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NBA Playoffs 2016: Non-playoff teams still have much to look out for, plus Earl Watson and Karl Malone! Downbeat 1896

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The Utah Jazz aren't in the NBA Playoffs, so the NBA Playoffs are kind of boring. But they don't have to be. The Utah Jazz are making strides, even if only the nerds and stat-geeks can see it. Defense is Bae, but the Offense is growing, but probably a little too slowly. We take a look at the Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns, and are glad we aren't them. Coach Earl is going to be around for a little while longer, and we once again bring up the idea of a Coach Malone.

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Playoffs huh? For me I don't really have rooting interest in this, just anyone but the Clippers or Warriors win please. Or the Rockets. Or probably a bunch of other teams I'm blanking on. But just because I'm not actively watching the games doesn't mean I'm not having fun this year. And that's really it -- you have to find your own fun. Like this little San Antonio Spurs fan who is going a little too crazy with this 'dab' thing. Behold:

So, what's the most annoying thing you've seen a Jazzfan do at a Jazz home game? I'm curious.

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I can tell that going from 20 something wins to 30 something wins to 40 something wins appears like progress, but nay-say-ers will point out that going from 38 to 40 wins isn't that much of a jump. I get it. It's hard to be head over heels with joy with a sub .500 season. But it's in the details that we see the real improvement. This team WAS much better than the last five+ Jazz teams. In fact, if you look at differentials, the last Jazz team that was better than this one was the 2009-2010 team. For reals!

I'm not just on the optimism bandwagon. I have to admit part of the reason for including this beat was to point out the Sacramento Kings . . . and their 10-year differential looks like that "shrug" thing.

DB 1896 Sacramento Kings Welp Shrug

DB 1896 Welp Shrug

The Kings -- #TeamWelp

This teaches us that even though things were bad, that they are at least getting better.

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The Utah Jazz continue to have an improving and impressive defense. Their 2015-2016 Defensive Rating (DRTG, or points given up over 100.0 possessions) was only 103.9 this season. That was 7th best in the entire NBA this year, and over the four plus decades of Jazz basketball, it was the 14th best mark ever. In fact you'd have to go all the way back to 2003-2004 (103.3) to find a Jazz team with a better DRTG than the 2015-2016 squad. In fact, this Jazz team had a better DRTG than the 1997 NBA Finals squad (104.0) and the 1998 NBA Finals squad (105.4). The big difference, between being a team of several former All-Stars (John Stockton, Jeff Hornacek, Karl Malone) and being a team with zero, seem to be on the offensive end.

I am still on the Quin Synder is an offensive genius bandwagon, however I'm less crazy about some of the things he does. I do think that there is a steep learning curve for all of our players though. Either they grew up playing "Al the Conqueror" ball for Tyrone Corbin, or didn't play for any coach that had a tough system, or are coming from NCAA ball that has a much longer shot clock and lower possessions. The offensive sets and the plays who run them aren't going to look great until year three. And even then it's going to be iffy because Dante Exum will be in year two. Invariably an offense can cheat and tread water if there is a good offensive player to build around and carry the team during stretches of the game.

Sadly, I don't see one on this Jazz team right now. Rodney Hood is way too streaky and Gordon Hayward already has to do everything. It's unfair for him to be the offensive rudder, mast, sails, and wheel all at the same time. I think Snyder-ball recognizes this and tries to share the ball a little more. Listed below are the top players by USG% in 2015-2016 (minimum 1000 minutes).

Player USG% Player USG% Player USG%
1 DeMarcus Cousins 35.4 16 Kyrie Irving 29.5 31 Klay Thompson 26.3
2 Stephen Curry 32.6 17 Reggie Jackson 29.1 32 Brandon Knight 26.2
3 James Harden 32.5 18 Jrue Holiday 28.9 33 Kyle Lowry 26.1
4 Kobe Bryant 32.2 19 Dennis Schroder 28.8 34 LaMarcus Aldridge 25.9
5 Russell Westbrook 31.6 20 John Wall 28.6 35 Kawhi Leonard 25.8
6 Dwyane Wade 31.6 21 Brook Lopez 27.3 36 Gordon Hayward 25.7
7 LeBron James 31.4 22 Jahlil Okafor 27.3 37 Emmanuel Mudiay 25.7
8 Damian Lillard 31.3 23 Derrick Rose 27.3 38 Dirk Nowitzki 25.5
9 Kevin Durant 30.6 24 Eric Bledsoe 27.2 39 Bradley Beal 25.3
10 Paul George 30.4 25 Andrew Wiggins 27.2 40 Trey Burke 25.3
11 Blake Griffin 29.8 26 Chris Paul 27.1 41 Jamal Crawford 24.9
12 DeMar DeRozan 29.8 27 C.J. McCollum 27.1 42 Karl-Anthony Towns 24.8
13 Carmelo Anthony 29.7 28 Nikola Vucevic 26.8 43 Chris Bosh 24.7
14 Anthony Davis 29.6 29 Jeff Teague 26.6 44 Ryan Anderson 24.7
15 Isaiah Thomas 29.6 30 Kemba Walker 26.5 45 Pau Gasol 24.6

There are only two Jazzmen in the top 45. One of them finished the season with DNP-CDs. The other seemed to run out of gas at the end of the year. Most everyone else on this list appears to be better suited to take a big offensive role with their clubs. I'm holding out that the offense will one day surpass the defense. But it seems like it will only do so when everyone on offense can stand on their own, Snyder (and Dennis Lindsey) will not be using an offensive crutch to get there. (Crutch being an offensive superstar or star, in this case.)

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Former Jazzman, and S.W.A.R.M. captain, Earl Watson got a vote of confidence from the Phoenix Suns -- a rare thing for their head coaches. He has just lost his interim label, and signed a three-year deal. I'm happy for him. He worked his way up from being a pro baller who specifically worked with children for years and years before he retired. His dedication to teaching the game and teaching discipline and personal accountability helped him assume a position as a locker room mentor during his last few seasons. His natural leadership instincts from being a point guard and his understanding of both offensive and defensive Xs and Os made teaching what he knew to younger players an easy transition for him when he became an assistant head coach. Having succeeded Jeff Hornacek (who had also paid his dues), the Suns are now expecting Watson to continue working with their young group of players.

He doesn't have the pedigree of Quin Snyder, but there are few guys out there who did play for Jerry Sloan and Hubie Brown. Watson did.

I am excited to see what Watson will do in 2016-2017, knowing that he's the guy the Suns brass have trust in. Of course, all of this is stupid because Hornacek was moved mainly because Markieff Morris was a doodie-head, and then after axing Horny, they moved Morris. The Suns, like the Kings, appear to be in the Jazz shadow, and will be for years to come.

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Despite the perceived incompatibility in communication skills such a pairing would produce, I offer up the idea that the Utah Jazz need to stop pussyfootin' around and just freaking add Karl Malone to the coaching staff. I am tired of:

  • Our bigmen not running the floor, and thus not helping the team score in transition -- and the Jazz were awful in it last year
  • Our bigmen having more of a face-up game than a post-up game
  • Our bigmen being pushed around (seriously, if Trey Lyles didn't stick up for himself against Channing Frye . . . oh man . . . that would have looked bad)
  • Our bigmen not knowing what the weight room is
  • and Our bigmen not dunking it on the other team all day long

As it stands right now I don't think any of Karl's children, Malones or Rivers or whatever they may be, are in high school. I know he's a guy who keeps busy, but he has made it perfectly clear that he is ready to take that next step in giving back -- and giving back to the Jazz by coaching (for free as he has even suggested before). Heck, Karl could help the POINT GUARDS on this team understand how to read a screen on a pick and roll situation and know how to find the roll man and get him the ball in scoring position.

Can you imagine if Trey Lyles learned that strip the ball move from a defensive post position? Or how many easy baskets the team would get if a) Favors ran the court, and b) the guards actually got him the ball? Rudy Gobert being tied to a chair eating gumbo for a month where the only time he's not in the chair he's in the gym working out with Karl?

It's silly to me that the only guy who seemed to benefit from being around Karl was Enes Kanter (who had a 30+ pts, 20+ reb game this season that for whatever reason none of us mentioned on the site).

I understand that in the way this team is being built and how this team is run on the court you're never going to get a very high USG% bigman again. But that's almost even more reason to try to get the most out of your bigs on the team. If you have access to a Hall of Famer from a small school who built his entire game up from obscurity to become the best power forward of all time -- I really wonder why you'd want to keep your players from basking in his radiance.

Perhaps I underestimated how much bull pull Greg Miller still has with this business. I guess being conservative and boring will be the new trademark of the Jazz even though we are in the millennial generation.

At the very least it would add some fire to this passionless team. Utah only earned 17 technical fouls in this last 82 game go-around. I get it. Don't get a tech because you don't have the respect of the refs. If you get a tech and the ref respects you it may make an on-court change of behavior in your favor down the stretch. Utah got jobbed so much down the stretch this season because they had no respect. A barking Karl Malone in a refs face would at least elicit a different reaction than taking it and accepting your fate.

And maybe I'm overstating how poor the communication would be. Favors is from the South too, and Karl worked great for decades with a white kid from Washington State (Stockton). He could do well with Quin too. After all, they both seem to have the same eye for what Alec Burks can do. (YEARS AGO, Karl was on NBA TV talking about how Alec should be playing PG, when he was healthy, Quin was finishing games with Alec there.)