Salt City Hoops » Opinion http://saltcityhoops.com The ESPN TrueHoop Utah Jazz Site Tue, 16 Sep 2014 23:12:43 +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 » Opinion http://saltcityhoops.com/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://saltcityhoops.com/category/opinion/ 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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Laura’s Utah Jazz Offseason Grades http://saltcityhoops.com/lauras-utah-jazz-offseason-grades/ http://saltcityhoops.com/lauras-utah-jazz-offseason-grades/#comments Tue, 26 Aug 2014 19:12:35 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=12653 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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Nathaniel S. Butler - NBAE via Getty Images

Nathaniel S. Butler – NBAE via Getty Images

Here are my offseason grades for the Jazz:

1. Ty Corbin / Quin Snyder

Whether you want to call it a firing, or that the Jazz chose not to renew Tyrone Corbin’s contract, the outcome was the same: Corbin was no longer going to be coaching the team going forward. For many, it was a change that happened a year too late, after three candidates many Jazz fans had hoped for were snatched up by other teams—Jeff Hornacek, Mike Budenholzer, and Brad Stevens—and had enough success with their respective teams to feel like a bit of a kick in the gut.

When the Jazz’s head coaching search began in earnest, there were some interesting prospects out there: Mike Longabardi (le sigh), Quin Snyder, Adrian Griffin, and others. But as we’ve learned more about Quin Snyder and as we’ve heard more from him, there’s a lot to look forward to: a team that will utilize the pick-and-roll, that will “play with the pass,” that will have an increased focus on defense , creativity on both offense and defense Snyder came from the Mike Budenholzer/Gregg Popovich tree, which is innovative on both ends of the floor), and an articulateness that has proved incredibly refreshing with both the media and fans.

Obviously, only time will tell whether or not Quin Snyder will be a great coach. But as of right now, all signs point to this being a really good hire.

Grade: B+ (with potential to be an A+)

 

2. Draft: Dante Exum / Rodney Hood

Once Jazz fans got over the hope of an Andrew Wiggins/Jabari Parker/Joel Embiid (pre-injury news) pick after the draft lotto set us back a spot and with the #5 pick, expectations were perhaps a bit more realistic of what kind of a player we could get with the draft. We’d been hearing about the 2014 draft for years and knew we needed a superstar to compete for a championship. So to get the fifth pick in what many deemed a four-superstar-deep draft was disheartening, to say the least. However, when Orlando reached and took Aaron Gordon #4, I couldn’t contain my excitement. Exum was #2 on my draft board (Wiggins was #1) and I thought there was no way he’d end up at #5. Granted, seeing him in summer league and international play has probably tempered expectations somewhat. And they should be tempered: he’s 19. But we’ve also seen flashes of an incredible passer and a very fast offensive player.

Rodney Hood was another one many fans didn’t expect to see at #23. I remember Locke used to say that, sometimes, he thought Hood was the best player on a very good Duke team (one which included the ever-popular Jabari Parker). After seeing his smooth shooting stroke in summer league, it seems like fans are even more excited to see what Hood can do moving forward; yes, he played inconsistently—every other game seemed to be a breakout game for him—but that was true of pretty much all our players last year, so he may fit right in.

The one black mark on draft day—and it’s potentially a small mark—was the trade of Jarnell Stokes to the Memphis Grizzlies. He’s one a lot of fans were excited for with the pick and thought he’d fit in well with the team. Unfortunately, he was traded immediately after the pick for what essentially was nothing (a future second-round pick from the Grizzlies). I’m trying to convince myself that was Jody Genessy said is true: If that’s the worst draft mistake Dennis Lindsey makes, he’s doing pretty well.

Like the Quin Snyder coaching grade, this one’s going to take time for us to really know how good of a draft it was for the Jazz. But considering the Jazz’s need for a superstar, Exum was the best one on the board to fulfill that role. He’s got the tools and the skills; hopefully he’ll get there sooner rather than later.

Grade: A (only time will tell on this one, but Exum and Hood were the best picks available at those spots)

 

3. Gordon Hayward’s Contract

We’d been hearing for some time from Dennis Lindsey that they planned on Gordon Hayward remaining with the Jazz for a very long time. We’d heard all kinds of rumors that the Jazz would match any offer Hayward received. What I think really surprised many Jazz fans—or maybe I’m just projecting?—is that a player who was good at a lot of things, but not great at any one thing, would get a max contract. But that’s the reality of the league we’re in right now and the amount of money being thrown around at second-tier players. I think matching the contract was the right move for the Jazz: letting him walk would’ve cost the Jazz more than keeping him, in my opinion.

Grade: B (because you’re still having to pay a non-max guy max money)

4. Free Agency

So, anyone heard much of these guys the Jazz are signing? Sure, we’d heard of Trevor Booker, but I hadn’t heard much. But Dee Bost? Kevin Murphy signed for training camp. Jack Cooley? And there’s been another that’s been rumored for weeks (or is it just agent-driven?). Whatever the case, none of these signings—or rumored signings—are going to move the needle at all. The only reason there’s optimism here is that the contracts Dennis Lindsey is signing these guys to are flexible enough (only one guaranteed year, for example) to offer to a team looking for cap relief in a trade, say, the Clippers, who are almost $3 million over the luxury tax line.

Grade: C (flexibility is nice, but is only valuable if you use it . . .)

 

Overall Grade: B

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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A Dissenting Opinion on Gordon Hayward’s Max Contract http://saltcityhoops.com/advice-for-dealing-with-a-max-contract/ http://saltcityhoops.com/advice-for-dealing-with-a-max-contract/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 16:48:23 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=12219 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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(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

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

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

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

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

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

Even given my appreciation of Hayward, I feel differently.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spurs titles in those years: Zero.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author information

Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. In addition to his writing center work at Salt Lake Community College, he designed, coordinates, and teaches in an experimental author residency program for a West Valley City public charter school. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.
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What Jazz Story Intrigues You This Year? 2014 Edition http://saltcityhoops.com/what-jazz-story-intrigues-you-this-year-2014-edition/ http://saltcityhoops.com/what-jazz-story-intrigues-you-this-year-2014-edition/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 18:13:58 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=12343 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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AP Photo-Rick Bowmer

AP Photo-Rick Bowmer

A year ago, I posited a couple of potential storylines from the season that were very intriguing for me: The (hopeful) redemption of Marvin Williams and the (hopeful) emergence of Ian Clark. It’s a good thing I’m not a psychic by training, because clearly neither of those happened to the extent that I was hoping. But they were still storylines that were intriguing to me. And maybe Marvin’s 2-year, $14 million deal with the Charlotte Horcats could be considered a redemption of some sort, even though it’s slightly less per year than his previous contract (which was considered a poor contract for his production by many). And while Ian Clark didn’t emerge during the season in any fashion similar to how he did at last year’s Summer League, he wasn’t included in the trade with the Cavs, so he still has some chance of emerging this year with this Jazz team.

So, what are some of the storylines that are intriguing for this coming season? I’ve got a few that are highest on my list:

Quin Snyder – Any storyline here (pick a one, any one)

The hiring of Quin Snyder is exciting and intriguing for a multitude of reasons: we have promises of ball movement, player movement (play the pass), defense, a plethora of pick-and-roll variations, innovative sets and screens and cuts, and the list can keep going.

Considering what so many Jazz fans gritted through the last few years—stagnant offenses, lethargic defenses, clichéd quotes after the game, and losses piling up one after the other—what we’re hearing so far is a breath of fresh air. It remains to be seen whether or not all this talk—play the pass—will actually happen, but we saw enough glimpses of a new-and-improved offense at summer league (even with younger players and lesser talent) to get what may be an unhealthy expectation for this season. Considering the offensive efficiency of recent years, we’ll take any improvement we can get.

Another Snyder storyline that intrigues me is this: will he own the position and be the undisputed coach/teacher/motivational guru for this squad? Jerry Sloan was always the top dog, that was crystal clear. The players seemed to give him an incredible amount of respect. Snyder seems to have enough intelligence mixed with confidence and presence to own this coaching position, and it’ll be interesting to see how that presence and his sheer force of will creates and molds an identity for this team—something that has been sorely lacking for the last few years.

Gordon Hayward: Max Man

We were all curious how Hayward was going to respond last year under the weight of a contract year and the weight of being the number one option without other consistent options around him. We saw that both the pressure and the circumstance were too much for periods of time, and we saw that he’s not a great #1 option. Now, the weight of the contract issue may be shifted: from the weight of not having a contract to the weight of having a max contract, with all of the expectations that come along with it.

With a new coach and a style of play that will appeal to and enhance Hayward’s strengths, will he be able to repeat his 16/5/5 averages for the year? This is going to be one of the most fascinating stories for me this year: will we see a higher ceiling on Hayward, because Snyder will be able to utilize Hayward and his skills better?

Alec Burks: Who is he?

This is the year where we get to see what Alec Burks can do and who he can really be as a player. The last couple of years, he was being shuffled either between the 1 and the 2, with varying degrees of success, or shuffled between being a starter or a sixth man. Flexibility is a great thing—and variety can be fun—but the Jazz need to figure out where he’s going to fit, and what he can do within that role, whether it’s as a starter or a sixth man (whether or not he’ll be happy in that role is another issue to look at if he’s in the team’s long-term plans).

He’s incredibly talented with unique skills and a high FTr (the highest on the team if you take out Rudy Gobert, and I think it makes sense to), and can make defenses collapse more than anyone else on the team can. Given that the corner three looks to be utilized more as part of the Jazz’s offense this coming year, Alec’s talents will be very valuable. If the Jazz can extend Alec Burks, I hope they do it. He, like Hayward, could also command a significant raise as an RFA, so hopefully it doesn’t get to that.

So, Jazz fans, what are your top three stories for the season? Enes Kanter? Trey Burke and Dante Exum?

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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Could The Jazz Be Winners Next Season? http://saltcityhoops.com/could-the-jazz-be-winners-next-season/ http://saltcityhoops.com/could-the-jazz-be-winners-next-season/#comments Tue, 27 May 2014 23:30:39 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=11608 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 by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

No one likes losing.

Painfully obvious observation aside, there are times where a patient, long-term development plan is subject to the unpalatable side-effect of piling up losses in the interim.  The loss of interest among casual fans, dip in ticket sales and decreasing satisfaction of players, coaches and front office personnel, all of which are part and parcel of a losing, can be too bitter a pill to swallow for some even with the knowledge of the (hopeful) eventual payoff.

With young teams clearly in a state of rebuild, as is the case with the Jazz, a heaping helping of losing is nearly inevitable.  That is not to say that roster shakeups and player transactions can’t be utilized to hasten the transformation to contender status.  Judging from comments Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey made during the season, this is precisely what he would like to do.

So what would a so-called “accelerated rebuild” look like?  This strategy would affect every facet of the offseason NBA schedule.  First and foremost, shoveling more coal into the furnace of the rebuild train would almost certainly have to lead to a significant loosening of the Miller family’s purse strings.  There are three major aspects of the offseason roster construction process that could be significantly altered, dependent upon what moves are made.

Free Agent Acquisition

The alternative to the patient route of drafting talent and taking fliers on young, inexpensive free agents with upside is to pony up the dough for proven commodities who can be immediately relied upon to significantly contribute.  The increased expenditure on free agents will roughly be directly proportional to the magnitude the front office would like to expedite the process.  If Lindsey finds himself ready to shell out max contract money, the risk taken by the Jazz in doing so will skyrocket along with the payroll.  Unless Greg Miller is prepared to go full Prokhorov and turn a blind eye to an exorbitant luxury tax, the Jazz can’t afford to be hamstrung with a max contract for a player producing more like a role player.  (See Stoudemire, Amar’e.) An accelerated rebuild could also require trading one or more young assets who have not reached their full potential for an established veteran.  Any such move would also involve a significant financial expenditure and a possible increase in risk.

The list of impending free agents is a long one, but the number of definite and potential free agents who are likely to consider the Jazz a possible destination are significantly fewer and farther between.  LeBron James, who has an early termination option after this season, will undoubtedly be the most sought-after player.  Despite Jimbo Rudding’s Twitter campaign, it’s all but certain LeBron won’t be coming to Utah.  Ditto for Carmelo Anthony.  This leaves the Jazz with a slew of second-tier vets and role players from which to choose.  Names like Luol Deng and Marcin Gortat are tantalizing, but both would likely have to be overpaid to consider Utah. The same goes for Lance Stephenson, with the added complicating factor of Stephenson’s personality and playing style.  The Jazz could make a run at veteran big men on the downside of their respective careers in Pau Gasol and Zach Randolph, but that would also come with a laundry list of questions.  Will the young core peak before the free agent in question completely tails off? It seems that backing up a Brinks truck to the home of a prospective free agent may not be the optimal route for Utah to take.

Trading 2014 Picks

With the treasure trove of assets Lindsey has accumulated, in the form of young players, draft picks and cap space, it seems much more likely and feasible he will choose to combine a good deal of assets in exchange for a franchise player.  There are multiple All-Star caliber players whose deals soon expire and have allegedly expressed either dissatisfaction with their current team or the desire to test free agency.  It seems logical to me that Lindsey gathered his current assets with such a scenario in mind.  Now that there are a few such situations, Lindsey has the ammo to pull the trigger on a deal.

The most notable name who is likely available, and who Grantland’s Bill Simmons asserted will be moved before the Draft is Minnesota’s Kevin Love.  One potential complication with Love and with any other trade target the Jazz would face is the target’s willingness to sign with Utah long-term.  The deal could certainly still be consummated without an extension, but that would significantly increase the risk assumed with the trade.  Would a package of the #5 and #23 picks along with Enes Kanter and a future 1st be sufficient to land Love, especially with other suitors well-stocked with assets (Cleveland) or that are likely more attractive destinations (Golden State?)  A similar package could be offered to Boston for Rajon Rondo, though the Jazz may be hesitant to bring another surly point guard aboard.

One very interesting possibility is Brooklyn’s Brook Lopez.  With vets Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett virtually untradeable, the championship window rapidly shrinking and an impending luxury tax bill about the size of the GDP of Ukraine, the Jazz may be able to obtain Lopez for a good price.  The deal would likely involve a third team, as the Nets would be looking for more immediate impact than a rookie or even a Jazz “Core Four” member may be able to provide.  In a three-team scenario, the Jazz could supply the third team with the rebuilding blocks Brooklyn is so sorely lacking.  In return, the Jazz would get a potential franchise center, albeit one with an extensive injury history.

Keeping the Pick(s)

Accelerating the rebuilding process would also affect who and how Lindsey drafts, albeit to a lesser extent than it would trades and free agency.  The desire to more quickly build a winning program would most likely eliminate the drafting of major projects or foreign players being stashed overseas, especially considering Utah already owns the rights to two high-profile overseas players, Ante Tomic and Raul Neto.  This mindset could come into play as early as Utah’s own first-round draft pick at #5.  If Lindsey wants to win now, foregoing project players with immense upside (Noah Vonleh) in favor of NBA-ready players with arguably lower ceilings (Doug McDermott, Julius Randle) seems likely.

Right out of the gate, Dennis Lindsey proved he’s not afraid to take immense, albeit carefully calculated risks by taking on an enormous sum of salary from Golden State in exchange for future assets.  Lindsey is undoubtedly prepared to pull the trigger on a risk-filled transaction that warps the Jazz closer to contention if he feels it’s the right move.

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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Contemplating the Jazz Core http://saltcityhoops.com/contemplating-the-jazz-core/ http://saltcityhoops.com/contemplating-the-jazz-core/#comments Thu, 15 May 2014 22:36:28 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=11590 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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Alec Burks & Enes Kanter: core pieces of a future contender... or assets? It's decision time. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

Alec Burks & Enes Kanter: core pieces of a future contender… or assets? It’s decision time. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

First there was the Core Four. Then Four turned into Five. Next month could make it Six.

Dennis Lindsey has talked about Jeremy Evans becoming a core-type player, and for those excited about Rudy Gobert or overseas Jazz draftee Raul Neto, who knows what the number is. The point is, the idea of “Core” is getting so nebulous that it’s starting to be the opposite of a core. Core means the central or most important part of a thing. By definition, the “core” of something can’t be the whole thing, and yet it seems nearly everybody wearing a Jazz jersey is part of a supposedly central group.

Folks within the Jazz organization have never liked the “Core” moniker, and it’s not hard to surmise why. First, do you really want to get into having to explain — to media, to fans, to players themselves — who’s core and who’s not? What’s the determining factor in being regarded as “the central or most important part” of the team versus another piece of the puzzle? Draft position? Age? Accomplishments to date? Perceived potential?  Based on whose perception? You can see how tricky that is.

But the other reason, one that becomes really obvious as this offseason unfolds, is that some of the guys you and I think of as core members of the team might actually have more value as trade pieces than as parts of a future hypothetical title run. At some point, the Jazz have to think about cashing in part of their impressive asset stockpile, and the hard reality is that some of these guys — “core” or not — are assets.

If 100% of young NBA players reached their best case scenario, this conversation wouldn’t matter. Utah would just wait for their guys to turn into All-Stars and then plan the parade.

But odds are good that not everybody pans out to impact-player-on-a-title-contender levels, and if that’s the case, the Jazz need to figure out soon if the value of Player X relative to the NBA talent market is greater than the on-court value of Player X to the 2017 Utah Jazz.

What the Jazz need to start answering is who is each one of these guys relative to a championship-contending team. As I have watched the league’s final eight teams battle in the conference semis, I’ve wondered which of Utah’s young players would start on those eight teams if they were delivered gift-wrapped the night before game one of the series. I could see Derrick Favors or Gordon Hayward starting in a couple of cases. Alec Burks maybe gets a look to start from someone like the Nets. As much as I believe in Trey Burke, I don’t see him supplanting the eight starting PGs who made it to round two, at least not today. Ditto for Enes Kanter. Who is sitting down so Kanter can play? TD? Aldridge? Griffin? Ibaka? West? They’re All-Stars.

It’s just the reality of where this roster is. There is a lot of hope, a lot of talent, a lot of possibility… but no real guarantee that we have the pieces in the short term.

The Jazz have made it clear — both between the lines and explicitly — that they’re after a star. A franchise-level, alpha-dog-on-a-contender type guy. If Tuesday’s draft lottery goes well, they can get their guy without giving up the house.

But if the lottery leaves them outside of superstar range, then suddenly the Jazz need to know — in pretty short order — what they’re willing to part with to get a franchise-changer, either in a draft night deal or a swing-for-the-fences move for an existing star-caliber player. That means being ready with an assessment of whether Kanter is more important to your future basketball goals than Burks, or whether Neto’s draft rights more important to you than Ante Tomic’s. Is Evans a better deal-sweetener than Gobert, and which one has the best odds of helping that 2017 squad go to the next level? They basically will be thinking about every asset they have both in terms of basketball value AND asset value.

And when it comes to getting a franchise player, everything is on the table. The way it should be.

Even if the lottery takes care of Utah’s star need, I think they’ll have another ace or two up their sleeve. Looking at the Jazz’s depth chart, I can’t even remotely imagine they show up next season that way. Here’s everyone currently under contract or with rights of refusal held by Utah:

  • C: Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert, Ante Tomic**
  • PF: Enes Kanter, Jeremy Evans, Erik Murphy*, Malcolm Thomas*
  • SF: Gordon Hayward**, Pick 1-7, Pick 35
  • SG: Alec Burks, Ian Clark*, Pick 23
  • PG: Trey Burke, Diante Garrett*, John Lucas III*, Raul Neto**

(* = Non-guaranteed, ** = Rights of refusal, either per RFA or draft rights.)

That’s actually two over the roster maximum with no room to do anything but hope for the best from 15 guys who, for the most part, are 26 or younger. There’s no way the Jazz open up in October like that, so that means what we’re looking at right there isn’t just a depth chart: it’s an asset list.

If you missed our piece on Lindsey’s end-of-season interview, it’s a must read. It has a lot of several gems about how Lindsey and his Jazz front office colleagues are thinking about several of Utah’s current pieces, including the burning questions and next development steps.

In it, Lindsey talked about improving through three areas: “We will just continually try to do the right thing from a development standpoint, a procurement standpoint [and by being] aggressive in the draft.”

Pay attention to that whole quote. This franchise isn’t only thinking about internal development and a good haul on June 26th. I’d be shocked if all the Jazz did this summer was draft their picks and sign a free agent or two. It might be time to start spending assets, and that means it’s time to make decisions about how the future “core” might look different from today’s.

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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On Ty Corbin’s Tenure as Jazz Coach http://saltcityhoops.com/on-ty-corbins-tenure-as-jazz-coach/ http://saltcityhoops.com/on-ty-corbins-tenure-as-jazz-coach/#comments Mon, 21 Apr 2014 20:29:57 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=11062 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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After 258 games with Ty Corbin at the helm, the Utah Jazz are heading in a new direction. (Getty Images)

After 258 games with Ty Corbin at the helm, the Utah Jazz are heading in a new direction. (Getty Images)

The Utah Jazz are entering a pivotal summer that will be full of defining decisions, and they just made their first one.

So ends the Tyrone Corbin era of Jazz basketball.

Andy Larsen brought you the news earlier today that, after 258 games as Jazz coach, Corbin wouldn’t return to continue the rebuilding process. So where are we after three and a half seasons of the Corbin era?

Appropriately evaluating Corbin’s spot in Jazz history requires us to be somewhat aligned in terms of defining what a coach is supposed to do, in the broadest possible terms. That’s a pretty philosophical question, one we won’t scratch the surface on in this column; suffice it to say, not all coaching jobs have the same empirical goals, but all might have the same broad purpose. For example, Gregg Popovich and Brett Brown had very different directives and charters in 2013-14, but at the most ethereal level, both had the same philosophical responsibility. So did Jerry Sloan. So did Red Auerbach. So did Ty Corbin.

So what is that broad purpose? First let’s talk about what it’s not.

Unfair criticisms of Corbin

Let’s start here: it’s not Corbin’s fault that the Jazz were 25-57 this year. Hell, it’s not even his fault that they were 112-146 since Corbin took over, although you could certainly argue that another coach might have gotten a better record from those teams. Across the entire NBA, I think coaches bear more blame than they deserve for a team’s losses, but in this specific case, 112-146 is a measure of a lot of things, but it’s not the end-all description of Corbin’s ability to coach.

In February 2011, Corbin inherited the smoldering ashes of a train wreck. That’s not an excuse, that’s fact. The Jazz had systematically shifted (intentionally or otherwise) under Sloan’s watch, and by the time Corbin took over, they were already very ideologically different from the 2006-2010 iterations. They also had locker room turmoil, a disgruntled star, and were on the verge of blowing it up putting the now-starless Jazz in a state of shock for the final stretch of the season. The Jazz could have finished 0-28 that year and I would still insulate Ty to some degree.

The next two years Ty had semi-normal working conditions and turned out a 79-69 record, making one fruitless trip to the postseason. The team was still a bit stylistically flawed at this point, but again, I’m not ready to pass the bill to Corbin for those flaws. As I’ve written about extensively, the Jazz’s shift to being a more jump-shot oriented and rhythmically plodding team happened before Corbin was in charge, and appear to have more to do with the nature of Al Jefferson’s game than with whoever was patrolling the sidelines.

Then the franchise made a conscious decision to reset, handing Corbin a roster that was not designed to win games in the short term. They told him — very publicly — that his job in 2013-14 wasn’t going to be assessed by wins and losses.

The other easy criticism of Corbin is that he allegedly has some deeply ingrained age bias and prefers veterans at all costs. Somewhere right now, Raja Bell, John Lucas III and Brandon Rush are having tea together and laughing over their crumpets about this one. Let’s look at the facts.

This past season, Corbin settled into a 9-man rotation that had one guy over 27. For all the hand-wringing about Marvin Williams and Richard Jefferson eating into core youngsters’ minutes, those two finished 5th and 7th, respectively, in minutes per game. Lucas and Rush were almost completely exiled by season’s end, and Andris Biedrins played fewer minutes all year than either Gordon Hayward or Trey Burke played in Wednesday night’s double-overtime game alone.

Some are still angsty about their perception from prior years that Hayward was relegated behind Bell or Josh Howard, and yet Hayward was third on the team in minutes in 2011-12, logging more playing time than Bell and Howard combined.

Like many, I would have enjoyed seeing more minutes for the young group as a whole, but that was never Ty’s job description. The franchise isn’t defining “core” the same way you and I are, so the charter wasn’t to develop one specific 5-man unit at all costs. The goal was development, defined broadly, and you’d have a hard time convincing me that all of the team’s young principles didn’t get better this year if we analyze from the 10,000 foot level.

Criticize Ty if you want — and before this piece is done you’ll see that my own macro view of Ty is plenty critical — but judging him based on W/L or the “vetzz” myth is just a bit lazy.

Unsatisfying defenses

Just as there are criticisms of Ty that drive me crazy for their unfairness, there are justifications that don’t add up.

The argument that Corbin did was he needed to do to keep the locker room together is a brilliant oversimplification of a coach’s job. That would be like a CEO responding to shareholder concerns about middling company performance by saying, “Yeah, but look at how satisfied our employees are!” Employee engagement — in any business — is an important investment inasmuch as it drives to better results, but it is only one component of any leader’s job. (And again, that same Bell-Lucas-Rush group probably has a beef or two with the “he-kept-everybody-engaged” line.)

I’m also bothered by the notion that “we did about as well as we should have done” as it applies to any of Ty’s seasons. I’ll concede that, roster-wise, last year’s team was a roughly .500 team and that this year’s team was far worse. But if you really had the Jazz finishing 6th-worst in offensive efficiency and dead last on defense, go ahead and raise your hand. Low expectations are not an excuse to go 82 games without addressing some critical systemic flaws on either end of the court, and if you think they are, I’d like to introduce you to Jeffrey John Hornacek, or even Tom Thibodeau who had a slew of just-add-water excuses but said “screw it”.

And really, while we’re talking about weak defenses of his coaching résumé, anything attempt to justify Utah’s defensive performance this year is bound to sound feeble at best and detached from reality at worst. A team and a coach who were chartered with establishing a defensive foundation instead churned out the worst defense in the NBA.

There are other issues that I haven’t found a satisfying explanation for — like the defensive stance he sometimes took with the media or his seeming disdain for those who bring new tools in to complement their understanding and analysis — but on a certain level I’m not that bothered by either of those.

So what does influence my overall assessment of why Corbin’s no longer in charge in Utah?

The broad philosophical role of a coach

To answer that, let’s return to that broad purpose I referenced earlier. What is the most important philosophical function of a coach?

I’ve heard many great coaches talk about this, and I’m convinced that it’s establishing a culture and identity. The reason Popovich gets the same level of effort regardless of who’s on the floor is because 15 Spurs are bought into the vision Pop espouses and they know that exceptions to doing things “the Spurs way” are not tolerated. Stan Van Gundy, in one of my favorite quotes ever about the purpose and challenge of coaching, said, “In coaching, you’re trying to create a style of play and a culture. Every time you make an exception, you’re breaking that down.”

I don’t know right now what “the Jazz way” is. I used to know, both in abstract terms and in a detailed, X-and-O way, but there have been so many instances where it was nearly impossible to discern what (if anything) the Jazz were executing on offense or on defense that I’m not sure, and some of that has to be on a coach. Maybe a lot of that is due to the weird, interstitial portion of Jazz history he presided over, but the fact is that we spent 82 games talking about the Jazz’s lack of identity, and at a certain point, that IS your identity.

Corbin did a lot of things well and some things badly, but at the end of the day, he didn’t create a culture. If he had, he’d be sitting down with Dennis Lindsey right now to scout the draft instead of sitting down the guys from Bailey’s to make a home goods inventory.

And none of this is to dance on a good man’s grave. Corbin is smart, hard-working and professional, and my guess is he’ll get another shot someday. When he does, he’ll probably be a little bit better because he will have reflected on his 258 games as Jazz coach and he’ll realize that he could have created a stronger sense of identity and vision. Just like many young NBA players have to figure out over time how to play more impactful basketball, there are lessons time can teach coaches, too. If we take a growth-mindset view here, Corbin could be like many of the Jazz players who never put it all together in Utah but went on to have successful careers.

In the meantime, Utah will go searching for someone who can create and package and sell a vision that will shape the team’s immediate future. Fan favorite Mike Longabardi may get a look, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they talked to a brand-name coach or two, like former Lindsey co-worker Jeff Van Gundy. SI’s Ian Thomsen told the guys at 1280 to keep an eye on Ettore Messina, an idea I instantly loved because he’s an intriguing coach with a stellar résumé. There are also in-house options, college coaches, and another half dozen names I haven’t even mentioned.

I tip my hat to Ty Corbin, a guy who has toiled in various capacities for 14 years to help the team I love. I also understand why it was time to move on and I look forward to seeing what happens next. It’s a summer of big decisions, and one of the biggest will be Lindsey’s next hire.

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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Some Friendly 2014 NBA Playoff Wagers http://saltcityhoops.com/some-friendly-2014-nba-playoff-wagers/ http://saltcityhoops.com/some-friendly-2014-nba-playoff-wagers/#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 21:22:45 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=11107 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 Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

As a trying and somewhat difficult season has come to a close, there are plenty of elements to look back on.  Jazz Nation, from the team to the organization to the media to the fans, has just made it through a season unlike any in the last two decades.  The time is ripe for reflection, along with a look to the future for the franchise we all know and love.

But…I mean, am I the only one who feels a little bit like a kid who just heard the final bell for summer break?  Us media types have it tough, too, you know.  What’s everyone got going on for the summer?  Didn’t I hear something about Vegas yesterday during locker cleanout?!  Fine, pull my arm, let’s have a little fun.

I like the Vegas theme, so we’re sticking with it.  Taking a page from the esteemed Bill Simmons and his cousin Sal over at Grantland, what follows are a few of my favorite postseason NBA bets, with lines courtesy of Bovada.

Let’s get to it.

Pacers vs Hawks – Atlanta wins 4-1 (33-1), Atlanta wins 4-2 (12-1):

I’m typically not much for betting individual series results, and even less for pre-playoffs title odds – I subscribe to the idea that there are only a set few teams each year who can really win the title, and think oddsmakers are typically pretty on top of which teams these are.  Same thing with first-round matchups, but the curious case of the Pacers piqued my interest here.  There’s lots of talk about their end-of-season struggles being overblown, and while I find it likely that they’re nowhere near as bad as their performance over the last few weeks would indicate, there’s technically no definitive evidence of that.  This team has played exactly one good game in the last three weeks, and has been embarrassed in several cases.  They aren’t common, but history does include cases of teams who just completely lost it at some arbitrary point during a season and never got it back – given that we’ve never seen any kind of “on-off switch” from the Pacers, I’d say they’re at least a candidate to be this sort of team.

Meanwhile, Atlanta has given Indy all they can handle in their four matchups this year, actually outscoring the Pacers by 15 points in total.  Paul George has struggled badly offensively when DeMarre Carroll plays for the Hawks (more on this soon), Paul Millsap creates some matchup issues, and Roy Hibbert can’t do much about Kyle Korver if he gets hot.  It’s not the likely outcome by any means, but I think the large potential payout is worth a small wager.

Pacers vs Hawks – Paul George Average PPG UNDER 22:

Carroll missed one of the four matchups, but in the three he played in, George shot a combined 23-of-58 – good for 39.6%.  Jazz fans know how much Carroll enjoys rising to the occasion against top opponents, particularly on defense, and I’d lay good money he spends the majority of his time on George hounding and denying him easy access to the ball.  PG has gotten inside the paint for a smaller and smaller portion of his points as the year has gone on, per NBA.com, and coupled that with lessening efficiency on his jumper as well.  I don’t expect either of these trends to change against Carroll, an underrated wing defender and an excellent physical build to guard a player like George.

Heat vs Bobcats – Al Jefferson Average PPG OVER 23:

This one requires no special insight whatsoever – the Heat are bad against talented opposing big men, particularly those who are a real scoring threat in the post, and Jefferson is the league’s premier post-first big.  Greg Oden’s status is uncertain going in, and even if he does play he’ll get drawn into way too many fouls by Big Al’s array of fakes and counters.  Chris Andersen is too small, Udonis Haslem has been inconsistent, and Chris Bosh is…well, Chris Bosh.  Good work there, real human raptor:

That was from Al’s 38-point, 19-board massacre of the Heat’s frontcourt.  I’m happily wagering we’ll see another game or two like it in this series.

Clippers vs Warriors – DeAndre Jordan Average PPG OVER 11, RPG OVER 13.5:

Jordan has given the Warriors all sorts of problems on the boards, racking up 61 rebounds in their four regular-season matchups, or 15 and a quarter per game.  Not only that, but Andrew Bogut took part in all four of those games – he will likely miss at least the start of the series, if not the entire thing.  This means David Lee and Jermaine O’Neal are the Dubs’ only real big men, and they have both Jordan and Blake Griffin to worry about – bets for Griffin’s over in these categories also likely wouldn’t be bad, but the thresholds are so much higher (at least for points) that I think Jordan is the better wager.  With due attention given to Blake and Chris Paul, I expect him to continue thrashing Golden State’s front line for plenty of boards and close-in dunk opportunities.

Rockets vs Blazers – Rockets win 4-0 (13-2), Chandler Parsons Average PPG UNDER 16.5:

I don’t like this matchup for the Blazers at all.  They’re going to have an incredibly hard time stopping Houston from getting whatever they want offensively, and I expect to see the same sort of shootouts as their regular-season series, which favors Houston to me.  Portland has resisted the full regression many predicted for them over the course of the final couple months, but I still think of them as a tad overrated, and I think Houston might be somewhat the opposite.  I definitely have Houston winning the series, and especially if Patrick Beverley is healthy enough to provide his usual in-your-face defense on Damian Lillard (appearing in his first playoff series), I like the potential payout for a sweep here.

One area where I do give Portland a little edge is at small forward, where I expect Parsons and Nicholas Batum to match up a decent portion of the time.  Batum is the type of defender who limits Parsons from getting the sort of shots he wants, and can stay with him through his excellent pump fake.  Parsons shot 15 3s against Portland on the year, and made five of them – but only one of those came with Batum as his primary defender.  He was 1-10 from deep with Batum on him, uncomfortable shooting over Batum’s long-armed challenges even after Batum had strayed away from him to help elsewhere.  I think Houston will gore Portland in general, but mostly through James Harden and Dwight Howard.

Odds to Win NBA Championship – Oklahoma City (4-1), NBA Championship Exact Matchup – Heat vs Thunder (4-1):

For the record, I wouldn’t actually make either of these bets.  As I mentioned above, I don’t particularly enjoy title odds at the beginning of the playoffs, because all the teams with any realistic chance have odds far too low to exploit.  But I know it wouldn’t be a complete betting article if I didn’t make something of a Finals prediction, so here it is.  I love the Spurs, but barring another major injury I just think Durant and Westbrook are going to be too much for them this year.

Meanwhile, I simply can’t justify betting against Miami in the East with Indy’s recent slide, especially since the Heat will avoid having to play both the Bulls and Pacers to make the Finals, the only two teams capable of at least slogging things up for them and taking them away from their comfort zone offensively.  That said, with the way Miami has had to labor recently to win many of their games, I see a good chance they’re simply running out of gas after all the miles they’ve picked up the last few years.  LeBron has proven he’s at least partially human this year, and the team’s overall defense has lost a step or two even when fully engaged.  If I had to make a specific prediction, it would be Miami having the legs to get through inferior talent in the first three rounds, but running out of steam against an angry, significantly more talented Thunder team in the Finals.  I think the 4-1 odds are decent enough that, with a gun to my head, these are the two Finals bets I would likely make.

Enjoy the playoffs, everyone!

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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This Sordid Season http://saltcityhoops.com/this-sordid-season/ http://saltcityhoops.com/this-sordid-season/#comments Tue, 08 Apr 2014 18:54:42 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=10900 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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(Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

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

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

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

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

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

The vexation of this season has not spared fans either.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author information

Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. In addition to his writing center work at Salt Lake Community College, he designed, coordinates, and teaches in an experimental author residency program for a West Valley City public charter school. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.
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Rebuilding Lessons from the 76ers? http://saltcityhoops.com/rebuilding-lessons-from-the-76ers/ http://saltcityhoops.com/rebuilding-lessons-from-the-76ers/#comments Tue, 01 Apr 2014 18:20:50 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=10893 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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AP Photo - Rick Bowmer

AP Photo – Rick Bowmer

This season has been a very interesting one within Jazz fandom. There are often two factions: those who want wins regardless, believing that a winning culture is important, contagious, and essential to keeping fans coming to games, and those who want losses—and a top draft pick as a result—regardless. There are those who are fine with the team’s recent defensive struggles because it means that, perhaps, that’s one step closer to Tyrone Corbin’s last month as head coach of the Utah Jazz . There are others who see improvements in Corbin’s minutes distributions and see how his strengths lie in keeping the locker room together, even amidst a rollercoaster season with many lows and few highs.

For those where rebuilding and tanking might seem synonymous, a couple of articles on the 76ers and their recent (and somewhat chronic) struggles seemed to sting a bit, because what some Jazz fans have been asking for—strategic moves, short-term pain for long-term gain, etc.—are exactly what the 76ers have done, and done well.

One point of contention for some Jazz fans has been Corbin’s defensiveness and prickly-ness when asked any questions about analytics, playing time, minutes distribution, and the ever-ongoing “experience vs. youth” debate. Such prickliness was never made more starkly clear to me than when Brett Brown, head coach of the 76ers and a long-time assistant of Gregg Popovich, was asked similar questions recently, responding in a very matter-of-fact, long-term thinking sort of way:

“Despite the mounting losses and the eroding confidence in the club’s locker room these days, first year head coach Brett Brown fully admits he understood these were some of the lows he expected to encounter when he was hired by the organization last summer.

“This is not slit-your-wrist time. This is not even close to that,” Brown told Del Lynam of Comcast Sports. ”This is about building a program and understanding the short-term pain for a lot of long-term gain. To truly rebuild and grow something is going to take three to five years. That is just the way it goes. It is too talented a league and too well-coached. The experiences we are going through now will be distant memories when these guys start getting older. They will find positives in this season and Michael Carter-Williams will be better for it.

“I’ve been asked by so many people, ‘Why would you take the job and screw up your coaching percentage?’ As if I care about that. I knew what I was getting into.”

There are multiple things that stand out to me here. One, it’s pretty remarkable to see a coach who understands the vision of management and is willing to completely buy in to it. He recognizes that building a championship team—remember his experience within the Spurs organization—isn’t an overnight thing. Two, clearly management has let him know that they have a long-term plan in place, and they’ve given him enough assurance with the job he’s doing so that he feels confident he’ll be around for 3-5 years to see this project through. How many coaches will talk about short-term pain for long-term gain? Three, he’s willing to give Michael Carter-Williams the time and the space he needs in order to work through rookie walls, rookie struggles, rookie growing pains. He knows MCW will be better off with significant minutes: he’s leading rookies in minutes per game at 34.7.

Let’s say, theoretically, that Ty Corbin had said each of those things Brown did when asked such questions by either local reporters or national reporters. If he said those things, and did those things, would he be feeling a little bit less heat from the fans (assuming he feels any of the heat from fans to begin with)? If he were less defensive, less prickly, would it help some of the PR battle he’s been facing this year? If both his actions and his actions aligned more closely with what management laid out earlier this year—discipline, defense, and development—like Brown has, would a little less vitriol be directed his way?

As it stands, it feels like a pretty strong disconnect between what rebuilding fans were hoping for, what management seemed to set up, and what we’ve been seeing as fans. So, once again theoretically, if you were a 76ers fan and you were facing a near-record-breaking losing streak, would you be down in the dumps? Or would you be hopeful because you see part of the plan in place for a top draft pick in a strong draft?

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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