Almost half the season is over, and in a month everyone will be talking about the All-Star game, weekend, events, and snubs. I definitely think that Gordon Hayward is not going to make it, despite how well he is playing. And I definitely think that there are problems with having a fan vote determine so much. This makes sense if all people who vote are equally educated. This does not make sense because there are different proportions of fans all around the globe, who vote for different reasons (homerism included). You have no doubt seen this map of North America, and the most popular team from each part of the hemisphere, right?
There just aren't enough Jazz fans out there. Period. (I know, I follow the numbers for this type of thing) This is the case for many small market teams, but look at how lonely this is:
Anyway, I wish I could make real NBA changes. I'd keep the Fan Vote for the All-Star game, but have the coaches of each conference still determine who starts. The fan vote will get your guy on the team, but not make him the point of the pageantry or ceremony. Kobe.
Sooooooo . . . Dante Exum (and Joe Ingles, Rodney Hood, or Elijah Millsap) aren't even on the Rookie of the Year Radar at this point in the season, according to NBA.com 's amazing Scott Howard-Cooper. SHC lists Andrew Wiggins (MIN), Nikola Mirotic (CHI), Nerlens Noel (PHI), Elfrid Payton (ORL), K.J. McDaniels (PHI), Tarik Black (LAL), Jusuf Nurkic (DEN), Jabari Parker (MIL), Kostas Papanikolaou (HOU), and Zach LaVine (MIN) as his Top 10 for last week.
ESPN's David Thorpe's Top 20 (In$ider) goes as: Andrew Wiggins (MIN), Nikola Mirotic (CHI), Jusuf Nurkic (DEN), K.J. McDaniels (PHI), Nerlens Noel (PHI), Tarik Black (LAL), Elfrid Payton (ORL), Marcus Smart (BOS), James Ennis (MIA), P.J. Hairston (CHA), Kostas Papanikolaou (HOU), Bojan Bogdanovic (BKN), Joe Ingles (UTA), Jerami Grant (PHI), Shabazz Napier (MIA), Kyle Anderson (SAS), Zach LaVine (MIN), Dante Exum (UTA), Travis Wear (NYK), and Gary Harris (DEN).
So at least with Thorpe, Jingles is #13, and Exum is #18. Jingles being #13 after going undrafted is great -- but he's not really playing that well. For a starting shooting guard he isn't doing very well from outside (26.8 3pt%), so in a way with him we have an old (27), nonathletic version of Ronnie Brewer at starting SG because Alec Burks is out. Harsh.
Not as harsh as Dante Exum, the #5 pick, being a mostly non-impact player save for brief shining moments. I know, Dante is 19. He turned 19 during the Vegas Summer League. I know he has played in three training camps and with the Jazz in Vegas, Australia in Europe for FIBA (inc 8 tune up games before), and the Jazz in the preseason . . . over and above playing in all 40 games for the Jazz this year.
He has played a lot with no break, and before this point he had only played high school basketball.
Furthermore, I understand that he was drafted not to be an immediate star, but a potential star down the line. This is one of those "judge this pick in 3 years" deals that our front office is fond of saying. I just find it funny that in a season where we're not going to snif 40 wins, we still can't have impact rookies.
Does it matter if they eventually become good, in their 5th season?
Yes. Yes it does. Because it means that for whatever reason the Jazz do not get as quick a return on their investment as other teams do. And this appears to be a system problem. Hopefully this changes. It appears to be changing under Quin Snyder -- after all Rudy Gobert is a monster in his 2nd year. So there is hope.
It just hurts that Dante isn't playing as well as we hoped he would. No one was expected All-NBA 1st team as a rookie. But people were expecting him to at least attack the rim more and get some foul shots. Being viewed as someone who can get to the line as a rookie bodes well for the perception of that player going forward, and the subjective influence refs can have on the outcome of a game.
An actual knock is that Trey Burke doesn't get to the line enough, with respect to the rest of his FGA. Trey (77 FTA / 499 FGA) looks disproportionate in his aggression. Dante (29 FTA / 183 FGA) is just as bad. Trey is at 15.4%, and Dante at 15.8%. The problem is that Trey is known as the pull up jump shooter, not the 6'6 athletic phenom slasher.
Perhaps the national opinion of our rookies is accurate this year? I just kinda wished for more from a #5 pick.
SB Nation's Paul Flannery has a weekly column called the Sunday Shootaround. This Sunday he spends a great deal of time talking about the Atlanta Hawks and their sharp shooter Kyle Korver. Check it out:
"It feels more like a college team in a lot of ways than a pro team," Kyle Korver told me after the Hawks dispatched the Celtics with relative ease. "The business side of the NBA is always going to be there and it's still there for us. We have a couple of guys in contract years and surely they think about that, but you don't ever know about that. Everyone feeds off each other and no one's out there trying to do their own thing. That's really rare in the NBA. We have something special here."
But don't check it out just for the Korver parts alone.PFlanns talks about so many other stories, teams, quotes, and players during the column. Of the Jazz he says:
Utah: If the Jazz were in the other conference, we might be looking at a Milwaukee-like leap next season. Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors are coming into their own and the top seven players in minutes are all under 24 years of age. The Jazz still have a long way to go defensively, but they have a diamond in the rough in Rudy Gobert. This is a team to watch and their time may be a lot closer than people think.
Thank you to Spencer Campbell for pointing this story out to me. And thank you Paul for having such a great, robust read on the Weekend that puts the rest of us hobbyists to shame : )
I love our bigmen this year. They are all playing well, even if they are all not getting enough time for their individual talents to shine. Derrick Favors is entering the 20-10 zone that few previous Jazz bigmen ever ascended to. RFA to be Enes Kanter is some crazy mix of vintage Tom Chambers, Karl Malone's ability to run the floor, and the Turkish version of Batman. Rudy Gobert could be the best Jazz bigman of all time. Trevor Booker had the shot of the year, and is playing the best he ever has. Jeremy Evans has been great in limited minutes, and I don't think I've seen Steve Novak miss an open three all year long. It's an interesting mix of bigs, and talent. And this group is working TOGETHER way better than our previous logjam a few seasons ago (with Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap in the mix). Part of that is coaching. Another part of that is having complimentary talent.
As it would so happen, we may be coming into the new era of talented bigmen. My main man Ricky O'Donnell wrote this great piece on freshman bigman Domantas Sabonis, who is manning the paint for Gonzaga. And yes, before you ask, he is the son of Arvydas Sabonis.
So far, Arvydas Sabonis' kid is living up to the hype. He's averaging 10 points and 6.2 rebounds per game while shooting over 73 percent from the field. Extend those numbers out per 40 minutes, and Sabonis is putting up over 19 points and 11.75 rebounds per night.
A deeper dig into the numbers shows just how effective he's been. He's scoring 1.135 points per possession, according to Synergy Sports, which ranks in the 96th percentile nationally. His defensive rebound rate (23.7) places No. 56 in the country, per KenPom, and his offensive rating of 119.3 is in the top 150. KenPom's player comparison algorithm is comping him to Draymond Green in his freshman year. Not bad company.
Sabonis' shooting numbers are astounding in almost every situation. He's ranked in the 97th percentile nationally by scoring 1.2 points per possession on post-ups, per Synergy Sports. He's been perfect in 11 possessions in transition. As the second half of the pick-and-roll, he's scoring 1.263 points per possession, which ranks in the 85th percentile.
There's still plenty of room for his game to grow. He's only blocked five shots on the season. He hasn't shown his father's trademark passing ability yet either, dishing out a tick under one assist per game.
And no dialog of bigmen isn't complete without a trip down to Mailman lane. This could be the #KarlMaloneTax , but check out this old-school pic of him back at LA-Tech.
Which player do you think did Karl's homework? (# please)
I wanted to apologize. I had planned all along to publish a downbeat on Sunday, thinking that the next Utah Jazz game (@ San Antonio Spurs) was to be on Monday. I messed up, and now we have a Weekend Downbeat on the same day as a game day. Blah. WHY was I moving things around and not putting out the Downbeat on Saturday? Because I spent yesterday working on amazing posts for MONDAY.
Oh well. Best laid plans, and all . . .
Here is a video of Kyrylo Fesenko to distract you while I finish up all these posts I have to do now!
GO FES GO!