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Utah Jazz Jam Session: The team after two months, surprises, and the Kool-Aid Meter

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Six questions after 30 games

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Today we look back at the Utah Jazz season so far. It’s now January, and if anyone knows the calendar, that means we’ve now going through training camp, preseason, and the first two full months of the 2015-2016 NBA season. The only big things on the immediate horizon now are the guaranteeing of non-guaranteed contracts (January 10th), the All-Star Game (February 14th), and the Trade Deadline (February 28th). Effectively, we’re all now in the ‘meat’ of the season. And traditionally, January is where the Jazz usually start picking up their play. To look at where we are, what we’ve seen, and who we’ve fallen in love with we’re going to Jam with Yucca, Diana, Dustin, Justin, and me (on bass).

So let’s start jammin’.

N.B. These questions were asked and answered around new years, and thus before some of the most recent news. Keep that in mind please.


1. When healthy, is this team better than the team that finished last season?

Yucca Man: Right now they are not better than the last year's team during the final two months. The biggest reason is Rudy Gobert hasn't been quite as dominant. Hopefully the rest does him well. But overall, this team (when healthy) is better than last year's team for the whole year. If that makes sense.

Diana: I hope so. I think it’s hard to judge from the amazing run the Jazz went on to end the season. They had an energy that can't be replicated during the 82 grind. There were a lot of factors that contributed into that energy, the Enes Kanter trade, and the new coaches and the players finding their groove together are factors that can't be reproduced during a normal season.

Prodigal Punk: I think they are. The team that took the NBA by storm last season was never going to repeat that performance. The winning last season took place during the most intensive part of the schedule, when no team had time to prepare. It sounds cliche to say the Jazz would be "figured out", but that's exactly what has happened.

JuMu : Close, but not quite. By the stats, the post-all-star-break Jazz of last season were a dominant team and one of the greatest defensive squads of the millennium. That team would have finished with 54 wins in a full season. The current team isn't even close to that and even before Gobert went down, they weren't winning at that clip.

If by healthy, you mean with a healthy Dante Exum, then it's impossible to answer that question since that hasn't happened this season. I do think the dominoes are falling in a way such that the Jazz are going to have themselves quite the special season in 2016-17 with a possible climax next season for this current core.

AllThatAmar: Absolutely. Last season the Jazz played really, really well – but still were at a talent disparity that is unfavorable to this seasons’ team. Trey Burke is playing better. Alec Burks (in this case) would be back and healthy. We have Jeff Withey out there doing good things. Rodney Hood is killing it right now. If everyone was healthy there’s little doubt in my mind that the 2015-2016 Jazz would be better than the post-All-Star-Break 2014-2015 Jazz.



2. What's been the biggest improvement season-to-season?

Yucca Man: The offense has improved quite a bit. Even with the things that annoy all of us, the offense is better.

Diana: I say 3 point shooting. Its nice to see the team shooting a better percentage. I also think our bench is coming together nicely. I am excited about Withey, I was excited about Burks being the 6th man, and I love watching when Trey Burke is on his game. I like that our coaches are getting better at finding appropriate roles for our players.

Prodigal Punk: Three point shooting. Last season the Jazz finished in the bottom half of the league, shooting 34% from distance. This year, thus far, the Jazz have jumped 10 spots, to 9th in the NBA, at nearly 36% (.358). This is with the league average holding steady from last season, at 35%

JuMu : I wanted to say Derrick Favors, due to him having some breakout performances this year. But due to some of his off-games, his averages have hardly improved from last season. I guess the pleasant surprise is that Withey is actually a serviceable NBA player. For player's who have improved biggest from last season on our squad, I suppose my vote would go to Rodney Hood. (Yes, I do suffer from recency bias, thanks for asking).

AllThatAmar: The naturalization of the green light on offense. Last season players avoided taking open shots within the flow. We still have a few guys on the team who do that this season, but right now we’re seeing guys use the green light to put the defense at a disadvantage. The opposite happened a lot more last season. The offense is far from perfect, and at times things bog down. But our offense was even worse last year. Baby steps.



3. What's been the biggest downer (aside from injuries)?

Yucca Man: Burks and Hood have not been as good as I had hoped. Hopefully Rodney can figure out how to shoot again soon, or Burks can get back to his early season/pre-season form when he's back.

Diana: Maybe consistency?

Prodigal Punk: The point guards. Both Raul Neto and Trey Burke have had their moments, but they continue to be torched by even the most pedestrian point guards. Besides being obvious defensive liabilities, neither has shown the ability to run the offense for anything longer than a few consecutive possessions.

JuMu : It's been a letdown to me that Elijah Millsap really hasn't looked like an NBA player this year.

AllThatAmar: For me it has been Alec Burks’ play. He looked better last season before getting hurt, but that may just be the fog of my memory.



4. You have the magical powers to fix one problem with the Utah Jazz. What do you do?

Yucca Man: The obvious answer is to fix the injuries issue. The less obvious ... to have some improvement from the secondary players. Really, only Withey has impressed me out of them this year. I think the Jazz would see some pretty drastic improvement if their secondary players could do more.

Diana: I would love to turn one of our players into a true #1 option. Also casting a spell on the players for no more injuries!

Prodigal Punk: Grow Trey Burke and Trevor Booker height by 4" each

JuMu : Injury-proof elixir. Either that or transform Trey Lyles into LeBron James. Whichever one helps our squad more.

AllThatAmar: I’d make it so our guys got more star calls, and that when they got to the line they would actually make their free throws. Only G-Time and Burks get to the line regularly; and of them only Hayward makes free throws but still somehow doesn’t make enough of them. It’s the easiest shot in the game, and I think our style of play deserves more of them. Bottom line is that it would really help out in all the close games we seem to be playing as well.



5. Are the playoffs still a likely outcome for this squad, or are we headed to another season where we have to hype ourselves up for an #11, #12, #13, or #14 pick in the NBA Draft?

Yucca Man: I do believe that playoffs are probable. I also think that getting the #6 spot needs to be the goal with the WC struggling so much this year. Playing Spurs or Warriors in the 1st round isn't going to be a great experience for them, but I think they could give OKC a good series that can be built on for the future.

Diana: If Favors, Burks, and Gobert return at the all star break or sooner I think we make the playoffs! I think we will sit solidly in 6th if we can stay healthy (minus Exum). The West is weird this year its hard seeing any team jumping us even if we are just the 8th seed. I don't see us in the lottery unless there is strong stealth tanking going on by the front office.

Prodigal Punk: They'll make the playoffs only because the Suns, Pelicans, and Blazers have been so bad this year. They may even be higher than the 8th seed because the Grizzlies and Rockets have majorly regressed.

JuMu : I would peg the Jazz as having more than a 50-50 chance of making the playoffs in the historically weak west this year. I just hope that this doesn't make the playoffs this year fool's gold.

AllThatAmar: If the Jazz can tread water for another month to wait for everyone to be healthy, the Jazz will make the playoffs.



6. Are you still drinking the 2014-2016 Utah Jazz Kool-aid? Where are you on the Kool-aid meter, where 10 is Jim Jones, and 1 is Uncle Phil from the Fresh Prince throwing Jazz out of the house?

Yucca Man: My Kool-Aid meter is about a 6 right now. I still think they'll be quite good once Gobert is back (assuming Favors can be done with his back issues soon). But I don't feel confident in the secondary players right now. I'd love that to change.

Diana: I am at a 5.5. I love this team but we're just not quite there yet.

Prodigal Punk: Low 5. I've hit the point again where I can't go into any game expecting a win. The letdown ruins my evenings.

JuMu : I am a 6.5 on the Kool-aid meter. I can see us making the 2nd round next year, but am concerned by the lack of a top 10 NBA player on this squad as well as Hayward's free agency status next year messing with the team chemistry.

AllThatAmar: Wow, I may be way more susceptible to charismatic cult leaders than I expect. I’m at a 7 on the Kool-Aid meter. I like a lot of these players, I understand that the coach is teaching the guys and they are actually learning. The team has injuries, and that is bad. But when healthy this team does good things on the floor. The 3rd string needs some work, and it’s rough when a lot of them have to start. But that’s just temporary. This is a good team. They’ll hopefully get a chance to prove it too!



Thank you, you are all lovely people. Be sure to also follow them on twitter: Yucca (@YuccaManHoops), Diana (@dianaallen), Prodigal Punk (@prodigal_punk), JuMu (@JuMuJazz), and I guess me (@AllThatAmar). Also, be sure to join in the jam session as well, give your answers in the comments section!