Sunday’s tight, nail-biter of a match-up between the Utah Jazz and the Atlanta Hawks came down to the wire. The Jazz found themselves on Paul Millsap jumper away from a winless road trip. While that would not have been a disaster, it would have concluded a very disappointing week of close loses, injuries and worries.
Millsap’s jumper surprisingly was just a touch off and instead of an extremely long flight home, the Jazz managed to eke out a much-needed victory. While the road trip was not the greatest, Utah finds itself with a solid 5-5 record, including a good 4-4 mark away from the Vivint Arena. That is encouraging, given that the Jazz have played the most roadies of any NBA team.
During the week back east, Utah was pitted against a number of familiar faces. As Salt City Hoops does from time to time, it is worthwhile to take a quick gander at how former Jazzmen are faring throughout the Association, given that an eighth of the season has already elapsed.
Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks (17.8 PPG, 49.1 FG%, 37.5 3%, 8.7 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.9 SPG, 1.0 BPG)
Consistency, thy name is Paul Millsap. The two-time All-Star is posting his ever impressive stats, the bedrock of excellence. In fact, he is off to his best start in Atlanta, as evidenced by his 21.7 PER, 59.5 TS%, 2.8 STL% and 16.8 AST%. Millsap does everything so well, so quickly. He has never passed the ball better, has some of the quickest defensive hands in the league and is flourishing with his perimeter game. He is firmly in the prime of his career, and given his game, it just feels like Millsap can excel for several more seasons and, when the time comes, will age gracefully.
Kyle Korver, Atlanta Hawks (10.3 PPG, 51.7 FG%, 39.1 3%, 3,8 RPG, 2.3 APG)
Coming off the heels of an amazing 2014-15 campaign which saw him post some of the best shooting numbers in history, Korver has come down a bit. Defenses are so very focused on him, more so than ever and it is showing. He is connecting inside the arc, but beyond, he is showing he’s human. But let’s not kid ourselves: a “low” 39 percent mark for Korver would constitute an amazing clip for a majority of his NBA cohorts. Chances are, that will jump; it only takes one or two of the torrid shooting nights Korver is so known for. Another factor is the absence of DeMarre Carroll, a player who helped with the ball movement and helped produce good looks for the gun-slinging Korver.
Al Jefferson, Charlotte Hornets (13.9 PPG, 51.8 FG%, 6.3 RPG, 1.9 APG, 0.8 BPG)
Could time be catching up with Big Al? While it is true the Hornets worked hard during the off-season to hopefully bolster their front court depth, it is surprising to see Jefferson’s playing time and touches drop. He is shooting the ball well, but is playing four less minutes per game. Everything has decreased, most noticeably his rebounding. His 12.8 TRB% would be — by far — the lowest percentage of his career. It is known that Jefferson does not get to the free throw line frequently, but .115 FTr is half his low .232 career mark. Like Korver, he too most likely will bounce back. No matter how Charlotte retooled, Jefferson is still their main post-up threat. He is also entering free agency this summer.
Marvin Williams, Charlotte Hornets (9.6 PPG, 44.4 FG%, 37.8 3%, 7.2 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.3 BPG)
While Jefferson’s game is down, Williams is looking much more comfortable in his second season with the Hornets. He is playing more, is shooting well and has never rebounded better, especially off the defensive glass. Williams has had a few outings where his perimeter marksmanship has saved Charlotte. While he ideally would probably not be playing 32.2 MPG, it is nice to see the stalwart forward having some solid success.
Mo Williams, Cleveland Cavaliers (15.5 PPG, 47.7 FG%, 35.7 3%, 89.3 FT%, 5.3 APG, 3.5 RPG)
Sure, LeBron James did LeBron James things against the Jazz in last week’s narrow loss. Somewhat lost behind that brilliant performance, however, was Mo Williams’s pristine game. He picked up where he left off with Charlotte last season, and has been excellent filling in for the injured Kyrie Irving. It is clear he is enjoying his reunion with James and the Cavs organization. His shooting has been stellar and he adds another able ball handler. Imagine how potent the Cleveland back court could be once Irving and Iman Shumpert return. Williams will be a big part of that.
Richard Jefferson, Cleveland Cavaliers (8.0 PPG, 45.6 FG%, 41.7 3%, 1.5 RPG)
Jefferson was another in a long line of aging vets who have opted for a minimum contract to join forces with James. With some injuries, he has been pressed into more playing time than expected. Things have cooled down a lot the past few games, but Jefferson is hitting his open shots — exactly what head coach David Blatt needs from him. It would indeed behoove Cleveland to lower his 25 MPG, but kudos to Jefferson for adding another solid veteran presence to the roster.
Jeremy Evans, Dallas Mavericks (2.7 PPG, 64.3 FG%, 2,2 RPG)
The high-flying Jazz fan favorite has not seen the playing time some prognosticated. Evans has played in most games, but only is averaging 11.3 MPG. As expected, he has had a few highlight reel dunks in his limited time.
Devin Harris, Dallas Mavericks (8.4 PPG, 38.1 FG%, 15.6 3%, 2.2 APG, 3.0 RPG)
After two very good seasons for Harris as the Mavericks’ third guard, he too has dropped off a bit. Everything is down, especially his shooting. Harris cannot buy a 3-pointer. His 14.5 AST% would be the lowest mark of his long career, and it would not even be close.
Wesley Matthews, Dallas Mavericks (10.1 PPG, 34.1 FG%, 36.4 3%, 82.5 FT%), 2.4 RPG, 1.4 APG, 0.8 SPG)
The fact that Matthews is on the court, playing for the Dallas Mavericks is a tremendous testament to his hard work and spirit. As could be expected, it will definitely be a process. While he is connecting from downtown, he is not ready to be the high volume 3-point shooter he is capable of being just yet. Likewise, he’s working hard on defense, but is not his normal self there yet, either. Whatever the case may be, the fact that he returned so quickly from that horrible injury is awesome1.
Deron Williams, Dallas Mavericks (12.7 PPG, 41.8 FG%, 30 3%, 5.3 APG, 1.4 SPG)
DWill has not experienced a rejuvenation in Dallas, but he is helping the Mavs to a nice start to the season. His shooting is still poor, particularly from downtown. But overall, given his modest contract, he is providing Dallas with solid play. Besides, the Mavs seem to still be playing their trademark guard-heavy lineup which lessens the need for Williams to put up big numbers every night. Whatever the case may be, it was a good move for him and the Nets to sever their relationship.
Randy Foye, Denver Nuggets (5.6 PPG, 31.5 FG%, 20 3%, 1.6 APG, 1.6 RPG)
It is difficult to see a few former Jazzmen really struggling. Foye is having a rough, rough go. The ball simply is not going in the basket. Never a high percentage shooter, his 31.5 percentage from the floor is downright dismal. He still seems to be a bizarre fit with the rebuilding Nuggets, so perhaps he will be shopped over the coming months.
Brandon Rush, Golden State Warriors (2.8 PPG, 35.3 FG%, 33.3 3%, 2.7 RPG)
While he is doing better than last season — he had nowhere to go but up — Rush is simply a bit player for the juggernaut Warriors. They frankly do not need him to do much, given their depth. Rush has never recovered from his injury, which included a disappointing year in Utah. His NBA career could be winding down.
CJ Miles, Indiana Pacers (12.8 PPG, 41.3 FG%, 38.8 3%, 2.0 RPG, 1.6 SPG)
Miles has been solid for the Pacers, providing a good outside threat. Since leaving Utah, he has become largely a 3-point specialist, seen by his 61.3 3PAr. With Indiana playing more small ball, Miles has shown versatility. His gaudy 3.0 STL% mark is a bit surprising, but is a nice early development. The Pacers like him and he has played some of his career’s best basketball since going to the Hoosier State.
Lou Amundson, New York Knicks (2.6 PPG, 55.6 FG%, 2.6 RPG)
After filling in as a serviceable replacement last season, Amundson has not played much this season. He has carved out a much longer career than any could have accurately predicted.
Enes Kanter, Oklahoma City Thunder (12.4 PPG, 58.6 FG%, 79.2 FT%, 8.0 RPG)
Some NBA story lines are as constant as the sun rising. Kanter continues to be a superb offensive player. He puts points up on the board, is a very good offensive rebounder and torches second unit opponents. But what more could be said about his defense? The numbers have been spouted by many national media members and they simply are not good. And that is an understatement. When paired with Dion Waiters, the Thunder defense suffers immensely. While Steven Adams has clearly earned the starting nod, it is interesting Oklahoma City opted to pay Kanter $16.4 million this season for a reserve playing just 20.5 MPG.
Steve Novak, Oklahoma City Thunder (3.0 PPG)
This could be the sharpshooting forward’s swan song. He has only appeared in one game and could be nothing more than a situational player at this juncture. Even so, here is another guy who had more lasting power than expected. The affable Novak seems to have good coaching potential.
Ronnie Price, Phoenix Suns (4.3 PPG, 45.8 FG%, 41.2 3%, 1.4 APG, 0.9 SPG)
Playing for former Jazz great Jeff Hornacek has been a nice move for Price. He continues to plug along in his mostly unpredictable NBA career. Price is providing some nice minutes off the bench, shooting quite well. He offers a veteran voice in the locker room and always gives it his all. He continues to be a player Jazz fans root for.
Kosta Koufos, Sacramento Kings (7.4 PPG, 54.9 FG%, 6.5 RPG, 1.1 BPG)
Anyone who has followed the former Jazz first-round pick should not be surprised to see him produce in Sacramento. He is providing solid rebounding, though his TRB% is the lowest since his rookie campaign. He provides front court depth, whether he is starting or coming off the bench. The Kings are starting to overcome a horrific and tumultuous start and Koufos has contributed to that.
DeMarre Carroll, Toronto Raptors (13.2 PPG, 38.3 FG%, 37 3%, 4.4 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 1.4 APG)
Nagging injuries have affected Carroll’s start with Toronto. As a result, his transition to the Raptors has not been the smoothest. Outside his shooting, he is still contributing in many ways, with his numbers looking similar to what he has produced the past few seasons. The only difference is the much higher price tag. With the extra dollars comes higher expectations, chances are, he will start to fare better north of the border. Whether or not he can reproduce his offensive output from the postseason over an extended period of time remains to be seen.
Kris Humphries, Washington Wizards (9.1 PPG, 46.7 FG%, 46.7 3%, 100 FT%, 4.9 RPG, 0.7 BPG)
Humphries has become a very good back-up big. He works hard, rebounds and produces off the pine. It is downright shocking to see him add 3-point shooting to his game, especially as this is his 12th season. After connecting on just two treys over his career, he has already canned 14 3-pointers this year. Stories like this are always fun to see.
It is a bit baffling that no one has picked up Carlos Boozer yet. True, he has lost of a lot of his game, but in a back-up role as a scorer, you think some teams would be willing to take a chance.
There are also some familiar names in the D-League, with Ronnie Brewer being one. It is hard to believe that it has been six years since Brewer was starting in the back court for the Jazz. He has since played for five other franchises and sat out last season entirely. Other former Jazzmen working hard in the D-League: Patrick Christopher, Jack Cooley, Bryce Cotton, Sundiata Gaines, Toure’ Murry, Malcolm Thomas and Elliot Williams.