Salt City Hoops » Paul Millsap 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 » Paul Millsap http://saltcityhoops.com/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://saltcityhoops.com/category/players/paul-millsap/ Millsap’s Return: The Other Stretch Four http://saltcityhoops.com/millsaps-return-the-other-stretch-four/ http://saltcityhoops.com/millsaps-return-the-other-stretch-four/#comments Tue, 11 Mar 2014 22:34:26 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=10733 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

Last night marked Paul Millsap’s first game in Utah since signing with the Atlanta Hawks in the offseason. Millsap was my favorite Jazz man for years, and I’m still not used to seeing him in the Atlanta jersey (seeing him in a red Atlanta jersey earlier in the year was similarly strange). There were articles and tweets using his quotes from shootaround, with some comment in there about how he thought he’d get booed by the fans.

Now, I know Jazz fans don’t always have the best reputation when it comes to booing former players, but seeing those words in virtual print made me sad. Here was a 47th pick who worked his tail off to become a very good player, hustling, rebounding, leading the team in steals, all while being an overlooked, undersized power forward from Louisiana Tech. He was the epitome of a Jazz man during his tenure in Utah: he quietly went about his work, doing whatever it took to help the team win. Some pointed to a less-than-stellar final year in Utah, but he expanded his game every offseason while extending his range each year. We all remember the Miracle in Miami, one of the most spectacular offensive displays in the last minute of a game by a Jazz player, ever.

Then I saw that the Jazz were planning a video tribute to thank Millsap for his time in Utah, and that put me at ease a bit, hoping that the possible booing wouldn’t actually happen.

Luckily, it didn’t, and he was greeted warmly by Jazz fans. Well done, folks.

As Andy Larsen pointed out, the three former Jazzmen—Millsap, Kyle Korver, and DeMarre Carroll—had more than half of the Hawks’ points (60 of the 112 points), on 19-33 shooting, 9-13 from behind the arc, and 13-14 from the free-throw line. Korver led the way with 26 points (on 12 FTGA), while Millsap was close behind with a very efficient 23 points (on 7-14 from the field, 2-4 from the three-point line, and 7-8 from the line).

As Andy mentioned in his Triple Team, Mike Budenholzer had some very complimentary things to say about Paul’s expanded game, discussing his all-around game. Millsap has discussed this year how Budenholzer has given him the freedom to shoot the three, and DeMarre Carroll confirmed that in his comments to Aaron Falk in the Salt Lake Tribune.

What have Millsap’s numbers been showing this year on a new team, in a new system, and with a new coach?

Statistically, he’s having one of the best seasons of his career. With Al Horford having been injured most of the year, Millsap has taken on much of the scoring load and is averaging 13.9 FGA per game, the most in his career. Since his game has expanded and he takes more shots away from the basket than he did earlier in his career, his FG percentage has dropped to 45.8%. Part of the drop in FG% can be explained because he’s taking—and making—more threes than he ever has (making 1.0 on 2.8 three-point attempts per game, up from a previous high of 0.5 three-point attempts per game). His eFG% is .494, just a hair below his career-low of .498 last year, and his TS% is a very respectable .542. Not bad for a power forward who only attempted 20 threes his first four years in the league; he’s made 56 so far this year on 159 attempts.

Interestingly, despite moving to the perimeter, Millsap is also going to the line a pretty good deal: 5.1 FTA per game, a career high. He’s averaging a career-high 3.1 assists per game, a career-high 1.9 steals per game, and continues to grab a respectable number of rebounds, at 8.2 per game. With all the talk of the necessity of having a stretch four (despite Karl Malone’s protests), along with Marvin Williams’ time playing the stretch four this season, who knew we had someone with the skillset to play that role all this time?

Which begs the questions, is it the coach? Is it the system? Is it the personnel? Korver has also been having a fantastic season, and DeMarre Carroll has also been playing very well, with an also-expanding game.

Whatever the case, I’m thrilled that Paul Millsap is having a fantastic season, that he made the All-Star team, and that Jazz fans showed class and grace by giving him a warm reception. It was well deserved.

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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Paul Millsap Jazz Media Interview http://saltcityhoops.com/paul-millsap-jazz-media-interview/ http://saltcityhoops.com/paul-millsap-jazz-media-interview/#comments Fri, 20 Dec 2013 22:45:15 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=9241 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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As reporters congregated around Paul Millsap, the eighth-year forward’s tone had a bittersweet tinge when reminiscing about his time as a member of the Utah Jazz. Millsap, the 47th overall pick in 2006, grew into a household name during his seven seasons with the Jazz. This past summer, Millsap signed with Atlanta as an unrestricted agent after the Jazz decided on a drastic rebuild. This season, the versatile forward is averaging 16.5 points, 8.1 rebounds and a career-best 43.4 percent from three.

courtesy: Getty Images

courtesy: Getty Images

As he prepared to face his former team for the first time, Millsap spoke to the media about his past with the Jazz and current opportunity in Atlanta.

On how his career ended in Utah:

Paul Millsap: “For me, it was a little disappointing. Anywhere you go, you want to try to win big, and I wasn’t able to do that. I felt like I’d done all I could do, so had to move on.”

On whether he was surprised to not re-sign with Jazz: 

PM: “I don’t know. Things happen for a reason. I feel like that and [that I landed] where I’m at for a reason. I can’t really look back in the past and say ‘if this, if that.’ I’ve got to move forward.”

On whether he knew he could shoot threes at the career-high percentage he is averaging this season: 

PM: “Did I know? Yeah. Did I have the confidence to do it? No. Getting here, the coaching staff, giving me the confidence, the players, giving me the confidence to put me in the situations to shoot it and make it.”

On his expanded role on offense:

PM: “Here, they’re pushing me to shoot it more and it’s part of the offense. I feel like, they feel like, that we’re at our best if I space the floor and shoot the ball…It moves me out from under the basket a lot, getting banged on, so that helps a lot.”

On whether he sensed Jazz were on the verge of a drastic rebuild:

PM: “No, not at all. I don’t think anybody had seen it coming. It was one of those things that happened. You can’t help but respect the decision from the front office, they have control over that.”

On his rise from late second-round pick to top option:

PM: “It feels great to know that your hard work pays off. Over the years, I busted my butt to get where I’m at, so I’m very grateful. I feel like I’m getting another opportunity to come out here and showcase my talents.”

On Gordon Hayward’s leadership:

PM: “He’s more of a floor leader than a vocal leader. I think everybody knows G’s a pretty quiet guy. When he gets on the court, the ball’s in his hands, he makes decisions. He’s a good decision maker. As far as leading, he’s pretty much a good leader on the court.”

On his time in Utah, whether one memory stands out: 

PM “All of it’s together, it just brings up one incredible career in Utah. Not just one memory sticks out. Over the course of the years, met great people, befriended a lot of people. It was great times.”

On whether he has incentive to play his best game against former team:

PM: “A win would be good enough for me.”

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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Paul Millsap, Plus/Minus All-Star http://saltcityhoops.com/paul-millsap-plusminus-all-star/ http://saltcityhoops.com/paul-millsap-plusminus-all-star/#comments Fri, 20 Dec 2013 19:55:13 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=9221 Author information
Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett is a life-long Jazz fan and general sports fanatic based in Salt Lake City. He also writes for Nylon Calculus (Hardwood Paroxysm/Fansided Network), and can be heard on the airwaves for the SCH podcast and appearances with ESPN AM 700. With a strong background in both statistics and on-court fundemantals, he writes primarily as an in-depth strategic analyst. He can be found on Twitter at @Ben_Dowsett.
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Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Editor’s note: This is a guest piece done by Salt City Hoops writer Ben Dowsett, written on GotBuckets.com, a statistically oriented NBA-wide blog. They’re doing a series on “Plus/Minus All Stars”, and asked SCH to contribute a piece on a former Jazz favorite. We excerpt from the article here, then invite you to check out the whole piece, including video highlights on Got Buckets.

And as his game began maturing in his first few seasons, Millsap found himself in a situation not uncommon for guys like him in a small market like Utah – Jazz supporters, fans and analysts alike, seemed to think he didn’t get enough attention around the league.  When Portland signed him to an offer sheet in restricted free agency during the summer of 2009, many considered the number far too high; the Jazz matched quickly.  But as he played out this contract with still very little league-wide attention, the verdict on Millsap in Salt Lake was clear: we may not exactly know how, but this guy is way better than people think.

But for all he adds on the offensive end, there’s basically no doubt that Millsap is far more undervalued as a defender.  And on the surface, it’s easy to see why: he’s undersized, doesn’t inspire awe with his rim-protecting ability, and has never “anchored” a top-five defensive unit or anywhere close to it.  But just like his offense, Millsap brings loads of savvy and a high basketball IQ on every possession, and it’s reflected in his remarkably high defensive APM numbers (21st for the most recent regressions, 10th for the second-most recent), which place him in the company of names like Tyson Chandler, Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan.

Millsap has excellent hands for his size, something that’s reflected in raw box score numbers – since 2010, he’s finished no worse than ninth of all qualified forwards in steals per game, sitting second for the current season behind only Trevor Ariza.  He’s especially quick-handed when guarding in the post, a must when you consider the size disadvantage he’s typically giving up.

For the rest of the article, click through here: http://www.gotbuckets.com/2013/12/20/paul-millsap-apm-all-star/

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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Once a Jazzman, Always a Jazzman http://saltcityhoops.com/once-a-jazzman-always-a-jazzman/ http://saltcityhoops.com/once-a-jazzman-always-a-jazzman/#comments Thu, 29 Aug 2013 01:26:01 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=7506 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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Once a Jazzman, always a Jazzman. That is something I wholeheartedly believe and I think most Utah fans feel the same way. Some may show otherwise when former Jazz guys return to EnergySolutions, but I, for one, continue to root for these guys and hope for continued success.

Some, including all of Utah’s free agents, have joined new rosters. Others remain where they were last season. Here’s a quick look at where former Jazzmen are and what to expect in their new roles.

Atlanta Hawks: A few years ago, the Chicago Bulls and New Jersey Nets were dubbed the Utah Jazz East. This year, it could be the Atlanta Hawks who earn that moniker. With Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver, and DeMarre Carroll on board, Utah fans will keep an eye on how this team fares. Millsap effectively is taking Josh Smith’s role alongside Al Horford, at a much lower cost. While Smith’s athleticism and all-around game will be missed, Paul should excel in Atlanta. He will produce similar PPG and RPG numbers as his predecessor, but will do so much more efficiently. Similar to his last few years in Utah, it would not surprise to see Millsap be an All-Star candidate. Korver had his most productive season in many years (10.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg) and as the main perimeter threat; he should see similar productivity in 2013-2014. The “Junkyard Dog” was itching for a bigger role and he may indeed get that with the Hawks. While they have a solid corps of bigs, Atlanta’s wing depth might benefit Carroll. His hustle, offensive rebounding, and improved shooting could help propel him to a career year.

Boston Celtics: Former first-round pick Kris Humphries was part of the blockbuster swap with the Nets. His minutes and stats took a precipitous nosedive last year (5.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg in 18.3 mpg). Given the makeup of the Boston roster, Humphries could resume his role of a good-stats-guy-on-a-bad-team, a role in which he excels. He could see a return to his double-double days.

Brooklyn Nets: Many Jazz fans will be eager to see the reunion between former cornerstones Deron Williams and Andrei Kirilenko. This will be the most talented team D-Will has had since the Utah Western Conference Finals team. With four former All-Stars running with him in the starting line-up and quality bench depth, Williams will be the heart and soul for Brooklyn. He should easily achieve the goal head coach Jason Kidd has set for him. AK had a nice season in Minnesota and signed with the Nets for a pittance. He will add yet another defender and facilitator and will likely be a guy who finishes games for Brooklyn. This will be a role that could help Kirilenko age well.

Charlotte Bobcats: Al Jefferson is one of the most polarizing players in Jazz history. Many loved him, many had difficulties with his game. Whatever the case may be, he was a guy who gave it his all and now will do the same for the Bobcats. While his contract was eye-opening, he automatically becomes the best player for Charlotte, a bonafide post player they have long needed. Given the talent level around him, Big Al should get a lot of touches and perhaps a return to his 20/10 days. The bigger question: can Jefferson help turn around one of the lowliest franchises?

Chicago Bulls: Jefferson may be polarizing, but he’s nothing compared to Carlos Boozer. Few people incite more emotion that Boozer for the Jazz crowd. He enjoyed a nice season (16.2 ppg, 9.8 rpg), but definitely missed former MVP Derrick Rose (evidenced by a career low 47.7% field goal clip). He is still woeful on defense and given his massive contract, is always mentioned in trade talks (unlikely) and as an amnesty candidate (perhaps after this season?).

Cleveland Cavaliers: C.J. Miles had his second-best season, chipping in 11.2 ppg and 2.7 rpg for the Cavs. With a wealth of exciting, young players, Miles (who is still just 25), will contribute off the bench for what might be a team headed to the Playoffs.

Dallas Mavericks: Devin Harris never got going in Atlanta. He played a lot of minutes alongside Jeff Teague and subsequently produced his lowest stats since his second season. It’s hard to remember that just two seasons ago, Harris was a 15 and 7 guy. He is returning to where he started and should prove to be a nice player off the bench behind Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis.

Denver Nuggets: Randy Foye had a short stay, but managed to shoot himself into the Jazz record book. As part of a sign-and-trade, Foye takes his three-point shooting to the Mile High City. He’ll get plenty of minutes, either as a starter or off the pine.

Houston Rockets: Ronnie Brewer, he of the insane athleticism and crowd-pleasing dunks off cuts, joins James Harden and Dwight Howard in Houston. He should add some defense to the bench, while being another guy who will run up and down the court. With a plethora of wings, it’ll be interesting to see what kind of playing time he earns.

Memphis Grizzlies: One the most underrated moves of the off-season was the Grizzlies’ acquisition of Kosta Koufos. Coming off a career year (8.0 ppg, 58% FGs, 6.9 rpg), he bolsters a deep front court. He will help Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph be fresh for the postseason and adds to a bench that needed some help.

Oklahoma City Thunder: It was surprising when the Thunder brought back Derek Fisher last season and it’s equally surprising to see him re-sign. His regular season was rocky and while things improved a bit in the postseason, he was weak defensively and at 39, that’s not going to get better.

Orlando Magic: The Magic are in total rebuild mode, but are in quite good position in that rebuild. They inked former fan favorite Ronnie Price to be a veteran presence on a very young team. Given his subpar shooting (32.5% last season), his leadership may be his biggest contribution in Orlando.

Portland Trail Blazers: Incumbent Wesley Matthews will most likely continue starting, as he has for the past three seasons in Portland. With the additions of C.J. McCollum, Dorrell Wright, and Mo Williams, he may not have to carry as much as he has (especially with Portland’s injury situations over the years). Williams’ addition in Rip City was curious on many fronts. There was much talk that a starting gig was what he was looking for, but that is not going to happen with Rookie of the Year Damien Lillard ahead of him. Williams can, however, add some punch to what was a very punchless bench last year. Earl Watson will be the sage vet for the Trail Blazers. Chances are, he will see very little on-court time, as he perhaps prepares for future coaching opportunities.

Washington Wizards: Former first-round pick Eric Maynor will serve as John Wall’s back-up. After a bright start, Maynor’s career has not taken off–injuries playing a big part of that. His midseason move to Portland jump-started him (6.9 ppg, 4.0 apg) and at a minimum, he will be a solid reserve.

There are other former Jazzmen who have yet to latch on with a team. Guys like Jamaal Tinsley, Raja Bell, DeShawn Stevenson, Othyus Jeffers (who will attend Minnesota’s training camp), Lou Amundson, and even Kyrylo Fesenko are still seeking employment. Utah also will be pulling for former players now coaching: legend Jeff Hornacek and Jacque Vaughn. Perhaps not as much for Mark Jackson.

As always, best of luck to the those who once donned a Utah Jazz uniform.

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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NBA Free Agency Rundown: Eastern Conference http://saltcityhoops.com/nba-free-agency-rundown-eastern-conference/ http://saltcityhoops.com/nba-free-agency-rundown-eastern-conference/#comments Wed, 10 Jul 2013 19:33:06 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=6992 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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The free agency moratorium lifted Tuesday evening at 10:01 p.m. MST and now everything that has been bandied about in various news reports will become official. How are each of the teams faring so far? Here’s a team-by-team look at the early signings, starting with the Eastern Conference.

Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks were the one team that had more cap room than the Utah Jazz, and Atlanta decided to use their money in a very different way. A team that seems to perpetually reside in the middle tier of the NBA decided to restock with veterans. They signed Utah Jazz forward Paul Millsap (two-years, $19 million) and DeMarre Carroll (two-years, $5 million). Those are both solid moves. The Hawks are essentially substituting the always-in-trade-rumors-guy Josh Smith with Millsap, a good replacement. The two years was surprising to me, while the $9.5m/year seems about right. Carroll is a nice pick-up as an energy guy off the bench. The Hawks also re-upped former Jazzman Kyle Korver to a four-year, $24 million pact. That seems like a lot of years and a lot of scratch, although shooters like Korver tend to age well. Also, he is coming off one of the best seasons of his career. They lost Smith, Zaza Pachulia, and yet another ex-Utah player in Devin Harris.

Boston Celtics: No free agency news, but they traded their whole roster for Brooklyn’s bench. And added a coach younger than most of last season’s Celtics roster.

Brooklyn Nets: After making the trade of the off-season (all due respect to the Jazz and Warriors) in acquiring Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry, the Nets looked poised to make a run at the Miami Heat in the East. As a result, and because they are severely seeped in luxury tax ($72-$74 million by many reports for 2013-2014), they are being selective in their free agency. They re-signed last year’s surprise in Andray Blatche and tall point guard Shaun Livingston to league minimums. Blatche is still being paid via his amnesty agreement with the Washington Wizards; he bolsters the bench. Livingston will play behind Deron Williams and despite the horrific injury early in his career, he has settled in to a nice back-up point guard role. C.J. Watson left.

Charlotte Bobcats: Naturally I was hoping that each of last year’s Jazz free agents would land in good situations. Truth be told, I have mixed feelings about Al Jefferson inking a three-year, $41 million contract with the NBA’s lowliest franchise. I’m happy in that he will step right in and be the leader. But I was hoping he would have at least waited until the Dwight Howard drama was resolved. My guess is that teams that are itching for Andrew Bynum now would’ve been seriously interested in Jefferson. From the Bobcats’ vantage point, they need to do something to escape their losing ways. Al adds a low-post presence in a woeful front court, and will most likely put up 20+ ppg. That said, that seems to be a bit too much money (three years is fine). They also re-signed Josh McRoberts for two-years, $6 million. That’s a decent guy to have off the pine. They renounced (finally) DeSagana Diop and Byron Mullens, as well as Reggie Williams and Jannero Pargo. What will we ever do without Diop’s monstrosity of a contract?

Chicago Bulls: Mike Dunleavy signing a two-year, $6 million contract is the best signings of free agency. He brings perimeter shooting, heady passing, and some scoring off the bench to the Bulls. Great signing at a bargain price. Nazr Mohammed will come back an extra year. He still has something in the tank. Juwan Howard will one day (perhaps a dozen years from now) pass along the mantle of the NBA’s vet to Nazr. Marco Belinelli was an excellent find last summer, so his leaving for the Spurs is a blow. The Bulls also severed ties with Richard Hamilton. Not sure how much more Rip has to offer.

Cleveland Cavaliers: While the Anthony Bennett pick still has me scratching my head, it’s clear the Cavs are gunning for the playoffs. They added some nice players in Jarrett Jack and Earl Clark. Jack was a main catalyst to the Warriors’ success last year, and Cleveland hopes he can reprise a similar role behind Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. He signed a four-year, $25 million deal, which seems about right (even for a 29-year old third guard). Clark took advantage of the surreal Lakers’ situationlast season to finally emerge. He brings versatility and front court depth to the table. At two-years, $9 million, his contract might be a touch high, but if given the opportunity, he might prove to be a steal. Omri Casspi left for Houston, but he never played in Cleveland.

Detroit Pistons: Josh Smith is an intriguing signing. He has All-Star talent (and probably should have made at least one All-Star roster, if not two), is tremendous on help defense, and has AK47-like versatility. Added to the pair of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, Smith gives them one of the best (if not the best) young front courts. That said, he needs to operate inside, so spacing could get cramped. Combo guard Will Bynum re-upped, which was smart. He can score and lead the second unit well. On a side note, I always thought the bullish Bynum would’ve been a favorite for Jerry Sloan. Jose Calderon departed for Dallas, ending his brief sojourn in Detroit.

Indiana Pacers: After giving Miami all it could handle, the Pacers have gone out and had a tremendous off-season. By being a contender, they too could be very deliberate with their signings. C.J. Watson will be integral to their success. After a season of D.J. Augustine’s perplexing play, Watson will add a nice punch behind George Hill. Chris Copeland, who the Jazz clearly had interest in, also helps shore up a shallow bench. His versatility and outside shooting (42% 3s) will be very welcome. Most importantly, they re-signed power forward David West. His quiet leadership was as much a driver for their playoff run as anything. His three-year, $36 million deal seems like a bit much, but he too has a game that will age well. Add in a healthy Danny Granger and they could again be the Heat’s main challenger. They lost Jeff Pendergraph to the Spurs, which has to make one worry a bit. After all, it’s the Spurs…

Miami Heat: Re-signing vital reserve Chris Andersen to a one-year pact was essential. His play was instrumental, especially because it keeps Joel Anthony on the bench.

Milwaukee Bucks: It is hard to decipher what the Milwaukee Bucks are doing. They have been the epitome of mediocrity for decades. They’ve had a few nice squads, but seem to be eternally locked into a low postseason seed. They handed O.J. Mayo (who some said was a Jazz target) for three-years, $24 million. That is a lot of money to pay for a guy who may score for you, but may not do so efficiently. He doesn’t strike me as one who will help lead the Bucks to anything but middling success. They also brought back to former Bucks in Pachulia and Carlos Delfino. I can understand each of these signings individually, but when viewed big-picture, it’s all confusing. If anything, they should’ve brought back Dunleavy.

New York Knicks: Losing Copeland to a rival is tough, but they couldn’t afford to have him back. They re-signed Pablo Prigioni to a three-year deal, a bit surprising for a 36-year old. He is a steady back-up. J.R. Smith and the Knicks belong together, for better or for worse. They got him for four-years, $26 million, which really is a nice deal for what he brings to New York.

Orlando Magic: Nothing happening here.

Philadelphia Sixers: Ditto. They did lose Dorrell Wright to Portland, but the chances of him returning to Philly were slim.

Toronto Raptors: With Orlando and Philadelphia, Toronto will naturally be mentioned as a team on the tank. Their only splash has been adding little-used Julyan Stone from Denver.

Washington Wizards: This is a team on the rise and one that will most likely make the Playoffs this season. Besides adding Otto Porter and Glen Rice Jr. to the mix via the Draft, they got former Jazz point guard Eric Maynor for a song to back-up John Wall. Maynor, when healthy, can provide nice play off the bench. They re-signed Garrett Temple and Martell Webster. as well. Webster was a big help last season with his shooting. They paid the mid-level exception, which was a lot more money than I was predicting. Whatever the case may be, they are going into “postseason or bust” mode in DC.

Stay tuned for a recap of the Western Conference.

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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Jazz Signal Offseason Plan with Trade Acquiring Jefferson, Biedrins, Rush, and Picks from GSW http://saltcityhoops.com/jazz-signal-offseason-plan-with-trade-acquiring-jefferson-biedrins-rush-and-picks-from-gsw/ http://saltcityhoops.com/jazz-signal-offseason-plan-with-trade-acquiring-jefferson-biedrins-rush-and-picks-from-gsw/#comments Sat, 06 Jul 2013 01:03:35 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=6905 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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biedrins-rush-jefferson

In a slowly announced trade Friday, the Jazz revealed part of their blueprint by taking on the contracts of Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins, Brandon Rush from the Golden State Warriors. The move frees up cap space for the Warriors to pursue Andre Iguodala. The Jazz also received Golden State’s 2014 and 2017 first round picks, both unprotected, as well as multiple second round picks. In return, the Jazz gave up Kevin Murphy to the Warriors.

I’m not sure there’s ever been a deal in which it was more clear that money is the driving factor in NBA trades. The Jazz are receiving 3 players (including 2 former stars in Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins) and at least 4 draft picks (including 2 unprotected firsts) in exchange for a second round pick with an unguaranteed contract (Murphy) who scored a total of 15 points last season. In terms of words used and names named, this deal seems really one-sided.

But, no, Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins have devolved into complete shells of their former selves. Both hardly played in Golden State last season, and the skills that made them intriguing are gone. Brandon Rush has had just 1 good season, 2 years ago, but will be recovering from a ACL tear that he suffered in 2012-13’s second game. On the other hand, their underwhelming games are outrageously compensated: Jefferson will make over 11 million dollars for his efforts next season, and Biedrins will ply his 7.7 PER skills for $9 million. Overall, however, the Jazz will have to pay over $20 million in salary for next season for those two players.

That’s not the end of the costs, however. In order to create the cap room for these contracts to make the trade legal by the collective bargaining agreement, the Jazz had to renounce some of their cap holds, the temporary placeholders that prevent teams from cheating salary cap rules. In particular, the Jazz had to renounce all but $6 million of their cap holds, meaning that Utah can no longer use Bird rights on Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Mo Williams, or Greg Ostertag. Al Jefferson was a known loss, after signing an expensive deal with Charlotte on Thursday, and Greg Ostertag is no longer relevant, but Millsap and Williams cannot be re-signed for anything more than the roughly $6 million dollars in cap space the Jazz have remaining. That might be in Williams’ salary range, but Millsap will surely go for a higher dollar amount. Millsap has spent 7 seasons with the franchise, and is nearly universally beloved by Jazz fans. Both his numbers (which were impressive, especially looking at some advanced stats) and his character were exemplary, and whichever team picks him up will be lucky to have him.

Finally, the deal also postpones the Jazz’s much-vaunted flexibility for another season. This means that the Jazz are officially out of the race for any big name free agents, as their cap space simply won’t allow signing anyone with a large salary. Even Kyle Korver’s deal of 4 years, $24 million would likely be too much for the Jazz to afford with this move. Furthermore, this is it for these sorts of trades: the Jazz can’t take on much more salary in return for assets until next summer, when these deals — along with Marvin Williams’ $7.5 million contract — come off the books. The Jazz had refused many trades in order to preserve this summer’s flexibility and they used that bullet on today’s trade. They do not get it back until next year.

This is all to say: the costs of this move are rather great for Utah. What they receive in return, then, also has to be great. Jefferson and Biedrins are not that, so the outcome of this deal balances on Brandon Rush and how the picks turn out.

Let’s start with Rush. Rush was drafted out of the league when he was already 22 with the 13th pick by Indiana. The Pacers expected someone to play right away, but were ultimately disappointed with his play, playing nearly 30 MPG and putting up under 10 PER over his three seasons before being traded to Golden State in the Jarrett Jack deal. In Golden State, however, he took far fewer mid-range shots, and focused on taking shots at the rim and making 45% of his threes. Rush was also pretty good defensively, acting as GSW’s primary backcourt defender and holding opponents to a 13.1 PER against, according to 82games. If he plays like 2011-12, he’s exactly the kind of 3&D wing player that you absolutely need to succeed in today’s NBA, and his acquisition is a good one. However, his contract is only for this upcoming year, making it less clear that he will help the next good Jazz team. He also doesn’t have more upside beyond what he displayed 2 years ago, as he turns 28 on Sunday, and he may take away minutes from the younger Burks and Hayward. The best case scenario here may be that Rush spends the first half of the season showing that he’s recovered from the ACL tear and still has lots of value as a excellent role player, at which point he’s traded to a contending team willing to give up even more value, perhaps yet another 2014 first rounder.

The picks are much more difficult to place an exact value on. Utah received the 2014 and 2017 1st round picks of GSW unprotected and two yet-to-be-announced second rounders (my guess: GSW’s 2015 and 2016 2nd round picks). The 2014 1st round pick is really the only one we can analyze, given our limited information. If you assume Golden State would earn about the 21st pick again (a fair assumption on the aggregate: I think it’s likely the Warriors are better this season than last, but also think that it’s likely they’re not so lucky with injuries given their roster), and using this research from basketball-reference, the 21st pick is likely to give about 7.3 Win Shares over the initial, salary protected, portion of their career. Given an estimated value of $1.7 million per win (which is the result of dividing total NBA salary by total NBA wins), the 21st pick is worth about 12.4 million dollars. Given that the 21st pick is paid roughly $5 million over the course of their first 4 years, you end up with a $7 million dollar surplus value. Not bad. Given the talent of the 2014 draft, I think it’s also fair to bump that number by a few notches, completely unscientifically, to about $10 million.

The 2017 pick is nearly impossible to analyze, there’s just too much noise in the system. The Warriors have only Steph Curry under contract for that season. We also have no idea about the current 9th graders likely to be involved in that draft. There may be another lockout or strike, as either side can opt out of the CBA after the 2016-17 season. Pegging it at roughly the same value of the 2014 pick seems fair, but with such huge levels of variance that the guess is ultimately meaningless. Without knowledge of what 2nd rounders the Jazz received, those too are impossible to analyze, even more so than the typical boom-or-likely-bust scenario that 2nd round picks usually represent.

Still, you can make a case for the deal as roughly fair for both sides: the Jazz get picks that probably have a cumulative value in the low 8 figures and an above-neutral asset in Brandon Rush, in return for the responsibility of paying Jefferson and Biedrins $20 million dollars combined in a year in which the opportunity cost is relatively low. Given that neither team fleeced the other in terms of value, the trade had much more to do with enacting Dennis Lindsey’s future plan for the Utah Jazz.

In particular, because the flexibility is gone, this trade largely locks in the 12 players currently under contract for the 2013-14 season. Any other future moves done by the Jazz will be done around the fringes: adding a DeMarre Carroll here, a backup point guard there. The roster is talented (probably too talented to be in the bottom 5 of the lottery next season), but very young, and doesn’t look like it’s in a position for contending for a playoff spot in the Western Conference unless 2 or 3 of Favors, Hayward, Kanter, Burks, or Burke massively surprise. The team is moving to its youth, as most Jazz fans wanted all along, but the trade makes next season likely to be a sub-.500 one.

But the future beyond that is bright. The season should allow the young quintet a chance to develop, and the two picks in 2014’s legendary draft should help add talent to further a young core. The team will have roughly $35 million in salary cap room, which can be used on the extensions of Hayward and Favors, plus perhaps adding a marquee free agent. The next contending Jazz team could come as early as 2014-15. Make no mistake: the rebuild is underway.

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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Condensed Season? No Problem http://saltcityhoops.com/condensed-season-no-problem/ http://saltcityhoops.com/condensed-season-no-problem/#comments Thu, 26 Jan 2012 18:19:28 +0000 http://www.saltcityhoops.com/?p=4606 Author information
Jeff Lind
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Note from the Editor: Spencer Horner joins Salt City Hoops to chat condensed season and this young Utah Jazz team.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

Last fall, I told my wife that an NBA season was the only present I wanted this Christmas. I got my wish. However, the season has arrived with basketball’s top minds predicting it to be one of the sloppiest in NBA history. With only a few days of training camp and a shortened preseason, teams haven’t had much time to gel and players are in their worst shape ever.

The jam packed 66 game schedule hasn’t helped much either. Teams are playing 4 or 5 games a week, which means less time for practice, player development, and team strategy. This also means less time for injury recovery, meaning more banged up veterans. Injuries are going to mount up and NBA Darwinism is going to favor the young, and athletic.

As the Jazz have started a playoff worthy season, it struck me that this team is built for lockout season success. First, they are younger than ever at an average age of 26. But more importantly, the Jazz’s roster is deeper than ever.

Tyrone Corbin has the team on a consistent 10 man rotation, keeping lineups fresh with frequent substitutions. Al Jefferson has anchored the team as the highest scoring center in the West with 18.3 ppg. But on any given night, Millsap and Favors are also capable of posting consistent double-doubles. Coach has now worked rookie Alec Burks into the every game corps of Jazz wings including Bell, Hayward, Miles, and Howard. Don’t leave Earl out either. Watson has been awarded bigger minutes, providing a consistent floor general for the Jazz’s second unit. In recent weeks, coach has had Watson and Harris on an equal split.

This young and athletic lineup will allow Coach Corbin to outrun opponents over the course of a game, hopefully, leading to easier points in transition. Their roster depth will also continue to mitigate the risk of injury throughout the brutal condensed schedule. There have been games this season where 5 or more players have offered double digit points. If a player goes down or has a bad day, another can fill in the gaps. This year’s Jazz are a team of talented role players that can have each other’s back night after night.

On a defensive note, I almost did a full Hollywood spit-take when I heard that the Jazz were leading the NBA in blocked shots earlier this season. I don’t think I can remember the last time I heard that statistic being associated with the team. Now, at the close of last week, the Jazz were top 10 in Blocks, and Forced Turnovers. I’m not saying we should hang a “We are Swat Lake City” banner or rename the stadium “Defensive Solutions Arena,” but it’s obvious that the Jazz are playing some great team defense.

I’m excited. The Jazz are coming together as team and chemistry is developing. They are devoted to defense, and playing unselfishly. Add that up and they have the potential to be one of the most athletic and talented teams in Jazz history.

But the Jazz’s biggest tests are yet to come. They’ve had their fair share of and haven’t proven themselves against major contenders yet. We’ll see how fit they are for this unique season

Follow Spencer on Twitter!

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Jeff Lind
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What’s Next for Paul Millsap? http://saltcityhoops.com/whats-next-for-paul-millsap/ http://saltcityhoops.com/whats-next-for-paul-millsap/#comments Fri, 08 Apr 2011 15:40:51 +0000 http://www.saltcityhoops.com/?p=3885 Author information
Jeff Lind
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Michael Brandy, Deseret News

[Editor's note: With the recent acquisition of D. Favors, the Jazz are suddenly flush with big men. Guest writer Nick Smith asks where Paul Millsap fits into the rebuilding Utah Jazz... or if he fits in at all.]

In 2006, the Jazz took a second round gamble with their 47th pick and selected an undersized PF in Paul Millsap.  Millsap had been, for the third consecutive year, the nation’s leading rebounder, but outside of his rebounding skills and high motor, Millsap came into the league with much to work on.  However, in his 5 years with the Jazz, Millsap has done everything the organization has asked him to do and has been a complete pro.  Paul made strides in his game every single year and has become one of the more offensively skilled bigs in the NBA.  He possesses great guard skills, a nose for the ball, and has a Kevin-Garnett-smooth jumper that he can hit from virtually anywhere on the floor.  But there is one thing Paul Millsap does not have and that’s size.  You can’t stop the heart of a lion, but you can stop a power forward who stands only 6 feet 7 inches tall.

Millsap waited patiently for Carlos Boozer’s departure for his chance to be a starter, and this year he got that chance.  Paul has missed only 6 games all year, and has played extremely hard. Still, evaluating the quality of this season for Paul is very difficult.  Was this actually a good year for Millsap? Looking at the stats, this season looks like a staggering success. By most measures he had the type of production that nearly all teams hope for from their starting power forward.  In 72 games, Paul averaged 34.3 MPG, 17.4 PPG, 7.7 RPG, and 2.4 APG while shooting a very effective 53.1% from the field 33.3% from three.  Still, Millsap’s lack of size was exposed on a nightly basis (see Demarcus Cousins’ performance from Sunday), and despite his significant increase in minutes, Paul still needs 5 additional offensive rebounds in Utah’s last three games to avoid his all-time career season low for that statistic. That’s a stunning fact for a man who’s mantra has always been to out-work anyone who stepped inside the paint.

Considering that Paul has been playing against the biggest and the best big men in the NBA, he has done a nice job (especially when you remember the lack of help from forever-ailing Mehmet Okur), but on February 23rd everything changed for the Jazz. Jazz General Manager Kevin O’Connor shocked the NBA by silently pulling the trigger and dealing one of the league’s premier point guards from the Jazz and changing the entire face of the roster.  O’Connor and the rest of the Jazz brass decided that they would not let their best player walk for no return. The Jazz had a generalist “big man” in Paul Millsap but with Williams departure, they suddenly had a specialist power forward in Derrick Favors. Standing at a legit 6’10 with a wingspan and vertical leap that puts even Bill Walton at a loss for words, Derrick Favors became the future of this organization.  Just a few nights ago he stood toe to toe with the length of the Lakers, and for the first time in years, the Jazz could challenge LA in the paint.  So, if Derrick is the future for this team, what do the Jazz do with Paul Millsap? That’s the (multi)million dollar question.

It’s no secret that the Jazz have already realized they have a logjam.  The team has started talking about and playing Millsap at the small forward position.  This seems to be a perfect scenario to make room for Derrick Favors while keeping Millsap’s production on the floor, but sorry Jazz fans, I just don’t see it happening.  When I think of a small forward, I think of a shooter with range, a quick release on his shot, and an ability to beat other guards off the dribble.  When I think of Paul Millsap’s game, I don’t think of any of these things.  Why spend time trying to fit a round peg into a square hole if there are other options for Paul? Here are the options that face the Jazz:

Option 1: Express to Millsap that he is a leader of the team and the intangibles he brings are greatly needed, but he needs to go back to coming off of the bench.  The Jazz need Millsap to be the third big, the Lamar Odom, the guy who comes in and dominates against other teams’ bench players inside the paint lines like he used to.  Paul Millsap is an average starting power forward in this league, but he is one of the best, if not the best third big man in the NBA.

Option 2: If Millsap is not pleased with option one, the Jazz owe it to him to move him to a place where he will get what he wants.  His trade value has never been higher and the Jazz could use this value to address other issues on their roster by building a deal centered on Millsap.  Millsap, coupled with one or two of the many draft picks and young players the Jazz have, would likely be enough to reel in a dynamic wing player that the Jazz desperately need.  Imagine a frontline of Al Jefferson and Derrick Favors that is complemented with a tantalizing wing player like Danny Granger, Andre Igoudala, or  Jamal Crawford.  Utah could then use one of their remaining future picks for a guy like Kenneth Faried or Tristan Thompson to replace (I hate that word) Millsap’s rebounding and energy in the paint to become the new third big.  And for the really optimistic Jazz fan, one could even make an argument that between Memo’s return and the Jazz’s rights to the 7’2 Croatian Ante Tomic, the Jazz could have a high supply of serviceable bigs, even without Paul.

Paul Millsap embodies everything that’s good about the NBA. Off the court he’s a class act, and on the court he’s very tough, plays through injuries, and leaves it all on the table every night. Even though Coach Sloan isn’t with the team anymore, I still love to use the following term when describing players like Millsap; he’s a Jerry Sloan type guy.  It’s no secret why the fans love him, why the organization loves him, and why the only Jazz jersey I own is #24.  Hopefully the Jazz can manage this issue with a simple rotation change, but depending on how well that goes over with Paul, I’m here to warn you Jazz fans: Millsap’s days here in Utah may be numbered.

Let us know what you think in the comments, and follow Nick on Twitter!

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Jeff Lind
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Morning After Drill: Everything is Everything http://saltcityhoops.com/morning-after-drill-everything-is-everything/ http://saltcityhoops.com/morning-after-drill-everything-is-everything/#comments Sat, 05 Feb 2011 16:25:19 +0000 http://www.saltcityhoops.com/?p=3530 Author information
Jeff Lind
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Wow. I almost forgot what it felt like to go into a good team’s house and win. Turns out it feels pretty amazing. Here are a few thoughts after last night’s game.

  • I like aggressive Deron. Seeing him push the ball up the court and keep the offense running seemed like a major lift. The rest of the team responded well and played harder on defense, cut faster on offense, and just played all around more aggressively. It seems more and more clear… as Deron go, the Jazz go.
  • The Jazz actually played defense. Yes, they fouled early and often, but I’d rather see aggressive defense out of the gate that results in fouls than no defense. That aggressive D turned into smart D though, and the Jazz ended up with some pretty key stops down the stretch that helped them maintain their lead. I was pretty impressed with the rotations, and hustle from everyone.
  • The Jazz felt like they were in control throughout that game. No come from behind antics. No heaves at the end of a wasted shot clock. They felt powerful, and they won every quarter but the first (and they only lost the first quarter by one point).
  • How awesome was it to see Deron go after JR Smith after his flagrant 2 on Bell? For such a moody guy, you rarely see that kind of emotion from Deron on the court. No hesitation, no wondering what the league would do… Williams saw his guy go down hard, and he went after Smith for it. I love the leadership he showed at that point, and throughout the night.
  • Jefferson was a beast last night. A BEAST. 28 points (12/20), 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Wow. He had some tough shots too… fall away jumpers, double teams, and face-up jump shots over defenders. Jefferson also played hard on defense, had a key block against Anthony, and took a few nasty charges. Pretty cool to see.
  • It was great to watch the Jazz shoot well from the free throw line (17/18). Refreshing.
  • The players complemented each other. Don’t know if it was AK being out, CJ being on, or Evans being up, but they were feeling it together.
  • Tough night for Hayward. He was a foul away from everybody and had absolutely no shot. I mean, you have to give the guy a bit of a break since he was playing against Anthony, but he REALLY looked out of his league.
  • Speaking of Anthony, that was the quietest 31 points I’ve seen in a long time. I was pretty shocked when I saw the final box score. Melo seemed like he was getting blocked, or forced into a tough jumper every time down the floor.
  • Raja. Where have you been?

Great night… it feels like good things are on their way for the Jazz. Tonight’s another big test, and it’ll be interesting to see how the team responds to last night’s solid play.

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Jeff Lind
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10 Things I Know Almost Half Way Through… http://saltcityhoops.com/10-things-i-know-almost-half-way-through/ http://saltcityhoops.com/10-things-i-know-almost-half-way-through/#comments Wed, 12 Jan 2011 17:22:10 +0000 http://www.saltcityhoops.com/?p=3290 Author information
Jeff Lind
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The House that Larry Built

  1. With each passing week, the concept of Super Team is looking rosier and rosier. Fans throughout Utah’s base panicked this summer after hearing all about the superfriend’s super alliance. There was a certain contingent that felt if the Heat’s team worked well, guys like Deron Williams and Chris Paul would run from small markets to form their own super groups with other “elite” players. Well, we’re almost half way in, and the Super Team concept has proven to be anything but failure. Sure, they struggled out of the gate losing 8 of their first 22, but since then…. look out. The Miami Heat have now won 9 of their last 10 (Dallas), and 21 of their last 22! I don’t know what Deron thinks when he sees that team, but it makes me nervous. It’ll be VERY interesting to see how they do in the playoffs.
  2. Blake Griffin is the real deal. Have you seen that guy dunk (dumb question since if you’re reading this blog, you probably like basketball, and if you’ve ever even expressed an interest in basketball, then you’ve inevitably been forwarded one of his highlights)? The guy can jump out of the gym, and throw down harder than almost any player I’ve ever seen. I’ve actually found myself flipping over to Clippers games JUST to see what he may do next. Before this season, I’d never flipped to a Clipper game for ANYTHING let alone to see quality basketball. I’m very interested to see how he’ll do in the dunk contest. Blake’s strength seems to be in-game dunking, and it will be fascinating to see him try to build the same type of momentum when he’s not competing head to head with someone.
  3. This whole slow start issue is a weird problem to have. It’s common enough in the league, but most teams that have the issue don’t have a winning record. Those teams start slow, claw back, and eventually collapse. The Jazz, on the other hand, have exceptionally slow starts, but then follow them with mind bending second halves. So in one game you see a team go from the lottery, to top 3 in the west in a 48 minute time frame. Why can’t they bring the intensity of the fourth quarter to the first? From my seat they look lazy out of the gate (I’m looking at you Deron). The team seems to settle for A LOT of ill advised jumpers, while giving a horrendous perimeter defensive effort on the other end. When they play bad teams, it doesn’t really matter, but when they’re up against good perimeter shooters, it can get devastating FAST (read: Dallas). Forget the trade talk, get defensive stoppers out there early and put a hand in shooter’s faces on the perimeter (Hayward?). I think that solves the problem. Either way, I think this is a better problem to have than some, and one that can be fixed with mid-season discipline. I’d rather have a slow start problem, than a “lack of talent” problem, or a “can’t finish in crunch time” problem.
  4. The Lakers aren’t invincible. In their last 10 games they are 6-4, they have been inconsistent at times, and Kobe doesn’t seem to be as lethal as he has in previous years. Don’t get me wrong… they’re still A team to beat, but that Everest doesn’t look quite as insurmountable as it did a couple months ago… especially if Kobe really is dialing down his practice time with the team (and/or has bone on bone issues in his knee, as reported).
  5. The Jazz bench is key to success. I’m not ready to pin it on one guy (like CJ Miles, Earl Watson, or Fes), but collectively they have been the spark plug for the Jazz. Guys like Ronnie Price have fearlessly stepped up to better known, more established vets and shown them that every player is in the NBA for a reason. I love the chemistry of the second unit, and the desire to win. It’s no secret that they’ve saved the Jazz on multiple occasions from these pitiful, slow starts.
  6. I’m really, really liking Fes… as a player. He needs some good minutes in the second half of the year, because the Jazz will need him come playoff time. He had some good moments last year in the playoff’s, but he needs to gain Sloan’s full trust. Don’t underestimate the importance of having a good Memo and a serviceable Fes in any 7 game series vs. the Lakers or Spurs.
  7. I’d rather have a pouty Deron Williams leading my team than a giant-knee-brace-clad Chris Paul. Two things stir up ESPN’s Daily Dime chats more than any other topic: 1) who is the better point guard: CP3, or DWill, and 2) what tastes better on ice cream: chocolate or bacon. For now, the overriding opinion is that Paul is better despite H2H matchups, and durability (I’m called an apologist EVERY time I bring either of those things up). People love CP’s efficiency, and his pizzazz. Time will tell, but my stance will continually favor long term durability and very good efficiency over amazing efficiency over a few shortened seasons.
  8. Can we just collectively decide to rename the Coach of the Year award to the Jerry Sloan Coach of the Year award? Forget giving him the stupid thing, he has become the award. I mean, seriously NBA… this has become one of the biggest, longest running jokes. If we’re not going to change the name, then give him the freaking award while it still means something… the longer you wait, the more it’s going to look like Scorsese’s Best Director for “The Departed.”
  9. The Jazz gelled pretty fast, but they’ve had some rocky moments lately. They’re at a tipping point right now. They need Memo to get back, and play like we know he is capable of. If he does, and can stay healthy, then I think the Jazz have a legitimate shot at a deep run in the playoffs (as currently constituted). With Memo, the Jazz get deeper at the center and PF position, get a scorer who can put the hurt on opposing defenses in a hurry, a bigger spread on the offensive side of the ball (leaving Jefferson and Millsap space to destroy the paint), and add height.
  10. The Spurs are scarier than the Lakers right now. While the idea of facing EITHER in the playoffs is pretty scary, the Spurs have taken things to a new level, and are actually competing as a complete unit. They have discipline, heart, and all the pieces in place to win now. The Lakers are good, but currently they live and die by two or three key players (Kobe, Pau, and Odom). I look down the road, and I forsee more problems for the defending champs then I do for San Antonio.
  11. Oh… and Millsap is ridiculous (one for good measure). He should touch the ball 805 times per game.

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Jeff Lind
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