump on the offensive side of the ball, it is the defensive component that really has people taking notice. Gobert doesn't just function as a capable backup center, he is playing defense at an elite level. Gobert is the top ranked center in the league in opponent field goal percentage at the rim, allowing opponents to shoot just 38.1 percent. These numbers place Gobert ahead of names like Andrew Bogut, Roy Hibbert, Larry Sanders and Dwight Howard. He also has a ridiculously high contest percentage which measures the number of shots the player contests at the rim in relation to number of possible attempts. Gobzilla, as SLC Dunk calls him, contests 67 percent of all attempts. That number is a 6.4 percent ahead of the next closest big man, Brook Lopez. To demonstrate further just how far ahead Gobert is, Lopez is contesting 60.6 percent of shots, but his opponent field goal percentage at the rim is just 48.2 percent, which is ten full percentage points worse than Gobert.

- The Draft Mafia, 2014

Yes! This is a key point. It's one thing to be a big guy who takes up space, but Rudy is actually good at it. You can't teach size for sure, but you can't assume an equality for talent either.

Gobert has both. And that's why I really trust the Jazz scouting department under GM Dennis Lindsey.

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I had stopped writing about the NBA Developmental league affiliates of the Utah Jazz, the Idaho Stampede, for a while now. Let's just say that there is a communication breakdown. I've still had to write about NBA-DL players though. The "No Doy!" point here is that the Jazz, for all their press conferences, do not treat their affiliates like anything other than a scouting tool to call up players from other teams.

I do hope that this changes though. One guy I have my eye on is Tre' Bussey.

Bussey is a true rookie, having played four years at Georgia Southern and graduating last spring. He hasn't play professionally anywhere else in the world and went undrafted in the 2014 NBA Draft. At GaSo he didn't make a lot of noise, but made enough with a senior season where he averaged 16.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.0 spg, and shot .495 / .385 / .662. The Jazz scouts had their eye on him for a while.

They didn't work him out pre-draft. They didn't bring him to the Las Vegas Summer League. But he did get a quick try-out with the Utah Jazz before being selected by them (via the Stamps) in the NBA D-League draft -- 1st round, Pick #7. (For what it is worth, Elliot Williams went #2, Erik Murphy went #3, and Carrick Felix went #4)

Bussey could be that long term prospect that the Jazz never previously developed in the NBA-DL. Some theorists point to that being Jack Cooley, but let's be real here. The team has Derrick Favors on lock for a few seasons, and while Enes Kanter is a RFA, Rudy Gobert is still on his rookie contract. Cooley was supposed to develop into a stretch big, but he has only played three games (due to injury), and has gone 2/5. It's too early to tell if he'll ever fulfill his Jazz goals.

Bussey's minutes go up and down, but his progress shows that he is figuring out this point guard thing for sure. More than his rookie season stats in the NBADL, I am impressed with his attitude:

That doesn't just come off as "I want to play in the NBA, and this is a veiled way of making that statement," it's a point that this guy, this rookie pro baller wants to play against the best. This is the attitude you need to have to get that call up. I love Kevin Murphy's scoring ability, but I've never heard of him talking about wanting to go up against Kobe Bryant. Murphy was drafted by the Jazz, and he has even played against him before. But I don't see that same fire. But, of course, Murphy is older and seen things (drafted, traded, called up, cut, and so forth).

Still, I like the concept of a) the Jazz actually using their NBA-DL team, b) the Jazz actually using the team to develop players in some long-term plan, and c) having one of those players succeed.

I don't get over the fact that the Utah Jazz front office brought Bussey in for JAZZ training camp just to get a better look at him, and then a few days later picked him with their first draft pick in the NBA-DL draft. They must have seen something they really like.

Having watching most of his games this season, I am starting to see some of that too.

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CLARK IS BACK! Read his take at SaltCityHoops.com on the long process of rebuilding here!

It's hard to put an exact start time to the Jazz's current rebuild. The beginning was more of a drunken stumble, with a few careless refurbishments of the marquee outside. Then Dennis Lindsey came along and knocked the whole building down with a wrecking ball. That happened when the Jazz renounced the cap holds of Paul Millsap and others, and agreed to acquire Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson, Brandon Rush, a fistful of dollars, and a pocketful of future picks. That was July 10th, 2013 and for intents and purposes, day 1 of the Jazz's real-life rebuild process. Five hundred and some odd days later, where do the Jazz stand? How far have they come and how far do they have to go? Only Dennis Lindsey and the other front office guys know the answer to those questions.

- Clark Schmutz, Salt City Hoops, 2015

It's a good exploration of what DL has said, where Clark combs the archives of Moni's excellent site JazzFanatical.Wordpress.Com. (I too do the very same thing late at night) Of course, a day before Clark's piece was published I did happen to write about how Dennis Lindsey must be a wizard. You know what they say, fools seldom differ.