I'm still buzzing about Monday's game. I was there in person, and I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a basketball game so much. The first quarter alone was pure distilled hoops joy, highlighted by Rudy Gobert rebounding and swatting everything in sight.
You could sense the excitement from the crowd, too. Without question, Gobert got the loudest cheers from the crowd during the starting lineups, and every block and rebound was greeted by a burst of enthusiasm. I don't have season tickets and have only been to five or six games so far this year, but this was the first time I really felt a sense of optimism in the arena.
Oh la la! RT @GLoosley: @DJJazzyJody Check out this @rudygobert15 poster I made. #StifleTower #JazzNation pic.twitter.com/VXiuRLxYcF— Jody Genessy (@DJJazzyJody) February 24, 2015
As Amar highlighted in yesterday's Downbeat, it's the defense that's driving the upbeat vibe. On Tuesday, Grantland's Kirk Goldsberry posted a lengthy piece explaining the recent advances in defensive analysis, an area that has heretofore been harder to dissect than the offensive side of the ball.
He makes only a passing mention of the Jazz, but the player he highlights is no surprise:
Did the Spurs and Pacers intentionally "funnel" shooters toward their behemoth basket protectors in ways that the Rockets did not? Of course, schemes and teammates matter - Rudy Gobert makes Trey Burke a better defender, just like Hibbert made Paul George a better defender. But that caveat doesn't negate some of the new ways we're able to quantify defensive performance.
In the previous paragraphs, Goldsberry posts opponent shot charts for Roy Hibbert, Tim Duncan and Dwight Howard -- unfortunately, he doesn't show his work for Gobert as well, but it isn't hard to extrapolate his points to our Stifle Tower.
I'm probably the wrong guy to break down this article further, but I highly recommend giving it a read. There's a lot to apply to the Jazz's current success.
Speaking of advanced stats, here's FiveThirtyEight's latest update to their NBA Power Rankings, and guess who has a positive rating for the first time this season:
The Jazz have been steadily rising in these rankings for weeks, a spot or two at a time, but this is the first week they've breached the top half of the league. Utah also recently made its first incursion into the top half of ESPN's Hollinger Power Rankings. These numbers, coupled with the fact that the Jazz have the easiest remaining schedule in the Western Conference, bode well for a strong finish to the season.
FanPosts! Y'all had some...interesting reactions to the Enes Kanter trade last week. First, let's look at Fesenko For President's initial reaction (spoiler: it isn't positive):
Newsflash: Enes Kanter traded by Utah to OKC for Kendrick Perkins, and other OKC garbage. There is only one rational explanation for this trade: KOC and DL unknowingly inhaled marijuana smoke, got stoned, and thought that this deal "would be funny."
Combojazz, meanwhile, has a rebuttal:
So calm down y'all. Kanter wasn't improving, and there is no sign he ever would. We had guys improving behind him. Kanter was going to get a deal that vastly overpaid him for what he brings to the table. So the idea of match and trade is flat out stupid. (We couldn't trade after matching because high salaries make an average player un-tradeable). However, we can go after a top shelf free agent this off season now, and the current team has not been weakened at all. And please don't say that BS about Utah never getting free agents. It's not true, it's unfounded, and thinking that way doesn't help.
In conclusion, whatever Lindsey is smoking is working.
(For legal reasons, I feel obligated to emphasize that SLC Dunk does not officially endorse the position that any Jazz personnel use any form of controlled substances. Thank you for your time.)
Lastly, EmkayMmkay is upbeat about the results of the trade for all parties concerned:
Utah also had to choose the players it should prioritize; I think we all agree that as far as the front court is concerned, it should be Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors. Unfortunately we simply can't get as much value out of Enes Kanter, trading him was probably best for both parties. Let's enjoy our recently-found defensive identify, while wishing Kanter the best of luck with OKC, and the off-season!
The Jazz officially announced Tuesday that they had signed Jack Cooley and Bryce Cotton to 10-day contracts, as expected. (You can read brief analysis from Amar on both players here and here.) As My_Lo reminded me, I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to embed this video here:
I don't really have any more analysis on this yet -- we've talked at length about Dennis Lindsey's addiction to playing Marginal NBA Player 10-Day Contract Roulette, and it seems like these moves are aimed in that direction. They take the Jazz roster up to a full 15 players (the inclusion of Grant Jerrett in the Enes Kanter trade satisfied the minimum NBA requirement of 13). I expect to see the revolving door of 10-day contracts continue through the end of this season.
We've got the Lakers at home tonight. Did you see Jimmy Kimmel's interview with Kobe Bryant? You should watch it, if for no other reason than to see his reaction to his Laker teammates celebrating a win without him:
Unhappy Kobe is the best Kobe. Let's grant his wish and make sure his teammates have nothing to celebrate tonight.