Glimpses for Next Season

April 15th, 2014 | by Laura Thompson
AP Photo - Rick Bowmer

AP Photo – Rick Bowmer

Last night’s Lakers game was depressing, encouraging, exhilarating, frustrating, demoralizing, and a host of many other conflicting emotions, and somehow all at the same time. The first 20 minutes of the game were fun and exciting to watch, a brand of Jazz basketball—with scrappy defense, a fast pace of play, and some great passing—that has been missing most of the year. Unfortunately, that was followed by a scoring drought and a crazy run by a severely depleted Lakers team, and another Lakers run in the fourth that put the game out of reach. So, what are some positives? What are some glimpses in the Lakers game, specifically, but that we’ve seen in the last few weeks, as well, that are encouraging, moving forward?

Alec Burks has improved his three-point shot. He hit one near the 7-minute mark in the first quarter against the Lakers—off a good drive-and-dish pass from Gordon Hayward—that looked so smooth. And that was a few plays after a typical, contortionist-type move in the lane by Burks. His other three (he was 2-for-2 from three in the game) was in the second half in the right corner. He’s playing so much more in control than he used to and has added more nuance to his game; it’s really cool to see now that he’s getting consistent and significant playing time.

The Lakers broadcast put up a stat box when Burks was shooting free throws: “Averaging 15.2 ppg in April, 51% FG, 88% FT.” Those are some great numbers, and he only missed two shots last night. The fantastic thing about Burks is that he’s almost always attacking. He’s learned that you can’t drive to the basket every single play, that you have to mix it up, but he’s blending attacking and creating and shooting from the outside incredibly well. Burks might be the player I’m most excited to see break out next season.

Side note: Swaggy P reminds me of Burks, the way his body moves when he’s dribbling on the perimeter and trying to find a hole to drive to the basket. Anyone else notice that?

Passing. In the first part of the first half, there were some really encouraging passes, some really good spacing, and some exciting plays. With four minutes to go in the first quarter, a Evans set a pick for Burks, and when Evans rolled and got the ball, he was doubled in the key (seriously, LA?), only to pass it off perfectly to an open Favors for a two-handed dunk. It was a beautifully executed play, and seeing that passing and cutting from the young players was encouraging. The next play, on defense, Favors blocked the ball, and then Hayward took the ball down, passed it to Favors, who passed it immediately back to Hayward for a three. Later, there was a great pick and roll between Burke and Favors. Nearing the end of the first half, there was a beautiful pick and roll between Burke and Kanter, for a Kanter dunk. One of the most interesting things to me about that play, however, is that Burke didn’t celebrate; he didn’t start backpedaling to get on defense. He jumped forward to start putting pressure on the Lakers as they were bringing the ball inbounds. He’s all business.

Gordon Hayward was absolutely on fire in the first half, and then disappeared in the second. During the first half, I thought, My goodness, he gets up for these Lakers games. He had 16 points and was hitting just about everything he was throwing up. He was getting rebounds and taking the ball coast to coast for two-handed dunks, he was deflecting passes on defense, he was attacking the basket with reckless abandon, and he was setting up teammates. The Gordon Hayward of the first half is a player to get really excited about, especially if he’s surrounded with more talent. But his comments after the game that he’s learned he can be “The Guy” on a team don’t ring true to me. As much as I love Hayward’s game, if he’s your numero uno guy, you’re going to be a struggling team. But if he can find a way to be more consistent and dictate matchups next season, he’ll be another fun one to watch.

Mini Glimpses. Jeremy Evans has hops. This isn’t new to any Jazz fan with eyes over the last few years, but seeing him get blocked on a layup only to take it back up immediately for the jam is still a cool display of athleticism. Trey Burke’s become a better distributor. He still looks for his shot far too much, in my opinion, but he’s doing a better job of setting up his teammates, as evidenced by his increasing assist totals: 46 assists in the last five games.

These glimpses were encouraging, given the number of discouraging moments, times, and trends we’ve seen this season. Will the defense be better next year? Will Alec Burks become the top scorer on the team? Will Burke maintain his clutchness? What glimpses from this game—and this season—have you looking forward to the future?

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).
Laura Thompson

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6 Comments

  1. The Monk says:

    Great comments. I didn’t hear the quote from Hayward. A little disconcerting. He could be the’go-to’ player on a bad team perhaps. Sounds more like contract positioning to me than anything and it’s too bad. Burks looks great. Still need to see him more playing against first unit two guards. The entire team does well playing against second units – generally. I’ve always thought Trey would be a fantastic backup PG coming out of the draft and really his ceiling. Why I was disappointed we didn’t take the risk with MCS. And unless he picks up his defense considerably – I think that is realistically where he’ll end up in the long run. So the question is … if we draft 5 or 6 do you pick up Marcus Smart or one of the forwards? And seeing Kendall Marshall dishing out another 15 assists? I like Garrett, but I still don’t get it? Why didn’t we pick up Marshall? Was it a personality fit thing? Not Jazz ‘material’. Frankly, that whole part of the organizational equation is getting old for me. If we don’t get one of the top 3 draft picks (which it sounded from the game that Lindsey feels there is an obvious top 3) which direction do the Jazz go with in the draft? I was really in the Ty camp for two years. But I am so glad he will be gone. I’m almost pissed I didn’t get to see these five play together more for the entire year. Richard Jefferson should get a nice contract next year somewhere though. And MAYBE we’ll get lucky and Marvin really will stick around. Okay I’m done. Good post. Thanks.

    • The Monk says:

      MCS typo for MCW.

    • Spencer says:

      I’m with you on the Burks thing. I like his game I just don’t like that he is too small and slow to guard anybody. At least he tries, but I would feel great about Exum and Smart if we are out of the top 3. I would love to see Grant around at 23 for a defensive wing.

      There is enough offensive talent to be fine on that end, but we need a PG who can defend his position and a SF who can match up with the Durant/Lebron?George types. I think Grant has Bruce Bowen potential. Would love Gordon as well, but don’t want to reach for him.

  2. eaton53 says:

    I’m not at all happy that Gobert didn’t get more time.
    Giving the likes of Richard Jefferson extensive minutes was a complete waste.

    As for who the Jazz draft… BPA. They can always make a trade.

    • Timothy says:

      Agree with everythin eaton53. Split up Jefferson’s 26 minutes per game. 4 minutes to Kanter, 5 minutes to Brandon Rush, 5 minutes to Rudy Gobert, 5 minutes to Alec Burks, and 7 minutes to Ian Clark.
      Corbin should’ve started the core five since January.

  3. Chad says:

    Jazz’s biggest success this year: setting up Jefferson and Williams for a solid 2-3 year contract on another team next year.

    With the right coach I think the Jazz are much further along in the rebuilding process than the teams around them in the standings. Lakers are likely done in the near future unless they can lure another star away from a team. (never mind, that will likely happen)

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