Salt City Hoops http://saltcityhoops.com The ESPN TrueHoop Utah Jazz Site Mon, 28 Jul 2014 16:49:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The ESPN TrueHoop Utah Jazz Site Salt City Hoops no The ESPN TrueHoop Utah Jazz Site Salt City Hoops http://saltcityhoops.com/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://saltcityhoops.com A Dissenting Opinion on Gordon Hayward’s Max Contract http://saltcityhoops.com/advice-for-dealing-with-a-max-contract/ http://saltcityhoops.com/advice-for-dealing-with-a-max-contract/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 16:48:23 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=12219 Author information
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. In addition to his writing center work at Salt Lake Community College, he designed, coordinates, and teaches in an experimental author residency program for a West Valley City public charter school. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.
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(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

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

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

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

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

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

Even given my appreciation of Hayward, I feel differently.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spurs titles in those years: Zero.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author information

Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson
Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. In addition to his writing center work at Salt Lake Community College, he designed, coordinates, and teaches in an experimental author residency program for a West Valley City public charter school. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.
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Examining Utah Jazz Shot Charts http://saltcityhoops.com/examining-jazz-shot-charts/ http://saltcityhoops.com/examining-jazz-shot-charts/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 18:18:32 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=12350 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 contributes at all-things-basketball site Not Your Father's Water Cooler (nyfwc.com), and has made appearances on local talk radio. With a strong background in statistics, he writes primarily as an in-depth strategic analyst. He can be found on Twitter at @Ben_Dowsett.
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In today’s media-savvy basketball world, there are a number of methods available to analysts like myself to evaluate players, teams, lineups and everything in between. As part of our natural human tendency, in many cases we gravitate toward more comprehensive measures, particularly in terms of individual player analysis; metrics like PER or Win Shares were created in this vein, an attempt to quantify an all-encompassing view of a player’s statistical contributions within a single number.

Frequently, though, we require more context.

With this in mind, let’s take a small bite from the proverbial Jazz analytics pie. Last week, the recently-launched Nylon Calculus (the new analytics arm of Hardwood Paroxysm under the Sports Illustrated banner, for which I am also a contributor) debuted a remarkable advancement in shot chart data from my colleague Austin Clemens. Those who enjoy pieces from Kirk Goldsberry on Grantland are in heaven, as NC now hosts the capability for anyone and everyone to create very similarly-styled shot charts for any player in the league, dating all the way back to the 1996-97 season. Let’s look at Gordon Hayward’s chart from last season as an example:

As the legend at the bottom explains, colors by area reflect the player’s field-goal percentage from that area compared to league average for the given year – red is better, blue is worse. The size of the cubes reflect the frequency of shots from each location, and printed numbers inside certain cubes reflect actual field-goal percentage from that area rather than percentage compared to league average.

Got it? Good. Now let’s apply it to our Jazz. What follows is a look at several of Utah’s more important pieces through the lens of Austin’s charts, with bits of relevant context to further paint the picture. Because I already took a detailed look at Hayward for NC last week, he’ll be left out.

Trey Burke:

This particular set of glasses isn’t too rosy as far as Trey was concerned in his rookie season. Of particular worry to me isn’t necessarily the amount of blue in his chart, but rather how spread out it all is. Burke was chucking from everywhere, despite being efficient compared with his peers in only a few areas of the court – as he develops, Jazz fans will hope he identifies his strongest areas and works to generate higher volume from them while eliminating some of the fluff from his selection. His work from midrange was scattered, though he was solid from both the left and right elbow, a promising sign going forward for his off-the-bounce game coming out of the pick-and-roll. His strange side-to-side disparity, particularly from the baseline midrange and corner 3’s, is likely a result of variance within a small sample – he attempted just 24 corner 3’s from the left and 15 from the right, per NBA.com, so just a few makes or misses would swing his percentages here in a large way.

Most worrying were his percentages from the high-emphasis areas in today’s NBA, at the rim and from deep. Trey hoisted 293 non-corner 3’s last year, shooting just 32.8 percent on them, and apart from a couple small clusters had virtually no reliable areas as a distance threat. Utah’s generally poor spacing certainly contributed to a degree, but it’s also not as though he was forced to take high-volume stepbacks or off-the-bounce triples – over 82 percent of his non-corner makes were assisted. Things were equally grim at the basket, where Burke simply wasn’t efficient finishing against NBA length. This isn’t uncommon for young guards, but given his general lack of explosiveness it may be a concern for Trey throughout his career, and he’ll surely be spending time this offseason working on angles and shielding the ball more effectively. As he moves forward with his career, much like many of his young teammates, expect his selectivity and accuracy to improve as he becomes more comfortable with the pro game in all aspects.

Alec Burks:

Like his similarly-named backcourt counterpart, Burks needs to improve his selection a bit, though not to nearly the same degree. Part of this is his time in the league already, as he’s developed in this area significantly from his first couple years. I wrote back in February about, among other things, his divisive splits from the left and right sides, and Austin’s chart only reinforces this idea – he’s significantly better going to his right than his left. This is an exploitable tendency for smart defenses until he can smooth it out somewhat, but credit to Alec for emphasizing his right more often, as shown by the larger clusters there.

The reversal of this trend around the basket is likely representative of his strong athleticism and cutting, as well as an ability to finish through contact even on his weaker side:

He’ll want to improve on his stronger hand here, but on the surface this seems far easier for a player with his kind of physical ability than rapidly improving his weaker side. But overall, especially given Utah’s numerous offensive issues last year, fans should be quite encouraged with Burks’ chart, particularly if he continues to improve from deep.

Derrick Favors:

Favors has the easiest chart to dissect, by a decent amount. Like Burks, he reined in some of his lesser efficiency shots from the previous year, in particular basically eliminating shots outside 16 feet (he took just 57 all year). I’ve discussed his jump-shooting in this space before, and while it continues to make small strides over previous years, it’s likely Derrick’s largest obstacle as a player going forward. He’s a strong finisher around the rim and will continue to be given his athleticism, but a leap in his midrange efficiency, and particularly an evening out of both his attempts and accuracy from each side of the block, could be the element that really pushes him into borderline star territory at his position. The upcoming couple years will be huge in this regard for Favors, who can well exceed the value of his recent contract extension and put himself in position for a big raise down the line if he can reach average or above average.

Enes Kanter:

Kanter’s eye test is reflected almost exactly in his jump-shooting clusters on the chart – lethal from the left baseline and slightly closer in on the right baseline, mostly lukewarm from “floater”-type range. His selection is likely the best of Utah’s young core; his highest efficiency areas, for the most part, are his highest volume as well. He shot nearly 39 percent from all midrange shots, and was Utah’s most consistent threat from here all year long. He could do to improve from those little in-between areas outside the restricted area, but to my eye much of this is mental – he rushes shots in these areas, particularly after offensive rebounds, and doesn’t collect his balance enough, areas he can easily improve with age.

Slightly surprising when compared with the eye test are his figures around the hoop. Stuck in my mind are frequent examples of Kanter hesitating on close looks and making life around the basket more difficult for himself, but the numbers bear him out as closer to average than I’d have guessed. Of 67 centers attempting at least 100 shots in the restricted area last season, Kanter’s 62.4 percent puts him 41st, nowhere close to elite but certainly higher than I’d have pegged him on a raw guess. As he improves his confidence and strength while retaining his superb footwork and post game, expect these numbers to continue to rise.

Jeremy Evans:

Despite being a fan favorite and by all accounts one of the nicest guys in the game, Evans’ chart goes a long way toward showing why he’s been unable to find a consistent place in Utah’s rotation. He just hasn’t fully figured out who he is as an NBA player yet, as evidenced by his largely spread out shot locations and his only real clustering taking place around the basket. He expanded his range extensively last year in a more untethered role for the first time in his career, but just didn’t prove effective enough in any of these new areas to warrant real attention from defenses. He remains a beast around the hoop given his ridiculous hops, but his lack of another reliable shot and inability to hold his own down low against bulkier bigs may see the upcoming year as his last in a Jazz uniform.

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 contributes at all-things-basketball site Not Your Father's Water Cooler (nyfwc.com), and has made appearances on local talk radio. With a strong background in statistics, he writes primarily as an in-depth strategic analyst. He can be found on Twitter at @Ben_Dowsett.
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How Important is Passing? http://saltcityhoops.com/how-important-is-passing/ http://saltcityhoops.com/how-important-is-passing/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 01:08:49 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=12314 Author information
Denim Millward
Denim Millward
Denim Millward, before SCH, wrote for Bleacher Report about the Jazz and the NBA. Despite this, he is actually a good writer, and we promise we will eschew the slideshow format on this site. He also contributes to The Color Commentator Magazine, and strangely, likes wrestling.
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Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Being that most of you are all supporters of the former team of the NBA all-time assists leader and one of the greatest passers in history, I’m going to go out on a limb and assume you know a thing or two about passing.

Passing, unselfishness and ball movement are some of the first aspects of the game youth league coaches make every effort to hammer home; a mantra that is repeated ad nauseum at every level of competitive basketball.  With the natural inclination to ballhog that seemingly exists within each and every one of us early on, it certainly makes sense.

In high school and college basketball, crisp passing and quick ball movement can go a long way to even the odds against teams with superior athleticism or talent, but in the NBA where the cream of the crop has been plucked from college and international play, does it still matter?

Of course it does.  But to what extent?

Prior to beginning research on this post, I hypothesized that there was a distinct correlation between team passing proficiency (measured by total number of assists in a season) and playoff appearances.  While an analysis of the past five seasons didn’t bear out as strong of a link as I would’ve guessed, it did point out a number of interesting things.  Over the past five years, an average of about 10 of the 16 playoff teams have been in the top half of the league in assists.  More interesting was a quick perusal of the playoff teams during that span who were well below league average in assists yet still made the playoffs.  Among teams that made the finals in the past five years, six have been top ten in assists.   Almost without exception, the teams closer to the bottom of the league in assists had either excellent defensive numbers (Memphis), one or more players who were very good to great in isolation and able to create their own shot with ease (Oklahoma City), or some combination of the two (Indiana).  While not being a better-than-average team in the league assist-wise certainly wasn’t a death knell to a team’s playoff chances, it certainly had to be made up for in spades in other areas.  The lower a playoff team ranked in assists, the demonstrably better they were in other areas.  Conversely, for any team devoid of a Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook that also didn’t have the defensive prowess of Tony Allen and Marc Gasol on which they could rely, good to great assist numbers were almost always present when such a team overachieved and snagged a playoff spot.

Passing proficiency and importance cannot be measured by assist numbers alone.  Even on plays which will almost certainly not add another assist to the box score, passing can be critical.  For example, let us hearken back to the days of the Jazz offense running through Big Al in the low post.  Good ball movement prior to the entry pass made it significantly harder for defenses to cheat over towards Jefferson in preparation for a troublesome double team.  After Jefferson got position on his defender, delivering an on-target entry pass was crucial.  An errant pass could knocked away or cause Big Al to lose his position, which subsequently could result in a much lower-percentage shot being taken if not a totally busted play.

The new Quin Snyder-led Jazz regime understands how crucial being an excellent passing team is, a fact clearly indicated by the immediate emphasis placed on passing and ball movement.  Deseret News beat writer Jody Genessy eloquently detailed this new emphasis in an article posted July 19.  Snyder’s quote from this article regarding passing eloquently yet succinctly sums up his “play with a pass” philosophy.

Just the idea of the ball movement. If you run 100 feet and I pass 100 feet, I’m going to win. The ball moves faster than people’s feet,” Snyder explained. “When you play with a pass, hopefully it keeps the defense guessing and on the move.”  This emphasis on passing can potentially add a tremendous amount of synergy when combined with the lack of a bona fide number one scoring option, as well as the ability to play Dante Exum and Trey Burke together  in the back court.

A laser-like focus on precise and quick ball movement, while smart for any NBA team, certainly seems like the best way to go with a young and balanced team like the Jazz.

Author information

Denim Millward
Denim Millward
Denim Millward, before SCH, wrote for Bleacher Report about the Jazz and the NBA. Despite this, he is actually a good writer, and we promise we will eschew the slideshow format on this site. He also contributes to The Color Commentator Magazine, and strangely, likes wrestling.
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What Jazz Story Intrigues You This Year? 2014 Edition http://saltcityhoops.com/what-jazz-story-intrigues-you-this-year-2014-edition/ http://saltcityhoops.com/what-jazz-story-intrigues-you-this-year-2014-edition/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 18:13:58 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=12343 Author information
Laura Thompson
Laura Thompson
I grew up in California, but have been a Jazz fan pretty much since I was in diapers; I went to Karl Malone's basketball camp when I was 11 and I flew up to Utah in 1997 to go to Game 3 of the Finals. After graduating from BYU in 2008, I moved back to California to work in Marketing and have been doing that for the last five years. My favorite things in life are the Utah Jazz, basketball, food (whether cooking or consumption of), reading, church, black Labs, and the beach (though hopefully not in that order).
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AP Photo-Rick Bowmer

AP Photo-Rick Bowmer

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gordon Hayward: Max Man

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

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

Alec Burks: Who is he?

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

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

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

Author information

Laura Thompson
Laura Thompson
I grew up in California, but have been a Jazz fan pretty much since I was in diapers; I went to Karl Malone's basketball camp when I was 11 and I flew up to Utah in 1997 to go to Game 3 of the Finals. After graduating from BYU in 2008, I moved back to California to work in Marketing and have been doing that for the last five years. My favorite things in life are the Utah Jazz, basketball, food (whether cooking or consumption of), reading, church, black Labs, and the beach (though hopefully not in that order).
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Jazz Trade John Lucas III, Malcolm Thomas, and Erik Murphy for Carrick Felix, 2nd-Round Pick, and $1 Million http://saltcityhoops.com/jazz-trade-john-lucas-iii-malcolm-thomas-and-erik-murphy-for-carrick-felix-2nd-round-pick-and-1-million/ http://saltcityhoops.com/jazz-trade-john-lucas-iii-malcolm-thomas-and-erik-murphy-for-carrick-felix-2nd-round-pick-and-1-million/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 01:04:30 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=12332 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 of the same name every Saturday on 1280 AM.
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(Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Utah Jazz have acquired Carrick Felix, a 2nd round pick, and $1 million in return for the non-guaranteed contracts of John Lucas III, Malcolm Thomas and Erik Murphy. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports was the first to report the trade.

From the Jazz’s perspective, there’s little-to-no cost in this trade. The best asset traded away here is Malcolm Thomas, who has impressed enough at the D-League and Summer League levels to show that he deserves NBA minutes at this point in his career. That being said, those minutes were going to be hard to find on the Jazz’s PF-heavy roster: Favors, Kanter, Novak, Booker, and Evans can all play the position, and all would presumably be ahead of Thomas on the preliminary depth chart. Thomas can help an NBA team, and could even help a contender, but unfortunately, he doesn’t look like a great fit in Cleveland, given this:

Hopefully Thomas does find his way with an NBA team.

John Lucas III is the biggest name in the trade, after he played 591 minutes for the Jazz last season. Lucas had actually played far more effectively (and in more minutes) in his time with Toronto and Chicago in his previous two seasons, with a PER of 16.3 and 12.8 respectively, but disappointed with Utah to the tune of a 5.2 PER. Lucas was a beloved presence in the locker room, but clearly couldn’t be counted on to contribute during his minutes played. In fact, his early season performance was so disappointing that the team first re-signed an old Jamaal Tinsley to offset many of his minutes, then when that didn’t work out, found Diante Garrett in the season’s first D-League call-up. Lucas’s contract is unguaranteed, and at $1.6 million, it would be surprising to see him not cut by one team or another before January. That being said, it’s probably somewhat worthwhile for some team to find out whether his true current talent level is closer to his 2011-13 showing or his 2013-14 performance.

Erik Murphy was supposed to be a prototypical stretch 4, but both his shot release and his defensive movement have been slow enough at the NBA level to really disqualify him from NBA minutes. He’s disappointed once again at this year’s Las Vegas Summer League, and has $100,000 coming to him coming to him if he isn’t cut by August 1st. In my opinion, the only way he makes it past that deadline is if Cleveland is on the verge of a trade that would necessitate his contract.

The Jazz would have likely released all three of these guys anyway, due to either high competition (Thomas) or simply to save money and roster spots (Murphy, Lucas). That doesn’t mean they aren’t assets, but Utah probably used those assets to the best of their ability by sending them to a team that’s desperately seeking those non-guaranteed deals to use in a superstar-level trade.

It’s instructive that Ian Clark wasn’t included: while the Cavaliers could have used his contract, it appears that the Jazz would like to keep it, despite that his contract will become fully guaranteed by August 1st. While this might make him less valuable to the Cavs, Clark is also attending the Jazz’s state-of-Utah Junior Jazz tour after that date (August 11-14). It would seem cruel to cut Clark, then expect him to tour rural Utah for a week, though DeMarre Carroll traveled Utah last summer without a contract. The Jazz are thin on the wings, and Clark currently stands as only 4th SG/SF on the roster.

Carrick Felix would be the 5th wing, and there are significant indications that the Jazz like him. Perhaps the biggest public sign is Jazz radio play-by-play man David Locke’s article about Felix and the trade:

Felix is going to [be] a part of the Utah Jazz…. The Jazz scouts have had an eye on Felix and like his defensive mindset, his ability to rebound and believe he can shoot the three.  He is not an offensive playmaker with the ball in his hands.  This is an opportunity for the Jazz to add a player they like and believe has a chance to develop into a rotational piece.

With his role with the team, Locke often has insider-type knowledge on the thinking of the Jazz; on this issue, this is even further evidenced by that Locke’s 836-word article was posted just 12 minutes after Wojnarowski broke the news. Expect Carrick to stay on the team, for all of the reasons Locke mentioned.

At the NBA level, Carrick Felix is probably most likely to make it as a defensive specialist who’s capable of not embarrassing himself offensively. Personally, I think of him as most similar to Quinton Ross, another 6’6” guard who could defend extremely well and rebound really well, but was extremely poor with the ball in his hands. Ross couldn’t ever do enough offensively to stay on the floor or remain in the league, so it will be up to Felix to show more on that side of the ball than Ross did.

The 2015 2nd round pick the Jazz receive is likely Cleveland’s own. This is just a guess, but an educated one, as Cleveland only has rights to one other 2015 2nd round pick, Boston’s, and it is top-55 protected. While they could trade that pick instead, it would be meaningless to do so. Given that Cleveland recently signed a really good player, and will likely use these assets to acquire another really good one, the 2nd round pick isn’t likely to be excellent. The $1 million the Jazz receive is nice enough, and gives the Jazz free reign to repeat this process by taking a glance at another cheap prospect.

Overall, the Jazz spent roughly $2.2 million on Lucas, Thomas, and Murphy’s contracts over the last season, and got a goodish prospect and a bad 2nd round pick in return. Given the rapidly approaching decision date on two of the non-guaranteed prospects, it was a small chance for the Jazz to get something long-term for an immediately expiring asset. It’s not very impressive value, but it does continue the Jazz’s plan of using their cap space and money now to receive assets for the future.

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 of the same name every Saturday on 1280 AM.
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Salt City Stigma: An NBA Veteran Tells All http://saltcityhoops.com/salt-city-stigma-an-nba-veteran-tells-all/ http://saltcityhoops.com/salt-city-stigma-an-nba-veteran-tells-all/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 17:38:42 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=12289 Author information
Dan Clayton
Dan Clayton
Dan covered Utah Jazz basketball for more than 10 years, including as a radio analyst for the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts from 2010 to 2014. He now lives and works in New York City where his hobbies include complaining about League Pass, finding good doughnut shops and dishing out assists for the Thoreau It Down team in the Word Bookstore basketball league.
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Who wouldn't want to live here? (Photo from saltlakecityutah.org)

Who wouldn’t want to live here? (Photo from saltlakecityutah.org)

If you’re following NBA free agency, you’ve no doubt heard mention of the difficulty the Utah Jazz have in attracting top free agents. It’s sort of a built-in part of the discussion, mentioned now without attribution or substantiation because it is so widely accepted as fact.

Those are the indirect mentions. Then you have Rony Seikaly famously failing to report to Utah after terms were reached on a 1998 Jazz-Magic trade, or Derek Harper telling reporters sarcastically, “You go live in Utah.”

Granted, those harsher examples were pre-Olympics, and Salt Lake City has improved a lot since then, in terms of infrastructure, amenities and, importantly, perception. But there still appears to be a belief that a stigma endures among NBA players about going to Utah.

Salt City Hoops was able to speak exclusively with a longtime NBA veteran about just how real that stigma is. Now retired, this is a guy who was around the NBA long enough to have heard several players’ unfiltered takes on city preferences. He never played for the Jazz, but played in small and big markets, cold and warm climates, and for good and bad teams. I guaranteed this person anonymity so I could allow him to speak freely on the topic.

Right off the bat, when I asked about this stigma, he said, without stopping to think about it, “It’s real.” We spent some time talking about why, and here are some themes, both from that conversation and from other discussions on the topic.

Market size

The first thing he told me was comforting in a misery-loves-company sort of way. “It’s not just Utah,” he said. “A lot of guys don’t want to play in smaller cities.”

Salt Lake City is the 33rd largest TV market. The only NBA teams in smaller markets are (from large to small) the Bucks, Spurs, Thunder, Grizz and Pelicans. But the Jazz and those five clubs aren’t alone. Really, you hear “small market” complaints from about half of NBA cities. The top 12 cities account for 14 teams, and Toronto would be on that list if they were in the US. Outside of those 13 cities (15 teams), you frequently hear people in markets like #15 Minneapolis-St. Paul or #19 Denver talk about how their NBA realities are different.

It’s unclear why. The standard explanation is that living in New York or Los Angeles increases your endorsement potential. But year after year, endorsement deals confirm that star power — not zip code — determines a player’s market potential. Forbes’ released a list earlier this year of the top shoe deals for NBA players. The top player (guess who) played for the team with the 17th biggest market, because people far outside the Miami area care about LeBron James and his shoes. Kevin Durant was third on the list despite playing in the third smallest NBA market.

The former player I spoke to said he saw that while playing for a good team that happened to be in one of those 15 non-prime markets. “There were times we couldn’t get guys to come work out for us,” he said, somewhat incredulously.

Weather

It’s not just small cities. Some guys don’t like the cold.”

That was the next cold, hard reality the retired vet shared. Salt Lake’s average high falls to 38 Fahrenheit in January. That is indeed colder than LA’s 64, Houston’s 63 and certainly Miami’s 74.

But do people complain about New York hitting 36? Or Chicago’s bitter 31? I get why people would rather commute to their practice facility by helicoptering in from Malibu beach than by throwing chains on their tires to traverse the fresh powder, but there does appear to be a double standard where certain cold cities are concerned.

My other rebuttal on weather: NBA players don’t spend that much time in those cities. October through April, plus playoffs but minus road trips and All-star break. I did a quick scan of Utah’s schedule and would estimate that the average Jazz player spent something like 110 nights in Salt Lake City between October 1 and April 17, and only about 50 of those nights were in December, January and February, the three coldest months in an average Salt Lake year.

Are those 50 days of layering up really so bad that somebody would think twice about signing in Utah? Apparently it has come up.

Night Life

The  lifestyle factor came up as I was talking to this retired NBA veteran about why he thinks it’s harder for some teams to attract major free agents.

Post-Olympics, Salt Lake has been rejuvenated a bit. There’s a much better downtown these days, and private club laws have been relaxed just enough to make the after-hours scene feel less… weird. But it’s still not an easy place to find something to do at 1:00 a.m. on a Tuesday.

Many of the NBA players who have publicly embraced Salt Lake or similarly quiet NBA markets are the ones who are past the party-every-night stage of their lives. People frequently talk about how great a place it is for NBA players with families — which is probably very true, although it’s hard as a Utah native not to take that as a bit of a backhanded compliment at times. Yes, SLC is relatively quiet, extremely safe, and family-friendly. But in a city with over a million people, you can often find whatever it is you’re after.

And again, if you’re only in town 110 or so nights a year, does it matter that much how many different clubs there are? You have games on 45-50 of those 110 nights, too, so exactly how many nights are we talking about?

Here are some other topics that frequently come up when market comparisons come up in the context of NBA free agency.

Tax hit. According to even some very recent reports, players and their reps are very aware of what living in a particular state means to their net earnings. The reality is that a $5 million contract in Texas is worth more than a $5 million contract in California. How does Utah stack up? With a flat 5% income tax, at least Utah multimillionaires aren’t paying a premium. Fifteen states have a lower income tax rate in the highest bracket, including seven states with NBA teams. But FL and TX have multiple teams, so there are 10 places a free agent can go and get a better net salary, all things being equal.

Race. This deserves its own analysis at some point, because it’s probably no small factor that Utah’s population is 86.1% white as of the last census, basically the demographic inverse of the NBA. And sure, the fact that Utah doesn’t have the same complex racial history as parts of the country might make it a less charged place in terms of race relations, but there’s still certainly some racial ignorance that exists in a place that just barely crossed the threshold of 1% African-American. ONE PERCENT! To me, Salt Lake has always felt like a very accepting place, but I have heard stories from friends who experienced awkward moments (or worse) from living in a part of the country where they stood out from the homogeneity. In fairness, the retiree I spoke to didn’t really comment on this aspect, even though I brought it up.

Here are some arguments on the flip side.

Cost of living: Real estate, gas, food… it’s all cheaper in Salt Lake. And if you don’t believe me, you’re welcome to join me next time I go grocery shopping in my Brooklyn neighborhood. If income tax is taken into account when figuring out how far a player’s buck goes in one city versus another, it should also be factored in that you can get a pretty swanky house in the Salt Lake Valley and pay less than, say, a prime Bay Area apartment.

Surroundings: No, NBA players aren’t skiing the Greatest Snow on Earth. Even if they had the time to do so, high-risk activities are often expressly prohibited in player contracts. But players quite enjoy the scenery and views, and some even find excuses to get out to the gorgeous Wasatch Front wilderness. In John Stockton’s book, the retired Jazz legend speaks fondly of his drives around Utah’s canyons.

Finite number of jobs: The retired vet agreed with my assessment that this pickiness is more relevant to top free agents than to guys fighting for a rotation spot or clinging to their NBA life. “I guess beggars can’t be choosers,” he said. There are 30 roster spots available in the New York metro, another 30 in LA. Add 15 for Miami, 45 for no-tax Texas. The point is, there are only so many places to get a paycheck, so unless you’re LeBron, at some point it helps you to consider all your options.

Safe and quiet: Again, I always feel a bit patronized when the nicest thing somebody can think to say about my hometown are euphemisms like “it’s quiet” or “it’s a great place to raise kids.” But it is both of those things. There are, I’m sure, a lot of NBA players who aren’t looking for “quiet,” but some might be. For me, SLC is a perfect-sized city. Large enough to still have a lot of events and offerings, but small enough that it’s not run down and it’s easy to get around.

Nice, passionate, knowledgeable fans. Salt Lake is known around the country for its hospitable and kind people. Even a longtime Utah foil like Phil Jackson thinks so. But they’re not just nice people: they’re passionate supporters of what was, for a long time, the only pro game in town. Do well here and the people will revere you, name streets after you, declare holidays in your honor, and just generally adore you. The vet I spoke to acknowledged that Utah fans are known around the league as some of the most rabid, although I’m sure that has tailed off some now that the Jazz aren’t contending.

Whatever the arguments are on either side, the stigma is real: NBA players don’t line up to play in the Beehive State. It’s a gorgeous place, and home to a really good organization, but according to a guy who’s been in and around NBA circles for a long time now, there’s still some trepidation out there.

Author information

Dan Clayton
Dan Clayton
Dan covered Utah Jazz basketball for more than 10 years, including as a radio analyst for the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts from 2010 to 2014. He now lives and works in New York City where his hobbies include complaining about League Pass, finding good doughnut shops and dishing out assists for the Thoreau It Down team in the Word Bookstore basketball league.
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Scouting Report: Rodney Hood http://saltcityhoops.com/scouting-report-rodney-hood/ http://saltcityhoops.com/scouting-report-rodney-hood/#comments Fri, 18 Jul 2014 23:08:10 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=12299 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 contributes at all-things-basketball site Not Your Father's Water Cooler (nyfwc.com), and has made appearances on local talk radio. With a strong background in statistics, 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

With a number of large developments surrounding the team over the summer thus far, there’s been a palpable sense of excitement among Jazz fans and media alike. A young, energetic coach has been hired in Quin Snyder, lottery pick Gordon Hayward has been retained in a move that will cement his status as a franchise cornerstone going forward, and Utah received an unexpected boon when Australian prodigy Dante Exum fell to fifth in the draft, giving the Jazz the opportunity to select the potential superstar they had so vocally coveted. The boat is rocking, to be sure, and a fan base mostly devoid of anticipation the last few seasons has every right to frolic in the water just a little, even if the true payouts for these moves may not be realized until a few years down the line.

Making some waves of his own after taking something of a backseat hype-wise during a whirlwind couple weeks surrounding the draft and early free agency is 23rd pick Rodney Hood. Regarded as a player who could offer certain contributions at an NBA level immediately, Hood nonetheless fell to the Jazz despite a late lottery projection from most experts, another steal in the minds of Utah’s front office given that other outlets have indicated they also had him far higher on their own draft boards.

And though summer league results are always to be taken with several large grains of salt, Hood has done his best to justify Utah’s high opinion of him in his short time in a Jazz jersey so far. Given a mightily small sample size of just four games and the above caveats, though, let’s use his limited time in summer league in conjunction with his college performance to get a gauge on where Hood will fit with the Jazz, both this upcoming season and going forward.

His calling card coming out of Duke is shooting, and rightly so. Hood was a knockdown man for the Blue Devils as a secondary option behind the more heralded Jabari Parker, hoisting a healthy 169 attempts in 35 games (just under five a game) and converting at a strong 42.0 percent. Also important are some of the specifics here – unlike many sharpshooters, Hood isn’t confined to simply a spot-up game reliant on strong passing and systems. He’s capable in such situations, of course, but is similarly proficient off the dribble – per DraftExpress, he shot 43.5 percent (37-85) for the year on pull-up triples, ranking first among their top 100 prospects heading into draft night.

Another positive detail is a theme that’s starting to be given more weight in smart circles in recent years – his release point. Every inch truly does count in this league, and heady front offices are valuing guys who can not only shoot, but who can do so while maximizing the degree to which they stretch opposing defenses. This means quick releases and high release points, or in some truly rare cases (peak Ray Allen comes to mind) a combination of both. Oft-maligned Rashard Lewis fell into some major minutes in the last two rounds of the playoffs for the Heat last year after playing sporadically up to that point, almost entirely as a result of the way he can stretch defenses in this manner. He certainly doesn’t have a quick release – in fact likely the opposite – but look at how high above his head he holds the ball while shooting:

It may not seem like a huge deal at first glance, but Lewis’s long arms and unorthodox motion give him a real advantage on close-out defenders compared with guys who release the ball lower. With several of Miami’s offensive role-players effectively taking a nap on the court during the latter parts of the postseason, coach Erik Spoelstra went to Lewis in large part because of the extra little bit of stretch he provided against defenses that were keying in on LeBron James. Bearing in mind the obvious practical differences between the two, now check out Hood’s similarly high release:

This, coupled with nearly perfect shooting mechanics and the simple fact that he’s left-handed, will be a weapon for Hood his entire career. The above clip was from his masterpiece earlier in the week against the Bucks in Las Vegas, where he shot 7-10 from deep and finished with 29 points on 11-16 overall. The increased distance of the NBA line has been no issue whatsoever, and he’s showcasing the sort of confidence and willingness to bomb away one loves to see from a rookie, especially when they’ve got the sort of range Hood does.

His offensive repertoire is far from limited to just his shooting, though. Hood possesses an excellent basketball IQ and feel for the game and is a competent, if not particularly explosive, ball-handler capable of initiating an offense himself at times. His work in pick-and-roll sets might be the most underrated element of his game coming out of college – again per DX, he scored at a 1.26 point-per-possession rate on finished P&R sets, another high-water mark among the draft class. He doesn’t turn the ball over often and his height allows him to see the floor well; Duke’s system didn’t maximize him much here, but he shows potential as a distributor for this reason. He’s shown flashes here in summer league as well:

Hood’s biggest potential issues will be on the defensive end, with several elements of his game here that will need work. Some relate to effort and the mental side of the game; he needs more coaching for his stance and elements like screen navigation. Conversely, some are physical drawbacks that may limit his defensive ceiling somewhat, such as a fairly thin frame and, perhaps most damning, a very short wingspan – 6’8.5 at the combine, the exact same as his height. He’ll never fill passing lanes or accumulate many blocks given this and his lack of explosive leaping, and he’ll need to leverage his solid quickness and smooth stride as much as possible to become an average positional defender. His smarts do indicate he’ll be a fine help defender once he gets up to NBA speed, and he’ll likewise want to utilize this strength as often as possible to make up for his disadvantages.

Hood likely won’t have much shake against NBA-level wing defenders and won’t be bulky enough to overpower many of them either, but this hopefully won’t be a large issue given the motion system expected to be instituted by coach Quin Snyder. He should fit well with bench units that’ll need his and Steve Novak’s spacing while Rudy Gobert and Exum (neither a shooting threat) provide other sources of value, and Gobert’s presence behind him as a rim protector should partially soften the effect of his still-raw defensive game. His ability as a secondary handler should be invaluable both this year and going forward – you can never have too many solid ball-handlers in a motion system, and his combination of skills both here and as a shooter make him an excellent fit for Snyder’s projected system. He showed an ability and willingness to pump fake and penetrate after over-eager close-outs on the perimeter, one of the staples of such schemes, and he and Alec Burks will be a fun pair in the minutes they see together as a shooting and slashing combo.

Like nearly every member of the current Jazz roster, Rodney Hood has a number of developments to make before he can be considered a success. But he’s an excellent fit for the direction Snyder is taking this team over the next number of years, and he’ll bring some much-needed shooting to a Jazz rotation that was woefully devoid of it last year. His performance thus far at summer league has been encouraging, and Jazz fans will hope he can carry it over into training camp and meaningful games a few months down the line.

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 contributes at all-things-basketball site Not Your Father's Water Cooler (nyfwc.com), and has made appearances on local talk radio. With a strong background in statistics, he writes primarily as an in-depth strategic analyst. He can be found on Twitter at @Ben_Dowsett.
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Summer League Breakdown – Salt City Hoops Podcast http://saltcityhoops.com/summer-league-breakdown-salt-city-hoops-podcast/ http://saltcityhoops.com/summer-league-breakdown-salt-city-hoops-podcast/#comments Fri, 18 Jul 2014 17:44:01 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=12292 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 of the same name every Saturday on 1280 AM.
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(Photo by Jack Arent/NBAE via Getty Images)

On this week’s episode of the Salt City Hoops Podcast, Andy Larsen is again joined by Clint Johnson as we break down the Utah Jazz’s performance in the Las Vegas Summer League. In particular, we talk about Dante Exum’s up-and-down performance, and what to make of Trey Burke, Rodney Hood, and Rudy Gobert through their summer league performances.

We also invite Dean Demakis, of DeanonDraft.com, to give his input on what he’s seen of the Jazz’s prospects. Has Dante Exum impressed or disappointed thus far? What about Jabari Parker? Finally, he gives us some names with rising stocks and some with falling stocks from their summer league showings.

Finally, we have a Crazy Trade Idea of the Week, involving Enes Kanter and the Cleveland Cavaliers. As advertised, it is slightly crazy.

 

All that and more on this week’s Salt City Hoops Podcast!

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 of the same name every Saturday on 1280 AM.
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http://saltcityhoops.com/summer-league-breakdown-salt-city-hoops-podcast/feed/ 1 On this week's episode of the Salt City Hoops Podcast, Andy Larsen is again joined by Clint Johnson as we break down the Utah Jazz's performance in the Las Vegas Summer League. In particular, we talk about Dante Exum's up-and-down performance, On this week's episode of the Salt City Hoops Podcast, Andy Larsen is again joined by Clint Johnson as we break down the Utah Jazz's performance in the Las Vegas Summer League. In particular, we talk about Dante Exum's up-and-down performance, and what to make of Trey Burke, Rodney Hood, and Rudy Gobert through their summer league performances. We also invite Dean Demakis, of DeanonDraft.com, to give his input on what he's seen of the Jazz's prospects. Has Dante Exum impressed or disappointed thus far? What about Jabari Parker? Finally, he gives us some names with rising stocks and some with falling stocks from their summer league showings. Finally, we have a Crazy Trade Idea of the Week, involving Enes Kanter and the Cleveland Cavaliers. As advertised, it is slightly crazy.   All that and more on this week's Salt City Hoops Podcast! Salt City Hoops no 57:35
Dante Exum: Quote Machine http://saltcityhoops.com/dante-exum-quote-machine/ http://saltcityhoops.com/dante-exum-quote-machine/#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 19:12:29 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=12281 Author information
Dan Clayton
Dan Clayton
Dan covered Utah Jazz basketball for more than 10 years, including as a radio analyst for the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts from 2010 to 2014. He now lives and works in New York City where his hobbies include complaining about League Pass, finding good doughnut shops and dishing out assists for the Thoreau It Down team in the Word Bookstore basketball league.
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(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Dante Exum the Prospect was tantalizing and mysterious. Dante Exum the Jazz Draftee was exciting. Dante Exum the NBA Player has shown nice flashes.

But Dante Exum the Quote Machine is just sublime.

It seems that for about a month now, any time the Australian phenom hasn’t been touching a basketball, he’s been in front of microphones. And that’s great news for the rest of us. Exum is a breath of fresh air as a pro interview. He’s honest, speaks with absolutely zero pretense and flashes that demure smile. He seems simultaneously embarrassed by the attention and yet glad to soak it all in. And, of course, there’s the awesome Aussie accent.

Some of his best quotes have an extra quality to them, an endearing naivete that would make you say, “Aww, that’s adorable!” if he weren’t, you know, an adult making millions of dollars.

Today, SCH brings you the most quirky, funny, endearing and exciting things this young man has uttered since dawning a Jazz hat late last month.

“I was freaking out, I thought it was spirits… Yeah, like ghosts.”

This is from a great TrueHoop sit-down with both Exum and fellow Jazz rookie Rodney Hood. They asked him about experiencing his first earthquake, early one morning when an LA quake shook his hotel room while he was watching Netflix. How cool is this line? So his room began to shake, so naturally he assumed that he’s being haunted by ghosts. Awesome! He goes on to tell Kevin Arnovitz about how he jumped up on his bed and “froze” in fear. “I didn’t know what to do.”

“X like xenopus… it’s a genus of frogs.”

OK, this might be a tad unfair: since this came from a Foot Locker commercial, it was probably scripted and therefore not technically an Exum quote. But that entire series of commercials is great, and “X like xenopus” has become shorthand (well, longhand really) for expressing my excitement about Exum. For example, when Exum had that sweet, spinning, hesitation, stop-on-a-dime, crossover move that broke poor CJ Williams’ ankles, I turned to my fiancee and said, “X like xenopus.” And, what’s more, she knew exactly what that meant.

“I think just, the thing with Australians is we’re very competitive. We want to win, and we’d do anything for our teammates. That’s one thing I’m trying to bring to the Jazz… It’s not that people should fear us, I think it’s just that attitude we come in with (to) the game.”

This also comes from the Arnovitz sit-down, and was nice to hear, mostly because we’re all looking at this super-nice kid and hoping that someday we see the killer instinct that the greats have had. As Arnovitz said in his ramp-up to the question, Aussies are really nice. If you’ve ever been to Australia, you know that the people there are famously laid-back. The unofficial national motto is, “No worries, mate.” Then, on the other hand, we’ve heard that Exum tested off the charts in psych evals that measure, among other things, competitiveness and the desire to see your opponent die a slow, painful death. While I’m absolutely a fan of the charming, almost naive, smiling Exum we get in interviews, I’d love to see more of that competitive fire, especially after a couple somewhat passive LVSL outings.

“That’s the future. You never know what’s going to happen in the future. I take it one day at a time. I’m trying to do what I can now so I can get to that caliber… But I’m just going to work hard every day and see what happens.”

See, this is what I mean about him talking about himself in a rather humble, unassuming way. This was in response to my question on Draft night about whether he can be the franchise player some think he is. This is definitely the right answer for that setting, and one that reminds me of the Gregg Popovich line about drafting/signing guys who “have gotten over themselves.”

“Yeah, I was nervous at the start, but you know, it was just about getting out there and getting a run.”

This is from the walk-off interview on NBA TV, moments after Exum had concluded his first semi-official basketball game since last year. This makes the early Exum quote list because it hits several of the points above, but also because it reminds me of a hilarious line from those old Da Ali G promos they ran on TNT several years ago. In a spot starting at 3:00 in this video, Sacha Baron Cohen’s character tells erstwhile TV analyst Steve Kerr, “It’s about going out there, having a laugh, and getting some exercise most importantly.” That line has become a running joke with several friends and coworkers, so hearing Exum say something so close to that was hilarious. Just out getting a run.

Here are some other oft-recycled lines from those commercials that still make me giggle:

  • “Well there’s air in this room, how come this room ain’t bouncing?”
  • “Phone call over!”
  • “You don’t even speak English, so shut up… Can’t understand what you’re saying, you’re speaking in Canada.”
  • “Let’s agree to a degree.”

“It’s my twin sister’s birthday as well, so that’s even better.”

Wait, your twin sister and you share a birthday? What are the odds?! (Also from the NBA TV postgame interview.)

“I’m just a kid from Melbourne, Australia looking to come into a program and work hard.”

This is from his Draft-night one-on-one with Jazz radio’s David Locke. This goes back to that deferential, aww-shucks approach he has when talking about himself.

“So…”

This is from… oh yeah, every interview he’s ever done. Have you noticed that most of his answers end with him trailing off into an elongated “so”?

“If I want them here, they’ll be over in 20 hours.”

This line drew a laugh from the assembled media at Exum’s introductory press conference, chronicled here by the intrepid Jody Genessy. I guess it’s all about perspective, because for Exum, there was nothing odd about saying, essentially, Hey, they’re only 20 hours away. It’s nice to know that Exum’s support system is on call for when he encounters those rookie bumps, although he said in another great quote, “I don’t really get homesick.”

“Just call me Dante.”

Exum had this line for assembled LVSL media who wanted to help him find a worthy nickname. This is more evidence of his low-ego approach, but it’s also, of course, totally unacceptable. For a player of Exum’s buzz, likability and potentially franchise-shaping talents, we’re not going to simply call him by his first name. By definition, name and nickname are not the same thing.

In his Draft-night convo with Locke, he did give permission to the media to find an appropriate nickname, so let’s get on it. Here are some thoughts:

  • I don’t remember who first floated it, but “Inferno” is a cool literary reference and could be indicative of the seven levels of hell Exum may be subjecting opponents to soon.
  • As described above, X like Xenopus has quirky nickname potential; it’s the type of thing I could picture myself screaming on Spanish radio after a big play. A bit of an inside-joke type of nickname, but fun, right?
  • I floated the idea of Triple Exum™ after a three-point basket.
  • The Australian Blur (or Blur from Down Under, like the Jazz used on some of his post-draft videos) has a nice throwback quality.
  • Some fans are getting behind FedEx “Express Delivery” as a nod to his lightning speed and the new-school iteration of the rich Mailman lore of Jazz history. That one feels like it needs a little too much explaining to stick, but I like the sentiment.

“During the winter it gets cold, and I don’t like to be in that mud.”

Exum explained to The Starters after his first Summer League game why he chose to play basketball and not Aussie football. Lucky for the Utah Jazz, Melbourne has winter highs in the 40s and 50s, so he picked up basketball. Here are a couple of other good quotes from his spot on The Starters:

“I’ve never been in the snow, so I’m looking forward to that.”

Just wait, Dante. Just. Wait.

“Do I get to take this cake?”

Yes, Exum. You take that cake.

Author information

Dan Clayton
Dan Clayton
Dan covered Utah Jazz basketball for more than 10 years, including as a radio analyst for the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts from 2010 to 2014. He now lives and works in New York City where his hobbies include complaining about League Pass, finding good doughnut shops and dishing out assists for the Thoreau It Down team in the Word Bookstore basketball league.
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Making the Case for Malcolm Thomas http://saltcityhoops.com/making-the-case-for-malcolm-thomas/ http://saltcityhoops.com/making-the-case-for-malcolm-thomas/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 22:45:39 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=12273 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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Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Slowly, but surely, the Utah Jazz roster is getting filled. With Washington Wizards free agent Trevor Booker agreeing to a two-year, $10 million pact with the team on Tuesday, the headcount sits at 11 guaranteed contracts.

Moreover, the front court is getting more and more crowded. With Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Rudy Gobert, recently acquired Steve Novak, Jeremy Evans and now Booker in tow, things are taking shape.

But don’t sleep on Malcolm Thomas.

Thomas is having a very solid showing at the Las Vegas summer league. He has started all three outings thus far, posting very solid numbers: 11.3 PPG (56 percent shooting), 7.7 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.33 BPG and 1.0 SPG in 23.7 MPG. He has been active on both ends of the court. Thomas’ energy and a double-double helped offset Gobert’s absence versus the Denver Nuggets Tuesday evening. All in all, it could be argued that he has been Utah’s most consistent performer.

Thomas has had an interesting road. He spent time at three schools in California–Pepperdine University, San Diego Community College and San Diego State University. While he had a nice collegiate career at SDSU, he went undrafted in 2011. After brief spells in South Korea, with the Los Angeles Lakers (getting cut prior to the start of the lockout season) and the D-League, he was signed to contracts with both the San Antonio Spurs and the Houston Rockets, ultimately spending most of this rookie season in the D-League.

He spent most of the 2012-13 campaign with Maccabi Tel Aviv. He then earned 10-day contracts with the Golden State Warriors and the Chicago Bulls, finishing that season with them. Finally, after two months in a second San Antonio stint, he was waived and claimed off waivers by the Jazz . Thomas only appeared in seven games. He had nine points and four rebounds in the season finale . Thomas has appeared in a grand total of 23 NBA games (135 minutes) and has enjoyed a cup of coffee with six different teams in three years.

So, why does he make sense for Utah going forward? Thomas actually brings a lot of skills to the table. He is athletic and has a good motor. Thomas has good size and agility that might allow him to play both forward positions. Very similar to counterpart Jazz forward Jeremy Evans, he is a quick jumper, using that his advantage on the glass (especially offensive boards). Thomas is a willing defender, using his length and wingspan to disrupt things. He has good time when blocking shots, especially off the weak side. Lastly, he can stick the jumper–even extending out to 3-point range .

Thomas would be in line for just $948K. Given his long, winding road, he is hungry to make a name for himself – something that is evident in the way he is playing for the Jazz. He has upside and could be a guy at the end of the bench that can continue to work on his game. In short, he’s a very low-risk, potential solid-reward type of move.

With shooting and defense being premiums, as stated often by general manager Dennis Lindsey and head coach Quin Snyder, Malcolm Thomas has every chance to find himself donning a Utah Jazz uniform come regular season tip-off.

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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