So, Enes Kanter seems to be doing well with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Rudy Gobert is making all kinds of waves with the Utah Jazz. But let's stop to recognize that Jack Cooley just had a 27 point, 29 rebound nights for the Idaho Stampede.
Utah's bigmen -- there must be something in the water.
Brett Oswalt of Number Fire wrote a great article on projecting the Jazz future based upon their recent play.
Just 20 days ago, the Utah Jazz traded young center Enes Kanter to the Oklahoma City Thunder in a trade deadline move that, in a nutshell, returned two 2017 picks (one protected first-rounder). Needless to say, I don't think the Jazz are looking back.
At 27-36, the Jazz haven't had a great season by any means. They're 11th in the West and 19th in our current power rankings. But, lately the youthful Jazz have shown signs of a promising future.
What does that mean going forward?
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In a six-game span, the Jazz bested the Trail Blazers, Spurs, Bucks, and Memphis -- four surefire playoff teams. The highlight of those four wins was a 93-82 win at Memphis, during which Rudy Gobert finished with 15 points and a ridiculous 24 boards.
Gobert's outstanding play isn't confined to one game though. Since Kanter's departure, The Stifle Tower is averaging 9.7 points per game on 54.7% shooting from the floor. Now that's' not all too impressive, but Gobert's defense and rebounding has been. In the last 10 games, he's grabbing 13.3 rebounds, blocking 3 shots per game, and posting a Defensive Rating of 84.7 points per 100 possessions.
As for the team, they've also thrived on the defensive end of the floor. The Jazz have held their last 10 opponents to 83.4 points per game on an average of 39.7% shooting from the floor, and since February 20th, Utah's Defensive Rating of 89.6 is first in the NBA and Net Rating of 9.8 is third in the league.
So, if you're going to build a bright future in Utah, why not start with a stifling defense?
It's a really good piece that includes videos and it's well worth your time!
Remember back in the olden days of October where Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose of Grantland predicted that the Utah Jazz would be #29 in the league? Watching this video now is pretty fun, especially with what we have seen so far this season:
What did they get right? They freely admit that they suck at ranking these teams, as the #29 team by their preseason video last year was the Phoenix Suns, who went on to have a very surprising season. Rudy Gobert has been a beast. Tyrone Corbin did do a bad job last season. Trey Burke does make clutch shots, but that's about it. Steve Novak was the chemist on this team. Marcus Smart did do pretty well head-to-head against Dante Exum (stats!); but the jury is still out on Dante being worse than the other PGs from his draft class.
What did they totally miss out on? Well, the Jazz are clearly not the #29th team in the NBA this year. Utah was right to pay Gordon Hayward max money, he's pretty much a 20/5/5 guy this year. Derrick Favors, while he's not finished, isn't an energy guy. Enes Kanter can shoot threes, but it's true that the Favors / Kanter / Gobert front court was not entirely spaced correctly at times. Also, he's a starter on the Oklahoma City Thunder now, a consistent 40+ win team. The back court duo of Trey Burke and Alec Burks wasn't that successful this year. The Jazz have won more than 23 games.
What was their biggest mistake?
ESPN's Ben Alamar wrote about how the Utah Jazz have improved, and are now 19th in their Basketball Power Index (BPI).
The Utah Jazz had a rough start to the season but have now moved up to 19th in ESPN's Basketball Power Index (BPI). They are projected to finish with just one fewer win than the Miami Heat despite playing the sixth-hardest schedule this season and the Heat having the easiest.
And unlike the Heat, the Jazz are extremely young; the five players with the most minutes on their roster all are 24 years old or younger. They have a lot of the right pieces to become a threat in the Western Conference in the coming seasons.
Overall the Jazz have essentially an average defense, anchored by Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors. Both of these bigs have a defensive rebounding percentage above 20 percent and a block percentage above 4 percent. Only 12 other players this season are playing at those levels, and Gobert leads them all with a 7.7 BLK%, and only DeAndre Jordan, Andre Drummond, Pau Gasol and Tim Duncan are ahead of Gobert's 26 DRB%. Plus, Gobert is only 22, so he has plenty of potential to realize.
Yes, it's crazy to see so many outlets getting in their #HotTakes about the Jazz right now, our Utah Jazz. It helps illustrate how fickle the 24 hour news cycle is, remember when everyone was up the butts of the Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns? The thing that really makes this Jazz team special is that they are young and playing defense. I'm sounding like a broken record at this point, but those are just the facts.
This Utah squad isn't great on offense, but that's what happens when you aren't playing with your second best offensive player (Alec Burks) and haven't had him in uniform since December. But I think the front office and coaching staff had really make the defense the priority -- in more than just press conferences.
Last season, with a more vet lineup, Utah was 29th in DRTG at 111.3. Right now this season the jazz are 16th, giving up only 106.1 points / 100.0 possessions. That includes the entire season so far (64 / 82 games), and isn't just based on some recent swing of good play.
It is nice to see big media outlets noticing the Jazz and the strides they have made on that end of the court. The GREAT news is that the offense is going to improve as well. So watch out, league!
NBC's Dan Feldman believes that Rudy Gobert should be the #1 draft pick if they re-did the 2013 Draft -- AND -- that he should be in the running for three awards at the end of this season: Defensive Player of the year, Sixth Man of the Year, and Most Improved player. Check it all out here!
Gobert is averaging 7.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. In 11 starts since Utah traded Enes Kanter, Gobert's averages have jumped to 10.5 points, 14.1 rebounds and 3.1 blocks. The Jazz are 9-2 in that span, including wins over the playoff-bound Trail Blazers, Spurs, Bucks, Grizzlies and Rockets
If the 2013 draft were re-done - with consideration to Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nerlens Noel, Victor Oladipo, Michael Carter-Williams, Mason Plumlee and everyone else - Gobert makes a compelling case to go No. 1 overall.
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He didn't become a center until age 18, playing small forward growing up before a growth spurt. It didn't take him long to realize what his size advantage could offer - an advantage many players have tried to rest on.
Instead, Gobert is progressing nicely toward maximizing the potential offered by his natural ability.
He doesn't float toward the perimeter offensively. He works hard to position himself for as many high-percentage shots at the rim as possible.
He doesn't just stand under the basket and swat shots. He's learning the finer points of defensive positioning.
Now, in his breakout season, Gobert is a legitimate contender for three awards - Defensive Player of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year and Most Improved Player.
He might not win any, and two would be tough. Three would be unprecedented.
This post is VERY detailed with vines, bar graphs, and lots of great info. If you only read one thing in this DB read this piece. Crazy. Dan also mentions that only six players have won two of the major awards before (Darrell Armstrong 6MOY MIP; Hakeem Olajuwon MVP DPOY; Michael Jordan MVP DPOY; Alvin Robertson DPOY MIP; Wes Unseld MVP ROY; Wilt Chamberlain MVP ROY).
It's nice to see National writers recognizing Rudy Gobert. No one from the Jazz is campaigning for him to win anything. Doc Rivers, of the Clippers, is going insane trying to get DeAndre Jordan the DPOY award. SB Nation's Mike Prada details that entire circus over here. It is well worth the read, and shows you two big things:
a) Doc Rivers doesn't understand why his player shouldn't be DPOY
b) That's not going to stop him from supporting his guy and being very public about it.
Do you think that the Jazz can support their players more / campaign for things? I can get not sending out iPods out for Gordon Hayward 's non-existent All-Star votes from West coaches . . . but Rudy could be up for three awards this year. And he deserves it. Why not actually try to get on your own players' bandwagon for once? Having a DPOY winner (or some other award) will help the Jazz win games because of influence and perception. I guess not enough people are buying season tickets to make the bean counters suggest that it would be okay for a national media campaign, eh?