The Utah Jazz continue to be the hot topic to write about, today we check out what Sports Illustrated thinks. Also, anthropometrics! (Basically the long and short about our current roster as they stand today) We check out on Team Australia and what they've done to gear up for these Olympics. Trey Lyles wins an award. And the ultimate question is revealed!
Every day more and more people are going crazy for the Utah Jazz. Sports Illustrated's Rob Mahoney breaks down their shift in emphasis here:
The Jazz made a well-timed detour from their developmental road (by @RobMahoney) https://t.co/PTQyJBWGhU pic.twitter.com/GhAVRPCHVR— SI NBA (@si_nba) July 19, 2016
Basketball development is itself an act of imbalance. To improve requires that a player or team lean into a void, often in ways that aren't immediately comfortable or all that stable. A ball-handling wing will try his hand at initiating an offense full-time. A quick-footed big might switch on to guards on a more regular basis. An effective mid-range shooter might experiment with a corner three. The only way to really know how far a collection of talent can go is to stretch it, deliberately, until it strains or even snaps.
Every young team endures this same process of becoming, and those that stay together long enough eventually encounter the same, fundamental dilemma: At what point should a growing team scale back its developmental opportunities for the sake of adding more experienced contributors? Moving too early shorts the potential of core contributors. Moving too late wastes invaluable time—or even a player's most productive years.
It's at this particular juncture that we now find the Utah Jazz. Over the last three seasons, Utah has scaled from 25 wins to 38 to 40 on the strength of its talent identification and internal development. The most significant non-draft addition to the roster over that term was reserve forward Trevor Booker. This was a pipeline team by design, dedicated fully to cultivating quality players already on the roster and under contract without squandering any resource whatsoever. Then came the inevitable sea change.
"I think it was a natural progression," Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said. "We weren't going to continue to draft a 19-, 20-year-old every year."
First came the trading of the No. 12 overall pick in the draft—just the kind of asset that would be redundant on a team this young—for veteran guard George Hill. Behind Hill came Joe Johnson, who signed a two-year, $22 million deal with Utah as a free agent. In continuation of the theme, the Jazz absorbed former Spur and semi-professional barista Boris Diaw into their available cap room via trade.
"There were a couple of things that kind of universally rang true," Lindsey said. "Experience, physicality, shooting, improved passing, a little more depth at the guard position, a little more depth at the wing position, a little more depth—and not just depth, but experienced depth—at the big man position as well. I think as much as anything, it was just a natural step."
The particular needs those veterans addressed were well worn; Utah had weathered variations of the same shortcomings for a few seasons running. What shifted was the active priority for the Jazz to add experienced, complementary talent to augment what was already in place. Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Rodney Hood had all made significant strides. Yet the next step was to be taken with help—a starting-caliber point guard, a bucket-getting wing, and a facilitating big.
Those three vets fit a pattern of interchangeability too neat to ignore. Hill bears more than a passing basketball resemblance to an actualized Dante Exum, who is set to return this season after tearing his ACL nearly a year ago. Both bring possibility from their athleticism and length; Hill and Exum swing between defensive assignments with uncommon ease for a guard, affording Jazz coach Quin Snyder greater control of matchups across the board. If Exum can settle his game the way Hill has, Utah should be in excellent shape.
As for Johnson: "Joe," Lindsey noted, "is a little bit of a continuance with Rodney and Gordon." Neither of those younger players is screaming for veteran guidance; Hayward has grown comfortably into his game and Hood is about as buttoned-up as a 23-year-old prospect can be. Still they both have plenty to learn from Johnson, who is a master of leveraging his body and strength to maximum advantage. It helps that Johnson can be slotted for a similar creative role on the wing—or even step in as a small-ball big when needed.
Even Diaw seems like a logical analogue for second-year forward Trey Lyles. Snyder noted to Jody Genessy of the Deseret News that testing Lyles was a summer league priority for the Jazz. Consider Diaw as something of a template: clever as a middleman, stretchy to the point of justifying a defense's respect on the perimeter, and flexible enough to defend multiple positions.
There's not only skill, experience, and versatility between those new additions but transposable value. Hill is a more immediately capable variation of Exum; Johnson brings a fitting riff to what Hayward and Hood provide; Diaw fills the same role as Lyles (or previously, Booker) in a slightly different way. These are veterans who can help within the framework of play the Jazz have worked so hard to establish without forcing compromise. This moment of acceleration may come for every young team, but Utah has taken to the occasion with a masterwork of fit.
That's a really Looo-ooong excerpt from a must-read piece. Check it all out here. Going from "development" to "win now" is something we've all talked about. We've also noticed how Hill, Johnson, and Diaw are more vet versions of some of the players we are trying to develop. It's cool to see guys at SI see the same thing we see.
The Utah Jazz boast some length right now. That bodes well for both 50/50 balls, but also overall on defense. Everyone on the team has a longer wingspan than their height (in socks). (It gets iffy for G-Time and Hood in shoes)
|Height (Socks)||Height (Shoes)||Wingspan||Reach|
|Player||Pos||'||"||Tot "||'||"||Tot "||'||"||Tot "||'||"||Tot "|
And length is always important. Don't believe me?
NBA Players— Useless Comparisons (@Useless_Comps) July 19, 2016
Tyrannosaurus Rex #NBASummer #Dinosaurs pic.twitter.com/FdJVy0xIMF
See. All the T-Rexes are extinct. The Jazz have evolved. Our guys will thrive.
The Olympics are starting in a few days. I know, I'm as freaked out as you are. Boris Diaw (FRA), Rudy Gobert (FRA), Raul Neto (BRA), and Joe Ingles (AUS) will all be hooping it up. Brazil should be strong as the hosts, and France should medal. But what about Australia? Well, even without Dante and Bogut they have high hopes.
Find Out What It Means To Play For Australia In My @BasketballAus Boomers Tribute!!! https://t.co/Lm3nn7gxqR Plz RT pic.twitter.com/TzqhC5jXHT— NBAussie Films (@NBAussie) July 19, 2016
If you're not watching this to see a 20 year old Joe Ingles, watch it for Karl Malone throwing 'bows
Patriotism is important, and this video really shows off the climb Australia has made over the decades to become a medal threat. The Boomers have a tough group in the Rio -- but you can tell that they are ready. But we'll have more on all of that when we do our Olympic preview.
Vice Sports likes Jazz forward Trey Lyles. Sam Vecenie (formerly of CBS Sports) had to give him one of the biggest awards out there, the he Nate Robinson "Best Player at Summer League" Award.
I handed out some awards for the 2016 NBA Summer League by taking a trip down memory lane: https://t.co/ANdVMsXgjs pic.twitter.com/zVxvWEHl4Q— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) July 20, 2016
Robinson is the ultimate Las Vegas Summer League legend. The diminutive point guard had his jersey momentarily retired at the event after becoming a four-time participant and MVP winner. If Summer League has all-time records, Robinson likely holds a few, and he's the only plausible choice for a pseudo-MVP award.
It's unlikely Lyles will match Robinson's all-time Summer League dominance, but he did indeed seem to be the most complete player in Vegas this summer. The Jazz forward came into Vegas in good shape after a bit of a rough go in the Salt Lake City Summer League, and put up averages of 29 points and seven rebounds over two games while making a bunch of threes and hitting his free throws. It was the kind of growth that you expect to see out of players heading into their sophomore seasons, and Lyles showed it in ways that could benefit the Jazz next season.
More than anything, Utah needs guys they can count on to knock down shots from the frontcourt. Lyles can play with either Derrick Favors or Rudy Gobert next season at the power forward position, and help to stretch the floor. He also displayed the ability to lead the break and to create offense for himself by attacking closeouts and posting smaller players. Basically, Lyles looks like the all-around offensive force that the Jazz frontcourt needs. If he can carry this play into the regular season, the team should be able to live up to its billing as a dark horse threat to the Warriors. On the other hand, it's only Summer League, so who really knows?
Read all about it here, and check out the other awards Vecenie hands out!
Question of the day: Greg Ostertag or Kyrylo Fesenko?