The Utah Jazz and the tale of two takes -- getting no respect from the odds makers, but perhaps a little too much from the sports writers. We also check in on the team and what they are doing in Summer League. There's a feel good story last night that some of us missed. And beginning to theorize about some of our off-season additions. Today's topic is Joe Johnson !
Today's question: How much do you think Joe Johnson has left in the tank? Iso-Joe is 35 years old and signed on for another two years. He has nearly 50k miles on his legs if you include his high level performance wear and tear at the NCAA, NBA, and NBA Playoff levels. The former Lottery pick, 7 time NBA All-Star, and legendary game finisher is now playing for his 6th team. And with how contracts go, and the revolution to perhaps play him more at power forward, it may not be his last.
So, how much left in the tank does he have?
For me, I put a lot of stock into how he started for both the Brooklyn Nets (a lotto team) and the Miami Heat (a team a win away from the Eastern Conference Finals). Johnson helped the Heat secure the #3 seed in the East and 35 mpg in the playoffs. He's capable of handling a full share of responsibilities with the Jazz. Now, I know everyone wants Rodney Hood to start -- and the Duke player may just do so under Quin Snyder -- but I don't know if that's as written in stone as some would have us believe.
I think Johnson can still play, and contribute, at a very high level. If needed, he could play 30 minutes per game in my mind. Maybe he signed on with the Jazz (for one fewer year) because he knows he'll get the chance to play about that much per game? I don't know. I do know that it's not difficult to find him some playing time if you spread it around the SG / SG / PF spots.
Will he play that much in Utah? I don't know. But I kind of hope he gets at least half a game to do what he does best -- make buckets. Last season the Jazz had a 16th ranked Offense (by ORTG), that's on the bottom half of the 30 team league. Signing Joe not to play him isn't fixing that problem.
But that's just, like, my opinion; man. What do YOU think?
Okay, so Utah Jazz fans are pretty happy with how the off-season as gone. Let's go over how things went:
- Utah Jazz did not win the lottery, but they did not move back either, the #12 pick should be a rotation player this year
- They announced a three team trade with the Atlanta Hawks and Indiana Pacers where Utah gives up the #12 but receives point guard George Hill in return
- For better or for worse, the Jazz finish with three second rounders in from the NBA Draft: Joel Bolomboy, Marcus Paige, and Tyrone Wallace
- Joe Johnson signs with the Jazz as an Unrestricted Free Agent from the Miami Heat
- Trevor Booker leaves the Jazz as an Unrestricted Free Agent for the Brooklyn Nets
- Trey Burke leaves the Jazz in a trade with the Washington Wizards
- Shelvin Mack's non-guaranteed contract is guaranteed for next season
- Boris Diaw is traded for, with only 2015 2nd rounder Olivier Hanlan being sent back to the San Antonio Spurs (move primarily made so Spurs could sign Pau Gasol)
If you add on the (customary) return of injured players (this year we're celebrating Dante Exum and Alec Burks) then there were lots of reasons to be high on the Jazz. I know many of us Jazz fans are. I'm seeing a lot of 50+ win estimates. (I will repeat that I was FIRST by proclaiming on ESPN St. George radio that they'd win 52, and that was my view before the NBA Draft.)
What I'm still not seeing is much respect from Las Vegas.
Seriously, the Minnesota Timberwolves have greater championship odds than the Jazz? Pathetic. Utah is behind 21 other teams (not including ties). Furthermore, the Jazz are 4th in their own division here, only the Denver Nuggets are less championship-worthy than us.
There are 10 Western Conference teams ahead of Utah on this list. Well, I'll tell ya what. At least three of the teams ahead of Utah will finish the next 82 games behind Utah in the standings.
Despite the disrespect from the odds makers, a lot of people ARE hyping up the Utah Jazz. VICE Sports recently theorized about the Jazz being potential Golden State Warriors stoppers.
Now the big question is: Can any team spare us from a season-long coronation? There are a number of answers, none of them quite persuasive, but perhaps the most interesting is a team in a peewee-sized television market that hasn't made the playoffs since 2012, and doesn't boast any top-15 players. The Utah Jazz seem like a long shot to slay the Warriors, but so does everyone else. After a summer of brilliant personnel moves that enhance well-established on-court strengths and broaden the team's attack, these Jazz may be as convincing a long shot as we've got.
Utah is skilled and agile on the perimeter, with a flexible bench that should allow head coach Quin Snyder's imagination to run wild. They're big enough to turn the paint into a steel cage match and deep enough to go small and switch everything on the outside. Last year's team was sparky and intermittently scary, and they've kept their core intact while adding George Hill, Joe Johnson, and Boris Diaw — savvy veterans with real playoff experience who fill areas of need. And players like Trey Lyles, Rodney Hood, and Dante Exum are still young enough to enjoy meaningful improvement; fans far from Salt Lake City will have fun watching them grow
Any team that wants to compete with the Warriors must be comfortable operating in slow motion. Points are important, but it's even more critical to maintain efficiency by generating solid looks in half-court sets that then allow plenty of time to get back in transition. The Jazz were the NBA's slowest team last year, and that was by design. They averaged more passes than everybody else but were 27th in assist opportunities. Few teams cut more or leaned as heavily on dribble hand-offs. Injuries, turnovers, and a general lack of talent and athleticism prevented Utah from becoming a legitimate threat, but when they're at Full Squad, the Jazz have a system that makes sense and enough talent to make it work.
That's just the BEGINNING of the very long and through multimedia presentation over at VICE sports. I suggest you read it all over here. The TL,DR version of this story is based a lot on the Jazz team defense, personnel, and leeeennngggttthhh.
The Jazz get back at it today in the Las Vegas Summer League. This is the first time *EVER* that they have advanced to the second round. And they did it with a team effort beating the Portland Trail Blazers (the team that won in sudden death overtime a few nights ago after the Lyles tip-in); and the Jazz beat them like dogs. The 86-71 final score wasn't even indicative of how Tibor Pleiss (20 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 threes, 6/6 from the line, 1 block), Joel Bolomboy (14 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 4/6 from the line), Aaron Craft (11 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal, +/- of +10), Spencer Butterfield (11 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 2/3 from downtown, 1 steal, +/- of +5), and team took care of business. Utah dominated the paint, had a 47 to 32 rebounding advantage, got to the line 25 times (to 14), and shot 53.3% from outside (compared to 23.1%).
Yes, Portland forced a lot of turn overs (and props to Pierre Jackson in that "free safety on defense" mode) but they couldn't put up much of a challenge. Lottery pick Noah Vonleh and Canadian Sasquatch Jordan Bachynski would combine for only 8 rebounds. Otherwise known as one more than Jazz small forward Quincy Ford.
It was a dominating win, even if the Jazz did not play the perfect game.
In particular we got to see Pleiss really shine in the pick and pop game, and he did his best to get his hands on a few rebounds as well. I don't know if he will have that much space, or be closed out so poorly in the NBA. But he made the most of it against Portland. I also was a big fan of Bolomboy. He continues to push his range out to 18-20 feet range, and while his shooting form needs some work, the ball goes in the hoop. Also there was this tribute to Carlos Boozer last night as well:
Utah is in Round 2 action today against the #4th seed Denver Nuggets. More on that in the Game Preview later on today!
The ESPYs were last night. I didn't watch them because, seriously, I was too invested in the Las Vegas Summer league. I don't think I missed anything important -- but it was nice to see that they recognized long-time on-air talent Craig Sager.
His battles for his health are well known, but someone who has shone this brightly in life will never fade from our collective memories.