Note from the Editor: Spencer Horner joins Salt City Hoops to chat condensed season and this young Utah Jazz team.
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
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