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Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward is a leader, but fans should not be led into making conclusions - The Downbeat #1916

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Does history repeat itself? The Utah Jazz hope so with the NBA Draft. Utah Jazz fans hope so with a future playoff run, though. Check in with today's news, from bromances to tin-foil hat conspiracies!

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA Playoffs, the NBA Draft, and NBA Free Agency . . . the Utah Jazz aren't in the first one, but really could be players in the other two. There's a big reason to be excited for the draft and I explain why. Free Agency isn't easy for a small market team, but that allows us fans to be selective with which guys we go crazy for. Maybe this year will be different? We check in on our favorite bromance between Gordon Hayward and Jeremy Evans, and revisit the last Jazz team before the NBA Finals years. History was a boring subject in school, but as a sports fan it's integral to understanding where the team is and where the team is going.

Oh yeah, and also some meta-blog commentary as well . . .

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So with the NBA Playoffs going on strong (Golden State Warriors 1 - Oklahoma City Thunder 1; Cleveland Cavaliers 2 - Toronto Raptors 0), and with the NBA Draft prep happening right now (the Utah Jazz have already worked out 18 guys) it's obvious that the most important thing to talk about right now is Gordon Hayward and his public blog. Hayward's blog can be found here, and it's not just a transparent attempt to expand his visibility -- you can tell that while the publishing and some of the editing isn't his, the essence of the words are. It's funny to think about Jazzmen of previous eras doing something like this (the obsessively private John Stockton really wouldn't have done something like this, though I think Karl Malone loved being in the lime-light), but we're thankfully now in a different era. Heck, stars are the ones who break the news now about which team they will play for, not journalists. In a way the media is now both user-directed and reactive. Hence, our collective (as fans) decision to react to Hayward's blog at all.

He is in the process of publishing a series of his thoughts this off-season. Please note that we don't know how MANY of these he is going to do. So investigating every word and trying to divine some esoteric secrets right now would be a) premature, and b) really, really creepy. The first one (looking at the end of the season, the injuries, and Game 82 against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers) dropped 10 days ago.

The second was published yesterday.

He continues to talk about his motivation, his family life, how things are changing, but also his relationship with head coach Quin Snyder and the obvious Utah Jazz youth movement that's happening right now. Fans are moving to the next level to not just read what he writes, or hear what he has to say -- but to see who he talks about.

And I didn't even notice that until people were talking about it on social media . . . and being thorough I had to re-read both posts with an eye for that. There are some teammates he does mention -- evening singling out Rodney Hood and Trey Lyles in BOTH blog posts. And there are some that are not even mentioned once. Those players somewhat stand out when you look at the full roster:

2016 Off Season Gordon Hayward Blog Players Mentioned

Five players didn't get a legit mention in either of the posts (so far...), and they are Trey Burke, Dante Exum, Derrick Favors, Tibor Pleiss, and Jeff Withey. Favors was mentioned (as "Fave") in the second post, but only in reference to how much Lyles stepped up "in a huge way, filling in for Fave." Exum has not received any specific mention so far, though the first post goes over roster health and mentions quite early on that "We had four of our main guys go down this year," which we can assume references Exum (missed 100% of the season), Burks (missed 62% of the season), Gobert (missed 26% of the season), and Favors (missed 24% of the season).

I can imagine that the relationship that Hayward and Favors have as Team Captains could easily be explored in a subsequent blog post. Similarly, at some point you have to address the benefits of adding Exum back into the fold -- perhaps as a primer for the 2016-2017 season. So I wouldn't worry about G-Time not talking about Exum after two whole posts; after all, he's a very smart guy. Not mentioning him in the "youth movement" section could just be because Dante didn't play this year, and not as some sort of "out of sight / out of mind" perceived slight.

Tibor Pleiss and Jeff Withey both did not play a lot when the team was at full strength. Tibor did put up a double-double for the Idaho Stampede, and Jeff was probably under-utilized this year. Truly, I don't think we've seen such a competent and efficient back-up center in a Jazz uniform since, well, perhaps Enes Kanter behind Al Jefferson. (BTW, Happy Birthday Enes!) Okay, so maybe that wasn't a very long time ago. But it's okay not to mention those two guys with respect to the subjective view of how this season went, and with the objective way Gordon's series of posts are outlined.

One player who wasn't mentioned, wasn't injured, or wasn't grouped together in another topic was Trey Burke. I am admittedly too close to irrational fandom to be objective about the "Trey Burke Experience", but even I am not jumping to conclusions here. Yes, Trey is 23 and could be considered part of a youth movement (he's actually younger than Rodney Hood). Yes, Trey was a story line with his relegation to the deep bench. But no, specifically not mentioning him wasn't a "dis".

It's easiest to mention him when Gordon does put up a blog post about the roster change from year to year. Furthermore, any goodbyes that may occur will be private and personal. Gordon does this blog for us, the fans; his actual ideas may not be so public. (A well managed public figure shows you what his people want you to see.) Yes, I am already resigned to the idea that Burke is going to be traded this off-season and that is not because he was a bad apple, he just wasn't a good fit for what Quin Snyder wanted to do on the court. (Let's not forget that Dennis Lindsey traded up for Trey, so Lindsey at least at one point really liked and wanted him.) After Shelvin Mack was added (someone Snyder does love) Burke kind of became persona non grata in the point guard rotation behind Mack and Raul Neto. With Dante Exum set to return next season the writing is on the wall.

Even if right now it's not there in-between the lines of Gordon Hayward's blog posts. Just because someone isn't mentioned doesn't mean Hayward hates that guy or is turning into LeBron James and deciding roster moves and personnel decisions. Let's not get too deep into that type of star player, prima donna conspiracy theory stuff just yet. Not mentioning Favors by name doesn't mean that he's getting traded. Mentioning Lyles twice doesn't mean that Favors is getting traded.

Read Gordon's blog for the content of what he does say. It's a great look into the team, his thoughts, and his unfiltered feelings. There's a lot of good stuff in the first two posts of his Year-end blog series. I can't wait to read the rest!

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Man, about 1,000 words on "he said / she said" . . . this isn't a tabloid blog. Let's get back to the fun. Here's a recent picture of Gordon Hayward (#NoTeeth) and former 2010 NBA Draft Class member / actual family member Jeremy Evans:

Evans is in a tough spot, and I'm not just talking about how he had a season ending injury either. Evans was a second round pick going to a team with Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Andrei Kirilenko, Francisco Elson, Kyrylo Fesenko, and Mehmet Okur on it. (Listed by most to fewest season minutes) During his rookie year the team traded for Derrick Favors, and because of injuries, signed Marcus Cousins to a 10-Day. He came to a team that really had no playing time for him, and under Jerry Sloan he really didn't get tons of it. Over the next two seasons he played less than HALF of what he played in his rookie year in the following years. (463 minutes as a rookie, 217 as a soph, 215 in his third season)

I believe that minutes are necessary for development, though we really don't know how much Jeremy worked on parts of his game in the off-season. He still hasn't developed a three point shot, or a handle. Nor did he bulk up at all. He just kind of became a better jumper, I guess, with his work at P3 helping him get some great rebounds, blocks, and finish countless alley-oops.

When he was "vet enough" he was part of Tyrone Corbin's rotation but Quin Snyder couldn't find a place on the floor for him at all. This last season, his first with a new team, had him joining many former teammates on the Dallas Mavericks (Deron Williams, Devin Harris). But things didn't work out well for him there either.

Now, in a contract year (and it's a small contract at that, $1.227 million) he's going to need some playing time and some luck to help him secure his next contract. Dallas has a number of free agents to think about retaining (David Lee, Zaza Pachulia), and Mark Cuban always wants to make big moves. A small move that will possibly inhibit Evans is that they are most likely going to offer a qualifying offer to young stringbean bigman Dwight Powell when they can.

Evans is a perfect contract to trade, and maybe Dallas does move him. I don't see him getting the time there. And that's basically been the rub his entire career. He did not get the time early on, didn't gain new skills (in the off-season), and now going into his seventh season of his career time is now running out. True, late 2nd rounders (55th picks!) don't usually have unlimited potential. And his athleticism is what helped him make the league in the first place. But the lack of actual expansion to his game really hurt him. He probably would have played more and more if he could be more than just a skinny power forward, but also had some small forward skills including expanding his range. (Career 6/26 from downtown, 23.1%, about four threes attempted per season.)

I hope that his season ending arthroscopic surgery to fix his torn labrum (right shoulder ball and socket joint) was a success and that he's going to be ready to play. He's just a guy you want to root for.

Warning: Audio track for this highlight mix is Trap music, and features NSFW language

I don't think he has a place on this developing Utah Jazz team, but I can't imagine why this guy isn't a rotation player in the NBA at this point after watching what he can do on the court. But after looking at what he does outside of highlights I can understand why.

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The site is going to get very drafty over the next month, so if you are not into that you may not enjoy the majority of the content here. Then again, if you are a long time reader, you probably already don't enjoy the majority of the content here!

Anyway, since Dennis Lindsey took over the Jazz have been doing things at the draft, and performing much better as well. Part of it HAS to be the extra effort the Jazz are putting into the draft.

  • 2010 Pre-Draft Player Workouts: 32
  • 2011 Pre-Draft Player Workouts: 30 (32 scheduled, hey Kawhi Leonard and MarShon Brooks! One player twice, Paul Carter)
  • 2012 Pre-Draft Player Workouts: 25 (one player twice, Jorge Gutierrez)
  • 2013 Pre-Draft Player Workouts: 27 (one player twice, Jack Cooley)
  • 2014 Pre-Draft Player Workouts: 90 (one player twice, Jarred Shaw)
  • 2015 Pre-Draft Player Workouts: 102

As mentioned earlier, this team has already worked out 18 guys, and I can assume we're going to see about 100 players again. It's important to check out everyone and all draft ranges this year, because Utah has the ability to move up, move down, or move back into any spot in the draft. They have the players, the cap space, the future picks, and the current picks to do so. (You have to figure that some sort of deal of Trey Burke + Picks + Future Picks + Misc assets can get you something in this draft. After all, they got a #27 pick for a song a few years ago.)

Utah is picking at #12, #42, #52, and #60 this year. If they go conservatively and do not make any deals (as unlikely as it is) then they could end up with three players and one draft-and-stash. (#12 player, #42 player, #52 draft and stash of guy who somehow wasn't picked earlier, and #60 player unlikely to make the team, but fill out summer league roster and maybe play for the SLCS in the NBADL.) There are a seemingly endless series of combinations of what Utah can do in this draft.

So far none of the guys worked out (Jaron Blossomgame, Jarrod Uthoff, Josh Adams, David Walker, Ryan Anderson, Thomas Walkup, and the rest) have blown me away. But the early workouts fill out a data set with which to better grade the rest of the workouts by (a frame of reference). Staying put, and using my algorithm, results in the Jazz drafting Deyonta Davis (Michigan State power forward), Garry Payton II (Oregon State point guard), Wayne Selden (Kansas shooting guard), and Isaiah Cousins (Oklahoma combo guard).

That doesn't really quicken the heart beat either . . . but with a bunch of low picks and a late lotto pick it may be best for us to temper our collective expectations going into the draft -- so that we can be blown away after it. Or even a year after it. I'm going to be clear here, I wasn't blown away by Trey Lyles when we selected him. But I was proven wrong during the season. As a result, I have ultimate trust and confidence in the Jazz current scouting department. And those guys and gals know their stuff. Clearly.

So here's to another 90 or so workouts Jazz fans! It's all worth it if the end result ends up with another rotation player who can fill in as a starter when his number is called!

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Trivia Time!

That Jazz team sure did beat the snot out of the opposition in the playoffs. They closed out the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round with a 102-64 victory. They creamed the San Antonio Spurs 95-75, 105-75, 101-86, and 108-81 in that six game series. And in the Western Conference Finals they they took the Seattle Supersonics to seven games with some big wins, 96-76 and this memorable 118-83 drubbing. (N.B. Not all of those games were 25+ point victories, and no, there were not all of the playoff games won by the Jazz that season either.)

Here's that 118-83 game, if you wanted to watch it

As you can see, stars win playoff games. And it's one thing to make the playoffs, it's entirely another thing to make a mark in them. Those 90s Jazz teams did. In the season in question the Jazz did not advance to the NBA Finals primarily because John Stockton was playing injured during the playoffs and didn't tell anyone about it. He still managed to average 11.1 ppg, 10.8 apg, 3.2 rpg, and 1.6 spg in the playoffs. Not bad at all. Karl Malone played 40.3 mpg shouldering the largest loads with his 26.5 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 4.4 apg, 1.9 spg, and 0.6 bpg per game averages during their 18 game sojourn. But he had some help with Jeff Hornacek busting out for 17.5 ppg (.502 / .586 / .890 -- yes, nearly 60% from deep), while adding 3.6 rpg, 3.3 apg, and 1.1 spg. Also, of note, Bryon Russell came off the bench in every playoff game, but still managed to play 25.5 mpg (over half the game), while doing the little things like averaging 9.6 ppg (.468 / .472 / .816) 4.2 rpg, 1.2 apg, 1.3 spg, and playing defense against all the other wing players.

It's simple, but great teams are almost always comprised of great players who are playing great. I wonder how far off we are from getting back there.

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My draft prospects scouting reports are almost ready to drop (will be published on Monday) . . . I was wondering, did you want to see some Free Agent scouting reports as well (for our own team and for other players)? If so, please list the guys you are interested in. I would LOVE to be able to give you guys and gals more directed content.