This season has been more difficult than I was expecting. I was expecting a lot of losses, but I wasn’t expecting the losses to be by this many points, and with seemingly little offensive progress or defensive intensity to compensate for the losses piling up.
When things get down, and especially during this Thanksgiving season, a mantra is to focus on what’s going well, focus on what you’re thankful for, and that will help lift the mood. So, here goes.
What’s going well? Or for what, with this 2013-2014 Jazz team, can we be thankful?
Jeremy Evans and the development of his game. After starting 12-12 from the floor, he eventually missed a shot in the Oklahoma City game, and missed three shots (gasp! three?!) in the Bulls game, and is now 16-20 on the season. Yes, a handful of those are dunks, but he’s showing a jumper and a smoothness to his game that is both new and refreshing. And besides, with how the Jazz have been shooting on the year, do we even care that a handful of Jeremy’s shots have been from very close range? I think we’re just thrilled to see the ball go in the hoop at all. And also, that alleyoop from Gordon Hayward to Evans last night was just awesome.
Trey Burke’s return has shown us what good pick-and-roll play can look like, with some good reads and passes to Favors resulting in some easy layups. He’s also hit a couple of threes and has had good looks at other times; eventually, those shots will start to fall. And while Burke may not be the pure, pass-first point guard we were spoiled with during Stockton’s tenure in Utah, his ability to drive in the lane and finish in his first games back has been invigorating. The fact that he’s doing this with his finger still recovering and sore after games, is pretty impressive and bodes well for the coming months.
Marvin Williams’ emergence as a great off-the-bench producer or as a sometimes starter. Now that Williams is no longer hampered by a bum Achilles like he was all last season, we’re able to see what he can do and his play of late has been very encouraging. He’s able to hit the three, he’s long and active on defense and matches up well against stretch fours. Given the difficult matchup that can be for Favors, having Marvin in the lineup in those situations has been helpful. He’s been averaging 14.0 points per game in the last five games and, considering how poor the offense has been at times, that’s been a needed shot in the arm. He’s also been averaging 6.2 rebounds per game in the last five games, averaging around 30 minutes per game. In a very discouraging week overall for the team, Marvin has been a very bright spot.
Gordon Hayward’s passing and all-around game. Well, minus the shooting. Even though he’s been incredibly inconsistent when it comes to getting the ball through the hoop, Hayward’s found ways to contribute in other areas, as evidenced by the fact that he keeps on breaking his career high for assists. First, he got 10 assists November 13 against New Orleans (the last time he shot 50% or higher in a game), and then he surpassed that against New Orleans (again) a week later on November 20 with 11 assists. And, once again, last night he had a new career high of 12 assists against the Bulls. He’s been rebounding at a decent rate over the course of the season—his Total Rebounding Percentage is a career high 8.6%, up from 6.3% last year—which makes the 1-17 shooting night (and the subsequent games of 5-12, 2-9, and 5-15) a little bit more palatable. A wee bit.
Derrick Favors has become the surprising model of consistency. Granted, on this team, consistency takes a slightly different look than the Stockton-to-Malone years of consistency. Given the way this team has been playing so far this year, Favors’ ability to play defense and get rebounds even while the team has struggled in both areas has been nice. While he has been seemingly unspectacular at times, he has been solid, averaging 13/10 on the year and, along with Hayward, only has two games this year where he hasn’t hit double digits in points. Perhaps even more importantly, he’s been learning how to keep from fouling at a high rate—last night’s game against the Bulls excepting—keeping himself on the floor.
Rudy Gobert has been so much fun to watch whenever he’s gotten any time. His often-talked-about wingspan alters shots and creates so much havoc for the opposing team. He even tried to create his own Jeremy-Evans-Blocking-Ronny-Turiaf-And-Taking-It-Coast-To-Coast-For-A-Dunk play, but he one-upped Evans by using his left hand to dunk. Gobert’s averaging 14.7 rebounds per 36 minutes, and has as many blocks on the season as he does field goals (11). His rebounding percentage is 23.3%, above Favors’ 17.1% (though, admittedly, Gobert is usually in at garbage time or against the other team’s second or third string, but still!). I’d love to see Gobert get a consistent 15-20 minutes a night, and even paired with Favors.
So, Jazz fans. We’re 2-14 and just coming off a great win. What’re you thankful for as a Jazz fan?