Salt City Hoops » Blog http://saltcityhoops.com The ESPN TrueHoop Utah Jazz Site Mon, 15 Sep 2014 13:41:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 The ESPN TrueHoop Utah Jazz Site Salt City Hoops no The ESPN TrueHoop Utah Jazz Site Salt City Hoops » Blog http://saltcityhoops.com/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://saltcityhoops.com/category/blog/ Where Are They Now? Former Utah Jazz Players http://saltcityhoops.com/where-are-they-now-former-utah-jazz-players/ http://saltcityhoops.com/where-are-they-now-former-utah-jazz-players/#comments Mon, 15 Sep 2014 13:41:42 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=12782 Author information
David J Smith
David J Smith
Besides writing for Salt City Hoops, David contributes to the Utah Jazz coverage for the Deseret News (instant analysis articles), WeAreUtahJazz.com, UtahJazz360.com and previously for Hoopsworld.com. He graduated from BYU and works for LDS Philanthropies. His wife, Elizabeth, is the most patient person in the world and they have four amazing children; Kadence, Tayah, Stockton (yes, really), and Cambria.
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Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

It’s always interesting for fans to keep an eye on those who once donned the Utah Jazz uniform. After another busy offseason around the league, here is the full list of where former Jazzmen are playing, and some thoughts about their upcoming seasons.

DeMarre Carroll, Atlanta Hawks: Last season, the gritty forward enjoyed a career-year. After toiling for four teams in four seasons, Carroll may have found a home with the Hawks. He posted 11.1 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.8 APG and 1.5 SPG, complete with some great defense (2.6 DWS) and shooting (.575 TS%). Carroll still just had a 13.9 PER and is probably better suited playing just a touch less than the 32.1 MPG he played. He has been effusive in his praise of new Jazz coach Quin Snyder, citing his efforts as a big catalyst for his improvement.

Kyle Korver, Atlanta Hawks: The sharp-shooting forward had another solid season, putting up 12.0 PPG, 2.9 APG and 4.0 RPG for the Hawks. Korver’s stellar marksmanship (47.5 percent field goals, 47.2 percent on 3s and 92.6 percent from the line) paced the NBA with a .653 True Shooting Percentage. Add in a 5.9 WS, and you can see Korver’s importance for Atlanta. Look for him to do much of the same this year. While he fell short of making the USA FIBA team, Korver’s value has managed to increase as his career progresses.

Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks: When Al Horford went down with a season-ending injury, Paul Millsap stepped up in a major way. Sporting a nice 3-point touch, his 17.9 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.7 SPG and 1.1 BPG were enough to earn his first-ever All-Star appearance. Many of his advanced numbers mirrored his remarkable consistency during his Jazz days, so it was refreshing to see him earn that accolade at last. Even so, there still is a feeling that Millsap is underrated. He’s even been mentioned on some “Most Likely to be Traded” lists out there, perhaps due in part to his expiring $9.5 million  contract. If Atlanta is smart, they will hold on to the do-it-all forward.

Andrei Kirilenko, Brooklyn Nets: Injuries plagued AK-47, but he still added value to a Brooklyn bench that struggled at times. Kirilenko has definitely lost some of the zip that made his one of the NBA’s most unique players for years. He averaged just 5.0 PPG last year, but showed he can still facilitate. At just $3.3 million, he is a solid guy for the Nets to have.

Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets: It certainly was a down year for Deron Williams. Across the board, his numbers were his worst since his first season. He’s dropped from 21.0 PPG to 18.9 to 14.3 the past three years (8.7 APG to 7.7 to 6.1). Given the additions of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Kirilenko, optimism was high that DWill would be the quarterback of a veteran-laden team that would compete with the Heat and Pacers. Instead, injuries really hurt his game. At just 29, Williams can bounce back. Given the Brooklyn market, and the fact that he’s in line to earn $63 million over the next three years, the pressure is on. By many accounts, new coach Lionel Hollins plans to funnel most of the offense through Williams.

Al Jefferson, Charlotte Bobcats: Like Millsap, it was wonderful to see Jefferson earn the praise that he’s deserved for many years. He was the key to the Bobcats’ resurgence, as he provided a bonafide scoring threat inside– 21.8 PPG and 10.8 RPG. Head coach Steve Clifford used him well on both ends, helping him be a big part of their defensive identity. Evidence: Big Al’s career-high 4.7 DWS. Strangely enough, he did not make the All-Star team, but garnered All-NBA Third Team honors. With an excellent offseason, Charlotte is poised to make another jump in the Eastern Conference with Jefferson as the focal point. While his three-year, $41 million contract opened some eyes, most view it as a bargain for his production and leadership.

Marvin Williams, Charlotte Bobcats: Always a terrific locker room presence and solid on-court performer, it was difficult to see Marvin Williams depart Salt Lake City. He did everything that was asked of him, even developing into a good stretch four for the Jazz. Williams inked a two-year, $14 million deal with Charlotte to reunite with Jefferson and return to his collegiate home. With his combination of stout defense, improved rebounding and outside shooting, he will add a lot to the Bobcats. He will compete for a starting position.

John Lucas III, Cleveland Cavaliers: Lucas struggled with Utah. With Trey Burke’s early injury, he was thrust into the ill-suited role of starter and he never really recovered from that poor start. Diante Garrett quickly usurped him in the Jazz’s pecking order. Whether or not he makes the Cleveland roster remains to be determined. It sounds like he will be given the chance, with only Kyrie Irving and Matthew Dellavedova being the only other point guards in the fold.

Erik Murphy, Cleveland Cavaliers: Murphy, too, is facing an uphill battle. The Cavs seemingly dealt for Lucas, Murphy and Malcolm Thomas to use as trade filler in any Kevin Love deal,  then ended up holding on to all three of them. Along the way, Murphy’s contract was guaranteed.

Malcolm Thomas, Cleveland Cavaliers: By some accounts, Thomas seems like a player Cleveland is genuinely interested in keeping and using. With his blend of athleticism and length, he seems like a low-cost, potentially decent-reward guy to have at the end of the bench for the Cavs.

Devin Harris, Dallas Mavericks: Harris returned to his original NBA team and while injuries affected his season, he seemed to thrive in the third guard role for Dallas. Harris chipped in 7.9 PPG and 4.5 APG off the pine, with his 31.0 AST% being his best since his New Jersey days. He re-signed for a modest contract and will be a valuable cog for a Mavericks team that could surprise, thanks to a very good offseason that also saw Tyson Chandler, Chandler Parsons and Jameer Nelson join its ranks.

Richard Jefferson, Dallas Mavericks: Like Marvin Williams, Jefferson too put forth a resurgent effort. After languishing in Golden State, he started for Utah and showed that he still had some gas in the tank. With Vince Carter’s departure to Memphis, Jefferson could fill the role of a shooter off the bench. Signing him for the veteran’s minimum was another solid move for Dallas.

Randy Foye, Denver Nuggets: Foye had a nice lone season in Utah and did even better in his first with Denver. With other guards being hit with injuries, the Nuggets relied on him more than expected. With 13.2 PPG and 3.5 APG, Foye did his best to help Denver remain in the playoff picture for a good part of the season. With Ty Lawson and Nate Robinson coming back and Arron Afflalo’s return to the Mile High City, Foye may be back in a super sub role – one in which he does quite well.

Brandon Rush, Golden State Warriors: One year after being traded to Utah by the Warriors, Rush made his way back to the Bay Area. Given his lackluster play and poor body language in Utah, his heart was probably always in Golden State. If he can recapture some of his former self, he can be a solid perimeter addition to the Warriors bench.

C.J.Miles, Indiana Pacers: Despite playing nine NBA seasons, Miles is shockingly just 27. He had his best 3-point shooting seasons with the Cavaliers, which is the likely reason Indiana added him. He was to be a much-needed shooter for the Pacers, but with Paul George’s devastating injury, Miles may be asked to assume a bigger role – perhaps even starting. It will be interesting to see if Miles can seize this opportunity.

Carlos Boozer, Los Angeles Lakers: Carlos Boozer’s 2013-14 season was quite forgettable. His 13.7 PPG and 8.3 RPG were the lowest of his career since his rookie campaign. Her 14.4 PER was by far the worst of his 12 seasons. The biggest stat for the Chicago Bulls was the $13.5 million he was set to make during the upcoming season. With the continued improvement of Taj Gibson and the additions of Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic, Boozer was an amnesty casualty.

Enter the Los Angeles Lakers. It is hard to determine what this franchise’s direction is. They added a slew of players to join the returning-from-injury Kobe Bryant, seemingly in hopes to provide enough firepower to compete in the Western Conference. Boozer will be looked on for some much-needed scoring. That said, with the glut of power forwards on the roster, it remains to be seen how much playing time the two-time All-Star will see. Especially when his age (32) and defense are taken into consideration.

Kosta Koufos, Memphis Grizzlies: After several underrated good years for Denver, Koufos brought some solid play to the Memphis front court. With 6.4 PPG and 5.2 RPG in 16.9 MPG, he provided depth behind Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. His shooting took a dip last season, but a 16.5 PER for your back-up is still very good; ditto the 3.5 WS and 18.4 TRB% (22.7 DRB%). He will continue to provide quality minutes and can step in to start, when needed.

Kyrylo Fesenko, Minnesota Timberwolves: Big Fes was a fan favorite during his four seasons. He had his moments and showed defensive potential. His immaturity, though, was an issue. After appearing in just three NBA the past three seasons, Fesenko is embarking on a comeback with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He impressed enough in summer league to earn a training camp invite. Given the rebuilding roster, the 7’1″, 288 lb gargantuan center might have a chance to stick.

Othyus Jeffers, Minnesota Timberwolves: The energetic Jeffers has made the rounds since finishing up the 2010 season with Utah. He hooked on with Minnesota right before the end of the last year and is still listed on its roster.

Mo Williams, Minnesota Timberwolves: After seeing success in a back-up role with the surprising Portland Trailblazers, Williams opted out of his contract and found the market wasn’t too kind. When things settled down, he inked a deal with Minnesota. It was a perplexing signing, with Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine and, until they ship him out, J.J. Barea in tow. Given the dramatically changed roster, perhaps Mo will be looked on for veteran leadership.

Diante Garrett, Portland Trailblazers: After being a pleasant addition to the Jazz last year, he was unfortunately traded to Toronto in the Steve Novak transaction. After being waived by the Raptors, he signed a non-guaranteed contract with Portland in hopes of sticking. With his size and improved outside shooting, he would be a nice player to have on the bench, even with the guards the Blazers already have.

Wesley Matthews, Portland Trailblazers: After three solid seasons, Matthews made a little jump last season, enjoying his best year as a professional. His first half of the season was especially torrid, as he was shooting lights out. There was even talk of him making the Western Conference All-Star team. He finished the year averaging 16.4 PPG, while making 2.5 3s per outing. He leapt from 4.7 WS to 8.2 last year (going from 3.6 to 6.3 on OWS). Working with Damian Lillard, Matthews is part of a very potent back court that is among the best in the league.

Kris Humphries, Washington Wizards: While the Boston Celtics had a rebuilding year, Humphries had a quietly solid bounce-back season. He chipped in 8.4 PPG and 5.9 RPG in just 19.9 MPG, along with .552 TS% and 4.1 WS. Washington is a team on the rise and Humphries adds another capable back-up to their front court.

There are several others who are still out there without NBA contracts: Ronnie Brewer, Earl Watson, Ronnie Price, Eric Maynor, Andris Biedrins, Jamaal Tinsley, Mike Harris, Josh Howard, Lou Amundson. With the exception of Howard, all spent time on NBA rosters last season.

And just for fun, here are some former Jazzmen in the NBA’s coaching ranks:

Jarron Collins, Los Angeles Clippers: Collins will get his first chance as an NBA assistant coach. Always respected for his attitude and demeanor, it is nice to see him getting this opportunity with Doc Rivers and one of the league’s contending teams.

Howard Eisley, Los Angeles Clippers: Eisley continues in his role with the Clippers. He seems to be a valued part of the staff; no surprise, given his basketball knowledge.

Derek Fisher, New York Knicks: After 18 seasons and five championships, Derek Fisher was not unemployed for long. Phil Jackson plucked him up quickly, signing him to a five-year, $25 million pact. That’s a lot of scratch for someone who’s never coached at any level (though the same applies to Golden State’s deal with Steve Kerr). It will be very interesting to see what Fisher does in the Big Apple and the inherent scrutiny that exists therein. The Knicks roster does not do much to inspire.

Jacque Vaughn, Orlando Magic: Entering his third season in charge, the expectations are again low for Vaughn’s team to produce Ws. What they are looking for is continued player and talent development. That sounds familiar.

Jeff Hornacek, Phoenix Suns: Hornacek and his upstart Suns were among the NBA’s best stories last season. In his first year as head coach, Hornacek defied the most optimistic of expectations out there by producing an entertaining brand of basketball that got them within a breath of the postseason. Almost to a man, each Phoenix player had career-years–from established veterans like Goran Dragic and Channing Frye, to guys who were seemingly discarded in Miles Plumlee, P.J. Tucker and Gerald Green. The bar was set high. Can Hornacek build upon the momentum there in Phoenix? It would be tough to bet against him.

Tyrone Corbin, Sacramento Kings: Much has been said about Tyrone Corbin’s tenure as Utah’s head coach. There were ups and downs. Corbin gave his all and dedicated the past 12 years to the franchise. While he had struggles at the helm, he was largely considered one of the NBA’s best assistant coaches prior to replacing Jerry Sloan. Corbin should succeed in Sacramento as the lead assistant there, bringing professionalism to a talented Kings roster.

Author information

David J Smith
David J Smith
Besides writing for Salt City Hoops, David contributes to the Utah Jazz coverage for the Deseret News (instant analysis articles), WeAreUtahJazz.com, UtahJazz360.com and previously for Hoopsworld.com. He graduated from BYU and works for LDS Philanthropies. His wife, Elizabeth, is the most patient person in the world and they have four amazing children; Kadence, Tayah, Stockton (yes, really), and Cambria.
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FIBA Scouting Reports: Rudy Gobert, Dante Exum, Raul Neto, and Ante Tomic http://saltcityhoops.com/fiba-scouting-reports-rudy-gobert-dante-exum-raul-neto-and-ante-tomic/ http://saltcityhoops.com/fiba-scouting-reports-rudy-gobert-dante-exum-raul-neto-and-ante-tomic/#comments Thu, 11 Sep 2014 18:38:06 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=12792 Author information
Dan Clayton
Dan Clayton
Dan covered Utah Jazz basketball for more than 10 years, including as a radio analyst for the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts from 2010 to 2014. He now lives and works in New York City where his hobbies include complaining about League Pass, finding good doughnut shops and dishing out assists for the Thoreau It Down team in the Word Bookstore basketball league.
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Photo from FIBA.com

Photo from FIBA.com

In a gym some 5,000 miles away from Salt Lake City, a Jazz reserve was the talk of the basketball community on Wednesday.

The FIBA World Cup marches on, with medals being handed out on Sunday. Four Jazz players — or players whose NBA rights are held by the Jazz — are involved, so we’re going to take a look at the good and bad each guy has shown, and where that leaves the big picture discussion on each.

And we’ll start with an in-depth analysis and video of the guy Fran Fraschilla called “my MVP” of the quarterfinal upset over Spain.

Rudy Gobert

The line: 4.1 points & 5.1 rebounds, with 2 games to go.

The good: Gobert was a defensive force against the tournament co-favorites, drawing effusive praise from Fraschilla. There are many good reasons for the coach-turned-commentator to gush. He has been a lot more engaged, he has grabbed a rebound for every three minutes played, and he’s running the floor.

It’s best to let the tape tell about some of his positives, which our Ben Dowsett did after the contest. Here are some additional looks at specific areas of Gobert’s game.

He’s been a lot more calculating about his off-ball movement — diving into the slot especially. In the case of this video, he gets free on the baseline and gives his guy an option for a pretty touch pass that results in an easy dunk.

But the real reason he’s been so impressive is defense. He had stretches where he completely dictated that end of the floor, including the stretch run on Wednesday. Here’s a video of him dominating defensively in the clutch:

  • He swats a ball away, then on the ensuing inbound he helps, gets back, boxes out and draws a foul.
  • He plays solid position D, denying the baseline and then when Gasol turns to go middle he blocks it.
  • This time Gasol tries to drive but Gobert cuts him off. Gasol tries to go right through him and gets stripped.
  • Another play where he make a deflection at the rim, followed by Fran gushing a bit more.

Spain’s elite offense came to a screeching halt, largely because of Gobert. It was a memorable defensive showing in one of the biggest FIBA upsets in recent memory.

The bad: Gobert still has his raw moments, even on defense. Here are a couple of almost back-to-back plays where he gets pulled far from the lane on pick-and-roll coverage and can’t get back. Teams consciously try to get him in the P&R. Sometimes he can let the guard through and stay home — or even better, help and then get back (as above) — but not always. Here we see that the best way to neutralize Gobert defensively is to force him to help hard 25 feet from the hoop and hope he can’t recover and/or doesn’t have help behind him.

And of course, he’s offensively still progressing. This is true of his own game outside the immediate basket area, but even his screening and passing. When you screen, you’re supposed to be as square as possible; Gobert often looks more like a parallelogram on his screens, leaning hard to one side. Luckily, he’s learned to hold the position for a beat so he’s getting fewer illegal screen calls. As far as his passing game, we’re talking about a guy who had seven assists all last season. In Spain, he literally has had moments when he awkwardly knocked himself over trying to find a passing angle, or times like this video when he should pass out of the trap but instead takes an uncomfortable sideways shot.

The big picture: Any way you cut it, it’s been a summer of progress for Gobert, who will have no difficulty claiming an important spot in the rotation if he proffers the kind of game-changing defense we’ve seen in stretches at FIBA, especially the fourth quarter vs. Spain.

 

Let’s also take a quicker look at the Jazz’s other three World Cup participants.

Dante Exum

The line: 2.7 pts & 2 ast.

The good: You’ve heard plenty of analysis of Exum’s WC showing, no doubt. He showed that elite quickness, as well as a point guard mentality. Whenever he got to the middle of the floor on offense he was always looking to pass first. But probably the most impressive thing was his pestering defense. He really got “up and under” some guys, to steal a Jerry Sloan term.

The bad: The biggest complaints — rightfully so — had to do with his lack of movement on offense and his overall passiveness. I wasn’t completely excited by Australia’s offensive creativity, so maybe his role was to stand weakside and watch… but I doubt it. I kept waiting to see him get more involved, but I think he’s young enough and rusty enough that he was waiting for an invitation to have an impact on the game.

The big picture: I get the sentiment that, if he’s truly a future star in the making, he should have been less invisible with the Boomers. But I also think it’s wrong to set arbitrary prerequisites on him. I am guilty of this, too. In last week’s post, I stated that I’d be a little worried if he didn’t have a rookie year at least in a Tim Hardaway Jr. range (2-3 WS). Since then, I’ve realized how silly that is. Do you know how many eventual All-Stars and even Hall-of-Famers started out with less than that? Kobe’s rookie WS was 1.8. Dirk’s was 0.8. Isiah Thomas was 2.3. We’re talking about Finals MVP-caliber players here. Karl Malone put up 1.9 WS in his rookie season. All that’s to say history isn’t as demanding on rookie Exum; he can start modestly and still have a chance at greatness, the precedent says. Having said that, I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes some pretty quick improvements in a couple of areas once he’s working out with the Jazz.

 

Raul Neto

The line: 7.6 pts, 2.3 ast.

The good: Neto had two stellar games where it was easy to find things to like, including a can’t-miss offensive zone against Argentina that helped the Brazilians put their neighbors away. Even when he’s not scoring like crazy, he has good control of the game, never looking outmatched or out of place. He understands spacing, so his off-ball movement helps preserve options for the team system, though sometimes subtly. He also knows how to get separation on his shots, and creates the right angles with good use of screens and side-to-side movement (he especially likes to step right-to-left into his jumper).

The bad: Not to be a wet blanket, but the Argentina game was an outlier and Neto was mostly fairly quiet, at least statistically. In group play, he had three straight games with just a bucket per outing until he got extra burn against a pretty bad Egyptian team and exploded for 14 & 10. His defense wasn’t perfect. He is solidly built, so he doesn’t give up ground easily, but he doesn’t always stay in front, nor does he become the defensive pest that Exum was at times. He got hung up on some screens, and other times, he tried to jump the screen early and got punished.

The big picture : Neto’s future role with the Jazz depends greatly on how the next few months develop, especially with regard to Exum and Trey Burke. If the Jazz decide those guys are the point tandem they’re going to ride into contention, then Neto might be more of a trade asset than a basketball asset. Then there’s the very related question of how Alec Burks fits in with that duo, and whether they have a positional preference as to how they deploy Gordon Hayward. Either way, Neto caught some attention this month.

 

Ante Tomic

The line: 10 pts, 7.2 reb, 2.5 ast.

The good: There were stretches — like the fourth quarter against France — where the offense almost entirely ran through him for long periods of time, and usually with positive results because of his touch and passing. It’s amazing how many of Croatia’s plays began with a Tomic screen-roll at angle left. He also defended solidly.  He’s so big that he’s hard for post players to move around, and his length clearly frustrates drivers.

The bad: Tomic didn’t look particularly quick on either end. Even his really nice moves kind of seemed like they were in slow motion. He also rarely gets any sort of elevation. For a 7’2″ guy, he plays almost entirely under the rim. He’s a crafty finisher so he makes due, but you have to wonder how he’d compete athletically with NBA bigs.

The big picture: With his heady play and great hands, Tomic showed exactly why some think he projects to be a decent third of fourth big in the NBA. But there’s no clear sign as to whether he and Jazz are in each other’s mutual future. Still, every good showing by Tomic at the very least increases the asset value of his draft rights.

Author information

Dan Clayton
Dan Clayton
Dan covered Utah Jazz basketball for more than 10 years, including as a radio analyst for the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts from 2010 to 2014. He now lives and works in New York City where his hobbies include complaining about League Pass, finding good doughnut shops and dishing out assists for the Thoreau It Down team in the Word Bookstore basketball league.
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What Actually Worked for the Utah Jazz Last Year? http://saltcityhoops.com/what-actually-worked-for-the-utah-jazz-last-year/ http://saltcityhoops.com/what-actually-worked-for-the-utah-jazz-last-year/#comments Tue, 09 Sep 2014 19:47:15 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=12749 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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Victory Photo

(Jeremy Harmon/The Salt Lake Tribune)

Wins were precious last season. Only one team in Utah Jazz history garnered fewer wins for 82 games of effort than the Jazz’s 25 victories last year. I think it’s safe to assume Jazz fans, players, coaches, management, and ownership can all agree on one point: let’s not do that again.

But as rough a year as the Jazz had last season, they did manage to win some games. At times, things worked. Identifying just what worked may help produce more wins this season.

It’s impossible to put too much confidence in projections for this season formed from observations of last. Too much has changed, from Quin Snyder replacing Tyrone Corbin as head coach, to the departure of the team’s starting stretch four Marvin Williams, to young players growing more experienced, and in Gordon Hayward’s case, substantially richer. That said, the roster has remained stable enough to use players’ production in their roles last season to at least give ideas of how those roles might be adapted or emphasized this season to help the team win.

In examining last season’s statistics, I think two players stand out for materially helping the team win in very specific ways, with two more worth mentioning.

1) Gordon Hayward

When the team won: A free throw shoot’n, assist dish’n, second option.

More of Hayward’s statistics jump off the screen than any other Jazz player when evaluated for their discrepancy between wins and losses, not surprising for a player burdened with being his team’s primary offensive option. In the games the Jazz won last season, Hayward played in a very distinct way.

He punished teams from the free throw line, making 5.2 freebies per game. Averaged over the entire season, that would have been good for 11th in the league. In losses, he made only 3.6 free throws a game, good for 39th in the league. That’s still a respectable number, but it’s the difference between an elite point producer from the line and merely a good one.

That difference correlates to another statistic: how heavily dependent the team is on Hayward from the three point line. In wins, Hayward accounted for 18.9% of the teams attempts from range; in the losses, 25.8%. This indicates a reciprocal relationship: when Hayward parades to the line, his teammates get more three point attempts; likewise, with plenty of teammates gunning, Hayward is more likely to get room to attack the defense inside and draw fouls.

Interestingly, Hayward’s role as a passer was more predictive of wins than his scoring, regardless of which metric used to examine it. In Jazz wins, Hayward posted an assist percentage of 27.1 and accounted for 37% of the team’s assists, numbers similar to those of Trey Burke and Tony Parker. In the losses, those marks dropped by 5.1% and 6.3% respectively, moving him to Monte Ellis and Dwyane Wade territory. When Hayward was dishing, the Jazz had a much better chance of coming out on top.

Finally, the Jazz were much more successful when Hayward was making field goals inside the arc off the pass than from his own creation. Hayward’s willingness to take poor efficiency two point shots has been well documented, but in losses more of those shots he made were unassisted, a full five percentage points lower than in the wins. When more of Hayward’s made baskets from inside the arc were assisted – meaning he played off other players or system scheme rather than creating his own offense – the team won.

If this season sees Hayward playing a little more off others, cutting and slashing in moments of opportunity and moving the ball frequently rather than trying to create so much himself, last season’s results suggest the team could substantially benefit.

2) Derrick Favors

When the team won: A shot swat’n, energetic mismatch.

It’s no secret the Jazz were poor defensively last season. What was sometimes lost in the carnage is Derrick Favors’ ability – sporadic and often undermined – to change a game on the defensive end. Despite averaging nearly identical minutes per game in wins and losses last season, Favors nearly doubled his blocks in the wins, 2 to 1.2. In sheer degree of differentiation (a 67% increase), it’s the most drastic predictor of Jazz wins last season…

Except for his predatory scoring. In wins, Favors scored a whopping 14.6% of his points off of turnovers; in the losses, only 8.5%.

Last year, when Favors was protecting the rim well and taking advantage of open court opportunities and defenses that hadn’t gotten set, the team had a real chance to win.

3) Enes Kanter and Trey Burke

When the team won: An inside/outside duo.

In wins last season, Kanter scored 72.2% of his points in the paint while Burke scorched the net for 41.5% from three. When that wasn’t working, Kanter’s disposition of points down low dropped nearly 10% while Burke’s accuracy from deep plummeted to 28.4% and, shockingly, the team lost.

David Locke has gone on record predicting 100 three point attempts from Enes Kanter this season and we’re already hearing mumbles about the team working on extending his range with an eye toward a stretch role to some degree. Given his mechanics, I like the idea in theory, but last year’s numbers give reason for caution.

After all, simple logic supports the plausibility of a 6-11, 260 pound Turkish behemoth Bogarting baskets down low while the guy who made his name making big shots from a long way away at Michigan shoots from, well, a long way away. Last season’s statistics do as well.

Quin Snyder is a pretty smart guy, but innovation rarely starts by targeting what works already. Invention builds on the past rather than simply replacing it. As rough as last season was in Jazzland, there is a foundation to build from. It will be interesting to see what Coach Snyder constructs, and how familiar the architecture will be.

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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Pump the Clutch: Utah’s Late-Game Issues http://saltcityhoops.com/pump-the-clutch-utahs-late-game-issues/ http://saltcityhoops.com/pump-the-clutch-utahs-late-game-issues/#comments Mon, 08 Sep 2014 18:09:32 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=12763 Author information
Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett is a life-long Jazz fan and general sports fanatic based in Salt Lake City. He also writes for Nylon Calculus (Hardwood Paroxysm/Fansided Network), and can be heard on the airwaves for the SCH podcast and appearances with ESPN AM 700. With a strong background in both statistics and on-court fundemantals, he writes primarily as an in-depth strategic analyst. He can be found on Twitter at @Ben_Dowsett.
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Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

August has come and gone, and there is much rejoicing. Never mind the nearly two months to go until regular season basketball played – September offers light at the end of the tunnel. FIBA competition, training camp before the month is out; I’m in game mode, and don’t try and tell me differently.

When the Jazz do eventually take the court, they’ll have plenty to work on. A group that was behind in a number of areas last season will also be adjusting to a new coaching staff, and while the long term picture here shows great promise, it’s a big change nonetheless for a young roster getting even younger. The defensive side of the ball in general will of course be a targeted area following a league-worst efficiency figure in 2013-14, and Utah will hope Quin Snyder and his staff can stabilize an unbalanced defensive culture. There were issues everywhere, but one that stands out upon further review is opponents’ performance near the end of close games.

Already sieve-like defensively, the Jazz were even more porous during the “clutch” portions of games. Their per-100-possessions figure for the year was 109.1, narrowly below Milwaukee for 30th in the league. But in the final five minutes of games with the Jazz trailing or leading by five points or fewer, they plummeted even further to 124.0 points allowed per-100, per NBA.com. This was just a hair more stingy than the league-worst Minnesota Timberwolves (124.3), of dubious infamy for their frequent late-game meltdowns. Utah was solid to begin the year in this area before spiraling out of control:

And a look at an individual breakdown of the seven roster members playing somewhat regular minutes in the clutch:

The numbers are anything but encouraging across the board, both on a team and individual level. Much has already been said and written regarding the general defensive ineptitude often present in Utah last season – what elements of “crunch time” affected the Jazz to an even greater extent?

To be sure, there are several factors here working against Utah that are mostly or completely out of their control. For starters, a mandatory caveat about sample size applies, although 146 total clutch minutes is certainly enough to draw basic conclusions from. It’s also important to remember that the exact thresholds we’re using are somewhat arbitrary, and could vary, perhaps greatly, using different minutes or scoring benchmarks for many teams. That said, the Jazz ranked at or near the bottom of the league in nearly all similar iterations, and the numbers clearly support a team that was markedly worse defensively during these periods.

Other explanations involve uncontrollable elements that Utah will nonetheless expect to improve in future years. The relative youth and inexperience of the majority of the roster surely played a role in their late-game issues, and the team’s key players should develop more poise as they become more familiar with crunch time scenarios. It’s also fair to note that opponents will almost always have their best players on the floor during these periods, a not-insignificant fact that likely skews the numbers to a degree. But the Jazz should also have their best players on the court, and as they begin hitting their athletic primes they’ll be expected to go blow-for-blow with the best the league has to offer.

More tangible and controllable explanations were similarly varied. The above player chart listed turnovers-per-48 in the final column; Burke, Burks and Williams all showed notable per-minute increases in their turnovers during clutch periods, and a team turnover ratio (turnovers per-100-possessions) that was roughly middle of the pack for the year became the second-worst in the league during crunch time behind only Sacramento. This isn’t a defensive stat, of course, but it has a direct effect on that end of the court; turnovers mean extra defensive possessions, and live-ball turnovers in particular can create advantageous situations for opponents. The Jazz also allowed a league-high 42.2 percent from beyond the arc, with a sizeable gap of nearly four percent between them and next-worst Minnesota.

The Jazz also sent their opponents to the line at an advanced rate in the clutch. Utah allowed 48.7 attempts at the stripe per-48, over double a 23.6 figure for the entire season. This isn’t quite as insane a jump as it may seem on the surface; intentional fouls at the end of games skew this average across the league, and the Jazz aren’t the only team who saw a huge increase. But they allowed the third-highest total during clutch minutes, well up from a middle-of-the-pack overall finish. And to compound the issue, they were fouling excellent free-throw shooters – opponents sank a higher percentage of clutch freebies than any other team in the league. As with the overall picture, Kanter is likely the worst offender here, committing 10.4 personal fouls per-48 in the clutch, double his normal figure. Favors was also more jumpy than usual, fouling 7.6 times per-48, a near-150-percent increase.

A look through the game action itself doesn’t reveal a whole lot that hasn’t already been dissected as far as the Jazz defense last season, but the issues were even more prevalent and frequent. The team struggled badly to form a unified identity, acting too often as individual pieces and lacking the sort of trust necessary to work as a unit. There was certainly a noticeable uptick in effort level, one small silver lining going forward, but it was mostly badly directed, as evidenced by certain elements above like foul rate.

Inexperience showed through, and perhaps most worrying of any element within this piece is the way this seemed to intensify as the year went on rather than the other way around. The hope going forward is that this reflects on the outgoing coaching staff more than the players themselves. This isn’t unrealistic, and Utah showed real promise on the other side of the ball during these clutch periods as well – they increased their offensive rating to 114.2, the seventh-best mark in the league (best of non-playoff teams) and nearly a 14-point boost on their overall mark. Hayward and Burke were especially effective offensive weapons, each drastically upping their efficiency in the clutch, and Favors wasn’t far behind.

The foundation is there for a core that can get buckets when it counts, and more experience together along with a more focused defensive scheme could eventually see them become a formidable overall unit down the stretch in close games. The turnaround defensively has to start this year; another stalled campaign on this front will be cause for concern regardless of surrounding circumstance. But expect it to be a point of emphasis, along with all things defense, as the new season begins to take shape.

Author information

Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett is a life-long Jazz fan and general sports fanatic based in Salt Lake City. He also writes for Nylon Calculus (Hardwood Paroxysm/Fansided Network), and can be heard on the airwaves for the SCH podcast and appearances with ESPN AM 700. With a strong background in both statistics and on-court fundemantals, he writes primarily as an in-depth strategic analyst. He can be found on Twitter at @Ben_Dowsett.
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Utah Jazz Yearbook: Most Likely To… http://saltcityhoops.com/utah-jazz-yearbook-most-likely-to/ http://saltcityhoops.com/utah-jazz-yearbook-most-likely-to/#comments Thu, 04 Sep 2014 21:10:04 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=12726 Author information
Dan Clayton
Dan Clayton
Dan covered Utah Jazz basketball for more than 10 years, including as a radio analyst for the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts from 2010 to 2014. He now lives and works in New York City where his hobbies include complaining about League Pass, finding good doughnut shops and dishing out assists for the Thoreau It Down team in the Word Bookstore basketball league.
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The next Jazz All-Star? (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

The next Jazz All-Star? (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

With a nod to yearbook staffs everywhere, we’re pulling out our own “Most Likely” ballot.

Which current Jazz players have a shot at being in the conversation for All-Star appearances, defensive awards or even MVP discussions someday? Maybe nobody, but that won’t stop us from asking the questions in the spirit of pimple-faced high-schoolers the land over.

These aren’t meant to be predictions. Rather, we’re answering the question: if we have to pick somebody that’s on the roster today to be part of these conversations going forward, who would it be? And we’ll even throw in some fun ones.

Current Jazz player most likely to become the next Jazz All-Star: Gordon Hayward.

If any two of these four things happen this year and the rest of his game stays fairly consistent, Gordon is going to be an 18-20 PPG scorer:

  • The Jazz go from bottom 5 to top 10 in pace, which would mean about 4 extra possessions per game.
  • Hayward returns even just to his career 3 point % of .365 or higher.
  • He gets back to taking a third or fewer of his shots in the 10-22 foot range (38.9% last season after two seasons at 32.1% and 31.8%).
  • Quin Snyder runs a lot of pick & roll through Hayward at the top and the elbows.

None of those four things are unlikely, so Hayward being an 18-5-5 player is seemingly not that far off, and 20-5-5 is at the very least realistic. If that’s the kind of output Hayward’s producing, then he’ll start hearing AS pub as soon as the Jazz start getting back to .500ish ball. Which won’t likely be this season, but who knows? I also subscribe to the theory that Hayward striving to stretch into his 2013-14 role will help him going forward.

…Most likely to make All-Defensive teams or compete for DPOY at some point: Derrick Favors.

Props to Rudy Gobert for at least making me stop to think about this one. Zach Lowe laid out the reasons this week that Gobert could someday make an impact like Tyson Chandler, a one-time DPOY winner. But Gobert is a ways off. The typical recent DPOY winner is someone who captains his team’s defense and has a more consistent, steady impact on his team’s defensive identity. They also play — without exception in the last 24 seasons — 33 minutes or more per game, so it’s just not an award that guys earn from bench roles.

For his part, Favors’ tape is kinder than his numbers are. Game film shows he’s already got a solid defensive understanding that doesn’t show up in the numbers. He rarely makes mistakes within the team defense, but was surrounded by one of the worst defensive teams in the league last year. As the personnel around him improves, people will start to see what I’ve been saying since late in the JefferJazz era: that Favors is better at D than we’re giving him credit for.

…Most likely to be a serious MVP candidate at some point: Dante Exum.

This one probably deserve some explaining.

It’s a tad unfair to pin this one on a kid who is barely clinging to his rotation spot at the World Cup. But it is what it is. If anybody currently on the roster is going to sniff the top of some MVP ballots some day, it’s going to mean someone made the leap to bona fide star. I’m not sure if anybody on this team has that in his future, including Exum, but really good players don’t just turn into MVPs. It’s the whole reason the Jazz had to swing for the fences on June 26. Hayward could make multiple All-Star teams and average something crazy like 22-6-7 and still not really have a historical precedent to get him into the conversation.

So far, only two modern MVPs have scored fewer than 23 points per game in their MVP seasons: Steve Nash and Magic Johnson. That’s further evidence that it would be easier for Exum to scale the mountain than some others; elite point guards seem to have alternate criteria and can get away with scoring less as long as they’re also dishing like crazy. But whether Exum  — or anybody — works his way into the conversation, it will be years away. That’s because only two modern MVPs have led a team that won fewer than 54 games, and the average team of a modern MVP won 61 games.

There’s no telling when the Jazz are going to be good enough to have a serious candidate, but if it happens in the next 5-7 years, it’s probably because Exum hit the top of his range as a prospect.

…Most likely to win All-Rookie honors: Rodney Hood.

So is it a contradiction to say Exum is the only guy with a realistic shot at an All-NBA peak but that he might not be the best rookie on his own team this season? Not at all. Hood plays a position where minutes will be available and has a skill set Utah needs help with. And, as people around the globe can now attest, Exum has some road in front of him.

(Not that I’m super concerned about Exum’s summer. Yeah, it was disappointing to see his aggressiveness disappear after the first LVSL game. And yes, a guy with purported star potential should probably be able to stay on the floor with his NT for more than 8.5 minutes a night. But I see a lot of low-hanging fruit relative to Exum’s development. I think the Jazz’s staff can get him back on track in a hurry, and to the Australians’ defense, that’s just not their priority right now. They’re in the midst of a competitive tournament, so the coaches don’t owe Dante anything necessarily. I think he’ll be more of a priority the second he lands back in Utah, and that means working on some big early gains relative to his conditioning, his off-ball play, his use of screens, etc. All areas where they can make some fast progress.)

…Most likely to be in trade rumors this season: Enes Kanter.

At some point this season I’ll revisit my full ranking of least-to-most likely to be traded by the deadline. But here’s the Reader’s Digest version: Hayward, Favors and Exum aren’t going anywhere unless an offer is overwhelming. A decent amount of the roster is unproven talent on minimum deals that will fetch little value. So in terms of players who could ostensibly headline an important deal and would actually be available, the list is pretty limited.

On that remaining list, Kanter and Alec Burks are the names that have some value around the league, and Kanter is a bit more marketable given that he’s a big man. Nobody’s entirely safe, though, on a team that at this point is mostly a collection of assets. The operative question with any of these guys will be: is he worth more to us as a trade asset today than he will be as a basketball asset in 2017?

…Most likely to establish himself as a locker room voice: Trey Burke.

Burke has already established himself as someone who will speak frankly, and who wants to be a leader. Hayward has a ton of credibility, but is still not fully comfortable as the rah-rah guy. Favors is getting a bit more comfortable there. But I think Burke will be an important vocal leader for Utah, starting right away.

…Most likely to get RJ/Raja level disdain from fans: Trevor Booker.

I don’t think Steve Novak will play enough to draw ire from Jazz fans, which means the vet backlash is probably going to be headed toward Booker. Which is too bad. He’s only 26, and a 4-year vet. Moreover, I think there’s a chance he could have a nice impact on this team. But for him to play, he’ll cut into someone else’s frontcourt minutes, like fan favorites Jeremy Evans or Gobert. I could even see him supplanting Kanter in certain lineup situations, which won’t go over well with a number of fans.

…Most likely Core Fiver to come off the bench: Burks.

While we’re on the subject of things that would anger many fans…

Burks is poised to take another important step this year, but there are a lot of scenarios where I could see him being asked to make that contribution in a reserve role. He’s really well suited to that bench attacker role, and I could see situations where either Hood or Exum starts some games at the two so that Snyder has some balance and isn’t stuck with a bench full of question marks.

…Most likely to land in Twitter jail: Gobert.

This one isn’t even close, really. Now that Kanter’s online persona has been tamed, the sometimes salty, sometimes sarcastic and sometimes confrontational Frenchman has to be the highest priority on the social media watch list.

…Most likely to play a smaller role in ’14-15 than people suspect: Novak.

I know they said the right things in terms of basketball reasons for that acquisition, but I’m not sold. I think they like what Booker and Evans bring. Novak’s whole career has been as a fringe rotation player.

…Most likely to play a bigger role in ’14-15 than people suspect: Exum.

Even after a lackluster summer, I think Exum is going to get a lot of opportunities to play this year.

Author information

Dan Clayton
Dan Clayton
Dan covered Utah Jazz basketball for more than 10 years, including as a radio analyst for the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts from 2010 to 2014. He now lives and works in New York City where his hobbies include complaining about League Pass, finding good doughnut shops and dishing out assists for the Thoreau It Down team in the Word Bookstore basketball league.
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What if: Rony Seikaly had come to the Utah Jazz in 1998? http://saltcityhoops.com/what-if-rony-seikaly-had-come-to-the-utah-jazz-in-1998/ http://saltcityhoops.com/what-if-rony-seikaly-had-come-to-the-utah-jazz-in-1998/#comments Thu, 04 Sep 2014 17:42:56 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=12719 Author information
David J Smith
David J Smith
Besides writing for Salt City Hoops, David contributes to the Utah Jazz coverage for the Deseret News (instant analysis articles), WeAreUtahJazz.com, UtahJazz360.com and previously for Hoopsworld.com. He graduated from BYU and works for LDS Philanthropies. His wife, Elizabeth, is the most patient person in the world and they have four amazing children; Kadence, Tayah, Stockton (yes, really), and Cambria.
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AP Photo/John Bazemore

AP Photo/John Bazemore

Off the heels of an impressive 1996-97 season, which saw the team go 64-18 en route to its first-ever NBA Finals appearance, the Utah Jazz came back the following year more determined to not only get back to the big stage, but to win the whole thing. All the key free agents were brought back and while there were bumps along the way, the 1997-98 Jazz were a team on a mission. John Stockton suffered the first major injury of his career and a few players started the season slowly, but by midseason, things were falling into place.

While the team was playing extremely well, the front office approached the February 1998 trade deadline with an active desire to improve the roster in preparation for what was hopefully to be another historic postseason run. With this in mind, the Utah Jazz made a trade to bring in center Rony Seikaly from the Orlando Magic.

But he never came to Utah. And the Jazz moved on.

This could be one of the biggest “what ifs” in franchise history. Most are aware of the circumstances: On February 17th, Utah and Orlando consummated a deal that would send to the Magic center Greg Foster, swingman Chris Morris and the Jazz’s 1998 first-round draft pick to the Magic in exchange for Seikaly.

In fact, Foster and Morris were warming up before the start of a game that evening when they were told of the move. Morris seemed quite pleased about the opportunity, as he had established residency in Jerry Sloan’s doghouse. Foster, on the other hand, was visibly shaken. After a very nomadic career, he had become a very viable contributor and had established roots in the community.

For Seikaly, it seemed like a no-brainer. At least on paper. The talented, offensive-minded big man would have the chance to play alongside two Hall of Famers in Karl Malone and John Stockton. And for the first time, he would be part of a contender.

It never happened. Seikaly never reported to Salt Lake City. Some suggested that he was leery of coming to Utah, especially after playing mostly for teams in warm climates (Miami and Orlando). Other reports insinuated that Seikaly wanted his last two seasons guaranteed–something some said Utah was willing to do. If you ask Seikaly, it was the Jazz who nixed the trade, with concerns about his foot injury. It was a matter of he said, they said. Based on some of the comments coming from Magic officials. and players, though, it might have been Seikaly’s call.

Whatever the truth is–and the fans may never know what truly occurred–the pairing of Seikaly and the Jazz did not materialize. Despite reporting to Orlando and participating in a practice, Foster and Morris were brought back to Utah in a very awkward position. Utah’s front office, coaches and the fans did their best to welcome the pair back, but it must have been surreal for them.

What would Seikaly have brought to the team?

Up to that point in the season, Seikaly was averaging 15.0 PPG and 7.6 RPG. While his shooting was a career-low 44.1 percent, he would’ve added a much-needed offensive threat who could shoulder some of the scoring burdens placed on the NBA’s MVP, Karl Malone. Seikaly was a talented player who had a bevy of moves around the basket in his repertoire. For much of his career, he was his team’s focal point on offense, doing so mostly through iso plays. That would not have been in the case in Utah. He would’ve benefitted greatly from Sloan’s dynamic offense that worked efficiently and always made the extra pass (evidenced by the league-leading 49 percent shooting, along with 25.2 assists per outing). Malone had developed into one of the NBA’s best passing bigs and he would’ve done a fine job at setting up Seikaly for easy looks. And Stockton, Jeff Hornacek and Howard Eisley were not too shabby, either.

While his advanced stats were not gleaming, Seikaly was posting a 15.8 PER and 2.8 WS. Those would’ve easily placed him ahead of the troika of Foster (8.9 PER, 1.3 WS), Greg Ostertag (12.5, 2.2) and Antoine Carr (9.8, 1.5). Seikaly essentially would have assumed Foster’s starting role and his 18.5 MPG, along with some of Carr’s playing time. That would’ve obviously brought productivity and potential to the table.

Even though his TRB%, 14.1, was quite a bit below his career average, Seikaly was much better off the glass than Foster (11.7) or Carr (7.5).

He would’ve also smoothed out the rotations. A Seikaly/Ostertag tandem would provide a nice offensive-defensive contrast and could even play a bit together when the Mailman needed a spell. It would also allow Carr to be used more prudently, playing to his strengths as instant offense off the bench. The team would’ve had 30 games to acclimate him in and get everyone used to their refined roles.

Would Seikaly have made a difference in the Playoffs and the Finals? Foster, Ostertag and Carr averaged a combined 11.9 PPG and 10.0 RPG in 49.1 MPG in the postseason. In the Finals? They tallied a total of 44 points and 42 rebounds in 204 minutes. Seikaly would’ve most likely fared much better. At a minimum, he would’ve been someone the Chicago defense would have had to address.

Injuries decimated (and the ensuing controversy behind his not going to Utah) Seikaly’s career. Who knows if he would’ve done better in Utah on that front. Some vets seem to thrive when playing a complementary role for a team that’s winning. At just 32, Seikaly might’ve been a contributor for a few more years.

So, there you have it–one of the more painful “what ifs” in Jazz history.

Author information

David J Smith
David J Smith
Besides writing for Salt City Hoops, David contributes to the Utah Jazz coverage for the Deseret News (instant analysis articles), WeAreUtahJazz.com, UtahJazz360.com and previously for Hoopsworld.com. He graduated from BYU and works for LDS Philanthropies. His wife, Elizabeth, is the most patient person in the world and they have four amazing children; Kadence, Tayah, Stockton (yes, really), and Cambria.
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Looking at Last Year’s Predictions and Making New Ones http://saltcityhoops.com/looking-at-last-years-predictions-and-making-new-ones/ http://saltcityhoops.com/looking-at-last-years-predictions-and-making-new-ones/#comments Wed, 03 Sep 2014 17:04:41 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=12714 Author information
Laura Thompson
Laura Thompson
I grew up in California, but have been a Jazz fan pretty much since I was in diapers; I went to Karl Malone's basketball camp when I was 11 and I flew up to Utah in 1997 to go to Game 3 of the Finals. After graduating from BYU in 2008, I moved back to California to work in Marketing and have been doing that for the last five years. My favorite things in life are the Utah Jazz, basketball, food (whether cooking or consumption of), reading, church, black Labs, and the beach (though hopefully not in that order).
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Photo by Rocky Widner - NBAE via Getty Images

Photo by Rocky Widner – NBAE via Getty Images

Since I was so right on with my predictions for last year (that’s some serious sarcasm, folks), I thought I’d go for Round 2 and see if maybe, just maybe, practice will make perfect. I’ll dare to dream.

Last year, I was hoping for a jump to 17/12 for Derrick Favors. I may have been a bit ambitious with my dreams, as he ended up at 13/8 (nearly 9). Interestingly, while his minutes drastically increased from 23.2 to 30.2, he was able to stay on the court by staying out of foul trouble, but he also increased his FG% and his eFG% (especially impressive while Gordon Hayward, with increased minutes and an increased role, was unable to do the same). I keep hoping that Favors will develop a go-to move in the post, and many were thinking that could happen as he worked with Karl Malone last offseason. Unfortunately, that never really came to fruition, and we saw much of the same offensive game. However, with a new coach in Quin Snyder and a new system based on movement and passing, I’m hoping Favors’ athleticism will help him get to the 17/12 I predicted for him last season. I’m usually a year (or five) behind trends anyway, so I’m going to stick with this one and see how it pans out.

In my naiveté, I was envisioning a year where Enes Kanter reached 16/11. While he ended up at 12/7, he was plagued by inconsistency and mental lapses on defense. He did show some polish on offense, though, and we know that he’ll be given more of a green light to shoot from deep this year.  He have been set back more than we realized last season while rehabbing his shoulder injury from the season before. What’s problematic is that he’s been spending this offseason rehabbing another injury instead of developing additional aspects to his game. I’m not ready to give up on Kanter, especially with a new coach and system, but I’m going to revise last year’s prediction slightly for this year: 15/9.

Gordon Hayward is the player from which we’ve seen the most and probably understand a bit more of what his ceiling is. His game was dissected and discussed an incredible amount on blogs, on the radio, on TV, etc. because he became The Man on the team. He struggled under the weight of being a number one option, but also responded with some very good across-the-board numbers, although he was unable to carry the entire team—admittedly, not a hugely talented team from a roster perspective. His 16/5/5 numbers were impressive, though it’s concerning that his TS% and eFG% have decreased every year he’s been in the league. Impressively, however, his assist percentage jumped significantly (from 16.7 to 24.1). My prediction for Hayward last year was 18/4/5, so I wasn’t ridiculously off last year. I’m actually going with that again this year: a new coach and system and some more talent around him should ease a bit of the load that was on him last year, helping him to score more efficiently while maintaining his jack-of-all-trades effectiveness in filling the stat sheet.

My prediction for Alec Burks last year was 14/5/3 and he ended up with what was essentially 14/3/3. What’s impressive to me about Burks is that he’s increased his efficiency with each season: his TS% has increased each season he’s been in the league, and his FTr—after decreasing in his second season—was back up to really great levels at .449. Burks is the one of the four who has such tantalizing athleticism and a knack for getting the ball in the basket—even when getting knocked around in the lane—that he’s completely fascinating to watch with the ball in his hands. He seemed to learn how to play better with teammates and didn’t always go away from the pick as the season progressed. I think the play-with-the-pass offense will be especially beneficial to him and the spacing Snyder suggests will give Burks the space he needs to go to work and utilize his incredible athleticism. I predict, probably like so many of you, that this will finally be the year he breaks out and shows what he’s capable of. I’m going with 19/4/4 and a large number of highlight-reel contortionist moves.

So, Jazz fans. What about you? What are your predictions for the Core 4 this season?

Author information

Laura Thompson
Laura Thompson
I grew up in California, but have been a Jazz fan pretty much since I was in diapers; I went to Karl Malone's basketball camp when I was 11 and I flew up to Utah in 1997 to go to Game 3 of the Finals. After graduating from BYU in 2008, I moved back to California to work in Marketing and have been doing that for the last five years. My favorite things in life are the Utah Jazz, basketball, food (whether cooking or consumption of), reading, church, black Labs, and the beach (though hopefully not in that order).
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My First Favorite Player: Jeff Hornacek http://saltcityhoops.com/my-first-favorite-player-jeff-hornacek/ http://saltcityhoops.com/my-first-favorite-player-jeff-hornacek/#comments Mon, 01 Sep 2014 19:41:30 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=12703 Author information
Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett is a life-long Jazz fan and general sports fanatic based in Salt Lake City. He also writes for Nylon Calculus (Hardwood Paroxysm/Fansided Network), and can be heard on the airwaves for the SCH podcast and appearances with ESPN AM 700. With a strong background in both statistics and on-court fundemantals, he writes primarily as an in-depth strategic analyst. He can be found on Twitter at @Ben_Dowsett.
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Photo Courtesy of sportsnet.ca

Photo Courtesy of sportsnet.ca

Last week, I re-watched the 1998 Finals between Utah and Michael Jordan’s Bulls for what was the first complete time since my childhood, and “live-blogged” the retro experience, if you will. It was a fun exercise, both as a flashback to my youth and as an educational experience highlighting the many contrasts between the way the game was played just under two decades ago and today. I had such a good time, in fact, that we’ll jump in my trusty 90’s time machine for another trip down memory lane.

If those ’98 Finals were my first tangible basketball memory, Jeff Hornacek was undoubtedly my very first favorite player. Certainly the marksmanship was likely what drew my eye initially – before I knew the significance of shooting percentages or efficiency, Hornacek was just “that guy who never misses.” The half-trendy, half-hipster nine-year-old Ben found an enjoyable niche with him, preferring to (attempt to) emulate his sharp-shooting profile while other kids in recess pickup games predictably picked Stockton or Malone. He was crowd-friendly, endearing, and came across to the public just as he would to NBA front-offices years later: relatable and smart beyond his years. And just like that Finals team, taking a look back through my current analytical lens brought whole other areas of enjoyment while refreshing what drew me to Jeff in the first place.

While true Jazz fans know he was much more than just a marksman (more here later), the sharp-shooting was his calling card and deservedly gets first mention in any player profile. Hornacek is among the elite in NBA history as a raw shooter, a retro Steph Curry in the way you simply expected every shot leaving his hands to swish through the hoop. He was known for his talent of making ridiculous shots look pedestrian:

He had seven different seasons where he shot above 40 percent from 3-point range on at least 90 attempts, one of just 15 players to accomplish such a feat at least that many times, a list that includes most of the greatest shooters of all time. His patented free-throw routine must have been working, too – excepting his rookie year, Hornacek never posted a figure under 82 percent from the stripe and had nine separate seasons over 87 percent, including a 171-180 (95.0 percent) showing in his farewell year of 1999-00 that ranks as the fifth-highest of all time for guys with 125 or more attempts.

But while his skill as a shooter set the foundation for his success, it was the details around the margins that propelled him from bit player to a vital cog on a Finals roster. Hornacek’s feel, court awareness and basketball IQ were as elite as his marksmanship. Many forget that he played point guard for the entirety of his collegiate career at Iowa State, and even had a brief NBA stint at the point when traded to Philadelphia in 1992. Flashy dimes like these were more common than some might remember:

Hornacek averaged over four assists a game in all but one of his Jazz seasons, no small feat given the all-time assist leader playing next to him every night. Much was made of some comments from then-Warriors-coach Mark Jackson last season about employing the greatest shooting backcourt of all time in Curry and Klay Thompson – not only could Stockton and Hornacek make a pretty decent case for themselves here, but they could also do so for “best passing backcourt of all time” and have a fairly convincing resume to back it up.

Hornacek’s feel for the game went far beyond just his passing skill, however. He was gifted in every spatial element of basketball, with or without the ball. While guys like Reggie Miller and Ray Allen typically are the first ones mentioned when discussing this style, Jeff was on either’s level as an off-ball threat, smartly utilizing a bevy of screens provided for him by Jerry Sloan’s scheme to cut up opposing defenses. He wasn’t afraid to break off sets early if he saw an opening, and his instantaneous connection with Stockton upon arriving in Salt Lake City fueled their ability to confound even the league’s most stringent defensive units.

Perhaps my favorite element of Hornacek’s game upon revisiting his career, however, is the footwork he displayed. Again, it’s an area he’s not recognized enough for historically; greats at his position like Michael and Kobe deservedly see the most praise here, but Jeff’s precision rivaled theirs throughout his entire career. He was never the most explosive athlete on the floor, so Hornacek leveraged the advantages he did have. He was uncommonly patient, particularly near the hoop – where most smaller guys would panic when surrounded by size and invading limbs, Jeff took his time, utilizing his elite understanding of his positioning and angles:

The connection between his smarts and on-court performance was a masterpiece to behold. He had a savant-level skill for feeling his defender’s positioning even when he wasn’t facing him, then seamlessly exploiting whatever small advantage he discerned with his flawless technique:

Whichever era and lens you did it through, Jeff Hornacek was a true joy to watch play the game of basketball. He understood his biggest strengths and augmented them with useful secondary skills, forming a game that was at once both fundamentally superb and skillfully awe-inspiring. It’s no surprise to anyone in Utah to see him excelling so quickly as an NBA coach, nor would it be for him to eventually match or even exceed his playing success. And to top it off, he’s a class act all the way, liked and respected in circles around the league. Whether or not he ever returns to the organization, Hornacek will always have a well-earned place in the hearts of Jazz fans everywhere.

Author information

Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett is a life-long Jazz fan and general sports fanatic based in Salt Lake City. He also writes for Nylon Calculus (Hardwood Paroxysm/Fansided Network), and can be heard on the airwaves for the SCH podcast and appearances with ESPN AM 700. With a strong background in both statistics and on-court fundemantals, he writes primarily as an in-depth strategic analyst. He can be found on Twitter at @Ben_Dowsett.
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Examining the Utah Jazz Bench http://saltcityhoops.com/examining-the-utah-jazz-bench/ http://saltcityhoops.com/examining-the-utah-jazz-bench/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 04:53:20 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=12670 Author information
Dan Clayton
Dan Clayton
Dan covered Utah Jazz basketball for more than 10 years, including as a radio analyst for the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts from 2010 to 2014. He now lives and works in New York City where his hobbies include complaining about League Pass, finding good doughnut shops and dishing out assists for the Thoreau It Down team in the Word Bookstore basketball league.
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Jeremy Evans and Rudy Gobert will play important bench roles for the Jazz. (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)

Jeremy Evans and Rudy Gobert will play important bench roles for the Jazz. (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)

The key to how good the Utah Jazz can be in 2014-15 probably lies in the developmental leaps by key players such as Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors. The key to how bad they could be might be on the bench.

The reality is, with no true impact signings this off-season, the Jazz won’t crack 35 wins — or maybe even 30 –unless Hayward plays like he’s truly a top 5 wing and others in the Jazz core make big steps forward. Presuming for a second that the penciled-in starting lineup going into camp is the Favors-Hayward duo with Alec Burks, Trey Burke and Enes Kanter, that group will largely be responsible for determining the Jazz’s ceiling.  Projections are giving Utah something like 28 or so wins. If the starting five take big leaps forward this year, maybe they surprise some people.

But the floor? If you look around, most prognosticators’ biggest question about just how much the Jazz  could struggle are based on questionable depth. The Jazz have had a solid off-season, but haven’t yet answered the question of how much quality they have on the bench. The potential promotions of Burks and Kanter to the starting five leave the second unit a bit vulnerable.

So what do the Jazz have in their bench unit? Let’s break it down.

The X (like xenopus) Factor

It seems likely that rookie phenom Dante Exum is slated as a reserve at this point, but I also keep hearing that the Jazz are planning to give him as many minutes as they can justify with a straight face. For that and other reasons, the Australian guard is one of the hardest players to project.

On the one hand, he’s the most likely of anybody outside The Five to crash the starting lineup. It’s not hard to imagine him having a Tim Hardaway Jr. type of rookie season: 20+ minutes, a green light to create his own shot, and 2-3 win shares on the way to an All-Rookie season.

On the other hand, we’ve all seen him suffer lulls in his play where he was out of step or just invisible. He needs to get better at playing away from the ball, as right now the opposition doesn’t really have to factor him into their defensive thinking unless the ball is in his mitts. His shot is also a bit of an adventure, and he’s struggling with screens. Those could all be rhythm issues from having an extended basketball sabbatical, or they could be real developmental hurdles he has to work over.

So while the long-term possibilities are tantalizing, there’s no telling right now what exactly the Jazz can count on from Exum in the immediate term.

Rotation candidates

Exum has the highest long-term ceiling, but it seems increasingly likely that Rodney Hood will be the Jazz’s best rookie in ’14-15.

I know what all the stat models say, but there’s room to be bullish about Hood despite predictive formulas. For one thing, if you look at some of the quality draftees that the stat community has missed on, a lot of them were overlooked largely based on their age. Hood is an older rookie after playing a year at Mississippi State and then waiting a year for his transfer eligibility at Duke. But guys like Chandler Parsons, Damian Lillard, Taj Gibson and perhaps most notably Brandon Roy were also older rookies who outplayed their projected WARP, proving that the age knock isn’t iron-clad.

(Tangent: The age correlation in predictive models probably deserves reexamination. It’s undeniable that a broad correlation exists, but that could be simply because extremely talented prospects are less likely to spend 3-4 years at the NCAA level. This might be an area where we assume as a rule that A leads to B, when in fact it’s just that A and B often coexist because they’re both caused by C — a Freakonomics principle worth thinking through as it relates to the predictive value of age.)

Anybody who has watched a lot of Hood’s games knows that he simply understands the game. He’s a natural scorer, he reads and reacts well, and there will definitely be some minutes for a big SF with some scoring capability. He was a leader at Duke, and a good character guy.

I’ve already written about how Rudy Gobert could improve this year, so I won’t belabor the point here. In a nutshell: he seems certain to be a rotation regular this season, and could possibly be play his way to decent minutes with game-changing defense.

Trevor Booker looks like a quality addition that will help the bench. He’s played well in that energy role before, and he is effective at defending down low without fouling a lot.  He continues to improve as a midrange threat on offense, which helps justify keeping him out there for his defense and energy.

Of course, Booker’s presence complicates the role of the oft-overlooked Jeremy Evans, but I expect he’ll find his way into some minutes this year, too. After three years of being this anomaly of a player — highly effective in only spot minutes — he finally got a taste of rotation minutes last year. He still posted an above-average PER, but his rebound rate is pretty mediocre for an NBA four.  Previously an at-the-rim-only specialist, he saw a lot of his volume move to 10+ foot jumpers: 37.6% of his attempts, by far the largest percentage in his career. But he still managed to be a net positive player, and probably deserves more mention than he gets as a cog in the Jazz’s rotation.

Those five guys could really be the key to the floor not falling out on the 2014-15 Jazz.

On the other hand, if Utah is forced to rely on the eight below, it might mean they’re having a tough year.

Deep bench

A case could be made for Steve Novak to be grouped with the possible rotation guys above. Novak is certainly capable of filling in admirably should someone need to spend some games on the shelf.

But I’m confused at the fan speak that treats the Novak pickup as a difference-making move. This is an 8-year vet who has topped the 1,200 minute mark exactly once in his career, and that was the wacky Linsanity season in New York. His rebound rate is borderline unacceptable for an NBA big, and his defense isn’t much better. He does one thing really well — space the floor — and that’s why he’ll always find some minutes here and there. But if he’s one of Utah’s top three or four bigs, somebody else probably isn’t doing their job.

Ian Clark is another guy with a definite specialty, and what complicates his case is that he hasn’t even done that one thing all that well in games. He’s essentially a shot maker who doesn’t always make shots. The experiment in Vegas was to see if they could shoehorn him into some point guard minutes. I’m not entirely sure if that will work. Ultimately, he has to shoot better than 38.8% (TS 48.5%) to wrest minutes away from the other backcourt players.

Some are excited about the pickups of Carrick Felix and Toure’ Murry, but let’s not rewrite history to make them seem like impact signings. Felix was ranked 57th in the ’13 draft class by Chad Ford and had the 86th best WARP projection. A year earlier, Murry was ranked 96th by Ford and was so far out of the draft picture that he wasn’t even included in the WARP projections. Neither has shaken off those low expectations thus far — they both posted 0 win shares last season.

That doesn’t mean they were bad pickups. Remember, the Cavs gave Utah enough cash to pay Felix’s salary and then some, so they get to try him out for free and essentially get a pick just for taking over on the formality of actually signing the paychecks that Cleveland is funding. And with Murry, they were just looking for a third point guard option who could give the club some insurance, and they got one for just $250K in guaranteed salary, per rumors.

Now, it’s possible that any of these four could surprise us. Every year, guys in the NBA come from out of nowhere to achieve relevance. But there probably aren’t great odds of these four dramatically altering Utah’s win total.

Battling for roster spots

So far we’ve talked about 14 guys with a chunk of guaranteed salary ($250K or more), which means Brock Motum, Jack Cooley, Kevin Murphy and Dee Bost are likely fighting for one remaining roster spot. Chances are good that most or all of them will see a lot more of Boise than of Salt Lake City this year. Although again: same disclaimer about surprises could be made here.

Author information

Dan Clayton
Dan Clayton
Dan covered Utah Jazz basketball for more than 10 years, including as a radio analyst for the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts from 2010 to 2014. He now lives and works in New York City where his hobbies include complaining about League Pass, finding good doughnut shops and dishing out assists for the Thoreau It Down team in the Word Bookstore basketball league.
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What If: the Utah Jazz had kept Donyell Marshall? http://saltcityhoops.com/what-if-the-utah-jazz-had-kept-donyell-marshall/ http://saltcityhoops.com/what-if-the-utah-jazz-had-kept-donyell-marshall/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 18:06:40 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=12663 Author information
David J Smith
David J Smith
Besides writing for Salt City Hoops, David contributes to the Utah Jazz coverage for the Deseret News (instant analysis articles), WeAreUtahJazz.com, UtahJazz360.com and previously for Hoopsworld.com. He graduated from BYU and works for LDS Philanthropies. His wife, Elizabeth, is the most patient person in the world and they have four amazing children; Kadence, Tayah, Stockton (yes, really), and Cambria.
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Associated Press

Associated Press

Pondering the “what ifs” in sports can be painful and unhealthy. But like so many things in life that are painful and unhealthy, we do it. We spent time analyzing, scrutinizing, occasionally obsessing on what might have been. You know you do it. Feel free to admit to it. And there is no shame in it. It is a natural part of fandom, and the Utah Jazz faithful are not immune to that.

With this in mind, this is the first in a mini series (not to be confused with a miniseries) of posts, highlighting some of the “what ifs” in the franchise history. Some will be obvious–think the 1997 and 1998 NBA Finals squads–and others will be less so.

Without further ado, what if the Utah Jazz had managed to keep Donyell Marshall long-term?

Donyell Marshall was an interesting blend of size, athleticism and sheer basketball talent coming out of the University of Connecticut. When he was tabbed as the fourth pick in the 1994 NBA Draft by the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves, hope was high. Marshall was having a nice rookie campaign, averaging 10.8 PPG and 4.9 RPG for the Timberwolves. But when the chance to obtain forward Tom Gugliotta emerged, Minnesota pounced on it, shipping Marshall to the Golden State Warriors. It’s not too often a high lottery pick gets shipped out his rookie year.

Marshall went on to play five+ seasons for the Warriors. He struggled mightily his first two years in the Bay Area, but something clicked in the 1997-98 season. Marshall became a focal point of the team’s schemes and he produced 15.4 PPG and 8.6 RPG. Two years later, he was a double-double guy for the Dubs, posting 14.2 PPG and 10.0 RPG. But the Warriors were a mess, constantly changing coaches and perennially missing the postseason.

Enter the Utah Jazz. The team had reached an impasse with excellent back-up point guard, Howard Eisley. Eisley had been a terrific find for the team and as all know, he was a integral cog for those Finals teams. His role grew and some could see him being John Stockton’s successor. But given the Hall of Famer’s remarkable longevity, conditioning and ability to play through injuries–even as he got older–left Eisley wanting a bit more. He wanted to go to the Dallas Mavericks, where he would have a chance to compete for a starting role.

The Jazz joined forces to complete a tricky, complex four-team trade. From Utah’s perspective, it was essentially shipping out Eisley, Adam Keefe (whose role had diminished greatly) and a late first-round pick for Marshall and something called Bruno Sundov.

It was an exciting acquisition for the Jazz. At 27 years old, Marshall was just entering the prime of his career. He added hope to the Utah front court, with his ability to play both forward positions. He was effective equally as a starter or key player off the bench. Marshall’s rebounding acumen and he long, wiry frame added a lot to the mix. He became a very good complement to Karl Malone up front. Marshall played with enthusiasm and injectd some much needed youth and energy to an aging team trying to remain contenders in the NBA landscape.

His seasons in Utah were somewhat underrated. Marshall averaged 13.6 PPG, 7.0 RPG his first year in Salt Lake City, adding in a steal and a blocked shot. The advanced stats tell the story–19.9 PER, .568 TS% and a very good 8.5 WS–third best on the squad behind a pair of greats. The following season, Marshall brought 14.8 PPG and 7.6 RPG and while the advanced numbers were not quite as good, they were still impressive (19.2 PER, 5.0 WS).

In the summer of 2002, Marshall became a free agent. The Utah Jazz wanted him back, but the two sides were apart in terms of the money. Maybe there were other issues less known to the public, but who knows? Marshall decided to ink with the Chicago Bulls for less money that he was demanding from Utah. He only lasted one year in the Windy City before being traded. He went on to play with a number of teams–Toronto, Cleveland, Seattle and Philadelphia. He enjoyed his best season in 2004, averaging 16.2 PPG and 10.7 RPG for the Raptors. Marshall enjoyed a long, 15-year NBA career.

What did the Jazz miss out on? Marshall brought a unique talent to the table and it was hard to replace that. He was still young enough that he could have been a big part of any post-Stockton and Malone teams. A Marshall and Andrei Kirilenko tandem could have been interesting to see–long, athletic and quite good on both ends of the court. Add in Greg Ostertag and you’d have an interesting group. Marshall also became a prolific 3-point shooter, something Utah needed. It is not a stretch to think that Marshall could’ve been a double-double guy in Utah.

Instead the Jazz signed Matt Harpring to fill Marshall’s shoes. Harpring was a stalwart player for the Jazz (his first year in Utah was quite good–good enough that he had some All-Star mentions). He added a different dynamic. Still, it seemed like Marshall had more upside, and thanks to his size and versatility, may have addressed a greater need. Who knows what could’ve been had they been able to agree on a contract.

So, there’s our first “what if’ scenario.  While there are many more that will be addressed in subsequent posts, feel free to leave a comment with some of the “what ifs” that you’ve had. After all, it is part of being a Utah Jazz fan.

Author information

David J Smith
David J Smith
Besides writing for Salt City Hoops, David contributes to the Utah Jazz coverage for the Deseret News (instant analysis articles), WeAreUtahJazz.com, UtahJazz360.com and previously for Hoopsworld.com. He graduated from BYU and works for LDS Philanthropies. His wife, Elizabeth, is the most patient person in the world and they have four amazing children; Kadence, Tayah, Stockton (yes, really), and Cambria.
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