Salt City Hoops » Triple Teams 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 » Triple Teams http://saltcityhoops.com/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://saltcityhoops.com/category/triple-teams/ The Triple Team: Three Thoughts on Jazz vs. Nuggets Summer League Game 3 http://saltcityhoops.com/the-triple-team-three-thoughts-on-jazz-vs-nuggets-summer-league-game-3/ http://saltcityhoops.com/the-triple-team-three-thoughts-on-jazz-vs-nuggets-summer-league-game-3/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 09:04:05 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=12267 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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Rodney Hood isn't even mentioned in this post, but this is a great photo. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Rodney Hood isn’t even mentioned in this post, but this is a great photo. (AP Photo/John Locher)

1. The Jazz won this game with defense.

After impressing local and national observers alike on Monday night with their stellar offensive performance, tonight the Jazz won via their defensive play. The Nuggets were held to just 31.5% shooting for the night, including 3-27 from beyond the arc.

It wasn’t just the D-League level players that the Jazz shut down; impressively, it was the NBA guys who have heretofore been impressive in summer league. Quincy Miller played in 52 games for the Nuggets last year and was one of summer league’s most efficient players through two games; in game 3, he finished 3-17. Likewise, Gary Harris had 33 points in his first summer league game, he shot 6-20 tonight.

That being said, it was really the second unit of the Jazz that had the most success defensively. The first unit struggled without Rudy Gobert cleaning up their mistakes as he did so effectively in game 2, and allowed 24 Nuggets points in the 1st quarter. It was the second quarter lineup featuring the Jazz’s lesser known players (and, to be fair, the Nuggets’) that did the initial defensive damage, limiting the opposition to just 7 2nd quarter points.

Trey Burke said it was about energy, a sensical excuse after the starting lineup played relatively heavy minutes in a game less than 24 hours earlier. “They were just outplaying us at the beginning of the game, and I kinda got on the guys about our energy.” Trey’s influence seemed to work, and it’s kind of exciting to see those leadership skills take effect in a drastic way.

2. That being said, summer league probably isn’t the best fit for Trey Burke.

We all analyzed and over-analyzed Trey Burke’s struggles in last year’s summer league, when he shot abysmally and didn’t wildly impress as a point guard. While today was his best game in this year’s summer league, Trey is averaging just 32% shooting from the field this summer thus far, and has even averaged 2.7 turnovers while averaging 26 minutes per game. Compare that to last regular season, in which was a 38% shooter and averaged 1.9 TO/g in 32 minutes. Does Burke’s game fit the regular season better than summer league?

I asked Burke that same question, and he responded

“I mean, I don’t know. I think summer league is kinda, you know, it’s not as structured as the regular season. In the regular season I’m a little more comfortable, if that’s what you’re asking me. Out here, it’s kinda like, I wouldn’t say it’s like an open gym, but it’s kinda different because everyone is playing so hard, like they’re playing 100 miles per hour. It’s not as relaxed as a regular season game. So for me I’m just trying to make the right decisions, not try to do too much, but for me, it’s all about winning out here. I wanna win. So I think that’s what I’m trying to do out there in the summer league.”

While I’d normally edit that quote down a little bit, Trey seemed more uncomfortable answering that question than at any other point during the press huddle. You can tell that he doesn’t like the idea that this style of game isn’t something he can eventually conquer; he feels that he needs to in order to satisfy his competitive spirit in order to vanquish last summer’s shortcomings. But he’s also a smart kid: at this point, he realizes his NBA strength is his skill in being a floor general, not being a Russell Westbrook-style master of chaos. These two conflict, and in the end, he’s able to answer the question by returning to a cliche, “it’s all about winning out there”.

Winning, of course, is approximately the 6th most important thing about summer league. It’s nice that the Jazz won tonight’s game, and with Trey’s help, but it may be best for his confidence if this is the last summer league he ever plays in.

3. We’ve learned some things about the non-guaranteed contract players as well.

Ian Clark, Malcolm Thomas, and Erik Murphy are the three players with non-guaranteed NBA contracts on the summer league roster, and all three have gotten considerable playing time as they fight to stay on that roster through next season. We’ll probably have a more in-depth look at these three, along with John Lucas III, later in the summer, but tonight’s game was perhaps representative of their efforts thus far for the Jazz.

Ian Clark had his best game in a Jazz summer league jersey tonight. While he hasn’t lived up to his MVP performance of last year’s summer league, Quin Snyder specifically singled him out in his interview tonight as the player who got the Jazz going after a slow start. He’s tried to do too much at times, but is showing off his nice shooting touch (60% from 3 overall) and an ability to fight through screens defensively. He has the harshest contract, becoming fully guaranteed in 2 weeks on August 1st, but the Jazz are in higher need of a wing than a big. He probably is the most likely to stay.

Malcolm Thomas has had a good showing overall, but especially in game 3 as he was perhaps the best player on the floor. Thomas shot 7-11 against Denver, recording 10 rebounds and getting 2 blocks. He’s shown good versatility by both fighting deep inside the paint and an ability to shoot from all over the floor. He’s also looked reasonably quick defensively, though he is vulnerable to wider and stronger big men. His contract is fully unguaranteed with no guarantee date, which probably means he makes it to training camp at least.

Erik Murphy also played well tonight, but has underwhelmed overall. He’s shooting just 33% over the course of three games, and he’s not hitting from outside (1-7 thus far). His release looks slow. On defense, he’s been blown by from the perimeter, and doesn’t really do anything special down low. He makes $100,000 if the Jazz don’t release him by August 1st. He’s probably an underdog to make it past that date, unless he significantly steps it up in the next 2-3 summer league games.

Overall, with Hood, Novak, Booker, and Evans on the roster with guaranteed contracts, none of these three players have irreplaceable skills that would make them especially damaging to cut. Clark probably has the best combination of youth and usefulness, while Thomas is probably the best of them right now. It will be interesting to watch how the contract battles play out.

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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The Triple Team: Three Thoughts on Jazz v. Bucks Summer League Game 2 http://saltcityhoops.com/the-triple-team-three-thoughts-on-jazz-v-bucks-summer-league-game-2/ http://saltcityhoops.com/the-triple-team-three-thoughts-on-jazz-v-bucks-summer-league-game-2/#comments Tue, 15 Jul 2014 05:50:57 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=12241 Author information
Andy Larsen
Andy Larsen
Andy Larsen is the Managing Editor of Salt City Hoops, the ESPN TrueHoop affiliate for the Utah Jazz. He also hosts a radio show and podcast every week on ESPN700 AM in Salt Lake City.
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(Photo by Jack Arent/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Photo by Jack Arent/NBAE via Getty Images)

1. Rudy Gobert!

Normally, I wouldn’t actually start an article simply by exclaiming a player’s name. But what is summer league about if not for outrageous optimism over player performances?

Rudy Gobert was simply fantastic tonight, especially in the first half. In that half, he was easily the most impactful player on the floor: scoring 11 points on 5-5 shooting, garnering 5 rebounds, and rejecting 4 shots in just 11:30 of play. Even better, it came against NBA grade competition: this Bucks team features legitimate NBA players in Jabari Parker, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Nate Wolters.

So is this a new and improved Rudy Gobert? Quin Snyder thinks so. When asked if there’s a difference between Gobert’s play last season (largely watched on tape), and what he’s seen so far this year, Snyder responded: “He’s putting himself in position to make more plays defensively.” Indeed, the shot-blocking ability has never been in question, but it was the positioning that impressed: Gobert could cover a pick and roll, then move quickly to the paint to cover the roll man and/or any action inside. When helping, Gobert moved quickly to the ball, trusting his teammates to pick up his man behind him. It was a strategy that worked well for the Jazz, and honestly erased some defensive mistakes on the perimeter.

Will that improvement translate into minutes during the season? Quin Snyder doesn’t want to say too quickly, but did say “If he plays like that, and defends like that, he’s got an opportunity to improve our team.” That sounds like music to Jazz fans’ ears, many of whom wanted to see more of Gobert as the season progressed. We’ve seen that perhaps the most important player for a team defense is an effective rim protector, and Rudy Gobert could be the man in the middle of the future.

2. Rodney Hood!

Rodney Hood will be the lead of most reporters’ stories tonight, and rightfully so. He was also fantastic, getting a game-high 29 points on ridiculous shooting (11-15 overall, 7-10 from 3) in a complete 180 from Saturday’s game, in which he shot just 1-10 from 3. As Kevin Pelton noted, I think we can conclude he’s a streaky shooter.

Hood noted in the post-game interview that the shots he got tonight were about the same quality as the ones he missed Saturday, but said that the Jazz staff had been working on his form over the past 48 hours, knowing that 1-10 wasn’t good enough: “At practice yesterday, working with coach [Antonio] Lang and Johnnie [Bryant], just getting my shot up quicker. I was getting rapid-fire shots, holding my follow through, jumping straight or forward rather than leaning back. Just simple things.” That shooting difference was worth 18 points for the Jazz, certainly time well spent by the coaching staff.

The thing about both of Hood’s games that impressed me, more than the shooting actually, is that he was able to contribute in secondary ways. 5 assists, 3 rebounds, and 2 steals shows that he can contribute beyond just shooting, which can keep him in games should the shots not be falling. Those secondary skills are the biggest difference between someone like Kyle Korver, who can stay on the floor in nearly all situations, to a limited specialist like Steve Novak or Anthony Morrow. Rodney Hood looks more like the former than the latter, and that’s really encouraging, especially given the models that worried about those same secondary skills.

3. The Jazz’s improved spacing led to ball movement and open looks.

Besides the play of the Jazz’s youth, the teamwork and ball movement displayed tonight also impressed. This was largely due to the spacing on the floor, preventing the defense from recovering once the Jazz were able to gain an advantage (usually on a pick). Check this screenshot out, for example:

The Jazz show an empty post look.

The Jazz show an empty post look.

Trey Burke has the ball, and both Brock Motum and Rudy Gobert are available for Burke to use as screeners. Rodney Hood and Dante Exum are available in either corner for kick out threes, as well as to stay out of the way for the picks up top. Once Burke can gain an advantage, either by going around the screen and penetrating into the paint or by passing to either roll man, the help men on Hood and Exum have to make a choice on whether or not to help the immediate threat in the paint. If they do, Hood and Exum get a wide open corner 3, the most efficient shot in the game. If they don’t, Burke, Motum, or Gobert can use their finishing skills in the paint with little distress. It’s difficult to stop.

We may see the Jazz go with this sort of empty-post look more and more this season, just as Atlanta used it to great success in their playoff series this spring. While it’s not the “Jazz Basketball” of yore, it’s a great look that opposing teams will struggle to deal with.

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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The Triple Team: Three Thoughts on Jazz vs. Sixers Summer League Game 1 http://saltcityhoops.com/the-triple-team-three-thoughts-on-jazz-vs-sixers-summer-league-game-1/ http://saltcityhoops.com/the-triple-team-three-thoughts-on-jazz-vs-sixers-summer-league-game-1/#comments Sun, 13 Jul 2014 05:43:35 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=12224 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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(AP Photo/David Becker)

(AP Photo/David Becker)

1. The Jazz took this game seriously: Burke/Exum/Hood/Thomas/Gobert started the game.

Utah has seven players with an NBA contract on this year’s summer league roster, and tonight the Jazz started 5 of those 7 in what is probably their best possible lineup. Meanwhile, the Sixers held out both Nerlens Noel and K.J. McDaniels . Indeed, they never gave any time to Nick Covington, Chris Roberts, or Jason Washburn.

Instead, the core youth group got the minutes, and largely shined in their time. Each of the starting lineup above played over 25 minutes in a 40 minute game, Ian Clark had 21 minutes. Most notable was Dante Exum, who made talking heads from around the nation explode with glee at each beautiful drive or pass. Trey Burke played relatively well, setting his teammates up for success.  Malcolm Thomas impressed with his game around the basket, he ended up being the Jazz’s leading scorer. Rudy Gobert, while doing poorly at any part of the game that features the word “foul”, impressed by blocking shots and showing offensive skills around the basket (he was the only Jazzman to shoot over 50%). And Rodney Hood, even though he missed nearly all of his shots, shooting 1-10 from 3, still managed to show off developing secondary skills, a trait that will be incredibly helpful as he strives to become more than just a shooter.

And as the game went down to the wire, the thousands of Jazz fans who traveled to Las Vegas took the game seriously too: Defense chants rang out in the Jazz’s final meaningful defensive possession, and the crowd lustily booed the incorrect block call called against their team. All in all, it felt a lot like a meaningful game for the youth of the Jazz.

2. Despite the positives, the Jazz had a horrific shooting night.

It may have been first game nerves, or infamiliarity with a new arena, or simply bad luck. But the Jazz went just 3-30 from three during the game in a contest in which 4 makes could have sufficed to get Utah the win. Everyone struggled: we know Hood, Murphy, Thomas, and Clark are good NBA 3 point shooters (and the others are at least capable), but those 4 made just 1-16 from three.

That being said, no one was concerned about the results. Coach Quin Snyder said he was actually pleased with the shots the Jazz were getting, they just didn’t go in for whatever reason. Trey Burke felt the same. Rodney Hood seemed more upset about the shooting performance, probably logically after missing 9 threes on the night, and kept returning to that as the overarching theme in his performance, even when I asked him about his excellent rebounding.

The good news is that it’s summer league: the actual results matter very little. Far more important is the process and execution that the Jazz display, and Snyder and company will be happy with their squad if they’re able to get that many open three point looks during the season itself. After all, a 10% performance like tonight’s is bound to be improved upon.

3. The Jazz are the new darlings of the NBA blogosphere.

Okay, they might not be everybody’s favorite league pass team. But there was legitimate excitement amongst “blogger row” for what Utah was building, for the first time in recent memory. The biggest crush of the night was definitely on Dante Exum, who drew rave reviews despite a 4-10 FG, 3 assist performance in 27 minutes. Ethan Strauss, for example:

But the love didn’t stop there. Media also love Rudy Gobert, the Jazz’s lanky center, and his length, hustle, and passion during the game, especially in the 2nd and 3rd quarters. Rodney Hood impressed despite missing jump shots. Even Malcolm Thomas got some love from one prominent blogger, who called him “my favorite player”. It’s an encouraging sign for the franchise, who would benefit greatly from a larger fanbase, both locally and nationally. This week’s open practice showed that the local fans are on board, maybe the Jazz will attract some new fans from around the world this year as well.

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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The Triple Team: Three Thoughts on the Jazz’s Open Summer League Practice http://saltcityhoops.com/the-triple-team-three-thoughts-on-the-jazzs-open-summer-league-practice/ http://saltcityhoops.com/the-triple-team-three-thoughts-on-the-jazzs-open-summer-league-practice/#comments Fri, 11 Jul 2014 03:22:20 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=12186 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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EnergySolutions Arena during tonight's open summer league practice. Fans filled the lower bowl; the Jazz were forced to open the upper bowl to make room for the fans.

EnergySolutions Arena during tonight’s open summer league practice. Fans filled the lower bowl; the Jazz were forced to open the upper bowl to make room for the fans. (Photo courtesy @utahjazz)

1. Wow, Jazz fans are incredible.

Hours before the event began, people began lining up outside the doors of EnergySolutions Arena en masse for the Jazz’s open summer league practice. As the doors opened at 6 PM, 1 hour before the scrimmage, the line lasted around the block to see the new Jazz’s summer league roster.

The beginning of the Jazz line, stretching around the block more than an hour before the Jazz's open summer league practice.

The beginning of the line, stretching around the block more than an hour before the Jazz’s open summer league practice.

Quin Snyder got a loud ovation as he entered the court for the first time, but nothing exceeded the reaction to Dante Exum’s first appearance, a standing ovation that warmly welcomed the new draftee onto the team.

By the time the scrimmage actually began, fans were beginning to head to the upper bowl, with the lower bowl essentially full. All in all, approximately 10,000 fans attended the scrimmage, and absolutely insane turnout for what is, again, just a practice for a summer league roster. People are excited about the new era.

2. Quin Snyder loves to talk Xs and Os.

One of the highlights of the event was Quin Snyder essentially narrating the practice. Before the scrimmage, he explained what was to follow in specialist’s terms, after somewhat deriding emcee Craig Bolerjack’s request to appeal to the common denominator. At each new practice drill, he explained to the audience what they were seeing and what to look for, whether it be a 5-0 offensive set run-through, or a “game day” shooting drill. Then, after each quarter, he explained what he had seen thus far, his highlights and lowlights explained in terms of his overall goals.

Afterwards, he expounded on his narration, saying “It’s interesting to me what a knowledgeable fanbase we have. People here, they know basketball.” The Jazz’s previous coaches never felt comfortable discussing Xs and Os with the media or fans. Specific questions about the team’s system were either derided or bypassed.

Quin, on the other hand, seems to love talking about Xs and Os. He explains them to a crowd of nearly 10,000 without being asked to. He gives expansive answers while talking to the media. He’s written incredibly detailed manifestos on the pick and roll. It’s a welcome change and, honestly, should improve the level of insight we’re able to share with you at Salt City Hoops.

3. The actual scrimmage revealed a few things as well.

The scrimmage itself, consisting of three 8-minute quarters(?) with a running clock, was informative too. Here are a few first impressions:

  • Pace was clearly an emphasis: after every miss, both teams sought to push the tempo and get in advantageous situations in the open court. Usually, this consisted of the ballhandler getting a screen at the top of the arc, then attacking with 3 shooters behind the arc providing spacing and being ready to take the three point jump shot. Playing in flow (i.e., without a set play) after missed shots was clearly a change from last season. Trey Burke agreed, saying that the biggest change in Snyder’s system was “freedom”.
  • Dante Exum looked somewhat nervous and eager to impress. “I was expecting everyone to kind of look at me, not clap for me… It took me a little bit to settle down and start playing my game.” He made the biggest impression on the defensive end, playing solid on-the-ball perimeter defense and using his length to great effect. While he occasionally got lost in help defense, and looked out-of-sorts offensively, Snyder congratulated his performance. He’s still just 18 years old, and looked like it at times during this showing.
  • Rodney Hood looked like the best player on the floor, hitting shots from outside and showing a impressive driving game. He led a White team comeback to give his side the lead after 2 quarters.
  • Snyder chose to put all of the players with an NBA contract for next season on the White team (which won the scrimmage 37-33), with the exception of Ian Clark. Clark played most of his minutes at the point guard position, so had a lot of the ball. He didn’t look out of place, but probably tried to show a little bit too much on the ball.

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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The Triple Team: Three Thoughts on Jazz vs. Lakers 4/14/2014 http://saltcityhoops.com/the-triple-team-three-thoughts-on-jazz-vs-lakers-4142014/ http://saltcityhoops.com/the-triple-team-three-thoughts-on-jazz-vs-lakers-4142014/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 04:56:36 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=11038 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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 (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

1. The Jazz had two big stretches in which they just couldn’t score that cost them the game.

The first was a 19-2 Lakers run at the end of the first half in just 3:40 of game time. Their offensive performance in those minutes, in sequence:

Miss, miss, miss, miss, turnover, make, turnover, miss, turnover, miss, turnover, miss, miss.

This gave the Lakers a 6 point lead going into half, but the Jazz somewhat valiantly fought back in the 3rd quarter to fight back to tie the game. Then, in the opening 7 minutes of the fourth quarter, the Jazz’s offensive sequence went like this:

Miss, turnover, miss, miss, turnover, miss, turnover, miss, FT make, FT miss, miss, miss, miss, miss.

That’s very bad offensive performance in stretches against a terrible defensive team, and it’s absolutely worrying. The first half slide might be the most troublesome, as it happened for the most part against the core group of young players that Jazz fans are so excited about: Burke/Burks/Hayward/Favors/Kanter. It was as if those players had never played together, and while they haven’t played much as a unit this season, they’ve played together in at least large 4-man groups: those are 5 of the 6 players with the most minutes as a team.

Interestingly, beside those stretches, the Jazz shot really well: 65% from the field is really quite good. The difference might be indicative of the Jazz’s biggest offensive problem: they have no one who they can trust with the ball who can get points semi-reliably.

Yes, this game was largely about tank race, and Ty Corbin thought it affected the players on the floor, saying “We gave into the talk tonight, but we can’t concede to what others say.” It was a worrying game for the state of the team as currently constructed, pre-draft pick.

2. But! The loss sure does help the Jazz with lottery odds.

The loss assures them of, at worst, a tie for 4th going into the NBA’s draft lottery on May 20th. If the Jazz had won tonight, they could have fallen to as low as the 6th spot. This is a big deal: most observers think that this draft contains a very excellent group of 5 players.

While the odds of getting the top pick in the NBA draft are not incredibly different between the 4th and 6th slots (11.9% to 6.3%) the odds of getting a top 5 pick are extremely different: the chances of getting a top 5 pick are 82.8% for the 4th slot, and just 21.5% for the 6th slot.

It’s a real quandary, though: the current players looked really terrible at times tonight. They looked to have even regressed from game 1 of the season, in which they lost by only 3 in a fight with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Was the pick worth it? We’ll probably find out on May 20th.

3. Ty Corbin was introspective tonight.

This was probably the most deflated I’ve ever seen Ty Corbin this season: he, quite frankly, looked like a man out of answers. He’s tried the new starting lineup, using the youth all together as a unit, and it hasn’t really worked. A loss against the Lakers, as they’re currently constructed, is embarrassing. The most telling exchange was probably this one, at the end of the post-game press conference:

Tony Parks: “As a coach, what do you want to take from this year, specifically, as you go forward?”

Corbin: “I don’t know if that’s a good question right now. It’s a question to be asked, it’s a question I have to ask myself, it’s a question I have to accept, figure out where I go from here, for me. It’s been an interesting year. I have a lot of evaluating to do that I want to do for myself, and figure out what’s my next step.”

Corbin has always been strong in his press conferences, staying strong to the “We gotta work hard to get better” mantra. Honestly, it’s a good mantra, and it certainly helps a team to see strength and resilience in its leader. But tonight was the first time Corbin’s been open about his uncertain future, and he didn’t seem particularly optimistic.

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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The Triple Team: Three Thoughts on Jazz vs. Trailblazers 4/11/2014 http://saltcityhoops.com/the-triple-team-three-thoughts-on-jazz-vs-trailblazers-4112014/ http://saltcityhoops.com/the-triple-team-three-thoughts-on-jazz-vs-trailblazers-4112014/#comments Sat, 12 Apr 2014 05:15:02 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=11028 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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Derrick Favors says he "loves" LaMacrus Aldridge's game. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Derrick Favors says he “loves” LaMarcus Aldridge’s game. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

1. The Jazz unveiled a new starting lineup tonight, and it performed pretty well.
For the first time this season, Richard Jefferson didn’t start. Instead, Corbin chose to start all 5 of the Jazz’s recent lottery picks in a move fans and pundits alike have been calling for all season. So how did it work out? It wasn’t a revelatory success, but the lineup competed quite well against a Portland team the Jazz had significantly struggled with all year.

The lineup played 17 minutes together and was outscored by 1 point. In those 17 minutes, the group shot 46.9% (15-32), including 3-7 from three, accumulated 16 rebounds, garnered 11 assists, and turned the ball over 5 times. Somewhat worryingly, they drew only 3 fouls while committing 11 against Portland. All in all, though, that’s a pretty good performance against a team the Jazz have lost to by a combined 51 points so far this season.

On the positive side, it was nice to see Alec Burks play a career high in minutes. On the negative side, he played a smaller role when he was in the game: Alec actually received only one more touch of the ball in 42 minutes tonight than he did Tuesday against Dallas in 29 minutes.

One downside of the move, though: it weakened the bench. Indeed, all but 12 of the Jazz’s 99 points tonight were scored by players born in the 1990’s. That’s a new story for the Jazz, who have dedicated many of the minutes at the forward positions to Marvin Williams and Richard Jefferson. Corbin refused to say if this starting lineup would finish out the rest of the season, but I would bet that it would: with only three games left, why make a change back? The new lineup did seem to infuse EnergySolutions Arena with a new energy, especially during the 1st quarter when the Jazz went on a run to steal the lead from Portland.

2. Enes Kanter had a really nice game.

Enes Kanter and I have had a fun little back-and-forth this season in the postgame interviews. He’s made it known that he’s reading my Twitter feed (@andyblarsen), and this week, I posted some bad news about him: that he was ranked last in the league in adjusted teammate PPS. That led to this exchange after the game:

Me: “You’ve had a couple of good rebounding games in a row now, is there anything that you’ve been doing different recently?”

Enes: “Just reading Tweets, reading your Tweets.” *I laugh nervously* “You know I’m just being more focused. Coach told me ‘We know you can score, but we want you to be out there getting some defensive rebounds’, so that’s what I’ve focused on the last games, getting those rebounds.”

Me: “But you’re getting the offensive ones too.”

Enes: “Offensive ones, it’s natural. Defense, I’m just trying to work hard.”

Whether it’s me (unlikely) or Coach Corbin (significantly more likely) inspiring Kanter to work hard on the glass, he’s showing big production down there. His rebounding had slipped from his rookie season, so it’s great to see him continue to battle for the boards in multiple ways: he’s both getting his body to where rebounds will land and then doing a fantastic job grabbing them once they come his way.

Kanter’s game tonight also displayed some important skills that will really help that PPS stat above. He had 4 assists tonight, finding open teammates, and nailed his open jump shots, hitting 4 of 6 uncontested looks tonight. If he keeps doing that, he’ll start to productively shift the defense towards him, making things easier for those around him on the floor.

Good on you, Mr. Kanter.

3. Derrick Favors against LaMarcus Aldridge

On my appearance on ABC4’s Real Sports Live last Sunday, host Bill Riley asked me to rate the Jazz young guys on a 1-10 scale. While I didn’t commit to a number for each of the players, I did say that the Jazz’s young core weren’t going to be ranked 9 or 10, in short there are no franchise cornerstones in this group.

SCH reader Aaron, though, had an interesting comparison for the type of player Derrick Favors could become: LaMarcus Aldridge. They are similar sizes and play similar positions, but right now Aldridge has a much more advanced skillset than Favors does. Prompted by Aaron’s response, I asked Favors if Aldridge was someone he looked up to: “Yeah, I love his game. He’s one of those guys, man, you know he can take you outside, take you inside. I love his game. Every time I go against him I just try to play against him as best as I can, and just try to learn something from him.”

It’s cool to see Favors (who still is just 22!) take such a liking to a guy with Aldridge’s skillset. While it will be very difficult to get there, Aldridge’s game provides Favors with a model to improve offensively while still being a rebounding and defensive force. If Favors does develop to be like Aldridge, Dennis Lindsey and company will be very pleased.

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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The Triple Team: Three Thoughts on Jazz vs. Mavs 4/8/2014 http://saltcityhoops.com/the-triple-team-three-thoughts-on-jazz-vs-mavs-482014/ http://saltcityhoops.com/the-triple-team-three-thoughts-on-jazz-vs-mavs-482014/#comments Wed, 09 Apr 2014 05:44:38 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=10970 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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(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

1. Dirk’s own words of what allowed him to make the top 10 of NBA scoring.

The main story of tonight’s game is Dirk Nowitzki’s ascendance into the top 10 of the NBA’s all-time scoring list, and fairly so. It’s an incredible accomplishment, and really reflects just how impactful Dirk has been over his career. It was an occasion for Dirk to be reflective on how he got this far, and he said some really interesting things.

“[It's] amazing. Talking to [Oscar Robertson] is unreal. It’s been a crazy ride, passing Big O, who obviously averaged triple-doubles numerous seasons. It’s unbelievable. It kind of feels surreal, still. Like I always say, that stuff will mean more to me once my career is over, but this is a sweet one. Top 10 is definitely unbelievable.”
“You want to say that you knew from day one what was going to happen, but that would be a lie. My first year was really tough. I stated that numerous times. The lockout year, and I had a concave chest and guys were just pushing me around. I had to get stronger and keep working on my game. I think what helped me in my first year, the end, we were out of the playoffs and Nellie (Don Nelson) kind of threw me back in there and said, ‘Hey, just get better, work on your game.’ I think that was huge for my confidence and then coming back for my second year, I got a little lucky. For us, it was unlucky. But Gary Trent got hurt and then I was really the only four-man we had on the roster and that meant I played like 40 minutes a night. That was a huge step for me confidence-wise and since then, I’ve been just rolling, trying to get better from year-to-year.”

It’s wildly unfair to compare any player to Dirk Nowitzki, indeed, you can say that only 9 players in the history of the NBA do compare. But from a Jazz perspective, it’s interesting to hear him assert that the opportunities he received in his first two years had a large influence on his development to become an all-time great.

The 1998-99 Mavs were out of the playoff contention for the final two months of the lockout season. Dirk Nowitzki was a shooting PF that had made just 36.6% of his FGs and 18.6% of his 3PA in 15 MPG of his first 33 games. This was the sample that Nelson had to work with before deciding to start him for the final 14 games. But Nelson gave Dirk an opportunity. As Dirk says above, “I think that was huge for my confidence.” In the 14 games after Nelson started him, he shot 45% on FGs and a better, but still bad 24% on 3Ps in 33 MPG. He finished the season with a 12.8 PER.

In season two, Nelson started Dirk in 81 of 82 games, playing him 35.8 minutes per night on a team that really didn’t have other PF options. Dirk delivered, though. He became a far better shooter than in the previous season, raising his percentage significantly from inside the arc, outside the arc, and at the line. He finished that season with a 17.6 PER. Again, Dirk says “That was a huge step for me confidence-wise.”

In season three, Dirk made a second leap (though this time largely in rebounding), putting up a 22.8 PER in 38 MPG. After these first three years, he continued to improve throughout his career, but incrementally.

It’s hard for this cold analytics guy to admit, but maybe it’s all about confidence. It’s clear that Dirk made the leaps in his game during the summer, but he points repeatedly to the confidence given to him by the playing time he received early in his career as important in becoming who he is today. Perhaps his confidence, gained with playing time, led him to work harder in the offseason.

As I said earlier, the Jazz young players weren’t ever going to become Dirk. But maybe they could use some confidence leading into a very important summer for their overall development. The Jazz do have some hope: it may turn out the important timeframe to consider when analyzing player development is not seasons, but age. In that case, the Jazz would still be in a good position: Favors, in his fourth year, is younger than Nowitzki was in his third, and Enes is about the same age now as Dirk was in his second year.

2. Jeremy Evans’ artwork was displayed at EnergySolutions Arena. There’s no database containing information regarding a current NBA player’s artwork being shown for public consumption, but I have to believe that Jeremy Evans’ gallery at EnergySolutions Arena was a unique occurrence. Below are some examples of Jeremy’s work shown tonight and elsewhere.

In his first two seasons, Jeremy Evans developed a chemistry with Jazz PG Earl Watson on alley-oops. He commemorated it with this drawing. They're in diapers, for some reason. I wrote a post breaking the whole thing down.

In his first two seasons, Jeremy Evans developed a chemistry with Jazz PG Earl Watson on alley-oops. He commemorated it with this drawing. They’re in diapers, for some reason. I wrote a post breaking the whole thing down.

Evans' portrait of Tupac.

Evans’ portrait of Tupac.

Jeremy holds his portrait of Jerry Sloan, done while Sloan was still coaching Evans and the Jazz.

Jeremy holds his portrait of Jerry Sloan, done while Sloan was still coaching Evans and the Jazz.

Jeremy's sketch of Salt Lake's LDS temple.

Jeremy’s sketch of Salt Lake’s LDS temple.

Jeremy was most proud of this piece, of his new bride. Photo by @DJJazzyJody.

Jeremy was most proud of this piece, of his new bride. Photo by @DJJazzyJody.

Jeremy's self-portrait above, styled art below. Photo by @DJJazzyJody.

Jeremy’s self-portrait above, styled art below. Photo by @DJJazzyJody.

Jeremy’s artwork is really impressive in person: he’s clearly actually good, not just NBA player good. Perhaps most interesting is how his talent stretches across multiple mediums, quite the accomplishment for someone who also has a full-time “getting better at basketball” job.

3. One high note and one low note on Enes Kanter.

I’ll start with the good. Enes Kanter recorded his season-high in rebounds today, garnering 19 total, including 9 valuable offensive rebounds in just 28 minutes of play. SportVu indicates that he had 21 rebound chances tonight , so it’s impressive to see him accumulate over 90% of those opportunities. We’ve talked about Kanter’s declining rebounding earlier this season, so it’s good to see him get back to what was called his “NBA skill” in his rookie year.

On the other hand, there’s some worrying longer-term statistical evidence that Enes Kanter has a negative influence on his team’s offense when in game. Jeremias Englemann, the man behind ESPN.com’s new Real Plus-Minus numbers, recently released a new statistic indicating how much impact a player has on his team’s PPS when in the game. Enes Kanter ranks very last in the entire NBA in this stat with a -3.0. This means his teammates’ PPS goes down by 3 points per 100 possessions when he’s in the game; the Jazz get lower quality shots when Enes is on the floor. This makes intuitive sense: Enes isn’t yet a passer from the post, and doesn’t exactly draw defenses with his long-range shooting. But it’s still worrying to see from a player who right now needs team offense to improve while he’s on the floor, given his defensive production.

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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The Triple Team: Three Thoughts on Jazz vs. Pelicans 4/4/2014 http://saltcityhoops.com/the-triple-team-three-thoughts-on-jazz-vs-pelicans-442014/ http://saltcityhoops.com/the-triple-team-three-thoughts-on-jazz-vs-pelicans-442014/#comments Sat, 05 Apr 2014 05:18:09 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=10941 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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1. The benches determined tonight’s game.

In the second quarter, the Jazz went with an ultra-small Diante Garrett/Ian Clark/Alec Burks/Marvin Williams/Jeremy Evans lineup for 5 minutes and 15 seconds. Perhaps unsurprisingly, that lineup scored just 4 points while it was out. But the Pelicans weren’t really able to make a run because they countered with an Austin Rivers/Anthony Morrow/Al-Farouq Aminu/Luke Babbitt/Alexis Ajinca lineup, which scored just 6 points in the same time.

Fast forward to the 3rd quarter. Anthony Davis didn’t come out for the second half due to back trouble, leading to a lineup of Brian Roberts/Darius Miller/Tyreke Evans/Aminu/Greg Stiemsma. Without Davis, the Pelicans couldn’t defend the paint. In the second quarter, the Jazz didn’t have the personnel to take advantage, but in the third, Derrick Favors was available, leading a 13-2 Jazz run. Favors scored 14 points in the quarter, and lead the Jazz to a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

2. Jazz no. 1 in touches per possession, but what does it mean?

NBA statistician Ed Kupfer posted this earlier in the day. It’s an interesting graph on its own, but for Jazz fans it probably has the most importance because it shows the Jazz as #1, and in a good category!

BkVf92JCEAAtHAj.png large

Jazz coach Ty Corbin was amazed too. His quote: “You found a stat that you like that we’re on top of? And you’re going to mention it? Let’s talk about it! Let’s see what it is!”

It turns out that having a lot of passes tends to mean that your possessions are rather long; you’ll notice the correlation between pace of play and passes right away. Transition plays rarely have more than 2 passes, but obviously half-court sets have more opportunities for ball movement. Corbin pointed out the other reason why there’s only a tenuous connection between passing the ball well and offensive efficiency: because sometimes the passing sets up the plays well, but the shots don’t go in. The Jazz are indeed below-average in hitting open shots. Still, it’s a good sign to see the Jazz haven’t reverted to selfish ball despite the losing.

3. Leapin’ Leaners and Low Tops was this Wednesday. It was pretty fun.

Leapin’ Leaners is the Jazz’s annual charity event on the floor of EnergySolutions Arena. This year was the first year I’ve been able to attend, and it’s a cool opportunity for the wealthy and/or well-connected amongst us to spend some time hanging out with Jazz players. I’ve shared many of these photos on Twitter, but I wanted to include them all here on the blog for you all.

Diante Garrett was interviewed by Spencer, with the help of Alema. Spencer was very interested in Diante's first date.

Diante Garrett was interviewed by Spencer, with the help of Alema. Spencer was very interested in Diante’s first date.

Alec Burks, Richard Jefferson, and Andris Biedrins laugh as Brandon Rush plays NBA 2K with someone.

Alec Burks, Richard Jefferson, and Andris Biedrins laugh as Brandon Rush plays NBA 2K with someone.

Jazz owner Greg Miller watches Derrick Favors play foosball. Favors: "I'm not as good at this game."

Jazz owner Greg Miller watches Derrick Favors play foosball. Favors: “I’m not as good at this game.”

Alec Burks uses his tongue while focusing; in air hockey, basketball, and media interviews.

Alec Burks uses his tongue while focusing; in air hockey, basketball, and media interviews.

Here, with no Jazz player to interview, Jazz TV halftime host Alema Harrington interviews a little girl. Alema: "Did you make your hair like that by braiding it?"

Here, with no Jazz player to interview, Jazz TV halftime host Alema Harrington interviews a little girl. Alema: “Did you make your hair like that by braiding it?”

Alec Burks plays California Speed. He was probably the best of the players at the game. Jeremy Evans was second best.

Alec Burks plays California Speed. He was probably the best of the players at the game. Jeremy Evans was second best.

Andris Biedrins plays ping-pong with someone. Here, Biedrins looks very much like a blonde Dracula.

Andris Biedrins plays ping-pong with someone. Here, Biedrins looks very much like a blonde Dracula.

Brandon Rush intimidates a small child in HORSE

Brandon Rush intimidates a small child in HORSE.

Richard Jefferson wore a tuxedo t-shirt under his actual suit. This gave him a great advantage in all of the shooting contests.

Richard Jefferson wore a tuxedo t-shirt under his actual suit. This gave him a great advantage in all of the shooting contests.

Enes Kanter and Jeremy Evans react to being scored on in foosball by Jazz TV man Steve Brown.

Enes Kanter and Jeremy Evans react to being scored on in foosball by Jazz TV man Steve Brown.

Evans and Kanter return the favor and score themselves.

Evans and Kanter return the favor and score themselves.

Jeremy Evans pinballs alone. Pinball is a fantastic party event.

Jeremy Evans pinballs alone. Pinball is a fantastic party event.

Alec Burks plays ping-pong with Rudy Gobert. Alec was not impressed with Rudy's skills. To a passerby child, he said "You want to play? Cause this guy's terrible!"

Alec Burks plays ping-pong with Rudy Gobert. Alec was not impressed with Rudy’s skills. To a passerby child, he said “You want to play? Cause this guy’s terrible!”

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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The Triple Team: Three Thoughts on Jazz vs. Knicks 3/31/2014 http://saltcityhoops.com/the-triple-team-three-thoughts-on-jazz-vs-knicks-3312014/ http://saltcityhoops.com/the-triple-team-three-thoughts-on-jazz-vs-knicks-3312014/#comments Tue, 01 Apr 2014 05:31:24 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=10889 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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Marvin Williams stared tonight for the Jazz, meaning it was he, not Derrik Favors, who chased Carmelo Anthony around the perimeter. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Marvin Williams stared tonight for the Jazz, meaning it was he, not Derrick Favors, who chased Carmelo Anthony around the perimeter. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

1. Jazz started Marvin Williams tonight against Carmelo Anthony.

I actually like this move. During the Knicks media session, coach Mike Woodson announced that Amare Stoudemire wouldn’t be playing, calling it a “maintenance game” for the aging power forward. This meant that Carmelo Anthony played at PF in his place. Initially, Corbin had said that he would be starting his recent frontcourt pairing of Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, however, once the Knicks went small, the Jazz had to follow.

There are some who would say that the Jazz keep their usual starting lineup and their size advantage down low, but I disagree (at least in this case). Derrick Favors doesn’t have the skills to guard Carmelo on the perimeter; he’s a much more effective defender closer to the basket. If he guarded Carmelo, Favors’ best skill would be largely taken out of the game. Meanwhile, Favors isn’t enough of a bully offensively to use his size advantage down low against Anthony.

I like changing the starting lineup based on opponent: it gives the Jazz a much better chance to stay in the game early, leading to more meaningful minutes throughout the game. When a game’s lost in the game’s first 6 minutes (as Sunday night’s was), the situation’s simply a lost cause for everybody.

It’s worth noting, though, that Marvin Williams wasn’t really effective on either end tonight in his starting role: he scored just 5 points and Anthony, his counterpart, had 34. But Carmelo is a star, and the Jazz didn’t get forced into the sorts of possession-killing rotations that they would have had to make had Favors been guarding Anthony.

Relatedly: the Jazz’s defense wasn’t the problem tonight, it was the offense. That’s semi-obvious based simply on the final score. Based on player skills, you’d hope Kanter would give you more scoring than Williams; he certainly scores more individually. But when comparing the two lineups, Burke/Hayward/Jefferson/Favors/Kanter scores 8.3 fewer points per 100 possessions than Burke/Hayward/Jefferson/Williams/Favors. So Corbin played the lineup with better offensive and defensive performance, which matched up better against his opponent, and got beaten. Oh well, I guess.

2. Jeremy Evans playing time decreased.

In the last 5 games, Jeremy Evans has played just 21 minutes in non-garbage time, a stark decrease from earlier in the season in which he was, at times, the Jazz’s first man off the bench. It’s a little bit of a strange situation, as Corbin chose to play Ian Clark, John Lucas, and Diante Garrett more with Alec Burks in the game rather than shift the lineup in the opposite direction. Initially, I thought the decrease was due to Favors and Kanter starting together, thus moving Marvin Williams to be the backup PF and pushing Evans to 3rd string, but tonight’s near-DNP with the old starting lineup disproves this. I’m not entirely sure what’s going on.

I asked Evans if Corbin had talked to him about the minutes: “A little bit. It’s his decision, and I think it’s the right decision. I’m just waiting until he calls my name.”

When asked if he wasn’t playing due to matchups, he answered “Yeah, pretty much. Some of the guys we played, like tonight, when they have Melo at the 4, you gotta get a perimeter guy like Marv who’s played more at the perimeter in his career. It’ll come with experience.”

Credit to Evans, at least, for being professional about the situation.

3. Corbin’s thoughts on one-and-done

With this year’s NCAA tournament coming up, I asked Jazz coach Ty Corbin about his thoughts on the NBA’s one-and-done rule. New NBA commissioner Adam Silver has made it his first priority to raise the age limit, trying to make kids play in college for a minimum of two years. Corbin’s coached a lot of one-and-dones in his time in Utah, but didn’t think the rule needed to be changed:

“It’s kind of two-fold, I have a son who I would like to experience college, but if I also had a son who was ready for the NBA I would want him to be able to do that. I think there’s a lot of great experiences from going to college and waiting and learning, but I don’t think it’s fair for guys to be available for the job and not have an opportunity to get the job. You never know what could happen… you’d hate to make a kid go back to school and tear a knee up of something and can’t follow his dream. I do think there’s a lot of value in going to school, and enjoying school and learning and growing up, but I wouldn’t like to take the opportunity away from a kid.”

I agree with Corbin. From the NBA’s perspective, I don’t see value in preventing the best players available from playing in the league, the the last few draft classes have shown the value the one-and-dones can immediately have in the NBA. From the player’s perspective, playing in the NBA earlier means getting to their second contract more quickly, allowing for more money. Plus, NBA players get an 82 game, 9 month schedule in which to practice compared to a 4 month, 35 game season. At the NBA level, they learn the professional game, not the slow-down, zone-heavy style of NCAA basketball. To me, it doesn’t make any sense for Silver to be pushing this angle.

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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The Triple Team: Three Thoughts on Jazz vs. Grizzlies 3/26/2014 http://saltcityhoops.com/the-triple-team-three-thoughts-on-jazz-vs-grizzlies-3262014/ http://saltcityhoops.com/the-triple-team-three-thoughts-on-jazz-vs-grizzlies-3262014/#comments Thu, 27 Mar 2014 06:51:48 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=10856 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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The Jazz got several easy baskets to begin the game, including this dunk by Enes Kanter. (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

1. Memphis allowed just 7 points in the last 7 minutes of the game.

That was the difference: the Jazz went into the 4th quarter with a 9 point lead, but Memphis shut them down offensively with just 16 points in the quarter. This wasn’t due to one thing, but a multitude of factors:

  • Probably most important is how the Grizzlies stepped up defensively. We’ve seen this against some really good teams; the Jazz certainly aren’t the only ones who have faltered when the Grizzlies choose to turn up the defensive heat.
  • The Jazz missed some makeable shots. Trey Burke missed a layup, a free throw, and a 17-footer, and Marvin Williams missed a good look from 3. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies made some tough ones. Zach Randolph especially showed his skill with the jumpshot in his ten 4th quarter points.
  • The Jazz may have been a little bit tired. Hayward, especially, hadn’t seen a break since the beginning of the second quarter: he didn’t score, assist, rebound, block, or steal the ball after the 4:56 mark of the 4th quarter. To be fair, he denied that fatigue was an issue when I asked him about it, saying “No, no. They turned it up and we didn’t respond. It had nothing to do with that.” He would know best.

It wasn’t exactly surprising that the Grizzlies made a run, and I don’t think it was youthful inexperience at play here: the Jazz are now 20-5 when they come into the 4th quarter with a lead. But the Jazz were just a little off, missed a few shots, and last year’s Western Conference Finalists implemented their best skill. It happens.

2. Despite the loss, the Jazz played significantly better than Monday night.

The much-discussed effort deficit apparent Monday night was improved upon tonight. This was especially true defensively: Derrick Favors started the game with a big effort, getting 2 blocks in that 1st quarter, to go along with 10 points. He also battled with Zach Randolph, denying him preferred low post position for the majority of the game. Favors acknowledged the turnaround, saying “On Monday I played a terrible game. I feel like I kind of let my teammates down. Tonight I wanted to come out and be aggressive. We knew we were playing a good team, so we just wanted to come out and play hard.”

I think perhaps more impressive was the Jazz’s offense coming out of the gate: the Jazz’s ball movement was much improved to begin the game. In particular, Trey Burke began the game by accumulating 7 assists on the Jazz’s first 12 made shots, which led to Corbin playing him for the first 15 minutes of the game. It looked really good, and for a while, the Jazz simply passed the ball around the vaunted Memphis defense to get easy looks inside.

3. Despite the defense, I worry about Memphis in the playoffs.

Memphis’ top 3 wing rotation of Courtney Lee, Tayshaun Prince, and Tony Allen combined for just 4 points tonight on 2-13 shooting, getting to the line a combined 0 times, and again, all together, had just 1 assist. That kind of production from a team’s top wing players means that it’s just incredibly easy for a defense, especially one that gets a long look at scouting, to just sag off those players. A playoff team’s wing defenders could easily help onto Memphis’ big three of Conley, Randolph, and Gasol without being punished severely.

It’s unfortunately evocative of two Jazz teams in recent memory: the 07-09 Utah Jazz, in which the Lakers simply didn’t defend Ronnie Brewer and Andrei Kirilenko for large stretches and dared Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer to beat them singlehandedly. They couldn’t. Relatedly, the 11-13 Jazz had large stretches during which the team’s guard rotation, featuring a rotating cast of Jamaal Tinsley, Earl Watson, Randy Foye, and Raja Bell simply couldn’t score, again allowing teams to focus in on the Jazz’s two talented big men. It’s not a winning combination.

In the playoffs especially, countermoves become so important. For example we saw the emergence of Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard for San Antonio last offseason simply because the Spurs had to go to those guys due to the predictive defense of the Heat (and, to a lesser extent, this Memphis team). I’m not at all convinced Tayshaun Prince, Tony Allen, and Courtney Lee have that potential in their games.

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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