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Utah Jazz vs Milwaukee Bucks: 5 Things to Watch

Five things to watch between teams with rising talent

NBA: Utah Jazz at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

1. Lineups

We all know about the Jazz’s injuries this year, and Favors is out again for “rest” (even though he has been limited to non-contact drills... hm...). That means Lyles will start for him. We know the Jazz lineups have been crazy at best all year long, but that’s mostly been due to injury.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Jason Kidd, on the other hand, has had a pretty healthy roster other than poor Khris Middleton. However, he’s really been messing around with the lineups this year. Four players have started at center, and none of them have been Greg Monroe. Rookie Thon Maker joined Miles Plumlee, John Henson, and Mirza Teletovic, by starting versus the Celtics. He played all of 10 minutes - double his normal 5.1 minutes per game. In fact, Maker, Plumlee, second year point guard Rashad Vaughn, and Steve Novak (remember him?) are the only players on the 14-member team to play less than 15 minutes per game, and in less than 75% of the team games. This is with the team mostly healthy! Look for Maker to start again vs the Jazz, with the normal suspects of Giannis, Jabari, Delly, and Tony Snell around him. It will be interesting to see how Kidd and Snyder go at it with their deep benches, though. Which brings us to our player spotlights:

2. Gordon...

NBA: Utah Jazz at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks draft pick that was supposed to save us all has delivered, having been selected by the coaches for his first all star appearance. While well deserved, Gordon hasn't played much against all-stars in his position this year. Out of the six all stars who (technically) primarily play the small forward position, Gordon has only played four of them, and posted strange stat lines:

  • Lebron: 28/9/2 on 10/12 shooting, probably the best game of the season for him
  • Jimmy Butler: 8/12/3
  • Paul George: 27/2/0
  • Durant: 6/3/2
  • Leonard: hasn't played (injury)
  • Giannis: hasn't played

Hopefully All-Star, Lebron-beater Gordon comes out to play tonight.

3. Giannis...

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Toronto Raptors Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

This kid has gotten good so fast. He starts games defending small forwards, but can switches relatively easily onto pretty much any other position. And on the other end of the floor, he’s usually the one handling the rock. He’s the only player leading his team in the five counting stats, and doing it without a strong jump shot (29% from 3 on the season). And he’s had some crazy games against fellow All Stars (points/rebounds/assists):

  • Lebron: 25/13/2/3 blocks, 28/5/5, and 34/12/5/2 blocks/5 steals
  • Butler: 35/9/8/7 blocks (!!?)/2 steals, 22/7/11/3 steals, and 30/14/3/3 steals
  • George: 27/7/9
  • Durant: 30/4/6

He’s averaging 23 points, 8.7 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.8 steals, and 2.0 blocks. Ridiculous.

4. And Gobert

NBA: Utah Jazz at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Even though Giannis is the first player from the 2013 draft to be an all star, Rudy Gobert is probably the most impactful. Despite playing roughly 23 the minutes Antetokounmpo has (6172 versus 8878), Gobert still has the edge by win shares (24.5 vs 22.0 total; .190 versus .119 per 48). Rudy scores 9.8 on the VORP (Value over replacement player) statistic versus 9.3, and has the BPM (Box plus-minus) advantage of 4.3 to 2.2. Advanced stats aside, these two players were both heavily overlooked in the 2013 draft, and it speaks volumes that they are coming back to dominate the league by storm. We all know who’s really the better player though:


5. Momentum, or the Lack of it

For all of the grief about the Jazz being 1 for 4 after their 6 game winning streak, the Bucks are doing much worse, with only 1 win out of their last 9 games. They’ve lost Hawks, Magic, and 76ers (twice!), with their only win over the Rockets of all teams (who they also lost to earlier in that streak). Yet somehow, in the mid-season doldrums, both the Jazz and the Bucks had 3 days off. The Bucks begin a three games-in four nights road trip, while the Jazz play their third of four home games over a period of 10 days. We’ll see which team is more “rested” or “rusty” in their first matchup of the season. Either way, both teams are confused about the concept of momentum, so it should be an interesting game.

Go Jazz Go!