Salt City Hoops » JazzRank http://saltcityhoops.com The ESPN TrueHoop Utah Jazz Site Wed, 17 Sep 2014 19:09:49 +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 » JazzRank http://saltcityhoops.com/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://saltcityhoops.com/category/jazzrank/ JazzRank #1: Gordon Hayward – A Roundtable http://saltcityhoops.com/jazzrank-1-gordon-hayward-a-roundtable/ http://saltcityhoops.com/jazzrank-1-gordon-hayward-a-roundtable/#comments Wed, 30 Oct 2013 17:53:47 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=8280 Author information
Andy Larsen
Andy Larsen
Andy Larsen is the Managing Editor of Salt City Hoops, the ESPN TrueHoop affiliate for the Utah Jazz. He also hosts a radio show and podcast every week on ESPN700 AM in Salt Lake City.
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Gordon Hayward, too, ponders his future. Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Editor’s note: This is the last in the annual series from Salt City Hoops ranking the current players on the Utah Jazz roster. Throughout the preseason, we’ll count up through the current Jazz roster, from worst to first, profiling each player as we go along. The profiles are individually written by Salt City Hoops’ staff of writers, while the ranking was selected by me (Andy Larsen). To go through JazzRank articles from this or past preseasons, visit our JazzRank category page. Gordon Hayward is #1.

For this article, we’re doing something a little bit different. I asked everyone on our team to write one paragraph on Gordon Hayward, taking any perspective or angle they liked. We got a lot of cool responses, and so we’re covering the man affectionately known as G-Time from 360 degrees.

Tracy Weissenberg: 

How did we get here? After Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap departed the Jazz in free agency, Gordon Hayward is the team’s default leading scorer. What exactly is his role this season? Possible go-to guy? Even first option on some nights? Hayward is talented, but the 6’8” small forward is about to go against some of the league’s toughest players on a nightly basis. This is new for him; Hayward started only six games against the Eastern Conference last season, where the position is especially loaded with the likes of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George. The 9th overall pick in 2010 didn’t ask for this role, but the spotlight has a way of finding the quiet former Butler star. Hayward averaged a career-high 14.1 points in just under 30 minutes last season, although the career-high 10.7 field goal attempts led to a career-low 43.5 field goal percentage. I expect him to continue progressing into a solid NBA player. I also expect him to face his fair share of challenges on the rebuilding Jazz.

Scott Stevens:

I’ve given my extensive opinion about Gordon’s facial hair, now it’s time to move on to more important things: the hair on top of his head. He seems to be stepping up his game with the hair gel. During his tenure with the Jazz, we’ve seen the shaggy look and the more clean-cut missionary look. But now, he’s going with the medium-length, I-tried-to-make-this-look-messy-on-purpose look. He’s undoubtedly going through some growing pains in the hair department. So here’s my only advice: mirror the greats that have come before you. The older and more experienced they get, the shorter their hair seems to get. Steve Nash is a great example. Kobe went through the afro phase before settling on the bald look. MJ did the same. The shorter the hair, the less the rest of us even have to worry about it.

Mario Alejandre:

Unrealistic expectations are often the precursor to disappointment.  Reaction was mixed when the Jazz acquired Hayward. Kevin O’Connor, the GM who drafted Hayward, suggested that in two years very few fans would be able to criticize the pick. The Butler star needed time to develop and the fan base needed to be patient. Here it is, Hayward is entering his 4th year and managing the franchise’s and fan base’s expectations will be his burden to carry. Management has made it clear that they expect him to be the leader with this group. In addition, Jazz fans want a leader whose on court performance is reminiscent of #12 or #32. These are great expectations all the way around.

Jazz fans are an intelligent group. They are also passionate. While they will not deny the fact that he was the 9th overall pick in an average NBA draft, they simultaneously expect top three results.  This is one of the lingering effects of Stockton and Malone’s incredible legacy.  To be sure, if the 2010 draft where to be held again with the knowledge that NBA GM’s know now, Hayward would not be drafted less than sixth, but no higher than fourth. He does a lot of things well but doesn’t seem to have a dominant presence on the floor like someone like Paul George (with whom he will always be compared).  So for all the talk of his PER and win shares, the expectations that come with being the face of the franchise will, fairly or unfairly, be the measuring stick that will be used when judging Hayward. Whether or not he meets (and perhaps exceeds) those expectations will be weighed differently by the front office and the fans. This will make assessing his value going forward all the more interesting. Make no mistake, I firmly believe Gordon is ready for the challenge and from listening to him speak, he has developed the kind of personality that can take the good and bad that comes with it.

Clint Johnson:

In the Jazz’s preseason Jazz games, new number one offensive option Gordon Hayward took 44 free throw attempts, 14 in the second game against Portland alone.  But two stood out.  Receiving the ball on the right wing, Hayward drove to the hoop and elevated.  Robin Lopez–all seven foot and 255 pounds of him–met Hayward in the air.  When Lopez failed to block the ball, he settled for the man holding it instead, clubbing Hayward from the sky.  Wincing, the new Jazz leader, looking like a fresh arrival at the MTC, took stock of himself; then, hobbling a bit, he made his way to the free throw line.  Last season, Hayward attempted 4.1 free throws a game, good for second on the team.  Through eight preseason games, he raised that to 5.5 per game.  For the Jazz to compete this year, Hayward will have to continue to get to the line.  A lot.  He’ll need to shoot better than the 72% he posted in the preseason games.  But most of all, he’s going to have to keep doing it after being beaten on and bruised.  He’ll need to attack the rim, take the hit as he did against Lopez, then pick himself up, wince as needed, limp as needed, then step the line and take the points he’s earned.  Then he’ll need to do it all again.  Get knocked down.  Get back up.  Do it again.  Jazz fans should watch for and acknowledge as the too young-looking wing from Indiana proves he is tough enough to take the hit, make the shots, then do it all again.

Jackson Rudd:

Butler-Duke was more Rocky than Rocky was; at least the credits had the decency to roll before Rocky wheels into Apollo’s hospital room and asks if he gave his best fight.  When the term ‘loser’ transforms from a sort of Wayne’s World-holdover dismissive insult to a more biblical description of ‘one who has lost and knows’, we are probably getting closer to having the right kind of conversation about Gordon Hayward, because Hayward lost in the most beautiful way a dude can lose.  We are all losers; we just generally aren’t as noble or courageous in it as Hayward.  At odds with all the force of destiny and perfectly incapable of turning the boundaries of inescapable fate, but scraping your way right up to the line anyway and spitting over the edge before going quietly just to say you saw the other side–that was Butler-Duke.  Before the Sloan debacle and the D-Will meltdown, before he had ever known a fellow like Al Jefferson could exist, before he was the fan favorite, before he wasn’t a bust, before Team USA, there was always that moment when he had a half-court shot so clean that nonetheless didn’t have a chance in a million of dropping for no other reason than because he was not repping Duke. Everyone jokes about announcers talking about it when they cover the Jazz, but they aren’t good jokes.  It’s mythology because it’s real.  A year from now this spot is going to Wiggins, so this could be Hayward’s moment holding the ship together before settling into his rightful place as team spokesperson and gritty game-winning-three taker (and all-star and millionaire philanthropist).  Before that all happens though, there was that crazy night in Indianapolis when Gordon peeked over the line.

David J. Smith:

While Enes Kanter and Alec Burks might be candidates, look for Gordon Hayward to lead the Utah Jazz in scoring. But beyond that, the swingman will most likely pace the team in assists too. A few weeks ago, I made some predictions, and I stick with them. While Trey Burke’s absence to start the season makes the latter more inevitable, Hayward may have led the team in assists either way. Spanning back to his rookie season, his vision and deft passing have been perhaps his greatest skills. He knows how to involve people and good things happen when the ball is in his hands.Hayward understands his teammates and knows where and when to deliver the ball. With his heightened role as the team’s leader, his passing will be invaluable for the Jazz going forward.

Evan Hall:

I’m really not the person to explain this concept, but physics says that the higher arc on your shot, the greater the force with which the ball will hit the rim, or the backboard, or the hardwood, based on, you know, where you aimed it when you shot it. As you can probably tell, I don’t really know what I’m talking about, but I have seen Gordon Hayward shoot a whole metric ton of three-pointers, and man his arc is high, and when he misses, he really misses it. Like, he bricks the crap out of it. The ball flies in every direction, and its sound and impact against the rim almost physically hurts you. The rim vibrates and the waves run down your spine like when you hit a baseball wrong with an aluminum bat. But then when he makes it, it’s almost shocking. It’s its own miracle. How could it have made it through that tiny cylinder when it was falling from so high? How did it avoid so many opportunities to veer off course? How could anyone ever make a shot with that kind of arc on it? But he made it. It went in like lightning in slow motion, a blinding kind of flawless. And the net snapped, and the ball landed with all its force, unencumbered and powerful. And it is as beautiful and healing as the miss is ugly and painful. It’s a swish and a clank, a high and a low, Hayward’s narrative played out in the arc of his jump shot. Because it’s a metaphor. Get it?

Author information

Andy Larsen
Andy Larsen
Andy Larsen is the Managing Editor of Salt City Hoops, the ESPN TrueHoop affiliate for the Utah Jazz. He also hosts a radio show and podcast every week on ESPN700 AM in Salt Lake City.
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JazzRank #2: Derrick Favors’ Time to Shine http://saltcityhoops.com/jazzrank-2-derrick-favors-time-to-shine/ http://saltcityhoops.com/jazzrank-2-derrick-favors-time-to-shine/#comments Tue, 29 Oct 2013 21:54:14 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=7655 Author information
Tracy Weissenberg
Tracy Weissenberg
Tracy Weissenberg is a writer for SLAM magazine, operating the “Basketballista” blog on slamonline.com, as well as working as an on-air reporter for SLAM TV. She also works for Turner Sports, working in production for various NBA television programs.
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Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Editor’s note: This is the penultimate in the annual series from Salt City Hoops ranking the current players on the Utah Jazz roster. Throughout the preseason, we’ll count up through the current Jazz roster, from worst to first, profiling each player as we go along. The profiles are individually written by Salt City Hoops’ staff of writers, while the ranking was selected by me (Andy Larsen). To go through JazzRank articles from this or past preseasons, visit our JazzRank category page. Derrick Favors is #2.

The time is now for Derrick Favors. The Utah Jazz let their free agent frontcourt walk this offseason: Al Jefferson signed a big contract with the Bobcats, and Paul Millsap is in a two-year transition deal with the Hawks. These actions pointed to the franchise’s confidence in their young power forward, only to later be solidified with a four-year, $49 million contract extension before the start of the season.

Favors, the 3rd overall pick in 2010, was acquired in the trade that sent franchise point guard Deron Williams to the Nets. Favors was given several seasons to develop, starting only 21 of 164 career games with the Jazz (contrasting the 23 starts in 56 games with the Nets during his rookie year).

In 2012-13, the third-year power forward showed improvements in nearly all categories, averaging a career-high 9.4 points and 7.1 rebounds in just over 23 minutes. His 1.7 blocks ranked 13th in the NBA, and only JaVale McGee of the Nuggets blocked more shots (2.0) in less playing time.

Last season, the Jazz offense was run by a committee of point guards, with assist leader Mo Williams appearing in only 46 games due to injuries. Williams, Earl Watson and Randy Foye–guards who all made starts last year–are no longer on the roster. Jamaal Tinsley, who started 32 games last season, was re-signed only four days before the season opener.

Utah traded up in the 2013 Draft, acquiring point guard Trey Burke with the ninth selection. It looked as if Burke would get handed the reins and have an opportunity to largely define the Jazz offense. Those plans will have to be put on hold due to a fractured right finger the rookie sustained during preseason. After undergoing surgery, Burke is expected to miss the first few weeks of the season, and the Jazz will once again rely on a committee to run the offense. This will likely have an impact on the development of Favors and the other bigs on the team, who are waiting to build a consistent on-court rapport and comfort level with the point guards.

Due to the shuffled roster and uncertain guard situation, Favors’ offense may require some patience. Without anyone on Utah’s roster consistently able to command double-teams, Favors will need to pick his spots offensively and not settle for bad shots. He will have to adjust to more defensive attention, especially if the Jazz go to him as a first or second option. His 7.4 field goal attempts per game will likely double, and while he will still get high percentage shots and putbacks, his shooting percentage could initially dip.

However, more responsibility on offense will lead to more facilitating opportunities. Last season, Favors averaged 1.0 assists and 1.7 turnovers. He rarely handled the ball, especially in his role off the bench. As a starter, Favors will be counted on to pass out of double teams and make quick decisions to maintain the flow of the offense. Expect his assists to increase, but the real stat to track is whether he can keep turnovers down as his possessions accumulate.

Utah, despite a number of three-point inclined guards, attempted less than 17 threes per game last season (28th in the league). If they continue to keep the ball inside, Favors should average a double-double, and easily slide into the Most Improved conversation.

While Favors has the opportunity to make great strides with his offense, he has already proven himself a solid defender–something the Jazz have definitely noticed during his tenure. Favors will be the key of a strong interior defense, as it will enable the team to stay afloat in low scoring, slower paced games.

If the play of Favors and Enes Kanter lives up to potential, then Utah was able to gain a formidable frontcourt in the trade for Deron Williams. The Jazz have created and stuck with their blueprint for a post-superstar era: part foresight, part solid draft moves, and part strategic aggressiveness by the front office–both in trading Williams early and letting Jefferson and Millsap walk.

Utah has likely designated 2013-14 as time to evaluate players in starting roles, with the promise of cap flexibility next season. However, with the quick extension to Favors, it is clear where he stands in the team’s future.

Author information

Tracy Weissenberg
Tracy Weissenberg
Tracy Weissenberg is a writer for SLAM magazine, operating the “Basketballista” blog on slamonline.com, as well as working as an on-air reporter for SLAM TV. She also works for Turner Sports, working in production for various NBA television programs.
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JazzRank #3: Enes Kanter http://saltcityhoops.com/jazzrank-3-enes-kanter/ http://saltcityhoops.com/jazzrank-3-enes-kanter/#comments Tue, 29 Oct 2013 18:01:19 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=8248 Author information
Denim Millward
Denim Millward
Denim Millward, before SCH, wrote for Bleacher Report about the Jazz and the NBA. Despite this, he is actually a good writer, and we promise we will eschew the slideshow format on this site. He also contributes to The Color Commentator Magazine, and strangely, likes wrestling.
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Photo courtesy of ESPN.com

Photo courtesy of ESPN.com

Approximately seven years ago, I started a new job with an insurance company.  (I know this is quite possibly the most boring lede ever, but stick with me.)

After seven years of learning the fascinating ins and outs of the company, I finally feel like I have a firm grasp on my job and can get through most days without asking too many questions.

Approximately seven years ago, Enes Kanter picked up a basketball for the first time.  Getting drafted into the NBA after such a short time playing competitively is an accomplishment the native of Turkey doesn’t seem to get enough credit for.  The learning curve for Kanter was at about an 89.9 degree angle, yet he still succeeded at summiting Mount Lottery Pick.

Going into his third full season, the climb from promising young talent to bona fide starter doesn’t get any less difficult.  The 21-year-old will have a heaping helping of responsibility plopped down on his plate, starting tomorrow against the Oklahoma City Thunder.  How Kanter responds to the added pressure that will force him to rapidly “grow up” is a pivotal point, not only for Kanter, but for the entire Jazz squad.

In addition to the arsenal of gorgeous post moves Kanter has at his disposal, he has also clearly displayed a penchant for being a ridiculously fast learner.  Is there any reason to think his rapid ascension from basketball newbie to quality NBA starter will plateau?  At face value, there certainly doesn’t seem to be.

The biggest battle Kanter will be fighting this year may be with his age and maturity level.  I think we all remember Kanter’s ever-entertaining Twitter feed prior to the Jazz brass neutering it.  Whether it was a not-at-all-subtle request for the company of a female companion or a workout picture of himself looking Dolph-Lundgren-in-Rocky IV shredded, Kanter’s social media account made it abundantly clear he was an incredibly young kid who was having a blast with his relatively new-found fame and fortune.

As fondly as we look back on the naughty-tweeting, mic-dropping, worm-mangling Enes, those days seem long gone.  In terms of his actual game, that’s probably a great thing.  Kanter still oozes untapped potential.  As far as his game has come thus far, the sky is truly the limit.  A handful of All-Star appearances is a lofty goal, but does not seem at all unreasonable, provided he focuses with laser-like intensity on improving his game, spending countless hours in the gym and ironing out the weaknesses.

The reining in of Kanter may be newly-anointed Jazz leader Gordon Hayward’s biggest challenge.  It’s no small feat for any NBA captain to help a rich, good-looking 21-year-old ignore the throngs of adoring female fans to work on his free throws and defensive rotation assignments, let alone a first-time leader who is still young enough to have difficulty growing anything more than a Shaggy beard.

Stat-wise, there were several promising improvements from year one to year two.  Kanter posted a 5% increase in field goal percentage from 49% to 54%, and a whopping 13% increase in free-throw percentage, from 67% to 80%.  His rebounding rate has dipped per-36-minutes, from 11.5 in 2011-12 to 10.2 in 2012-13, and his assists (an average of 1 per 36 minutes) have plenty of room for improvement.

Passing effectively out of the post and moving back towards being an elite NBA rebounder are two of the biggest opportunities for improvement for Kanter that could dramatically change the fortunes of the obviously-rebuilding 2013-14 Jazz squad. Kanter rebounding at a high level paired with board monster, defensive savant and post-mate Derrick Favors would make for some very long nights for opposing 4’s and 5’s.

But regardless of how Kanter performs this season, we’d do well to remember that this is year seven of his basketball life. He’s a basketball prodigy beginning his maturation phase, and the sky is the limit.

Author information

Denim Millward
Denim Millward
Denim Millward, before SCH, wrote for Bleacher Report about the Jazz and the NBA. Despite this, he is actually a good writer, and we promise we will eschew the slideshow format on this site. He also contributes to The Color Commentator Magazine, and strangely, likes wrestling.
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JazzRank #4: Brandon Rush http://saltcityhoops.com/jazzrank-4-brandon-rush/ http://saltcityhoops.com/jazzrank-4-brandon-rush/#comments Mon, 28 Oct 2013 22:17:16 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=8214 Author information
Andy Larsen
Andy Larsen
Andy Larsen is the Managing Editor of Salt City Hoops, the ESPN TrueHoop affiliate for the Utah Jazz. He also hosts a radio show and podcast every week on ESPN700 AM in Salt Lake City.
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Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Projecting Brandon Rush’s season is an exciting exercise in the same way that flipping a coin is exciting.

To Jazz fans, the Jazz’s recently acquired shooting guard is an enigma. He’s the only player on the roster that has not yet played any games in a Jazz uniform, meaning there’s a significant number of fans (those who only watch the Jazz, or who have watched other teams only casually) who have no idea what Rush represents.

But even those who closely follow NBA basketball have lingering questions about Rush. Of course, there are always questions about a player’s ability to recover from significant injury, and Rush’s ACL tear in the second game of 2012’s campaign looked particularly bad. But beyond that, he’s really only had one passable NBA season, his 2011-2012 campaign with the Golden State Warriors.

Before that, he played a significant number of minutes (an average of 27 per game!) for the Indiana Pacers, during which he was generally replacement-level: he shot just 42% with Indiana while only using a below-average 15.5% of his team’s possessions. He was a middling defensive player whose offense didn’t really justify huge minutes. While there were plenty of other factors in play, including a coaching change after a 17-27 start to the lockout year, it’s probably no coincidence that the Pacers went from sub-.500 to Eastern Conference elite after transferring the starting off-guard duties from Rush to eventual All-Star Paul George.

But if you believe that Rush finally cracked the code after Indiana and that his 2011-12 season represents his true level as a player, there’s a lot there. That season, he was actually the 7th most efficient player in the NBA by points per possession, finishing with 1.12 PPP. Impressively, it was due to his efficiency in all manners of scoring, not just his famed shooting. In isolations, he ranked 42nd in the league. As the pick and roll ball handler, he ranked 13th. As a cutter, he also ranked 13th. As a spot-up shooter, he ranked 16th. Many guys are good at one or two of these aspects, but rarely can players be so efficient at all of them at once, leading to a meaningfully versatile player.

For those reasons and others, Rush comes in at #4 in our pre-season JazzRank. ESPN’s Kevin Pelton projects Rush as one of the Jazz’s best reserves, second in projected scoring only to Marvin Williams and in Wins Above Replacement only to Jeremy Evans. The ESPN/TrueHoop panel also likes Rush better than anybody outside the Jazz’s core of five; at #222, he came in a few spots behind Alec Burks and one spot ahead of Williams. Even Jazz GM Dennis Lindsay has made it clear in his comments that he considers Rush as part of the team’s extended core, saying in response to injuries to Rush, Williams and Trey Burke that “three of our top seven guys” are banged up.

Of course, the alternate explanation is that Rush’s one good NBA season was a fluke, that he’s due for a regression to his career norm. He’s either a flawed player who had an outlier performance in a year on a bad team, or he’s a guy who was finally starting to put the pieces together when injury luck dealt him a setback.

The question is an important one to the Jazz as they evaluate Rush’s value, either as a player or as an asset. His very affordable contract expires this summer, so if he excels like he did in Golden State, he could be the kind of role player that’s incredibly valuable to teams with postseason aspirations. He could be shopped as a player with similarities to Danny Green, for example, to teams like Memphis, Miami or Chicago that need some 3-and-D help in exchange for a draft pick or other asset. On the other hand, if he reverts to Indiana form, he has very little trade value and the Jazz’s big summer salary acquisition trade suddenly looks weaker. It could go either way.

In fact, the Jazz may care more about Rush’s play as a function of his trade value than they do about his actual on-court output. If they could continue flipping those Warriors pieces into more assets, they effectively make last July’s trade haul better, and Rush represents their best chance at doing that given his low salary and relative on-court value. Playoff teams probably won’t come begging for Andris Biedrins, but some will inquire about Rush if he’s had a decent season in Utah.

That gamble makes Rush an intriguing player to keep an eye on if you care about the Jazz’s long term future beyond this season. So we wait for the Rush coin to show heads or tails.

Author information

Andy Larsen
Andy Larsen
Andy Larsen is the Managing Editor of Salt City Hoops, the ESPN TrueHoop affiliate for the Utah Jazz. He also hosts a radio show and podcast every week on ESPN700 AM in Salt Lake City.
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JazzRank #5: Alec Burks http://saltcityhoops.com/jazzrank-5-alec-burks/ http://saltcityhoops.com/jazzrank-5-alec-burks/#comments Thu, 24 Oct 2013 18:16:15 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=8096 Author information
Tracy Weissenberg
Tracy Weissenberg
Tracy Weissenberg is a writer for SLAM magazine, operating the “Basketballista” blog on slamonline.com, as well as working as an on-air reporter for SLAM TV. She also works for Turner Sports, working in production for various NBA television programs.
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Editor’s note: This is the ninth in the annual series from Salt City Hoops ranking the current players on the Utah Jazz roster. Throughout the preseason, we’ll count up through the current Jazz roster, from worst to first, profiling each player as we go along. The profiles are individually written by Salt City Hoops’ staff of writers, while the ranking was selected by me (Andy Larsen). To go through JazzRank articles from this or past preseasons, visit our JazzRank category page. Alec Burks is #5.

 

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Selected 12th overall in 2011, Alec Burks hasn’t yet received lottery pick playing time. In 2012-13, his sophomore season, he averaged 7.0 points in just under 18 minutes. He shot 42 percent from the field and 35.9 percent from beyond the arc. While the Jazz spent the offseason clearing cap space—and floor space—for their younger prospects, the minutes look promising for Burks in his third season.

And while his minutes look sure to rise, his role looks likely to change as well. The Jazz aren’t known for handing rookies the reins, but that was about to change with 9th overall pick Trey Burke. Perhaps Burke and Burks would have comprised a backcourt in a sort of sink or swim scenario for the young guards on a team in transition. However, Burke sustained a broken finger during preseason and is out for the start of his rookie campaign. Who will be the beneficiary of those minutes? One option is veteran journeyman John Lucas III, who impressed in the past as part of the Bulls’ bench mob. It is also likely that we will see 6’6” Burks spend time as facilitator, adding size to a position where the Jazz are extremely small.

Utah, without any real first options or go-to scorers, will spend a lot of time manufacturing offense and grinding out games. Burks will have a lot on his plate, especially as he transitions between both guard spots. The Jazz do not have players that consistently command double teams, so it is unlikely he will see a lot of easy baskets. Burks, who hasn’t started a game in his first two seasons, will have to prove he can find is own shot against other teams’ starting lineups.

Last season, Burks scored nearly 40 percent of his points in the paint. He is a crafty scorer, who can penetrate and get off shots in traffic. Some of the opportunities in transition come from his ability to play the passing lanes. This season, more attention will be paid to his on-ball defense, especially if he spends significant time defending point guards. Back to offense, if Burks can improve his range, especially beyond the arc, he will open up more opportunities for both himself and the young frontcourt of Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter.

While Burks doesn’t have a large body of work in the NBA, he has proven himself productive in limited minutes. The Jazz, losing their top two scorers last season in Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, will be desperate to find some instant offense. Burks should be given the green light, and for the first time in his career, he can really start to define his place on the team and in the league.

Author information

Tracy Weissenberg
Tracy Weissenberg
Tracy Weissenberg is a writer for SLAM magazine, operating the “Basketballista” blog on slamonline.com, as well as working as an on-air reporter for SLAM TV. She also works for Turner Sports, working in production for various NBA television programs.
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JazzRank #6: Trey Burke – Raised to be a Pro http://saltcityhoops.com/jazzrank-6-trey-burke-raised-to-be-a-pro/ http://saltcityhoops.com/jazzrank-6-trey-burke-raised-to-be-a-pro/#comments Wed, 23 Oct 2013 18:45:29 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=8133 Author information
Mario Alejandre
Mario Alejandre is a proud alumni of both the University of Utah and Biola University in La Mirada, California. During the day he works as a Case Administrator for the Federal Courts is Salt Lake City. In his spare time, he teaches two classes at his local church and writes for other blogs on matters of faith, and pop culture. His love for music and movies often finds its way into his work. He is the husband to his incomparable wife, Tera. Together, they share of love of the Utah Jazz that they are passing on to their two children. Mario enjoys exploring the intersection of sports with other aspects of life (philosophy, sociology, and identity to name three) and believes they make for important discussions. Don't worry, it's not always as serious as it sounds.
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On any franchise, there are particular positions that come with weightier expectations. For the Utah Jazz, that position is point guard. John Stockton’s Hall of Fame shadow still imposes itself over the many who have come after him as the floor general for the team; he will always be the gold standard for point guards who put on the Jazz jersey. Dennis Lindsey and the front office brass are hoping their 2013 1st round draft pick ushers in the next great point guard era in Salt Lake City.

APTOPIX-NCAA-Michigan-Florida-Basketball-burke

Trey Burke’s resume is a reminder of his basketball pedigree. His accomplishments are every bit a reflection of his own dedication to his craft as well as the result of the influence of those closest to him, especially his father, Benji. Trey Burke is the most decorated collegiate that the Utah Jazz have ever drafted, and with that decoration comes lofty expectations. There are lingering questions concerning Trey’s transition to the NBA. After all, we are talking about the 9th pick in the draft. Had there been no question as to his impact at this level, he would have gone sooner. In a radio interview with 1280, Nick Baumgardner from MLive.com said about his time at Michigan, “He was everything people thought he would be, times 100.” Jazz fans would love to say that about this young man.

Trey’s strength as a player is in his ability to run the pick-and-roll and get other players involved. His collegiate numbers also suggest he has the game to score when needed. He finished his last year at Michigan shooting over 46% from the floor (over 38% from 3-point range) and 80% from the FT line. His offensive numbers are solid and his assist to turnover ratio (3.5 to 1) suggests that he knows how to take care of the ball. However, with an upgrade in competition playing NBA point guards night in and night out, will Trey enjoy the same success that he enjoyed during his two years with the Maize and Blue? There is still quite a bit of an enigma surrounding the question as to what kind of pro Trey will be. Trey may be considered a ‘pure point guard’ in the sense that he only plays that position, but there is some debate as to whether he is a pass-first point guard or a scoring guard in a point guard’s body.

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Jazz fans had their hopes set high for his debut in the Orlando Summer League, but if Trey’s spring run in March Madness whet the appetites of Jazz fans, then his performance in the Orlando Summer League had the opposite effect. Trey struggled to make a jump shot, seemed to have issues running the offense and his performance was pedestrian at best. In fact, his learning experience included watching a game from the bench, so he could observe the game from the sideline. Some within the fan base were quick to call the pick a bust and even wondered if Raul Neto, the Jazz’s 2nd round pick from Brazil, was more prepared to take the reigns as the Jazz’s next point guard. Once the dust settled in Orlando, Trey left Summer League with a shooting average of 24% from the floor, and only 5% from 3 point range.

No doubt, there was pressure to perform and Burke admitted to putting too much on himself. Furthermore, playing meaningful college games into April and preparing for the NBA draft left him with little in the tank. While some may take more convincing that his performance was the exception and not the rule, since summer league, Burke has been committed in preparing himself to be a successful pro. He spent time with John Stockton in Spokane, learning what it takes to be a point guard for the Utah Jazz. His comments to play-by-play man David Locke upon his return as to what he learned are telling: that he’d work to get his teammates involved early and often and then let his game come to him later. Unfortunately, his pre-season was cut short when he broke his finger in the Clippers game. The diagnosis that he would need surgery and an overall uncertainty as to when he will return has dampened some of the optimism that surrounded the team going into training camp. While the injury is a set back, Jazz fans should still get plenty of doses of Trey this season.

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Trey’s agent is his father Benji. Trey indicates they are now close, but that wasn’t always the case. Benji was a college player himselback in the day, so he knows something about the dedication it takes to be successful. He also has grown to appreciate that his desire was to be a father that coached Trey and not a coach who was also Trey’s father. (Read that story here). Benji pushed Trey to be great and mentioned at his press conference in Salt Lake City, that he and Ronda (Trey’s mom) raised him to be a pro. Benji’s influence has shaped Trey’s life in countless ways, including the decision to attend Michigan in the first place. Their relationship was far from perfect, but it’s refreshing to see an instance where a familial closeness expresses itself in such meaningful ways. I don’t pretend to know Benji or Trey, but there is a sense that despite their growing pains, Trey trusts Benji, both as a father and as his agent. A man who values his family so highly just might find a home in Salt Lake City, UT.

Author information

Mario Alejandre
Mario Alejandre is a proud alumni of both the University of Utah and Biola University in La Mirada, California. During the day he works as a Case Administrator for the Federal Courts is Salt Lake City. In his spare time, he teaches two classes at his local church and writes for other blogs on matters of faith, and pop culture. His love for music and movies often finds its way into his work. He is the husband to his incomparable wife, Tera. Together, they share of love of the Utah Jazz that they are passing on to their two children. Mario enjoys exploring the intersection of sports with other aspects of life (philosophy, sociology, and identity to name three) and believes they make for important discussions. Don't worry, it's not always as serious as it sounds.
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JazzRank #7: Marvin Williams http://saltcityhoops.com/jazzrank-7-marvin-williams/ http://saltcityhoops.com/jazzrank-7-marvin-williams/#comments Thu, 17 Oct 2013 21:00:32 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=7776 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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Editor’s note: This is the seventh in the annual series from Salt City Hoops ranking the current players on the Utah Jazz roster. Throughout the preseason, we’ll count up through the current Jazz roster, from worst to first, profiling each player as we go along. The profiles are individually written by Salt City Hoops’ staff of writers, while the ranking was selected by me (Andy Larsen). To go through JazzRank articles from this or past preseasons, visit our JazzRank category page. Marvin Williams is #7.

If you believed the summer 2012 rhetoric about Marvin Williams (and let’s be honest, most of you did), the move to the mountains was supposed to work wonders for the former #2 pick. The story went like this: after settling for seconds on a system-less, iso-heavy Hawks team for seven seasons, the Jazz’s structure was supposed to get more out of Marvin than Atlanta ever got.

And all that might have been true if the Jazz were still the structured, systematic squad we imagine them to be, but Marv didn’t come to that Jazz. He came to the JefferJazz.

As I’ve laid out before, the 2010-2013 version of Jazz basketball was more jumper-focused and slow-paced than its predecessors, so we probably all had the story wrong as we looked down our noises at Atlanta; turns out the system-less, iso-heavy team was Marv’s new team, not the old one.

In fact, in many ways the 2012-13 Jazz was the worst team to accommodate Williams’ strengths. He’s primary a left-side spot shooter and a baseline cutter, neither of which are really available on a team where the offensive identify is to stick the ball on the left block and then wait for one guy to create.

The spacing killed his left-corner J. He only shot 67 left corner threes/long twos with an effective FG% of .463, down from .551 a year prior. It also meant he had to move a high volume of his corner attempts (54) to the right side of the floor where he was far less efficient (.370).

Slasher Marvin disappeared, too. Williams got off only 161 attempts at the rim, the lowest figure of his entire career, even counting the lockout season or his rookie year when he came off the bench. In the JefferJazz system, there just wasn’t a clean baseline for Williams to cut or space for him to finish.

The result of all this is predictable: Williams’ worst year by far, almost across the board. He had career lows in PER, win shares, points per game, points per 36, rebounds per game, rebounds per 36, shooting, free throw attempts and minutes played.

It was supposed to be a career resurrection, and instead it was career quicksand.

Hope for a Second Second Chance

If last year we imagined what Williams would do with a second chance, we should be talking about this year as his second second chance.

We don’t know precisely how the system will change this year, but we do know that the ball won’t stick to the low block for 8, 10, 12, 14 seconds. Ball movement figures to be better. However snooty we want to be about Atlanta’s alleged systemlessness compared to the Jazz, their assist ratio over the last three seasons (17.0) is better than Utah’s (16.3).

What we probably learned about Marvin above all last year is that it’s unrealistic to expect him to suddenly look the part of a #2 pick; but he could get back to his Atlanta self, which was a pretty decent role player.

Let’s look at Marvin’s own baseline in his most successful seasons – I would say based on overall stats including PER and WS/48 that we’re talking about 2008-09 and 2011-12. Here is a picture of Marvin Williams in those years:

  • He was getting to the rim. In ’08-’09, he had 4.2 attempts per game at or around the bucket and in the lockout-shortened ’11-12 campaign he still attempted 3.1. Last year he only had 2.2 shots per game in the basket area.
  • He was fearless in late game situations (as opposed to his Utah days where he barely saw the floor in late game situations). He shot an unreal .786 on jumpers in clutch time per 82games.com in ’08-09, and even in the lockout year he shot well above average at .525. Most of those were assisted, so he’s not necessarily creating his own shot, but he was an important clutch pressure valve who wasn’t afraid to take — and make — a big shot when the ball came to him.
  • About a third of his playing time in those two season came at the 4. While he definitely defends SFs better, his PER at the PF position is in the high teens, compared to a fairly average PER in his SF minutes.
  • He got to the line. In those two years combined, he averaged 5.5 FTA per 48 minutes. Last year in Utah, it was half that: 2.8.
  • In both years he rewarded his team with nice spacing out of the left corner. His combined eFG% on left corner threes and long twos was .500 in ’08-09 and .551 in ’11-12.
  • He benefitted from early shot opportunities. Over 40% of his attempts in those two years were in the first 10 seconds of the possession (meaning likely in transition or the secondary break) and he shot .573 on those attempts. He averaged 4.3 of his points on those shots in the two seasons we’re looking at, versus 2.6 in Utah. Playing with a team that ran was supposed to help Marvin, but we never saw the change in tempo that was discussed in last fall’s training camp.

Leadership

Another way that Williams’ contribution was limited last year is in the leadership department. He doesn’t come across as hugely outgoing, but he has good knowledge for the game and is generally prepared very well for opponents. In Al Jefferson’s locker room — and, to be fair, partly because he was having a bad year — he didn’t have much of a voice.

That’s too bad. I think Marv is one of the more insightful guys in that locker room, and with the offseason changes he definitely becomes one of the more experienced ones, too. I didn’t talk to Williams a ton last season, but whenever I did, he was thoughtful and thorough, really thinking the game through. When I’d talk to him about different trends in the offense or defense, he’d really analyze things with me and point to specifics (something players rarely do). He has an ability to slow things down and recognize that I think could really help the young stars-to-be on the team. And on a team where he, Brandon Rush and John Lucas III are the veterans, he’ll definitely have that chance.

Defense

As hard as defense is to measure, I know two things with relative certainty: 1) Williams had a bad year on the defensive end, too; and 2) even so, his instincts and techniques as an on-ball wing defender are top-notch.

Synergy has him at a pretty awful .92 defensive PPP, but this is one of those areas where I think Synergy has a huge blind spot that’s obvious when you look at play types. Williams is top third in the league in every defensive category except for spot-ups, where he’s 353rd. The thing is, by very nature, the spot-up shooter is the guy who is left open when defenses collapse, so more often than not, an open jumper by a spot shooter is the fault of the helper’s helper not rotating, but Synergy assigns it to the first guy.

In a nutshell, that’s why it’s hard to understand Williams’ exact defensive value: because most of his minutes were alongside the Jazz’s worst team defenders. Even still, the Jazz’s defense was better with him on the court than off (+1.5 per 100 possessions) and there were several games where he obviously limited opposing wings.

If he plays more PF this season, it may again be difficult to rate him fairly, but I think Williams is quietly one of the better wing defenders out there, in a way that the numbers don’t fully show unless you look deeper.

Summary

If I’m looking for upside factors for the ’13-14 Jazz, guys who could potentially offer a lot more than we’re expecting and thus help the Jazz surprise some people, Marvin is pretty near the top of my list. I don’t think he’ll ever look like someone who should have been drafted ahead of Deron Williams and Chris Paul, but the 10.9 PER version of Williams who added an estimated 2.3 wins to the Jazz’s total is not the real guy, either.

Williams will either supplant a Jazz youngster in the starting lineup or else he’ll be a top option among bench players. Either way, he won’t be inconspicuously hidden in an offense that seems uniquely designed to equalize his strengths.

Put another way: if the Jazz wind up exceeding some expectations this upcoming season, it’s probably going to be at least in part because Marvin Williams returned to his Atlanta levels of productivity, set the tone defensively, and contributed to the culture in the locker room.

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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JazzRank #8: Jeremy Evans http://saltcityhoops.com/jazzrank-8-jeremy-evans/ http://saltcityhoops.com/jazzrank-8-jeremy-evans/#comments Wed, 16 Oct 2013 16:41:07 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=7988 Author information
Evan Hall
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Editor’s note: This is the sixth in the annual series from Salt City Hoops ranking the current players on the Utah Jazz roster. Throughout the preseason, we’ll count up through the current Jazz roster, from worst to first, profiling each player as we go along. The profiles are individually written by Salt City Hoops’ staff of writers, while the ranking was selected by me (Andy Larsen). To go through JazzRank articles from this or past preseasons, visit our JazzRank category page. Jeremy Evans is #8.

Jeremy Evans: In order to understand the gray area between a young player either busting out of the NBA entirely or becoming an established cog of NBA rosters, I deconstructed the 2010 draft class according to minutes played. I narrowed my search to exclude players who had never played in the NBA, or who had played such limited minutes that hardly registered as roster pieces. My arbitrary endpoint was 500 minutes played, and I thus eliminated from my consideration almost every player who has already busted out of the NBA. I also wanted to exclude players who had already become a consistent part of the year-to-year pool from which teams fill their rosters, as well as players who because of team need or pre-draft hype had been given enough minutes to quickly demonstrate they weren’t NBA-caliber. Including Jeremy Evans, there are seven players in the 2010 draft class with at least 500 minutes played but no more than 1000 minutes played for an NBA team: Luke Harangody, Devin Ebanks, Dominique Jones, Cole Aldrich, Lazar Hayward, Damion James, and Jeremy Evans. Of these seven players, only Luke Harangody (who is out of the NBA and playing in Russia) and Lazar Hayward did not rank anywhere in ESPN’s NBA Rank (a ranking of the 500 players in the NBA). Of these seven players, only one of them is still playing with the team that drafted him, having never been traded or waived: Jeremy Evans.

Jeremy Evans’ Jump Shot: In preparation for writing this profile, I spent about an hour looking at Jeremy Evans highlights on YouTube. I don’t say this to brag (and yeah, anyone with any proper awareness of what about life is meaningful and worthwhile would never consider it a brag), but I watched almost every minute of Jazz basketball last season. Yet as I sat at my computer thinking about Jeremy Evans about a week before the preseason started, I couldn’t for the life of me remember what his jump shot looked like. I sat there and thought and thought and tried to extract some previously useless memory of a Jeremy Evans jumper–I even tried to remember warm-ups at the ESA–and I couldn’t. So I went to YouTube, and not until I watched the video of his career high 14 points against Charlotte last year did I remember it (it looks a little like Kendrick Perkins’ jump shot, which isn’t meant to be but definitely could be interpreted as a deeply cutting insult). I say this not because I think the key to Jeremy Evans’ success this year is his jump shot–if he’s taking tons of jump shots, then something about the Jazz’s offense has gone wildly, irreparably off-course. I say this because Jeremy Evans has been on the Jazz roster for three years, since being drafted, and I cannot, on demand, recall his jump shot.

Jeremy Evans’ Everything Else: There’s a seductive beauty in unrealized identity, in not quite knowing what something is or isn’t. It’s why you can be happy in the first two weeks of a fundamentally flawed relationship with a pretty girl who might be crazy, or vindictive, or manipulative, and that happiness is valid. It may be fleeting, but it’s legitimate, because the not-knowing is beautiful all by itself. This is the place Jeremy Evans has lived for the last three years. The dunk contests and the paintings and the likable, choir-boy interview persona have perhaps made him comfortable there, comfortable as anyone can be just right of the spotlight. But we deceive ourselves if we think we know who he is, even in the limited way we can know a basketball player. I could proffer forth some vague conjectures like “poor man’s Serge Ibaka,” or “end-of-the-bench, towel-waving energy guy,” or perhaps more optimistically, “shot-blocking, electrically high-flying Dunkbot.” But they’d be speculative, and even if any of them could be true, even if they were Potential Jeremey Evanses in Hibernation, softly, blissfully snoring through their DNP-CD’s, they would still be foresight, and not sight. Because what I see when I see Jeremy Evans is still so unknown and uncharted that to say anything about him but just that–that I have no freakin’ clue what this guy would look like on a basketball court for 25 minutes a game–would be nothing more than your everyday, internet writer brand of hubris.

Jeremy Evans, Maybe: I suspect that he’s probably bad. That we don’t want to know what 25 minutes a game of Jeremy Evans looks like, that maybe we’ll get on Twitter fifty games into this season and half of the Jazz fans we follow have turned on him faster, and harder, and more viciously than any of them ever turned on Mo Williams or Paul Millsap. That who he was against Portland in Boise is who he will always be. But time passes and we keep rocketing through it, discovering stuff all the way: our gorgeous girlfriend likes to sleep with a python in her bed and she loathes our best friend, our favorite spambot Twitter account isn’t actually a spambot, Harry Potter really is over forever, and Jeremy Evans is a terrible NBA player. We’ll always have those moments, right before we learned how our dad did the magic trick or right before the opening crawl of Star Wars: Episode I began rolling, when things were still as great as we wanted them to be. But maybe we should have enjoyed them more. With Jeremy Evans at least, I think we did.

Author information

Evan Hall
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JazzRank #9 – Rudy Gobert http://saltcityhoops.com/jazzrank-9-rudy-gobert/ http://saltcityhoops.com/jazzrank-9-rudy-gobert/#comments Tue, 15 Oct 2013 18:51:46 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=8002 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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Editor’s note: This is the fifth in the annual series from Salt City Hoops ranking the current players on the Utah Jazz roster. Throughout the preseason, we’ll count up through the current Jazz roster, from worst to first, profiling each player as we go along. The profiles are individually written by Salt City Hoops’ staff of writers, while the ranking was selected by me (Andy Larsen). To go through JazzRank articles from this or past preseasons, visit our JazzRank category page. Rudy Gobert is #9.

Enchanté, Monsieur Gobert.

Now seems like the perfect time to get to know Rudy Gobert, who comes in at #9 on Salt City Hoops’ preseason player ranking.

That ranking could be high or low for Gobert; his impact is probably among the most difficult to forecast given a number of factors. First, we’ve heard mixed messages about his readiness level. Second, it doesn’t appear clear yet whether he’s penciled into head coach Ty Corbin’s early season rotation or not.

Here’s what we do know: so far he has played just 17 minutes in the preseason, the least of any of the serious contenders for spots in the 4/5 rotation. Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter understandably lead the pack, but even Jeremy Evans’ and Andris Biedrins’ minute totals (62 and 34, respective) suggest that Gobert might be on the outside looking in at the 4-man rotation up front.

In the long run, that might be okay. The Jazz have the option of being patient with Gobert as both a basketball player and an asset. They really only have until February to see how Biedrins can be leveraged as an expiring chip. The reality is that only one of these guys will get a rotation spot. One will be the fourth big, logging 15-20 minutes a night, and the other will wait for garbage time or foul trouble to make his brief appearances.

Whether Gobert is able to wrest minutes away from Biedrins probably depends on these three areas:

  • His elite skills: Rebounding, shot-blocking
  • Areas for improvement: Below-average athlete, limited offensive arsenal
  • Jury’s out: Overall defense, screening

Neither guy has been a factor so far on offense – the end of the floor where the Jazz, so far, desperately need help – but both have been decent rim protectors and rebounders in their limited preseason minutes.

Gobert has averaged a rebound every 3.4 minutes so far in the preseason, which is exactly the rate he boarded at in Summer League. Rebounding and shot-blocking are two stats that Kevin Pelton says translate fairly well into regular season projections, so we’re likely to see a similar rate of rebounds in whatever minutes Gobert logs this season.

That’s good news for Swat Lake City, too: Gobert blocked over 4 shots per 36 minutes in Summer League. If that rate held, he could play just 12 minutes per game and still wind up in the top 20 for blocks per game. That might be his biggest claim right now to unseat Biedrins as the fourth big, although in non-statistical terms, Biedrins’ positional D looks a bit better than Gobert’s right now.

Gobert also has to watch his foul rate if he’s going to earn minutes away from his Latvian peer. The first problem with his foul rate is that he won’t be able to stay in the floor. Right now he’s averaging a foul-out every 17 minutes. But just as important is the impact those fouls will have on his defensive efficiency, since a lot of those fouls come while challenging shots. He’s the type of fouler that’s going to put a lot of guys on the line.

After watching Summer League and preseason, it’s clear that the other type of foul Gobert will struggle with is the moving screen. When you’re shaped like an 86-inch-long string bean, it’s hard to look like you’re holding a straight-up position, and as a result it’s easier for the refs to detect motion when there is little or none. One of Gobert’s top priorities right now should be learning how to set effective, legal screens. If he does that, and continues rebounding at the rate he has held up in July and October, it will be hard for Corbin to keep him chained to the bench.

On offense, his role will be limited. In France, he primarily scored off of cuts and putbacks, which is why he had an extremely low usage rate (he used just 6.7 possessions per game in French league competition, 9.3% of Cholet’s total). He had a crazily efficient 72% True Shooting percentage on those 6.7 possessions because he basically only attempted a shot when he got the ball at point blank range. And as a 60% free throw shooter, you don’t want him going to the line much more than you want Biedrins heading there (although Gobert’s form looks better so he probably has a better chance of improving from the stripe).

The other reality of Gobert’s game that hasn’t been discussed a whole lot is his overall lack of athleticism. He tied for the second-slowest sprint in Chicago last May (behind Kelly Olynyk) and also had the second worst lane agility test (DeShaun Thomas). He also had the lowest max vertical and second lowest standing jump (again, behind Olynyk). You could argue these matter less given his size and length, but the reality is that the Frenchman is a bit slower and more earthbound than his NBA peers on the whole.

At the most broad and oversimplified level, Biedrins and Gobert are actually similar players right now. Both are good rim protectors (albeit in different ways) and neither guy is going to do much on offense other than shoot ducks in the proverbial barrel. So who plays those minutes now probably depends on whether the Jazz are more interested in realizing Gobert’s potential or preserving Biedrins’ value as an asset. Both are noble pursuits, but I think they may opt for the latter since there’s a tighter clock on Biedrins’ trade possibilities..

Either way, we’ll get glimpses of Gobert all season and his elite NBA skills (rebounding and shot-blocking) will likely have us asking for more.

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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JazzRank #10: John Lucas III – More than a Journeyman http://saltcityhoops.com/jazzrank-10-john-lucas-iii-more-than-a-journeyman/ http://saltcityhoops.com/jazzrank-10-john-lucas-iii-more-than-a-journeyman/#comments Fri, 11 Oct 2013 19:48:53 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=7923 Author information
Mario Alejandre
Mario Alejandre is a proud alumni of both the University of Utah and Biola University in La Mirada, California. During the day he works as a Case Administrator for the Federal Courts is Salt Lake City. In his spare time, he teaches two classes at his local church and writes for other blogs on matters of faith, and pop culture. His love for music and movies often finds its way into his work. He is the husband to his incomparable wife, Tera. Together, they share of love of the Utah Jazz that they are passing on to their two children. Mario enjoys exploring the intersection of sports with other aspects of life (philosophy, sociology, and identity to name three) and believes they make for important discussions. Don't worry, it's not always as serious as it sounds.
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Journeyman: Any experienced, competent, but routine worker or performer.

As the Utah Jazz prepare for the 2013-2014 season, most of the fan base’s interest is going to be in watching how the core of young players develop. While the front office’s big off-season move involved trading for their point guard of the future and taking on one-year salaries for more financial flexibility and future draft picks, another signing seemingly went under the radar.BPzvYimCYAAHQus.jpg-large

On July 22, 2013, the Jazz franchise signed 5’11” point guard John Lucas III to a two-year contract, without much fanfare. Lucas’s most memorable highlight might forever be one that occurred before he ever donned an NBA jersey: he hit the game winning shot that sent the Oklahoma State Cowboys to the Final Four over St. Joe’s in the 2004 NCAA tournament.  His willingness to take the big shot reminded many NBA fans of his basketball DNA; would he have the same on-court success as his father, John Lucas Jr.?

Before singing with the Jazz, Lucas had spent time with three other NBA franchises (Houston, Chicago and Toronto). He’s also spent time playing the game globally in Italy, Spain and China. His career numbers are modest, with career averages of 5.1 pts, 1 rebound and 1.5 assists per game. It’s about what one might expect for a backup point guard. For stat geeks, his advanced stats suggest that he’d be a productive player given more minutes, which is reassuring if he’s ever called on to play extended minutes. For many, John Lucas III is the quintessential NBA journeyman. However, if beauty is in the eye of the beholder and if it’s true that the numbers don’t always tell the entire story, then Jazz fans have one of the game’s true character guys who could help continue to mold some of the younger guards on the Jazz’s roster.

Fathers can cast long shadows over the lives of their sons. For some, a lifetime can be spent trying to create an identity apart from this shadow. For others, the bond between a father and son runs much deeper. Our culture is all too familiar of the narrative that involves a child’s exposure to substance abuse. There are too few happy endings. However, on occasion, we are reminded that redemption is still a better story. Most people familiar with the sports landscape know that John Lucas Jr has dedicated his life to helping athletes who struggle with substance abuse. JL3’s journey has no doubt been shaped by these experiences. It’s no wonder then, when Baylor University basketball was rocked by a scandal involving widespread drug abuse and the murder of a teammate, Lucas III had the wisdom to continue his education at Oklahoma State. His life’s experiences up to that point (his father had turned his life around by then) had prepared him to handle this type of adversity and respond accordingly, an intangible virtue for an NBA point guard.

For most Jazz fans, the love of their team also includes loving the individual parts that make up the whole. It matters to the organization and to the larger Jazz community that the ‘right kind of player’ finds his way into a Jazz uniform. John Lucas III’s narrative fits that description perfectly. It should be easy for Jazz fans to cheer for someone who has experienced so much adversity yet gracefully embodies what it means to overcome. It should be easy to cheer for someone who will contribute to the team’s success on the court and have an influence on his teammates off of it.

With John Lucas III, the numbers don’t tell the entire story. While his stats may suggest to some that he’s just a typical NBA journeyman, the sum total of his life suggests so much more.

Author information

Mario Alejandre
Mario Alejandre is a proud alumni of both the University of Utah and Biola University in La Mirada, California. During the day he works as a Case Administrator for the Federal Courts is Salt Lake City. In his spare time, he teaches two classes at his local church and writes for other blogs on matters of faith, and pop culture. His love for music and movies often finds its way into his work. He is the husband to his incomparable wife, Tera. Together, they share of love of the Utah Jazz that they are passing on to their two children. Mario enjoys exploring the intersection of sports with other aspects of life (philosophy, sociology, and identity to name three) and believes they make for important discussions. Don't worry, it's not always as serious as it sounds.
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