Make no mistake about it, the Jazz season ended last night at the hands of the 17 win Minnesota Timberwolves. The current playoff odds by John Hollinger peg the Jazz as having a 4.4% chance of making the playoffs, and that might be optimistic. The Jazz season officially ends on April 13th after their last game against the Denver Nuggets, but really losing to the Twolves was the real end. There will be time to review what happened in this unusual season, but now I am going to focus on the game I attended last night.
When discussing the game let me start off the few positives – the Jazz rookies. Gordon Hayward made some tough threes and his current season three point percentage is an impressive 44%. If he can continue to shoot this well then he might make me reconsider my prediction that he will never be an average NBA player. He looked like a different player last night than he has for the majority of the season. Derrick Favors looks like he is an active rebounder and one can certainly see the potential that made him the 3rd pick in last year’s draft.
However, neither of those players were nearly as impressive as Jeremy Evans. Watching the game it seemed like the Jazz were a different team when the tall, lanky, athletic 2nd round pick from Western Kentucky was on the court. One can point out the fault that he doesn’t seem to do much offensively besides dunk the ball, but he seems to be one of the players that always finds himself in the right position. He moves well without the ball and is able to find openings where he can collect the ball (either off a rebound or a pass) and dunk it. In a game where the Jazz lost by 21, it is noteworthy that Evans had a +/- of +10. It wasn’t just a subjective opinion that with Evans on the court the Jazz were a much better team.
Guess who was on the receiving end of this alley-oop from Earl Watson?
Those were the positives and considering the final result it is nice at least the Jazz rookies were impressive. However, it is impossible to be a Jazz fan and be happy with the game last night. It is one thing to give up 131 points to the Knicks, but it is a completely different thing to give up 121 points to the lowly Timberwolves. It looked like the Jazz defense was lost all night. I don’t know if it was a lack of energy, a lack of focus or just that this team is just a terrible defensive team. In terms of defensive efficiency the Jazz are now ranked 22nd out of 30th, so that probably gives you an indication of their defensive talent. The team’s defense made Jonny Flynn and Wayne Ellington look like the future starting backcourt of the Western Conferance All-Star team.
If defense is the number one negative I saw from last night here are a few others:
- Give Raja Bell credit for extra shooting practice before the game. At least he is trying because when the game starts he is a complete non-factor. Why didn’t the Jazz just sign Ronnie Brewer instead of Bell? Bell needs to the 10th man on the team for the Jazz to make an impact.
- I can see why some people complained about Devin Harris’s lack of consistent effort in New Jersey. Sometimes it seems like Harris can be an All-Star (the Pacers game) and then other times like this game he barely looks like a backup point guard.
- It is early to think about the draft and I almost always am a proponent of drafting talent over need, but is there anyway the Jazz can NOT draft a guard in the 2011 Draft?
- Has there been one game this year where Andrei Kirilenko has been worth the $217K he is paid per game? Yes, AK47 in a little over 2 games gets paid as much as Jeremy Evans entire salary this year.
- You can’t fault Memhet Okur for his injury, but it does make me wonder how this team would look with a frontline of Okur, Millsap, Jefferson, Favors and Evans.
Maybe I am being too harsh on the Jazz. They were without Paul Millsap and it isn’t like Al Jefferson is normally going to go 4-13 from the field. This team will be better than a team that losses by 21 to the Timberwolves. Right? Regardless it won’t matter this year. This year’s season is over as the Jazz have been reduced to an organization that should focus their efforts on player development and scouting.