Since I was so right on with my predictions for last year (that’s some serious sarcasm, folks), I thought I’d go for Round 2 and see if maybe, just maybe, practice will make perfect. I’ll dare to dream.
Last year, I was hoping for a jump to 17/12 for Derrick Favors. I may have been a bit ambitious with my dreams, as he ended up at 13/8 (nearly 9). Interestingly, while his minutes drastically increased from 23.2 to 30.2, he was able to stay on the court by staying out of foul trouble, but he also increased his FG% and his eFG% (especially impressive while Gordon Hayward, with increased minutes and an increased role, was unable to do the same). I keep hoping that Favors will develop a go-to move in the post, and many were thinking that could happen as he worked with Karl Malone last offseason. Unfortunately, that never really came to fruition, and we saw much of the same offensive game. However, with a new coach in Quin Snyder and a new system based on movement and passing, I’m hoping Favors’ athleticism will help him get to the 17/12 I predicted for him last season. I’m usually a year (or five) behind trends anyway, so I’m going to stick with this one and see how it pans out.
In my naiveté, I was envisioning a year where Enes Kanter reached 16/11. While he ended up at 12/7, he was plagued by inconsistency 1and mental lapses on defense. He did show some polish on offense, though, and we know that he’ll be given more of a green light to shoot from deep this year. He have been set back more than we realized last season while rehabbing his shoulder injury from the season before. What’s problematic is that he’s been spending this offseason rehabbing another injury instead of developing additional aspects to his game. I’m not ready to give up on Kanter, especially with a new coach and system, but I’m going to revise last year’s prediction slightly for this year: 15/9.
Gordon Hayward is the player from which we’ve seen the most and probably understand a bit more of what his ceiling is. His game was dissected and discussed an incredible amount on blogs, on the radio, on TV, etc. because he became The Man on the team. He struggled under the weight of being a number one option, but also responded with some very good across-the-board numbers, although he was unable to carry the entire team—admittedly, not a hugely talented team from a roster perspective. His 16/5/5 numbers were impressive, though it’s concerning that his TS% and eFG% have decreased every year he’s been in the league. Impressively, however, his assist percentage jumped significantly (from 16.7 to 24.1). My prediction for Hayward last year was 18/4/5, so I wasn’t ridiculously off last year. I’m actually going with that again this year: a new coach and system and some more talent around him should ease a bit of the load that was on him last year, helping him to score more efficiently while maintaining his jack-of-all-trades effectiveness in filling the stat sheet.
My prediction for Alec Burks last year was 14/5/3 and he ended up with what was essentially 14/3/3. What’s impressive to me about Burks is that he’s increased his efficiency with each season: his TS% has increased each season he’s been in the league, and his FTr—after decreasing in his second season—was back up to really great levels at .449. Burks is the one of the four who has such tantalizing athleticism and a knack for getting the ball in the basket—even when getting knocked around in the lane—that he’s completely fascinating to watch with the ball in his hands. He seemed to learn how to play better with teammates and didn’t always go away from the pick as the season progressed. I think the play-with-the-pass offense will be especially beneficial to him and the spacing Snyder suggests will give Burks the space he needs to go to work and utilize his incredible athleticism. I predict, probably like so many of you, that this will finally be the year he breaks out and shows what he’s capable of. I’m going with 19/4/4 and a large number of highlight-reel contortionist moves.
So, Jazz fans. What about you? What are your predictions for the Core 4 this season?