Salt City Hoops » Clint Johnson The ESPN TrueHoop Utah Jazz Site Tue, 19 Aug 2014 05:59:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The ESPN TrueHoop Utah Jazz Site Salt City Hoops no The ESPN TrueHoop Utah Jazz Site Salt City Hoops » Clint Johnson A Dissenting Opinion on Gordon Hayward’s Max Contract Mon, 28 Jul 2014 16:48:23 +0000 Author information
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. In addition to his writing center work at Salt Lake Community College, he designed, coordinates, and teaches in an experimental author residency program for a West Valley City public charter school. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.
(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

Everything is awesome!  Everything is cool when you’re part of the team, especially when they pay you $63 million dollars!

That is pretty much the sentiment in Jazz land.  Following the Jazz formally matching Charlotte’s $63 million offer sheet to Gordon Hayward last week, general manager Dennis Lindsey stated,  “We have always seen Gordon Hayward as a significant part of the future… [and] are pleased [he] will remain a member of the Jazz for many years to come.”  Hayward’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, spoke on behalf of his young client, saying, “It’s always a wonderful thing when your own organization values you so much that they’d match a contract like this. I think it makes a great statement to Gordon about how they feel about him and value him.”

To wrap up the love-fest, USA Basketball invited Hayward to their summer camp, where 19 of the best players in the NBA will compete for 12 slots on the US National Team.

It is a good time for Gordon Hayward, the Utah Jazz, and Jazz fans as well.  Such is the majority belief.

Even given my appreciation of Hayward, I feel differently.

Consider the competitive landscape of the modern NBA.  It’s recent dominating forces, the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat, illustrate the paramount importance of maximizing talent on limited expenditure.

Over the past four seasons, Miami has invested practically all its salary cap space in three players: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.  The return on their investment?  Three players who each earned four consecutive All-Star appearances, one of whom won two MVP awards.  That production far exceeds the player production for other teams that have made similar investments to employ the three star model, such as the Thunder (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka) and Knicks (Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler).

The Spurs demonstrate how to make the math work without employing the best player on the planet, a more realistic model for the small-market Jazz.

Tony Parker, All-NBA player and fringe MVP candidate, has a career high season earning of $13.5 million in 2010-11.  That ate 23% of the team’s salary cap.  The Jazz will pay Hayward $14.8 million in 2014-15, slightly more than 23% of the cap.  Then recall Parker was less expensive than this every other season while Hayward will make more in successive years of his deal.

Percentage wise, this Hayward contract will prove as great a hit to cap space as Tony Parker has ever cost the Spurs, and more than the reining champs typically devote to their best current player.  Manu Ginobili has never cost the Spurs more than 24% of the cap either.  The Spurs have executed contracts similar to Hayward’s for two sure-fire Hall of Fame players.  In contrast, most people would say Hayward will do well to make one All-Star game.

Post David Robinson, the Spurs have paid only one of their players proportionally more than the Jazz will pay Hayward the next four years.  Tim Duncan has made $18 million or more five times in his career, totaling 31%+ of the Spurs’ cap space in those seasons.

Spurs titles in those years: Zero.

Duncan’s average salary in the five seasons he earned a ring: about $11.5 million.  He placed in the top four in MVP voting four times these seasons, winning the award once.

The Spurs have ridden three Hall of Famers to five titles by investing roughly the same cap space in each star that Hayward will absorb from the Jazz these next four years.

Maybe five rings in these specific seasons are mere coincidence.  But I think not.

Don’t mistake what I am saying.  Giving Hayward a max deal coming off his rookie contract will not, in and of itself, restrain the Jazz’s championship ambitions via their budget.  However, if the Hayward deal, both the final product and the process by which it came about, becomes a precedent that certainly will.

Consider the Jazz’s financial position prior to this contract.

First, they extended Derrick Favors for four years at an estimated $12 million a year plus unlikely incentives.  That is, by most assessments, a fair market deal with ample potential to become a bargain.  In addition, the team stands in good position to extend Alec Burks for a similar fair market to bargain contract.  Somewhere in the $6 – $8 million range seems likely.

That potential $18 – $20 million for those two players represents 29% – 32% of next season’s cap.  That’s excellent budgeting, especially given their production in relation to Hayward.

Derrick Favors is the Jazz’s best player.  He was last season and projects to continue to be so going forward.  There are loads of metrics more reliable than dollars that bear this out.

Hayward’s career best PER is 16.8, and he earned it playing off of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap.  Last season, Derrick Favors posted a PER of 19.

According to Basketball-Reference’s Win Shares, Hayward won the struggling Jazz 3.6 precious games last season.  Favors, 5.1.  And numbers don’t hold up the narrative of Favors’ offensive limitations, at least not in comparison to Hayward.  Last season the big man earned more Offensive Win Shares than Hayward (2.9 to 2.2), was the more efficient offensive option (a true shooting percentage of .556 to Hayward’s .520), and posted a near-identical points per 100 possessions (Favors’ 23.2 to Hayward’s 23.4).

Favors is also a year younger and has over 1,200 fewer minutes of NBA experience.  That’s star potential in excess of Hayward’s own substantial talent.  So, the Jazz locked up their best player for $12 million a season.

Alec Burks doesn’t have the same ceiling as Favors, but there is ample evidence he may match Hayward’s overall ability as a player, or even surpass it.

Burks created 26.1 points per 100 possessions last season with greater efficiency (.547 TS%) than Hayward.  More importantly, Burks is a year younger and has only half the in-game experience of his fellow wing, which suggests he likely possesses substantially more as-yet untapped potential.

Most of all though, Alec Burks’ ability and production comes at a likely bargain price.

Combine the rookie contracts of Trey Burke, Dante Exum, Rodney Hood, and Rudy Gobert to that potential Favors / Burks tandem and the Jazz look to spend only about $27 million next season, or about 43% of the cap, on an impressive pool of young talent.  That percentage of the cap would not substantially increase for several seasons, and depending on how much the cap grows, may even stay static.

By locking up Favors and Burks without overpaying, they could have established a culture of investing more equally in a greater number of players as well as staked precedent for future contract negotiations.

Assuming the team matured into a contender, which is reasonable given that amount of young talent and cap flexibility, the franchise would have created an environment where reasonable contracts are proven to lead to success on the court.  Simultaneously, multiple young players would have developed together, reinforcing relationships and a collective investment in winning.  Such are the conditions in San Antonio, and they form the foundation upon which they have managed to retain star players on less money than they could make by moving elsewhere in free agency.

There would be no guarantee of course, and the decision as to Enes Kanter’s future would substantially affect the equation, but at least the main ingredients of the Spurs’ financial formula would be in place.

Now add the Hayward contract and watch the potential ripple effect.

First, I have no doubt that the agents for both Alec Burks and Enes Kanter will use Hayward’s deal as ammunition in negotiations to extend their contracts.  They will reference $15.8 million per year as a standard for relative comparison and dare the Jazz to risk more situations where they have to either overpay to match an offer sheet or lose a valuable player as a free agent.  The team has lost leverage in their attempt to keep these players without compromising their checkbook.

What if Favors does prove a more productive player than Hayward?  Suddenly the $47 million guaranteed the Jazz gave him transforms from an act of good faith to an obvious discount.  The team expected no such discount from Hayward; in fact, they paid above his production value to really show the love.  Favors would have every right to expect similarly excessive compensation on his next contract as proof that the Jazz prioritize him at least to the extent they do Hayward.

The same scenario may play out several times over the course of a few seasons.  The Jazz have a handful of players who could realistically develop to the point of claiming production value roughly equivalent to Hayward’s by the end of their current contracts.  Which of them is likely to take kindly to lower compensation in such a case?  Why should they?

The danger of this contract is that the Jazz have proven themselves willing to overpay on a major contract. Justifying refusal to do so again in the future has become harder.

If the Jazz are serious about maximizing the talent on their roster within the salary cap, Gordon Hayward’s max contract is a step in the wrong direction.

Author information

Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. In addition to his writing center work at Salt Lake Community College, he designed, coordinates, and teaches in an experimental author residency program for a West Valley City public charter school. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.
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Everything Draft Day Wed, 25 Jun 2014 19:56:50 +0000 Author information
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. In addition to his writing center work at Salt Lake Community College, he designed, coordinates, and teaches in an experimental author residency program for a West Valley City public charter school. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.
(Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)

(Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)

I’ve covered these draft prospects for SCH for nine months, and finally, The Day dawns tomorrow.  What follows is everything draft related left in my notebook or bounding about in my brain.

The Too-Late to Take It Back Mock

1. Cavaliers – Andrew Wiggins, SG/SF

2. Bucks – Jabari Parker, SF/PF

3. 76ers – Dante Exum, PG/SG

4. Magic – Joel Embiid, C

5. Jazz – Julius Randle, PF

6. Celtics – Marcus Smart, PG/SG

7. Lakers – Noah Vonleh, PF/C

8. Kings – Doug McDermott, SF/PF

9. Hornets – Nik Stauskas, SG

10. 76ers – Aaron Gordon, SF/PF

11. Nuggets – Gary Harris, SG

12. Magic – Elfrid Payton, PG

13. Timberwolves – Zach LaVine, PG/SG

14. Suns – Rodney Hood, SF

15. Hawks – Jusuf Nurkic, C

16. Bulls – Tyler Ennis, PG

17. Celtics – Dario Saric, SF/PF

18. Suns – Adreian Payne, PF

19. Bulls – T. J. Warren, SF/PF

20. Raptors – Shabazz Napier, PG

21. Thunder – P. J. Hairston, SG

22. Grizzlies – James Young, SG/SF

23. Jazz – Kyle Anderson, SF

24. Hornets – Clint Capela, PF/C

25. Rockets – Jerami Grant, SF

26. Heat – K. J. McDaniels, SF

27. Suns – Walter Tavares, C

28. Clippers – Jordan Clarkson, PG/SG

29. Thunder – Jordan Adams, SG

30. Spurs – Cleanthony Early, SF/PF

My Reasoning for These Jazz Picks

Let’s start with an admission: Julius Randle at number five is a bald-faced guess.

I’m fairly confident the first four players I have off the board will be the first four selected.  Ironically, that means after all the turmoil of the last week or so, the Jazz end up right where most people assumed before the NCAA Tournament: given their pick of players outside the “consensus” likely franchise prospects.

I believe the Jazz are near desperate to trade for the first overall pick to select Wiggins or Parker, but I’ve thought for months the price would be too high and won’t change my stance now.  Even with the diminished value of that pick given Embiid’s injury, I would be stunned if the Jazz make an offer Cleveland would accept.  (The Bucks are ecstatic right where they are.)  I firmly believe it will take two players, one being Favors, as well as pick five and another pick (#23 or future protected) to ensure a trade happens.  Anything less will make smoke but not fire, that’s my guess.  Which leaves the Jazz with their pick of the players none of the worst teams in the league really wanted.

I can realistically see the Jazz selecting any one of four players.  Aaron Gordon for his defense, motor, and attitude.  Noah Vonleh for his shooting, work ethic, and measurables.  Marcus Smart for his defense, forceful personality, and versatility.  But after a lot of thought, I committed to Julius Randle as the Jazz’s selection.  Here’s my reasoning:

1) According to Jody Genessy of the Deseret News, the Jazz front office is split on whether to include Alec Burks with Favors and the fifth pick to pursue the first pick in the draft.  That suggests Burks has a camp of big believers in management.  Add that to my suspicion that Burks can be extended at a more affordable rate than Enes Kanter, and I suspect the team will look to upgrade at power forward rather than in the backcourt.  That eliminates Marcus Smart at number five.

2) Rumor is one major criteria the Jazz are using for the fifth pick is shooting.  Aaron Gordon is, at best, a questionable shooter.  Add that to my belief that the Jazz project him as an athletic but undersized power forward and it means a player who can neither space the floor nor hold up against the larger and stronger power forwards in the league.  My guess is that induces the team to pass on him.

3) That leaves Vonleh and Randle.  Common sentiment is that choice favors Vonleh, who excited teams at the combine with his measurements and then reinforced that with multiple strong workouts.  I think the Jazz will be wise enough to prioritize mounds of tape from actual competition over the controlled environments of the combine and workouts.

In games, Vonleh proved not only far less skilled and game-savvy than Randle, but also slower, less explosive, and more awkward.  I watched both players a lot throughout the season, and the only skill Vonleh demonstrated that would cause me to consider him over Randle is his shooting, particularly from long range.  But even that is based on an extremely small sample size, and I think Dennis Lindsey is wise and disciplined enough not to draft Vonleh as a stretch-four centerpiece of the Jazz based on 33 shots taken over the course of 30 games.

Randle was more hyped coming into his freshman season, outplayed Vonleh in nearly every way in college, and proved the most consistent and best player on a team that went to the NCAA title game.  I think the Jazz will weigh competitive mettle over component tasks, and that means Randle.  The foot injury changed my mind for a while, but the suggestions of surgery sound purely preventative, which doesn’t scare me nearly as much as Joel Embiid’s dual serious injuries.

As for Kyle Anderson at #23, it’s a guess based on several factors: analytics really like him; he has a diverse offensive skillset and incredibly high offensive IQ, both of which compliment Quin Snyder’s approach to the game; unless Raul Neto comes over, the team could use Anderson to initiate offense off the bench; and I think he would carry good value in future potential trades.

My Top Ten Most Wished for Prospects for the Jazz

1. Andrew Wiggins

2. Jabari Parker

3. Marcus Smart

4. Julius Randle

5. Dante Exum

6. Aaron Gordon

7. Noah Vonleh

8. Nik Stauskas

9. Doug McDermott

10. Joel Embiid

5 Predictions for Draft Night

1. A team will foolishly select Zach LaVine in the lottery.

2. Elfrid Payton will be selected before Tyler Ennis, which will be tough for the Syracuse product who was at one point in the NCAA season rivaling Marcus Smart as top point guard not from Australia.

3. James Young will be the last player in the green room to hear his name called.

4. Adam Silver will look even smaller than David Stern did next to pro players, despite being notably taller.  The man is a rail.

5. Marcus Smart will honor his deceased brother, Todd, in some public way.  I’m not sure how, but it will happen.

Bonus prediction: My mock won’t survive the first five picks.

5 Predictions for this Draft Class

1. Andrew Wiggins will be the best player in this class and an All-NBA honoree.

2. Joel Embiid, Dante Exum, and Noah Vonleh form this draft’s Brown-Oden Triangle.  One of the three will be a bust in every sense of the word; another will be a significant disappointment in relation to his draft position.  I expect one – and only one – to come anywhere close to meeting his prodigious potential.

3. Marcus Smart and Julius Randle will both end up top five players in this draft class, and one will be a top three player.  A team that takes either one with pick six or later will get a steal.

4. Three or more players taken outside the top ten will eventually become All-Stars, including one player selected in the second round.

5. Only one tankarific team in this year’s lottery will make the playoffs the coming season.  The rest will leverage a high pick in this coveted class right back to the lottery next season.

My Joel Embiid Vision

The night of June 18th I had a dream.  In my dream, I learned my brother and his wife were adopting Joel Embiid.  My confusion turned to panic when I met “Joel” and found him to be a twelve-year-old pregnant girl with a congenital health disorder.  I woke confused, went to work, turned on my computer, and learned Embiid had broken his foot and would have surgery the following day.

Drafting Embiid is a bad idea.  I know.  I have seen.

Random Thoughts

1. The “Core Four” / “Franchise Five” moniker should end on draft night.  I hope we don’t start hearing something inane like the “Super Six,” because at least one of the Jazz’s young players will be traded this summer, quite possibly during the draft.

2. If the Jazz don’t make a trade during the draft, I’ll be surprised.  No clue what form this might take, though.

3. Remarkably, every young prospect on the Jazz will be watching the draft with at least a little trepidation.  Between talk of trading up for the first pick and the number of players in play with the fifth pick, Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter, and Derrick Favors may all have their futures significantly affected by what the Jazz do over the course of a few hours.

4. The team’s decision with the fifth pick will go a long way to helping fans pin down the team’s identity and trajectory going forward – is the talk of a defensive culture more than talk?  Which of their current young players do they not see as part of the Jazz future?  What style and scheme might Quin Snyder employ, which will certainly be based largely on personnel?  Are the Jazz looking to win substantially more games this season or are they prepared to be patient over several more years of rebuilding? Unless, of course, they select Joel Embiid.

5. If they do select Embiid, I will represent near-perfect ambivalence between excitement and terror.

6. I’ve anticipated this draft more than any other in my lifetime, yet I will be heartily grateful when it is finally over.

7. I believe more strongly than ever that the lottery is an abject dysfunction in the NBA and desperately needs change.  Preferably eradication.

8. Next year’s draft is going to make everyone really grumpy.

9. I find it strangely amusing that fans in Salt Lake City, Utah will be green with envy of Milwaukee, Wisconsin if and when the Bucks draft Jabari Parker and he expresses how pleased he is to play there.  Residence in SLC frequently does come with geographic and demographic inferiority complexes, but rarely for Milwaukee.

10. Whatever the results of June 26th, I am stoked for the upcoming Jazz season!

Author information

Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. In addition to his writing center work at Salt Lake Community College, he designed, coordinates, and teaches in an experimental author residency program for a West Valley City public charter school. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.
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Water Cooler Conversations: Quin Snyder Mon, 16 Jun 2014 18:35:30 +0000 Author information
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. In addition to his writing center work at Salt Lake Community College, he designed, coordinates, and teaches in an experimental author residency program for a West Valley City public charter school. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Water Cooler Conversations are glimpses inside Salt City Hoops. These are posted dialogues between staff members and contributors that share what we’re saying among ourselves about Jazz-related topics. The conversation this time: Ben Dowsett and Clint Johnson talk Quin Snyder’s hiring as new head coach of the Jazz.

Clint: Yes!

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!

Obviously, I’m happy. In fact, I’ve daydreamed about Quin Snyder as head coach of the Jazz since last summer. I heard his name mentioned as a possible head coaching candidate for some other job and I thought to myself, “Wow, haven’t heard that name in a long time. I didn’t even know he was still coaching. He was pretty good.”

“Pretty good” kept getting better as I learned more about him, both refreshing what I knew about his Missouri days and filling in the gaps since. There is a ton I like about Snyder, and even more I like about Snyder for the Jazz. But for me, the key selling points come down to two things: teaching and creativity.

I think the central objective of a head coach is to ensure that you maximize the effectiveness of your most important resource – players. The modern NBA is like a giant piggy bank for potential. Too often, teams hoard raw, under-instructed talent and expect it to develop through survival of the fittest. A sadly small fraction of that talent actually approaches anything close to its ceiling. This Jazz team in particular desperately needs development, including individual skill development. That’s Snyder’s calling card.

Also, I much prefer a coach with the creativity and adaptability to proactively adjust to gain advantage. Tyrone Corbin was a traditionalist who believed you make the other guys adapt to you. Snyder coached as both an assistant and head coach in the NCAA, as a head coach in the D-League, and as an assistant for three NBA teams, and then decided to see if he could pick up a few more tricks by barnstorming across Siberia with CSKA Moscow. He’s got to have a huge bag of tactical tricks, and I can’t wait to see them employed on the court.

Ben: This sort of creativity is my initial favorite thing about Snyder from a coaching perspective, as those who follow my X’s and O’s preferences closely will know I just love counters and keeping the opponent off-balance. A look at some video from his time with Missouri and later the Austin Toros in the D-League is encouraging in this area, in particular the simple fact that Snyder’s two teams did very different things from each other, a positive sign that he’s an adaptable coach capable of fitting his scheme to personnel. I especially enjoyed some of the defensive tweaks he employed in both head coaching positions, little situational caveats he puts in place for a particular game, matchup, or even possession. Here’s one such tweak; Snyder’s teams in the past have typically played a very conservative, stay-at-home defensive style (one I expect we’ll see more of with the Jazz, as it fits their personnel best for now), but when they do give a little help in the low post, watch the unorthodox place it comes from:

Rather than having the wing defender guarding the entry passer help off his man briefly, as most coaches would for a basic help show in the low post, Snyder has his top-of-the-key wing defender drop down to cut off the middle of the floor. The side wing defender does sag down a little, but is in quick recovery position. Meanwhile, because opponent Oklahoma’s spacing is bad and their weak-side man isn’t a shooting threat, sending the high man down to help carries very little risk as the other high wing defender can block off both shooting options:


This particular play resulted in a questionable touch foul, but more often than not such advantageous positioning will lead to a win for the defense. Snyder’s playbook is full of these sort of unorthodox little tweaks, and to my eye he will pull them out for a variety of reasons, be it an individual matchup he wants to exploit or something more vague like the spacing he prefers to push the offense towards. On the NBA level, with smarter and more coordinated athletes, I see him quickly instituting these sorts of heady counters that will keep the opponent guessing.

Having followed Snyder far longer and more intently than myself, what can you tell me about his success with player development over the years?

Clint: The most important thing about Snyder’s history of development is its consistency.

Mike Krzyzewski was always profuse in his praise for Snyder’s teaching ability while an assistant at Duke. Then, in his first job as a head coach, Snyder took a team that had made one NCAA Tournament in the last four seasons, the worst stretch for Missouri since 1975, and promptly took them to four straight tournament appearances. He didn’t only produce team success either. The last twenty-one NBA drafts have seen only four Missouri players drafted in the first round. Three of those – Keyon Dooling, Kareem Rush, and Linas Kleiza – were products of Snyder’s seven-year reign in Missouri.

The record only strengthens in his time with the Toros in the Development League. From 2007 to 2010, Snyder won more games and boosted more players up into the NBA than any other coach in the D-League.  Players who benefited from his instruction include NBA contributors Ian Mahinmi, Alonzo Gee, and more. It was his teaching that brought him back to the NBA. Doug Collins – respected around the league for his ability to teach the game – brought Snyder in as a player development coach for the Sixers, one element which led to more stops on his eventual rise to the top spot on Utah’s bench.

But the most encouraging sign of all to me is DeMarre Carroll’s public endorsement of Snyder’s one-on-one teaching. In his exit interview with the Hawks, Carroll admitted Snyder was the first coach to devote substantial time to helping him with details of his game, such as footwork and shooting mechanics. Consider that Carroll played under the coaching regimes of Lionel Hollins, Rick Adelman, George Karl, and Tyrone Corbin (with Jeff Hornacek as an assistant coach). There are a lot of good coaches there, but Carroll never received that individual instruction until Snyder’s single season with the Hawks.

Now, word is Brad Jones and Alex Jensen – both praised by the Jazz for their teaching and development ability – are likely to earn places on Snyder’s staff. Marc Stein of ESPN even reported Snyder is trying to pry Chip Engelland away from the Spurs. You know, Engelland, the shooting coach widely credited with fixing the shots of Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard? Yeah.

Snyder’s whole career is marked by effective teaching of the game. From what we’re hearing about how he’s building his staff, that won’t change at all now that the Jazz are his to mold. Thank heavens.

Ben: There’s no question that his two previous head coaching destinations saw major improvements during his tenures, both to the overall on-court product and the individual players themselves. SCH editor Andy Larsen and I talked to one of such players, Luke Bonner (younger brother of Spurs forward Matt Bonner), on Thursday’s podcast, and he was about as complimentary of a coach as you’ll ever see from a former player. He had previously told Andy that Snyder was “the best coach I’ve ever played for”, and backed up that statement with some really eye-opening anecdotes from his brief time under Snyder in Austin. Luke told us how, despite being the 10th man in the rotation, he would frequently be taken aside by Snyder for video review or work on some part of his game. He noted how, despite a sometimes-ridiculous D-League travel schedule that would have them on buses at 5 AM regularly, the coaching staff always seemed to be huddled together or with players, talking basketball and working on how to improve. True dedication, and there appears no doubt it was instilled from the top down.

The potential addition of Engelland to his staff is tantalizing, and would give the Jazz a true powerhouse coaching staff as far as player development goes. He would also further assist with Snyder’s stated goal of introducing more pace and Spurs-ian movement into Utah’s offensive game, and his masterful touch as a shooting coach could be a godsend for some of the Jazz’s developing young players. I expect to see lots more creativity from the Jazz on both ends next season – likely more diversionary actions before intended sets to confuse defenses (known as “fluff’, as Zach Lowe pointed out in a Grantland piece last week), more hand-offs and cuts designed to give wings like Hayward and Burks the ball with momentum to the hoop, and a general increase in the all-around activity level of a Jazz team that was badly lacking in pace and tempo last year.

This sort of thing likely happens nearly every time a franchise makes a regime change, but I can honestly say that the fan side of me is very excited to see what Quin Snyder and his staff can bring to the table. Every angle I can find tells me he’s energetic, caring and loyal towards his players, remarkably intelligent, and most of all highly adaptable and creative. He comes with an elite pedigree and recommendations from some of the most well-respected names in all of basketball, on more than one level. Like you, Clint, I simply can’t wait to see what he can do with this young team that’s now his to mold.

Clint: I’m as big a fan of this hire as there is, but that doesn’t mean I’m unrealistic. I’m under no delusion that Quin Snyder is a better head coach than Jeff Van Gundy or some others of Jazz fans’ most dreamed of candidates. Nor am I ignorant of his checkered past. I also have my questions and reservations about his possible coaching weaknesses, or “blindspots” as Snyder named them in his introductory press conference.

Will his guys work as diligently on defense as offense? Will he focus so much on scheme that simple execution sometimes suffers, as sometimes happened at Missouri? At 47 and without previous head coaching experience at this level, can he establish both authority over and trust from his players? Can he assemble a potent stable of assistant coaches without feeling threatened by them?

There is no such thing as a perfect hire, and this isn’t the exception that proves the rule. But the Jazz are at a point of foundational change, and change can be frightening. They could have retreated to the safety of the known quantity, of the “safe” choice. Instead, they reached for a coach with genuinely transformative potential, and of the options in this riskier direction, I believe Snyder is a clear best option.

I think he’s really good, and I think he can be great. I’m so excited to see him work to prove it.

Author information

Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. In addition to his writing center work at Salt Lake Community College, he designed, coordinates, and teaches in an experimental author residency program for a West Valley City public charter school. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.
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1st Round Mock: Version Two Fri, 13 Jun 2014 17:12:01 +0000 Author information
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. In addition to his writing center work at Salt Lake Community College, he designed, coordinates, and teaches in an experimental author residency program for a West Valley City public charter school. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.
Expect Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker to be top three picks, says SCH's Clint Johnson. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Expect Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker to be top three picks, says SCH’s Clint Johnson. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Before the mock, a thought on how to address prospects.  It comes from San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s, but it’s a principle I believe in wholeheartedly.  This quote probably explains better than anything else my perspective on drafting and how I hope the Jazz operate leading up to June 26th.

“As time evolves and you get older in the business, you figure out what’s really important, and you don’t waste time trying to make people what they’re not going to be,” Pop said. “You’ve just got to figure out who people are and what they can give you and take advantage of their positives. A lot of people talk about they’re going to draft this guy or that guy, and in time he’s going to really be something.”

The 2014 Coach of the Year continued: “It’s usually with big guys. You look around, and you say, how many big guys, these 7-foot guys, have really gotten better five years later? You look at Hakeem (Olajuwon), and Hakeem was Hakeem when Hakeem started to play in the league. He didn’t become Hakeem; he already was. So you learn that you can’t make everything the way you think you might. You can’t make somebody great, so you don’t waste your time. You make a trade. You get rid of somebody. You make sure you’re bringing people in who fit in all the areas you want. Competitiveness and team play, that kind of thing.”

I believe in teaching, but I believe you teach someone to be a better, more fully realized version of themselves.  You can’t make them someone else.

It’s an important question when it comes to the draft: do you draft a player for who they are or who you think you can make them?

Now to the mock!

#1: Cavaliers–Joel Embiid, C

Unless his back is red flagged (unlikely given the limited workouts he’ll risk), Embiid will go first because of his class-topping upside.  The Cavs need a defensive anchor, and having young stars at PG and C leaves plenty of room for number six to come home.

#2: Bucks–Andrew Wiggins, SG/SF

Jabari Parker makes a lot of sense if the team is looking to win now, but I still think defense and upside will win out on draft night given the Bucks new ownership.

#3: 76ers–Jabari Parker, SF/PF

The Sixers will be crestfallen if Embiid goes first yet Wiggins still doesn’t fall to them, but they won’t hesitate to take the polished scorer to compensate for offensive liabilities in Michael Carter-Williams (shooting) and Nerlens Noel (everything).

#4: Magic–Dante Exum, PG/SG

I think the Magic truly love Smart and would take him if Orlando fans would accept the known product over the tantalizing Australian youngster–but they won’t and that combined with Exum’s better prospects as a shooter will induce management to take the riskier player.

#5: Jazz–Marcus Smart, PG/SG

Quin Snyder is a coach who loves and depends on ball handlers who can score as well as distribute to make his offense flow, and Smart’s defensive aptitude and leadership will be welcome additions to Trey Burke in the backcourt.

#6: Celtics–Noah Vonleh, PF/C

Consistent word from Boston is Danny Ainge loves Aaron Gordon, which makes me think Vonleh is the guy, as Ainge is known for being transparent as duct tape.

#7: Lakers–Julius Randle, PF

Randle will be in play starting with the Jazz at five, but concerns about Randle’s surgically repaired foot healing improperly and requiring summer surgery will keep him on the board until the Lakers take him as a piece for their push to rise from the ashes next season.

#8: Kings–Doug McDermott, SF/PF

McDermott has produced some sterling workouts, the Kings want to surround DeMarcus Cousins with as many shooters as possible, and Dougie McBuckets can contribute immediately for a win-now team, which all suggest the reigning NCAA Player of the Year becomes a King.

#9: Hornets–Nik Stauskas, SG

The once-again Hornets have already built a great defensive culture that employs Al Jefferson to better ends than the Jazz ever did, and Stauskas’ ability to stretch the floor will give Big Al more room to do his thing.

#10: 76ers–Aaron Gordon, SF/PF

The Sixers may have wanted Wiggins in place of Parker, but the polished Duke scorer makes it easier for them to pick the best remaining talent in two ways: Parker will play at a high level immediately where Gordon will take some time, and Parker can carry an offense while Gordon will need to be carried offensively, at least initially.

#11: Nuggets–Gary Harris, SG

The Nuggets are in a tough spot given their roster full of good but not great players and downward trend in the loaded west, which I think will induce them to try to make a big trade for a star, and Harris will be a solid asset while bolstering their weak off-guard position.

#12: Magic–Dario Saric, SF/PF

Saric isn’t doing a single workout, which means he isn’t making the jump to the NBA this season, and it only makes sense to draft him if you’re a team like Orlando, who already has a franchise prospect in this draft and are willing to wait a few seasons to add Saric.

#13: Timberwolves–Zach LaVine, PG/SG

This is high for LaVine in my opinion, but I’m assuming Minnesota knows deep down that Kevin Love is already gone so they’ll swing for the fences in the hopes the uber-athlete LaVine eventually fills the superstar void in their roster and gives Wolves  fans hope in the meantime.

#14: Suns–Rodney Hood, SF

I don’t think the Suns have written off Alex Len, so Hood makes a lot of sense stretching the floor as Phoenix’s two-guard tandem drives the offense and Len develops.

#15: Hawks–Kristaps Porzingis, PF/C

Without an available player who is a clear immediate upgrade on their current roster, I expect Danny Ferry to take another play from his Spurs handbook and stash the young big overseas in the hopes he provides lottery quality talent in a few seasons.

#16: Bulls–Tyler Ennis, PG

No team knows the importance of a backup point guard as well as Chicago, and they’ll be pleased to land one with the upside of Ennis.

#17: Celtics–James Young, SG/SF

Young is a risk/reward pick, but combined with Vonleh will provide Danny Ainge with more ammunition to pull off a franchise-altering trade, which requires talent, and talent Young has.

#18: Suns–Clint Capela, PF/C

After getting a contributing role player at a position of need earlier, the Suns have the latitude to take Capela, leave him overseas for a few seasons, and hope he becomes a major talent.

#19: Bulls–Adreian Payne, PF

So long as the Bulls have Rose and Noah on contract, they will try to win now, and Payne can contribute to that effort immediately.

#20: Raptors–Elfrid Payton, PG

Kyle Lowry’s future is uncertain, and Payton would be fine security in case the Raptors lose their best player from last season.

#21: Thunder–P. J. Hairston, SG

Incredibly, the still-young Thunder are starting to feel their contender clock ticking, and Hairston can offer immediate scoring and shooting support for next season’s title run.

#22: Grizzlies–Jusuf Nurkic, C

In a great value pick, the Grizzlies draft a replacement for Marc Gasol who possesses a similarly diverse game.

#23: Jazz–Kyle Anderson, SF

The Jazz hired a coach with diverse experience who stressed the importance of adaptation in competition, and such a coach can make the unique (outside the Spurs secret finals weapon, Boris Diaw) skill set of Anderson a nice value pick here.

#24: Hornets–T.J. Warren, SF/PF

The Hornets played Josh McRoberts thirty minutes a game last season, and Warren will offer them some insurance of floor spacing if McRoberts moves elsewhere in free agency.

#25: Rockets–Jerami Grant, SF

The Rockets have let Chandler Parsons become a restricted free agent in a calculated move to keep him, but Grant would be a nice defensive specialist coming off the bench for a team that really needs long, active help defenders.

#26: Heat–Shabazz Napier, PG

I expect the Heat are sick and tired of watching point guard play put them on the edge (or likely over) of losing titles to the Spurs, and Napier would bring championship mettle to a team always under the greatest of expectations and stress.

#27: Suns–K. J. McDaniels, SF/PF

The Suns go to the wing once more, this time taking a player with the defensive acumen to compensate for the possible loss of fan favorite P. J. Tucker.

#28: Clippers–Jordan Clarkson, PG/SG

Darren Collison has backed up the league’s best point guard so well he may well opt out of his contract in the search of more money, so having Clarkson to fill the gap would make sense for a team determined to win now.

#29: Thunder–Cleanthony Early, SF/PF

In another attempt to provide more weaponry beyond their big three, OKC  may look to add depth and length at the wing in the form of the 23-year-old Early.

#30: Spurs–Jordan Adams, SG

Adams offers a number of assets both offensive and defensively, but only in a strong team context that emphasizes his skills, which is what the Spurs do better than anyone.

Author information

Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. In addition to his writing center work at Salt Lake Community College, he designed, coordinates, and teaches in an experimental author residency program for a West Valley City public charter school. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.
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Pros and Cons for Drafting Gordon, Randle, Smart, and Vonleh Wed, 04 Jun 2014 20:54:03 +0000 Author information
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. In addition to his writing center work at Salt Lake Community College, he designed, coordinates, and teaches in an experimental author residency program for a West Valley City public charter school. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

So the last 365 days gained the Jazz no playoffs, no 26th win, no compensation for the loss of Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap, no coach of the future, no emergent star from the young core, and no top three pick.


Well, life goes on, hangovers are blessedly of limited duration, and once Jazz fans pass through all five stages of grief they should realize that there will be a number of exciting prospects available when pick five rolls around on June 26th.

The problem is who to select.  And its a doozy.

Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, the two most likely dominant scorers in the draft, are beyond reach now.  Joel Embiid, the new Olajuwon in the minds of many, as well.  Orlando will almost certainly pick Dante Exum to pair with Victor Oladipo in a hybrid guard duo from Hell.

That’s all the christened “franchise” prospects off the board when Commissioner Silver calls Utah’s name.  They will be left with the first pick of the also-rans.  Make no mistake, there will be multiple potential All-Stars left for the taking – but deciding between them will be incredibly difficult as players five through eight are distinguished more by simple differences than superiority or inferiority.  Who will be the best guy, the best fit, the right pick from several possibilities who all look about equally valid?

It’s an important argument that will take place thousands of times before the draft, including among the Jazz think tank.  But as I’m more than opinionated enough for two people, I’ll take both sides for now.  What follows are my arguments both for and against the four players I believe will be under consideration when the Jazz select fifth in the draft.   What follows is, honestly, the best argument I can make for and against each player.

Aaron Gordon

Draft him because…

Gordon will help the Jazz compete to win in every quarter of every game of every year he steps onto the court.  He’s a defense oriented, team-first, coach’s dream in the body of an athletic freak.  There is no better cultural addition the Jazz could add in this draft.  He will be immensely popular with players, coaches, and fans from day one given his worth ethic, energy and dedication, and perfect willingness to do whatever he’s asked.  Gordon will do little to compete for shots and offensive usage with Trey Burke, Derrick Favors, and possibly Gordon Hayward or Alec Burks, and so will help rather than hinder the offensive development of his teammates.  Defensively, he will provide extreme flexibility.  With his combination of size and agility, he can reasonably be asked to guard any of four positions on a given night, making it much easier to cover for weak defenders in a scheme.  Finally, if he is able to reconstruct his shot, the Jazz might have a player on their hands who combines the defense and energy of Dennis Rodman with the offensive game of Blake Griffin.

Don’t because…

Gordon’s shot isn’t just “an issue.”  His shooting is so bad, both mechanically and psychologically, that he will be the vulnerable link that snaps the whole chain of the offense.  Think Greg Ostertag’s value in spreading the floor.  Also, it will be nearly impossible to play him down the stretch of close games as opponents will foul him intentionally.  As good a defender as Gordon is, he will be overpowered frequently by bigger players, which is a real issue because he is a power forward.  No amount of wishing him into the small forward position, either on his part or the part of Jazz fans or coaches, will make it happen.  He’s a power forward without enough power, a stretch big without the ability to stretch the floor.  Deprived of the chance to draft a franchise savior, would the Jazz really settle for a player who may well become a glamorized glue guy?

Julius Randle

Draft him because…

Randle is the only rookie who may threaten Jabari Parker’s claim to Rookie of the Year honors.  In a Jazz jersey, he will provide essentially all the positives of Enes Kanter (skilled interior scoring, a promising jump shot, and rebounding) without the leaden feet or poor defensive awareness.  While Randle will never be a rim protector, he has the combination of strength and agility to be a good positional defender, which will pair perfectly with Derrick Favors patrolling the paint.  He will be the true number one offensive option the Jazz need by taking advantage of his speed and skill in facing up larger defenders while bullying smaller, weaker players in the post.  And he is an exceptional passer for his position.  In fact, the sum total of his game will be reminiscent of how Karl Malone anchored the Jazz for the better part of two decades.  That seemed to work pretty well.

Don’t because…

Randle won’t really give the Jazz any of the things they really, desperately need.  Instead, he’ll just trap them in the confusing limbo of always being “in-between.”  Paring Randle and Favors will commit the team to a two-big system, but Randle is neither big enough to be a dominant defender nor a rangy enough shooter to stretch the floor to the three point line.  Say adios to optimal spacing and elite defense.  While concerns over his short arms proved exaggerated, he is neither particularly long nor explosive, and both will rise up to bite him against the power forwards bigger or more athletic than he is.  He’ll be a fine first option against most of the league then find himself outmatched against contenders in the playoffs.  Finally, his physique is prone to easily gaining weight, which brings additional injury risk and limited fitness and stamina.  Do the Jazz really want to pick a player who traps them in a grayish area stylistically, positionally, and in availability to play major minutes without injury?

Marcus Smart

Draft him because…

Smart will single-handedly change the Jazz’s style of play both offensively and defensively.  His intensity and ability to apply ball pressure will catalyze an attacking defensive mentality, drawing the best out of other defenders on the team, in particular by energizing Derrick Favors.  Simultaneously, his ability to get steals and rebounds will generate open court opportunities and a faster pace of play on the offensive end.  The Jazz will instantly become must watch basketball from a sheer entertainment perspective.  Smart has the reach and strength to play either guard position, and will pair well with the long distance shooter Trey Burke in a deft-handling, crisp-passing backcourt tandem.  He will both inject energy into and demand it from his teammates, bringing an ultra-competitive mindset to the Jazz, similar to Joakim Noah’s effect on the Bulls.  Finally, as one of the strongest point guards in the history of the NBA, he will allow the Jazz to take advantage of one of the rarest avenues of attack in basketball: posting up the point guard.

Don’t because…

Smart’s inability to shoot will compact the floor, putting pressure on every other position to hit jumpers – which is exactly what this Jazz roster struggles to do.  While his game might mesh decently with Trey Burke’s, their personalities will not.  Each has an alpha mentality that includes leading vocally, and so playing the two together would require deft management by coaches to avoid discord and a struggle for power.  A hard task for a brand new coach.  Yet parting ways with Burke, as might be necessary in drafting Smart, will be a difficult choice, especially to make way for a player with limited experience playing point guard and who has shown, more often than not, proclivity to take it to the hole himself rather than get teammates involved.  Finally, it is hard to see how Alec Burks’ value will not be significantly hampered by drafting a player with similar strengths but also similar weaknesses.  And did I mention that the guy just can’t shoot?

Noah Vonleh

Draft him because…

Of the three elite power forward prospects, Vonleh has the clearest path to the highest upside.  Trapped on a poor Indiana team with painful guard play, he is already a better player than he was able to show in college – and he showed plenty, even there.  He is well on his way to becoming a legitimate three point threat.  Once he is, he will give the Jazz essentially a twin of Derrick Favors who can stretch the floor.  Imagine two 6’10″ athletic aberrations with 7’4″ wingspans clogging the paint on one end while serving as an inside/outside scoring threat on the other.  Yeah, the rest of the league is already shaking in their sneakers.  More, Vonleh is renowned for his great practice ethic and love for the game, traits that make him a fine inheritor of the blue-collar Jazz legacy.  It isn’t adding LeBron James or Dwyane Wade, but landing an 18-year-old Chris Bosh ain’t too shabby.

Don’t because…

Has nobody realized Vonleh lacks any truly established NBA skill at present beyond rebounding?  Drafting him would put extreme pressure on the Jazz coaching staff to develop his game quickly and thoroughly, and he will require a lot of development.  The Jazz have spent three seasons now torturing fans by rationing playing time for young prospects.  How will they play a young man who simply cannot provide major contributions on the floor for at least a year or two, possibly even more.  Worse, drafting Vonleh will almost certainly force the Jazz to trade Enes Kanter well before his young replacement eclipses Big Turk’s ability as a player.  If he fails to develop as fully as hoped, a real possibility given how raw he is currently, he may leave the Jazz in the position of watching Vonleh peak well below his anticipated ceiling just as they see Kanter exceed expectations on another team.

And So?

That’s the quandary.  Pop quiz, hot shot: What do you do?  What will the Jazz do?

I don’t know.  I suspect Jazz management has, at this point, no real idea either.

How about you?  If the Jazz have the choice of these four players when the time comes for them to submit their selection in the draft, who do you suggest they let it all ride on?

Author information

Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. In addition to his writing center work at Salt Lake Community College, he designed, coordinates, and teaches in an experimental author residency program for a West Valley City public charter school. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.
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Clint Johnson’s Post-Lottery Mock Draft Wed, 21 May 2014 21:57:12 +0000 Author information
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. In addition to his writing center work at Salt Lake Community College, he designed, coordinates, and teaches in an experimental author residency program for a West Valley City public charter school. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Now that the draft order is set, I finally share my mock draft of the full first round.  Explanations for each selection will be forthcoming.

1 – Cleveland: Joel Embiid, C

2 – Milwaukee: Jabari Parker, SF/PF

3 – Philadelphia: Andrew Wiggins, SG/SF

4 – Orlando: Dante Exum, PG/SG

5 – Utah: Julius Randle, PF

6 – Boston: Aaron Gordon, PF

7 – LA Lakers: Marcus Smart, PG/SG

8 – Sacramento: Noah Vonleh, PF/C

9 – Charlotte: James Young, SG/SF

10 – Philadelphia: Nik Stauskas, SG

11 – Denver: Dario Saric, PF

12 – Orlando: Doug McDermott, PF

13 – Minnesota: Rodney Hood, SF

14 – Phoenix: Zach LaVine, SG

15 – Atlanta: Gary Harris, SG

16 – Chicago: Tyler Ennis, PG

17 – Boston: Jusuf Nurkic, C

18 – Phoenix: T. J. Warren, SF/PF

19 – Chicago: Adreian Payne, PF

20 – Toronto: P. J. Hairston, SG

21 – Oklahoma City: Jordan Adams, SG

22 – Memphis: Clint Capela, PF/C

23 – Utah: Kristaps Porzingis, PF/C

24 – Charlotte: Cleanthony Early, SF/PF

25 – Houston: Elfrid Payton, PG

26 – Miami: Glenn Robinson, SF

27 – Phoenix: Mitch McGary, C

28 – LA Clippers: K. J. McDaniels, SF

29 – Oklahoma City: Walter Tavares, C

30 – San Antonio: Kyle Anderson, SF

Author information

Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. In addition to his writing center work at Salt Lake Community College, he designed, coordinates, and teaches in an experimental author residency program for a West Valley City public charter school. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.
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5 Things You May Not Know About Each Of The Top NBA Draft Prospects Wed, 23 Apr 2014 18:23:21 +0000 Author information
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. In addition to his writing center work at Salt Lake Community College, he designed, coordinates, and teaches in an experimental author residency program for a West Valley City public charter school. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.
The greatest tournament in American sport has concluded, a champion has been crowned, and now life turns toward the culmination of the college basketball year, at least in the minds of Jazz fans this season: the NBA Lottery and Draft.  Between now and June 26th, prospects will be run through their paces in the combine and team workouts, adding both data and distraction to the dossiers teams have already assembled on each top talent.  But the chance for fans to see these players, so young and with so much expected of them, in genuine game conditions has passed.

For those who missed the chance to see the most desired prospects this college season, I include five observations on each of my top eight players from a year of intense focus on these young men.  My thoughts mostly address what doesn’t express fully in either the box score or common statistics, though I pair them with extensive statistical profiles of the players as well.

(Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

(Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

Andrew Wiggins, SF — 6’8″ and 197 lbs; 19 years old; Freshman, Kansas.  2nd Team Consensus All-American. Comp: Kobe Bryant.

My rank: 1st; Draft Express rank: 1st; rank: 3rd

2013-2014 Basic Stats: 17.1 pts, 5.9 rbs, 1.5 asts, 1.2 stls, 1.0 blks, 2.3 tos, 44.8% FG, 34.1% 3P, 77.5% FT, 32.8 Min.

Per 40: 20.8 pts, 7.1 rbs, 1.9 asts, 1.4 stls, 1.2 blks, 2.8 tov.

Advanced: 21.4 PER, .563 TS%, .499 eFG%, 26.3 USG%, 564 PProd, 3.2 OWS, 1.7 DWS, .170 WS/40.

Vs. Top 25 Competition: 7 wins/4 losses, 18.2 pts, 7.5 rbs, 0.7 asts, 0.7 stls, 0.7 blks, 2.5 tos, 42.4% FG, 37.8% 3P, 82.2FT%, 32.5 Min

Five Observations:

  • He’s the ultra-rare superstar athlete with an advanced defensive skill set, especially given his hype, age, and position.  Don’t let the low steal rate fool you, data-driven fans.  He doesn’t take a lot of chances defensively and is excellent at wisely contesting shots.  It doesn’t result in an eye-popping number of steals or blocks, but that is actually a sign of how good, consistent, and technically sound his defense is.
  • Has the mechanics to become a great shooter.  Combine his height, length, vertical jump, and high release point, and it will be extremely hard to contest his shots without allowing him to blow by defenders.  The limitation now is shooting on the move (beyond a wickedly effective step back jumper).
  • Otherworldly driving right and spinning left; simultaneously, he’s very limited driving left or spinning right.  He’s very one hand dominant but athletic superiority has allowed him to get away with it.  That will need to change.
  • Greatest weakness isn’t lack of assertiveness; it’s shaky ball handling in traffic.  This is by far the most common reason he disappeared offensively in some games.  In the greater spacing of the NBA and with more development as a ball handler, I expect his assertiveness to grow.
  • He doesn’t handle physicality well.  Partially this is because he needs to get stronger, and he will.  But partially its because he just doesn’t like to bang.  I’m not sure that will go away.


(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Jabari Parker, PF/SF — 6’8″ and 241 lbs; 19 years old; Freshman, Duke.  1st Team Consensus All-American.  Comp: Carmelo Anthony.

My rank: 2nd; Draft Express rank: 3rd; rank: 2nd

2013-2014 Basic Stats: 19.1 pts, 8.7 rbs, 1.2 asts, 1.1 stls, 1.2 blks, 2.3 tov, 47.3% FG, 35.8% 3P, 74.8% FT, 30.7 Min.

Per 40: 25.0 pts, 11.4 rbs, 1.5 asts, 1.4 stls, 1.6 blks, 3.0 tos.

Advanced: 28.4 PER, .558 TS%, .511 eFG%, 32.7 USG%, 623 PProd, 3.6 OWS, 1.9 DWS, .205 WS/40.

Vs. Top 25 Competition: 4 wins/4 losses, 21.1 pts, 8.4 rbs, 0.9 asts, 1.1 stls, 0.9 blks, 2.4 tos, 47.3% FG, 36.3% 3P, 77.9% FT, 33 Min.

Five Observations:

  • 19 years old and has the body of a 30-year-old Carmelo Anthony.  That scares me.
  • Not a great passer, but he’s more willing than his numbers show.  While he’ll never key an entire offense like LeBron James, serving as both primary scorer and primary facilitator, he won’t be a ball stopper either.
  • Truly loves to play.  He smiles a lot on the court, both after his own great plays and after teammates’.  He takes coaching extremely well and will be a positive and supportive teammate, as he often encourages teammates when things aren’t going well.
  • Extremely high offensive intellect.  While he is a good shooter who projects to be great, when shots aren’t falling or defenses dictate, he uses fakes and positioning for jumpers to set up drives to the basket.  He has sneaky athleticism, but it’s his veteran-style craftiness that makes him effective at getting to the hoop and the line, including skillful positioning of his sturdy body.
  • An NBA power forward, no question.  Speed, athleticism, and skill are all advantages at that position, where he has multiple disadvantages at small forward.



(Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

(Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

Joel Embiid, C — 7’0″ and 240 lbs; 19 years old; Freshman, Kansas.  Comp: David Robinson.

My rank: 3rd; Draft Express rank: 2nd; rank: 1st

2013-2014 Basic Stats: 11.2 pts, 8.1 rbs, 1.4 asts, 0.9 stls, 2.6 blks, 2.4 tos, 62.6% FG, 20.0% 3P, 68.5% FT, 23.1 Min.

Per 40: 19.4 pts, 14.0 rbs, 2.3 asts, 1.5 stls, 4.5 blks, 4.1 tos.

Advanced: 28.2 PER, .655 TS%, .629 eFG%, 23.4 USG%, 307 PProd, 1.8 OWS, 1.7 DWS, .213 WS/40.

Vs. Top 25 Competition: 7 wins/3 losses, 10.7 pts, 10.3 rbs, 2.7 asts, 0.3 stls, 2.0 blks, 1.0 tos, 59.0% FG, 16.7% 3P, 59.8% FT, 25.7 Min.

Five Observations:

  • True center.  Changes the game by playing big on both ends of the floor.
  • Can really run.  Sometimes outruns his ball handler on the break.
  • He’s lauded for having the Dream’s moves, and he does, at least the beginnings of them.  But he lacks Olajuwon’s balance, and I don’t think he’ll ever get it.
  • Sometimes uses athleticism and length to recover or make plays late and succeeds because of physical superiority.  Needs to improve awareness and preparation.  He’ll be good because of his gifts.  If his knowledge of the game rises to anything near his physical level, he’ll be great — and he’s proving to be a very fast learner.
  • He has a temper.  It’s not DeMarcus Cousins grade, but it is large enough to get him kicked out of games.  Competitors noticed and worked to irritate him on the floor.  Too often, they succeeded.



(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Julius Randle, PF — 6’9″ and 248 lbs; 19 years old; Freshman, Kentucky.  Comp: Chris Webber.

My rank: 4th; Draft Express rank: 4th; rank: 4th

2013-2014 Basic Stats: 15.0 pts, 10.4 rbs, 1.4 asts, 0.5 stls, 0.8 blks, 2.5 tos, 50.1% FG, 16.7% 3P, 70.6% FT, 30.8 Min.

Per 40: 19.4 pts, 13.5 rbs, 1.8 asts, 0.6 stls, 1.0 blks, 3.3 tos.

Advanced: 24.5 PER, .567 TS%, .505 eFG%, 25.4 USG%, 599 PProd, 3.5 OWS, 2.4 DWS, .191 WS/40.

Vs. Top 25 Competition: 8 wins/7 losses, 15.3 pts, 10.3 rbs, 1.1 asts, 0.4 stls, 0.6 blks, 2.5 tos, 51.8% FG, 16.7% 3P, 74.0% FT, 32.3 Min.

Five Observations:

  • Makes lots of difficult shots at a surprisingly high rate.  Uses broad shoulders and thick body well to shield defenders and get off shots.  How that will translate to the NBA, with longer, more athletic defenders but fewer double teams, is a huge question.
  • Not a good stand-still jumper, which combines with his short arms to limit his ability to shoot over taller defenders.  Much better jumper off the run, where he turns fairly explosive.
  • Great passer out of the post given his age.  He’s a much better passer than his stats suggest and may become something of a wizard at his position in the NBA.
  • He will never be a rim protector, but he can become a good positional defender at his position.  He has good lateral movement and anticipates offensive players well — when he cares enough to devote himself.
  • He dealt with more double teams than any player in college basketball, which largely hid his fine ball handling and quickness on the drive.  The short arms and body built to gain weight are concerns, but I think Randle’s offensive ability fits the NBA style as much as any player in the draft.

Dante Exum, SG — 6’6″ and 188 lbs; 18 years old; Australian Institute of Sport.  Comp: Derrick Rose.

My rank: 5th; Draft Express rank: 5th; rank: 6th

2013 World Championships U19 Stats: 18.2 pts, 3.6 rbs, 3.8 asts, 1.7 stls, 0.1 blks, 2.3 tos, 44.6% FG, 33.3% 3P, 60.9% FT, 29.6 Min.

2013 Oceania Championships: 2.0 pts, 1.0 rbs, 0.5 asts, 1.0 stls, 0.5 blks, 0.0 tos, 33% FG, 0.0% 3P, 100% FT, 5.5 Min.

Notes: NA.


(Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

(Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

Marcus Smart, PG/SG — 6’4″ and 200 lbs; 20 years old; Sophomore, Oklahoma State.  Comp: Jason Kidd meets Joe Dumars.  

My rank: 6th; Draft Express rank: 6th; rank: 5th

2013-2014 Basic Stats: 18.0 pts, 5.9 rbs, 4.8 asts, 2.9 stls, 0.6 blks, 2.6 tos, 42.2% FG, 29.9% 3P, 72.8% FT, 32.7 Min.

Per 40: 22.0 pts, 7,2 rbs, 5.8 asts, 3.5 stls, 0.7 blks, 3.2 tos.

Advanced: 26.9 PER, .552 TS%, .486 eFG%, 29.2 USG%, 589 PProd, 3.1 OWS, 2.5 DWS, .220 WS/40.

Vs. Top 25 Competition: 3 wins/6 losses, 21.0 pts, 5.4 rbs, 4.3 asts, 2.6 stls, 0.4 blks, 2.7 to, 37.6% FG, 23.4% 3P, 72.1% FT, 36.4 Min.

Five Observations:

  • The most constantly involved player in college basketball.  Even off the ball, Smart calls plays, directs traffic, and communicates with teammates.  Talks to his team after practically every made basket and on every dead ball.  A true coach on the floor.
  • STRONG guard.  Like all physically overpowering players (Shaq, LeBron), he is sometimes frustrated when he doesn’t get whistles.  As hurt by the hand-checking rule as any player in the nation given his physical style.  That makes his 2.9 steals per game more impressive.
  • Single-handedly dictates pace.  Starts fast breaks through pressure defense, steals, and defensive rebounds.  His passing is at its best in the open court.  He excels at generating energy for his team.
  • Poor shooter with temperamental mechanics.  Over-rotates the ball on release and kicks feet forward, likely to counterbalance too much propulsion due to his strength.  He’s super-elite at attacking the rim and getting to the line, but his shot likely requires mechanical adjustment to become even a solid shooter from range.
  • Extremely competitive and confident, sometimes to his detriment.  Smart is an intelligent player who sometimes succumbs to hero ball.  Emotion does effect his decision making.  No other player in college  basketball played as well against top competition but lost as frequently, which invites even greater scrutiny on his lapses of judgment.



(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Noah Vonleh, PF/C — 6’10″ and 242 lbs; 18 years old; Freshman, Indiana.  Comp: A stronger Chris Bosh.

My rank: 7th; Draft Express rank: 7th; rank: 7th

2013-2014 Basic Stats: 11.3 pts, 9.0 rbs, 0.6 asts, 0.9 stls, 1.4 blks, 2.1 tos, 52.3% FG, 48.5% 3P, 71.6% FT, 26.5 Min.

Per 40: 17.0 pts, 13.6 rbs, 0.9 asts, 1.3 stls, 2.1 blks, 3.2 tos.

Advanced: 22.2 PER, .604 TS%, .560 eFG%, 21.4 USG%, 321 PProd, 1.6 OWS, 2.0 DWS, .182 WS/40.

Vs. Top 25 Competition: 3 wins/5 losses, 8.3 pts, 7.5 rbs, 0.5 asts, 0.8 stls, 1.9 blks, 2.4 tos, 48.8% FG, 56.3% 3P, 55.2% FT, 25.5 Min.

Five Observations:

  • Awkward but effective.  Finishes plays that look impossible to finish with his long arms.  Gets lots of tips due to long arms but needs to learn to better control them (a la Tyson Chandler).
  • Fast when running but strangely reluctant to run.  Methodical style with sudden bursts of speed, even though he does work hard and make hustle plays.  Weird combination.
  • Very mechanical offensively but shows the beginnings of a very diverse offensive game.  Uses both hands near the hoop.  Very good shooting form if given time, including range out to the three.  Very much needs time to mature but may mature into a truly unique stretch big.
  • Does not jump high or quickly.  If his offensive skills plateau too early, he could remain extremely limited on the offensive end against NBA athleticism and size.
  • Terrible vision as a passer.  I mean awful.  Offensive awareness is not good.  He’s really young and has plenty of room to improve, but this is a concern.



(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Aaron Gordon, PF — 6’9″ and 212 lbs; 18 years old; Freshman, Arizona.  Comp: Shawn Kemp meets Dennis Rodman.

My rank: 8th; Draft Express rank: 8th; rank: 12th

2013-2014 Basic Stats: 12.4 pts, 8.0 rbs, 2.0 asts, 0.9 stls, 1.0 blks, 1.4 tos, 49.5% FG, 35.6% 3P, 42.2% FT, 31.2 Min.

Per 40: 15.8 pts, 10.2 rbs, 2.5 asts, 1.1 stls, 1.3 blks, 1.9 tos.

Advanced: 20.4 PER, .503 TS%, .516 eFG%, 23.2 USG%, PProd 469, 2.1 OWS, 3.3 DWS, .183 WS/40.

Vs. Top 25 Competition: 2 wins/1 loss, 11 pts, 10.3 rbs, 2.7 asts, 0.3 stls, 2.0 blks, 1.0 tos, 57.3% FG, 83.3% 3P, 50.0% FT, 36.3 Min.

Five Observations:

  • Extremely fit.  He has a great motor and is always moving, be it sprinting down the floor or sliding into position on help defense.
  • Top grade defender.  Good technique and focus combines with great effort both on and off the ball.  Excellent lateral movement.  Contests shots admirably.  Will be able to guard three or four NBA positions.
  • Willing to bang but not strong enough to hold up against strong bigs.  He’s susceptible to being overpowered in the post and on the glass.  While he will get stronger, strength may always be a limitation for him because he is a small power forward, not a small forward.
  • Rare ball handler for his size.  Quick first step.  Can go either way and is an elite finisher at the hoop.  Facing up will be his NBA offense early on.
  • Variable shooting mechanics completely dependent on rhythm.  He’s a passable shooter on kick outs when he can catch and shoot in rhythm.  Against solid defense or on the move, his mechanics offer no ability to execute a controlled shot.  This makes him an extremely self-conscious shooter when the shot isn’t taken in natural flow of the game (42% free throw shooter).  His shooting form will likely need to be rebuilt, likely with psychological handling as well.

Author information

Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. In addition to his writing center work at Salt Lake Community College, he designed, coordinates, and teaches in an experimental author residency program for a West Valley City public charter school. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.
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This Sordid Season Tue, 08 Apr 2014 18:54:42 +0000 Author information
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. In addition to his writing center work at Salt Lake Community College, he designed, coordinates, and teaches in an experimental author residency program for a West Valley City public charter school. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.
(Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

I have not been a happy Jazz fan this season – and I am not alone.

Gordon Hayward started the year unhappy with his contract impasse with the team and ends it unhappy at his disappointing performance as team option number one.

His teammates must have been unhappy with a sizable portion of their fanbase cheering for them to accumulate losses.  The team has done a good job of keeping most such discontent in-house, though occasionally blips leak into the media showing player reaction to their fans yearning for losses.  For example, Trey Burke: “I think that’s just selfish for a fan.”  Gordon Hayward: “That kind of sucks.”

Perhaps the single least happy person in the Jazz locker room is Head Coach Tyrone Corbin.  Mostly this is hidden behind stock comments of optimism, like this offered after the March 31st loss to the Knicks, “We just have to keep fighting and get better.”  Once, such comments were the brave face of a traditional coach handed, by his sensibilities, an anathematic team.  Now, it is hard to see such comments as anything but hollow.  With seven games left in the season, time to get better is all but gone, and the fight seems to have largely left Corbin’s young, talent-sparse team, as the coach well knows.  This has led to occasional outbursts of Corbin’s true – and understandable – frustration, such as his eruption in the first quarter of the thumping against the Thunder.

His discontent is easily understood.  How might a coach being judged on defense characterize “worst case scenario” in a contract year?  A 24 and 53 record and second worst team defensive ranking probably hits pretty close to a bulls-eye.

The vexation of this season has not spared fans either.

Some poor souls entered the year hoping to watch good basketball resulting in a respectable number of wins.  Neither happened.  As erratic, and sometimes ugly, play stretched into a growing pile of losses, many fans simply gave up, on the season or the team.  Last year’s attendance to watch Al Jefferson’s slow symphony of post moves: 9th in the league.  The year before, when the Jazz barely made the playoffs and were swept by the Spurs: 6th.  This season the Jazz rank 13th.  Kurt Kragthorpe of the Salt Lake Tribune reports, “2013-14 attendance will be the lowest in the 23 seasons of ESA’s existence.”  So you can bet management isn’t savoring this season either.

The only happy people in Jazz nation at this point are those who went into the season hoping for a nauseating number of losses that transform into the number one overall pick.  For fans dancing in the streets as the Jazz hold the fifth worst record in the league, a word of caution: your paradigm of how to build an NBA champion may well be flawed.

The ideology of building a team by being very bad to “earn” a franchise star is widespread.  One of the loudest local proponents of the strategy is the Tribune’s Gordon Monson.  Recently, he reiterated the argument in his March 6th article: “We’ve been through this a thousand times this season.  The Jazz have to lose to advance their cause [getting the highest possible pick in the draft to get a start to build around].  Every game they win curses them.  No matter how sickening that is to diehard Jazz fans, it’s just a fact.”

Many share Monson’s belief that the modern landscape of the NBA requires that small market teams who aspire to be champions bottom out to get a star and build from there.  But genuine facts contradict such strategy.

First, understand that teams that draft a player who leads them to a championship rarely pick that player in the top five picks of the draft.  Since 1990, only seven players have led the team that drafted them to a title.  Only two were top five picks.  Three players were taken in the back half of the lottery, and as many players were taken beyond pick twenty as in the top five.

Another flaw in the tank-to-title strategy is the belief that getting the first overall pick in the draft is a transformative event.  Most often, it isn’t.

In the last ten years, only two number one overall picks have of their own impact moved their teams into the playoffs: Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard.  John Wall will join the list this season with a record remarkably similar to the Jazz’s record last season, when they were widely criticized for striving for the playoffs with a mediocre team.  To put that in perspective, only three of the last ten teams granted a number one overall pick have leveraged it into as much competitive success as the Jazz experienced with Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap.

Any who argue this season is different because this draft class is so good are likely deluding themselves.  Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim warned of this months ago in an interview with Adam Zagoria on “There’s no player that’s out there on the horizon that’s a Tim Duncan or a LeBron James.  I’ve seen all these guys play… They’re not that kind of player. They’re not transcendent players that are gonna make your franchise.”  As recently as late March, Danny Ainge, President of Basketball Operations for the Boston Celtics, reiterated the point in an interview with The Boston Globe: “[The 2014 draft class is] not even close to one of the best draft classes in the last 10 years.”  This on the back of his announcement through video stream on the Celtics web site that “there aren’t any game changers in the draft.”

I’m higher on this draft than some who have soured recently, but I’m also realistic.  How many prospects do I feel could through their addition dramatically improve the future of the Utah Jazz?  Two, Andrew Wiggins and, to a lesser extent, Jabari Parker.  Given Joel Embiid’s back injury, I would be surprised if either Wiggins or Parker last to pick three.  The Jazz will most likely finish with the fourth worst record in the league, giving them a 24.5% chance of winning one of these two desperately craved wings.  That means a 75.5% chance the team ends up with Embiid, or Dante Exum, or Julius Randle, or another prospect.

Embiid could be better than Derrick Favors, but am I convinced he will be?  No.  Just as I’m not confident Dante Exum will prove better than Alec Burks or Julius Randle than Enes Kanter.  The Jazz have a plethora of good to very good young players right now.  Barring their ability to get a potentially dominant wing scorer, there is a real chance the pick that is the fruit of all this season’s losing will be less improvement on the current young talent than simply a change.  57 losses is a lot to endure to become different without necessarily getting better.

So my suggestion for fans who chanted, inwardly or outwardly, “Tank on!” to the Jazz this season: Keep your expectations moderate or you risk the unpleasantness of this season becoming the new Jazz culture.  And none of us want that.  We never want a season like this again.

Kurt Kragthorpe said it this way: “Utahns never should have to endure another season like this one.”  I agree.  Nothing has been pure this season, not the joy of victory or the pain of defeat.  I, like all Jazz fans, and Jazz players, and Jazz coaches, and even Jazz management, have been caught in between competing imperatives.  Jazz “Nation” has split under the tension, some aligning with one desired outcome (win in spite of all), some aligning with the other (lose in spite of all).  And while I can bitterly disagree with people for their desired outcomes and allegiances, the truth is I can’t blame anyone.

Because part of me has been right there with them.  I could not hope, entirely and without reservation, for either wins or losses this year, and so everything proved a disappointment.

It’s time such sordid seasons are finished.  The insane incentive structure the NBA employs with their lottery must end.  I don’t even care how anymore, so long as it makes losing a constant evil and never a virtue. But never another season like this one.

Author information

Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. In addition to his writing center work at Salt Lake Community College, he designed, coordinates, and teaches in an experimental author residency program for a West Valley City public charter school. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.
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2014 NBA Draft Rankings: March Madness Is Coming Wed, 05 Mar 2014 20:20:15 +0000 Author information
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. In addition to his writing center work at Salt Lake Community College, he designed, coordinates, and teaches in an experimental author residency program for a West Valley City public charter school. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.
 (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

With a series of misfortunes leading to confrontation with a fan and a three game suspension, Marcus Smart completely lost his footing this season, falling both in people’s esteem and down draft boards.  Can the Cowboy’s Mr. Everything make a heroic climb back in the madness of March? (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

The greatest month in American sports is nearly upon us.  Expect even more madness than usual with no team a dominant favorite and college hoops riding an influx of ultra-talented yet fascinatingly erratic freshmen.  Anything could happen, and probably will.

Even dedicated NBA fans have reason to stay glued to their television throughout the tournament as possibly the best draft class since 2003 largely sorts itself out elimination style.  This class is deep and talented, yet more and more grumbles are sounding that there is no true standout, no obvious number one who can deliver both elite upside and (of paramount importance to team front office personnel) little risk.

The class is a high stakes crap shoot, and people will largely lay down their bets based on what they see players do in the bright lights of the tournament.

So in my rankings this month I include both a tiered ranking of which players I group together as prospects and things to watch for from each player in the NCAA Tournament.

First Tier: Franchise Centerpieces

My top tier consists of the two players I see as all-league prospects on both ends of the court, true franchise centerpiece talents.

Joel Embiid, C — 7’0″ and 240 lbs; 19 years old; Freshman, Kansas.  Comp. David Robinson.

My rank: 1st; Draft Express rank: 1st; rank: 1st

2013-2014 Stats: 11.2 pts, 8.1 rbs, 1.4 asts, 0.9 stls, 2.6 blks, 2.4 tos, 62.6% FG, 20% 3P, 68.5% FT

To understand why Embiid sits atop nearly every big board at this point, simply add together several numbers: seven feet tall; he has only played organized basketball since 2011; and per 40 production of 19.4 points, 14 rebounds, and 4.5 blocks.

What to watch for in the tournament: Can Embiid manage his fouls and his temper, and most of all, will his recent back injury linger into the tournament?

Andrew Wiggins, SF — 6’8and 197 lbs; 19 years old; Freshman, Kansas.  Comp: Kobe Bryant.

My rank: 2nd; Draft Express rank: 2nd; rank: 3rd

2013-2014 Stats: 16.3 pts, 5.9 rbs, 1.6 asts, 1.0 stls, 0.9 blks, 2.1 tos, 44.1% FG, 34.3% 3P, 76% FT

While I put Embiid slightly above Wiggins as an overall prospect at this moment, were the Jazz to somehow end up with the first overall pick, I’d advise them to select the Great Canadian Hope and twice on Sundays.  He has the tools to be an elite NBA wing at nearly every aspect of the game.  As for those complaining about his lack of assertiveness, consider his stats against teams ranked in the top 25 of college basketball: 17.8 points and 7.5 rebounds while shooting 45.6% from the field, 42.9% from three, and 83.6% from the line on 5.5 free throw attempts.  Kansas is 7 and 3 in those games.

What to watch for: Impact.  Wiggins has proven prone to disappearing acts in the regular season, and that can’t happen in the tournament.


Second Tier: Offensive Centerpieces

This pair of players lacks the potential to dominate a game on the defensive side of the ball, which results in a lower ranking than Embiid or Wiggins.  But when it comes to pure scoring potency, you find the best prospects by a large margin here.

Jabari Parker, SF/PF — 6’8″ and 241 lbs; 18 years old; Freshman, Duke.  Comp: Carmelo Anthony.

My rank: 3rd; Draft Express rank: 3rd; rank: 2nd

2013-2014 Stats: 18.8 pts, 8.9 rbs, 1.3 asts, 1.1 stls, 1.4 blks, 2.4 tos, 47.8% FG, 37% 3P, 73.1% FT

After a fairly dramatic slump (that happened to coincide with the death of Coach K’s brother and, by the Duke leader’s own admission, a spate of poor coaching), Parker is back to torturing opposing defenses.  Notably, while his shooting from distance has fallen somewhat, he’s attacking the hoop with far greater determination.  A team looking for instant impact and dynamic scoring would take Parker first overall.

What to look for: Can the ultimate offensive option diversify his impact by dishing assists and holding his own on the defensive end? If that doesn’t happen, Duke won’t threaten the Final Four.

Julius Randle, PF — 6’9″ and 248 lbs; 19 years old; Freshman, Kentucky.  Comp: Chris Webber.

My rank: 4th; Draft Express rank: 4th; rank: 4th

2013-2014 Stats: 15.5 pts, 10.4 rbs, 1.4 asts, 0.4 stls, 0.9 blks, 2.8 tos, 51.8% FG, 23.1% 3P, 72.8% FT

Randle has become a less dominant post presence as the season has progressed and other Kentucky players have absorbed some of that load.  He’s still dominating the glass, however, and if the Wildcats advance deep into the tournament it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Randle reverts to the unguardable force he was earlier.  No player has seen more double and triple teams this season, and if that changes in the tournament, Randle could be the breakout player of March.

What to watch for: Randle will never be a defensive stopper, but he has both the agility and strength to be a good positional defender — if he’s energetic and invested.  He needs to be better in March.  Just check out his coach’s response to Randle’s recent defensive effort.


Third Tier: High Risk, High Reward

Talent-wise and in the long term, these players belong with the top tier prospects — perhaps even above some.  But where the top two tiers strike me as being relatively low risk picks, the same can’t be said for these players.  They might become superstars or, if put in the wrong situation with unrealistic developmental expectations, be seen as gross busts.

Noah Vonleh, PF/C — 6’10″ and 242 lbs; 18 years old; Freshman, Indiana.  Comp: A stronger Chris Bosh.

My rank: 5th; Draft Express rank: 7th; NBADraft rank: 5th

2013-2014 Stats: 11.6 pts, 9.1 rbs, 0.6 asts, 0.9 stls, 1.3 blks, 2.2 tos, 53.5% FG, 55.6% 3P, 71.8% FT

It’s hard to imagine a top ten prospect for the NBA draft being hidden while playing at Indiana, but that’s largely what Vonleh has done.  He may not even have a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament, his team is so bad.  But that, combined with the existence of more media friendly prospects, has obscured a truly elite combination of skill and physical ability in Vonleh.  What other player with a 7’4″ wingspan can hit the college three at a 56% clip?  Vonleh’s one of the youngest freshmen in the country, and his upside is in the borderline tier one atmosphere.

What to watch for: The Big Ten tournament, because they’d better win to make sure we see more.

Dante Exum, PG/PG — 6’6″ and 188 lbs; 18 years old; Australian Institute of Sport.  Comp: Derrick Rose.

My rank: 6th; Draft Express rank: 5th; rank: 7th

2013-2014 Stats: NA

Exum’s move above Smart has more to do with Smart’s decent into personal basketball hell than a change in my estimation of what the Aussie offers as a prospect.  Until I see more of him on the court, he isn’t approaching the top four prospects.  Period.  One interesting note: I’m starting to hear a few more people voicing agreement with me that Exum’s future lies at shooting guard in the NBA, not the point.  To me, this has always lowered the value of his physical tools.

What to watch for: NA

Fourth Tier: Limited Stars

While I love both these players, there is no denying their shooting is a substantial negative given the standards of each’s position.  They are also both caught somewhat between positions, so it’s hard to see either matching the overall upside of players ranked above them.

Marcus Smart, PG/SG — 6’4″ and 200 lbs; 19 years old; Sophomore, Oklahoma State.  Comp: A hybrid of Jason Kidd and Joe Dumars.

My rank: 7th; Draft Express rank: 6th; rank: 6th

2013-2014 Stats: 17.6 pts, 5.7 rbs, 4.7 asts, 2.6 stls, 0.5 blks, 2.7 tos, 41.8% FG, 29.3% 3P, 73.4% FT

Marcus Smart’s 2014 has been a story worthy of Dante Alighieri.  First, starting forward Michael Cobbins went down for the year with a torn Achilles.  Then, backup guard Stephen Clark was dismissed from the program for his second arrest.  The Cowboys then proceeded to lose four straight conference games, dropping out of the top 25.  It all became too much for Smart, who after hustling into the stands and falling was seduced by an idiot fan of Texas Tech into a confrontation.  He shoved the heckler in response to an insult that Smart originally claimed to be racist but has since been asserted to have been much less inflammatory.  After a three game suspension, (all losses) Smart is left with a climb out of the pit and back to his former reputation, on and off the court.  His first steps: averaging 18 points, 5.7 rebounds, 7.3 assists, and 5 steals a game in his first three games back from suspension, including a home victory against the top two prospects in the draft and Kansas.

What to look for: The Cowboys will most likely make the tournament with Smart back, but to advance as far as his ambitions he will have to facilitate like a true point guard.  He’ll also have to play his famed defense even if the referees limit his physicality or allow opponents to be extremely physical with him.

Aaron Gordon, SF/PF — 6’9″ and 212 lbs; 18 years old; Freshman, Arizona.  Comp: Shawn Kemp meets a young Dennis Rodman.

My rank: 8th; Draft Express rank: 8th; rank: 21st

2013-2014 Stats:12.2 pts, 8.0 rbs, 1.6 asts, 0.7 stls, 0.9 blks, 1.4 tos, 49.5% FG, 32.3% 3P, 43.4% FT

Any coach in the world would love to have Gordon on his team — but not necessarily under the expectation the Arizona star would be the centerpiece of his NBA squad.  Gordon does so much well, including many things far too many players don’t do, but that can’t erase the fact he has an largely ineffective shot due to temperamental mechanics.  The expectations for Gordon may simply be beyond a wonderful, unique, but at this point complementary player.

What to watch for: Gordon always contributes in multiple ways, but in the tournament he will need to be a major asset on the offensive end, which he heretofore has not been consistently.  Also, look to see if Gordon can use his intangibles to make game defining plays when his team needs them.

Fifth Tier: The Drop Off

After the top eight, I see a substantial drop off in talent.  While this is a deep draft, I think these top eight prospects are a clear class above the rest when it comes to potential.  Though some teams see realistic star potential in some of the following players, personally, I think from this point on teams will be picking from a host of role players to fit nearly any need — but no one’s desire for a star.

Dario Saric, SF/PF — 6’10″ and 223 lbs; 19 years old; Cibona Zagreb.  Comp: Boris Diaw.

My rank: 9th; Draft Express rank: 12th; rank: 15th

2013-2014 Stats (Adriatic League): 16.3 pts, 9.1 rbs, 2.9 asts, 1.5 stls, 0.5 blks, 3.0 tos, 50.8% FG, 30.5% 3P, 70.3% FT

Saric is the best international prospect in this class after Exum.  He may be the best passer in the draft regardless of position, and his knowledge of how to play the game offensively is incredibly advanced for his age.  Improved scoring and assertiveness within the last year has some believing he just might be one of the international stars who manages to transition to NBA stardom.  I’m not quite that optimistic.  Without NBA-caliber athleticism and as a minus defender, I see Saric as a quality addition for a team capable of using his skill set but not a future star.

What to watch for: NA

Tyler Ennis, PG — 6’2″ and 180 lbs; 19 years old; Freshman, Syracuse.  Comp: A slightly more athletic Luke Ridnour.

My rank: 10th; Draft Express rank: 9th; rank: 13th

2013-2014 Stats: 12 pts, 3.4 rbs, 5.5 asts, 2.0 stls, 0.2 blks, 1.7 tos, 41.2% FG, 36.5% 3P, 75.2% FT

Ennis is a very good player, especially given his age.  That said, I think the talk of him coming off the board before Marcus Smart is ludicrous.  His strength is orchestrating a team: controlling the ball and the pace, making the right pass at the right time, old-fashioned leadership qualities.  But he lacks that one definable NBA skill.  Ennis is perhaps a generation late.  Twenty years ago, a young point guard with his skill set would not have been hurt by good but not great athleticism and no exceptional single skill.  Now, it’s hard for me to project him as anything better than an average starter in the NBA unless he shows the ability to take over games as a shooter.

What to watch for: Ennis will have to show the ability to take more of the scoring load in the tournament –  either that or uncover a turbo button he’s kept secret all this time.

James Young, SG/SF — 6’7″ and 202 lbs; 18 years old; Freshman, Kentucky.  Comp: Richard Jefferson.

My rank: 11th; Draft Express rank: 10th; rank: 22nd

2013-2014 Stats: 14.4 pts, 5.1 rbs, 2.3 asts, 1.0 stls, 0.2 blks, 2.4 tos, 39.7% FG, 32.8% 3P, 67.2% FT

The solid mechanics of his shot, improved performance as the season has gone along, and a prototypical build for an NBA wing (he has a 6’11″ wingspan) are all appealing.  This said, just about everything in Young’s favor is implication of future ability rather than present capability.  At this point, he’s a good but not exceptional athlete; he has a pretty shot but isn’t even a good and consistent shooter; he whips out the occasional crisp, perfect pass, but not enough of them.  The NBA is loaded with such players high on talent and erratic skill but without any foundational area to build from.  A team that takes Young could end up with anything five years from now, which includes nothing.

What to watch for: With Julius Randle drawing double and triple teams regularly, Young will have the opportunity for big scoring nights if he shoots well, and he’d better.  He also needs to find other ways to contribute given his physical ability.

Clint Capela, PF — 6’10″ and 211 lbs; 19 years old; Chalon, Intl.  Comp: Noah Vonleh without a jumper.

My rank: 12th; Draft Express rank: 16; rank: 26

2013-2014 Stats (French League): 8.3 pts, 4.2 rbs, 1.3 asts, 0.6 stls, 1.9 blks, 1.3 tos, 65.6% FG, – 3p, 52.8% FT

For a team that loves but misses out on Noah Vonleh, Capela is a strangely similar consolation prize in terms of physical tools.  Capela may be even a tad more athletic, and he recently outdid Tony Parker for the most outstanding single-game performance in French league history.  That said, his skill level is nowhere as advanced or diverse as Vonleh’s, and there are questions about his work ethic and IQ for the game where there are none such about Vonleh.  But in possibly the best draft in a generation, front offices are going to be eager to land a future star, and Capela’s upside may be top ten in this class if you’re willing to accept substantial risk.

What to watch for: NA

Gary Harris, SG — 6’4″ and 210 lbs; 19 years old; Sophomore, Michigan State.  Comp: O.J. Mayo-lite.

My rank: 13th; Draft Express rank: 11th; rank: 8th

2013-2014 Stats: 17.9 pts, 4.3 rbs, 2.7 asts, 2.0 stls, 0.3 blks, 1.8 tos, 41.7% FG, 34.7% 3P, 80.2% FT

It’s hard to hide the fact that Harris’ season has been a disappointment for NBA scouts.  Yes, he still defends well and with dedication, plays with heart and a willingness to step up in big moments, and has improved as a passer from a year ago.  But going into this season his prime value lay in the belief that he was a dead-eye shooter and that’s simply been proven untrue.  I expect him to be a good sixth to eighth player on an NBA team, a balanced guy who won’t hurt you anywhere, but the combination of his size and mediocre shooting make it hard for me to project him as even a good NBA starter.

What to watch for: Can he get hot from three to cover up some of his inconsistency this season or make huge plays to highlight his intangibles?

P. J. Hairston, SG — 6’5″ and 227 lbs; 21 years old; Junior, Texas Legends, NBDL.  Comp: Aaron Afflalo.

My rank: 14th; Draft Express rank: 19th; rank: 38th

2013-2014 Stats: 22.2 pts, 3.9 rbs, 0.9 asts, 1.7 stls, 0.4 blks, 1.9 tos, 44.9% FG, 36.9% 3P, 87.9% FT

I’m going out on a limb a little pegging Hairston as a lottery candidate.  But I have serious questions about all the other potential players at this slot, including Doug McDermott, Willie Cauley-Stein, Rodney Hood, and Zach LaVine.  Hairston has looked dynamic in the D-League, including two 40 point games.  While history shows that D-League performance is far from a dependable indicator of NBA success, the team at the end of the lottery this season will be pretty good already and looking to win immediately.  I suspect Hairston will be drafted as a guy who can fill a role immediately without giving up a ton of upside.

What to look for: NA

As of Right Now…

The Jazz have continued to better the expectations of most by playing .500 ball and, thanks to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse riding through New York recently, find themselves with the eighth worst record in the league.  I still think they fall a few slots by the end of the season.  However, if the season were to end now, I believe: with the eighth pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, the Utah Jazz select…

Aaron Gordon from Arizona.

Author information

Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. In addition to his writing center work at Salt Lake Community College, he designed, coordinates, and teaches in an experimental author residency program for a West Valley City public charter school. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.
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The Share and Stop Doctrine Fri, 07 Feb 2014 22:27:49 +0000 Author information
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. In addition to his writing center work at Salt Lake Community College, he designed, coordinates, and teaches in an experimental author residency program for a West Valley City public charter school. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.
The Chicago Bulls passed and defended their way to six NBA Championships in the 90's. ((Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images)

The Chicago Bulls of the 90′s passed and defended their way into dynasty. (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images)

With the Jazz halfway through the first season of a new era, nothing is cemented yet.  Not the roster, not the coaching staff, not the systems or philosophy, not the identity.  So I’ve recently asked myself, who do I hope my Jazz become?  Not what will they accomplish, but how will they get there.

I ruminated about Michael Jordan’s Bulls teams, the highest art of basketball I ever watched, and the Jazz squad they battled, and a number of my favorite teams from the 90′s. My contemplation led to my personal philosophy as to what constitutes the game at its best.

I call it the Share and Stop Doctrine.

Why did I so admire those Chicago Bulls teams?  Teams that pass the ball well and defend with dedication are a privilege to watch, and in five of those six championship years, the Bulls ranked in the top seven in the league in both assists and defensive rating.  Add in the 93-94 Rockets of Hakeem Olajuwon who did the same, and five out of six NBA champions in the first half of the 90′s won their rings through an elite combination of movement, passing, and tough defense.  No champion since can make this claim.

In fact, only 20 teams since 1990 have posted a top seven ranking in both assists and defensive rating for a season.  The potency of such teams is best revealed by examining the teams that beat these select 20.

Ten of the 14 times a top seven SS team lost in the playoffs, it was beaten by a top ten SS team.  Three more times the victorious team was a top 12/10 (or better) SS team.  Since 1990, an elite SS team has been ousted from the playoffs only one time by a team that did not adhere to the same doctrine: when the 93-94 Sonics became the first number one seed in the NBA to lose to a number eight when they succumbed to Dikembe Mutombo’s Denver Nuggets.

Let me repeat: only one non share and stop team has beaten a top seven share and stop team in the playoffs since 1990.  Teams who embrace this doctrine and play it to an elite level all but cannot be beaten except by a team embracing the same principles.

In fact, the only way to be outside the top ten in either assists or defense and beat such a team is to have a perennial All-Star center.  Or Magic Johnson, who can pretty much count as an All-Star at whatever position you wish.

Only two franchises have fielded a top seven SS team since the end of the 90′s: the 2002-03 Kings and the last two Spurs teams.  But the Spurs are proving that the doctrine has not yet run its course. And remember the two primary obstacles to such a team in the playoffs: 1) a team of similar style, or 2) a team with an all-league center.  The only breed nearer extinction than the share and stop squad is the franchise center.

If the Jazz were to become an elite share and stop team, there would be few, if any, teams history would project to thwart their pursuit of Utah’s first NBA title.

What would it take to complete such a transformation?  A profile of the NBA champion SS teams (the five-time champion Bulls and 93-94 Rockets) gives the following:

First, a point guard who does NOT dominate the ball.  The only other requirement is that the point guard be a dangerous shooter, especially from long range.

Second, a combination of four players who are both above average passers and defenders for their positions, or three players who are such where at least one player is elite in both categories.

And third, a center with at least a respectable ability to shoot.

That’s the formula.  If the Jazz seek to become such a team, how well do their young prospects fit the doctrine?

The best fit is Gordon Hayward.  With 4.0 assists per 36 minutes and a defensive rating of 109 over the last three seasons, he is better than the NBA average at his position as both a passer and defender.  Admittedly, it’s extremely difficult to quantify defensive impact and ability.  Hayward’s DRtg of 109 is fairly average at the wing.  That said, individual player defensive ratings often suffer from being on an overall poor defensive team, as Hayward has been.  I am confident he will be an above average defender as long as he’s on a respectable defensive team.  He will likely never be an elite defender, but his assists per 36 this season have jumped to 4.9, which is excellent for a wing.  He is exactly the type of player a share and stop team needs at his position.

After that things get dicier but not without reason for optimism.

Derrick Favors is an interesting piece.  His career 1.3 assists per 36 and DRtg of 103 are average for a center.  That said, practically no one believes that DRtg accurately represents his defensive potential, which obviously is elite.  His passing is harder to project, but watching his ability to make a variety of passes in multiple situations — my eyes tell me he’s the best Jazz center at kicking out to shooters, hitting cutters in the lane, and feeding the ball into the post — suggests he has a lot of room to improve in this area as well.  He is certainly showing enough offensive development to project as a Super-O option on the offensive end of the floor, which is essential for the share and stop doctrine to work.  If Favors can become an excellent to elite defender as well as a good passer for his position, as I believe likely, he would be a good fit for this style of play.

The Burk(e/s) Brothers are more complex cases.  As much as I love Alec Burks’ progress as a player this year, he is something of an an oval peg in a round hole.  His career 110 DRtg is actually respectable for his position, and the same factors I outlined in regard to Hayward persuade me he can become a better than average defender.  He’s already solid matching up against his man one on one.  It’s complex action and coming off screens where he struggles.  More experience should help there.  His passing is a different story.  His career 2.9 assists per 36 minutes is below average for his position, but this season’s uptick to 3.6 offers enough evidence to hope that he may be able to become a reasonably effective cog in a highly functioning SS machine.

The standards are much lower for Trey Burke, honestly, given the relatively minimal importance of the point guard position in the SS doctrine.  The one essential skill of an SS point guard is the ability to shoot, and Burke is a bundle of mixed messages in that regard.  He’s established his reputation as a player largely on his ability and willingness to take and make shots, especially from three.  But halfway through his rookie season, he’s shooting only 39% from the field.  That’s bad.  His 35% from three is more respectable, but it’s almost exactly the same percentage as the “non-shooter” Alec Burks.  In short, it isn’t good enough.

If Burke becomes a more efficient shooter, particularly from long range, he could conceivably work on an SS team.  He’s a good passer by even point guard standards, and his leadership and willingness to take — and ability to make — big shots is an uncommon skill.  That said, his current usage rate of 23.5 is substantially higher than it would need to be on an elite SS team.  A team full of good passers is best utilized when both players and the ball moves frequently.  Burke would need to cede the centrality of his role on the offense, and I have significant questions about his willingness to do so.

Unfortunately, there are little to no questions about Enes Kanter’s suitability for an SS system.  Or more accurately, his unsuitability.  Kanter fulfills the mandate that an SS center be an offensive threat, but he is both a poor passer and a poor defender, even by the standards of his position.  While his assists per 36 have increased from 0.3 as a rookie to 1.2 this season, he is still below standard; meanwhile, his defensive rating has worsened every season and now lies at 110, a truly horrendous mark for a center.  Combine these limitations with the salary he will almost certainly command coming off his rookie deal, and it is hard to envision any possibility of building an elite SS team that includes Big Turk.

The Jazz have some pieces with which to build a young, exciting share and stop team.  Perhaps even more importantly, they have the heritage of beautiful passing and the determined objective of a dominant defense.  The vision is there.  The foundation could be, if they construct it.

This year’s draft picks will be a huge factor.  There are several players who will likely be in play who fit nicely into a share and stop system.  The following players, in particular, would be invaluable to building an elite SS team: Joel Embiid, Marcus Smart, Aaron Gordon, and Dante Exum.  Non-lottery possibilities include Jermi Grant and Montrezl Harrell.

There are some free agent options who will be available this summer as well.  Lance Stephenson, Luol Deng, Trevor Ariza, Shane Battier, Spencer Hawes, and Josh McRoberts could all play a role in the building of a young share and stop team.

Finally, what the Jazz do with Enes Kanter will be a determining choice.  There may be ways to pair Favors and Kanter as the Jazz frontcourt for the next decade and contend for titles.  (Read Ben Dowsett’s excellent piece on the prospects of such an outcome here.)  But a share and stop system isn’t one of those possibilities.  If the Jazz do foresee themselves as a pass-first, defend-always team going forward, then it will almost certainly mean parting ways with Kanter.

David Locke calls this year the “season of discovery.”  Nothing is set.  The Jazz’s decisions over the next six months will go a long way toward illustrating the principles by which they intend to compete, and maybe even the formation of the doctrine from which everything else grows.  Personally, I hope that core is sharing the ball and stopping your man, because it’s one secular doctrine in which I fully believe.

Author information

Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. In addition to his writing center work at Salt Lake Community College, he designed, coordinates, and teaches in an experimental author residency program for a West Valley City public charter school. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.
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