We’re kicking off Jazz training camp season with a series of collaborative columns about fun & burning topics. Today, we continue the series by taking some guesses on Jazz personnel’s chances at awards and honors in the 2016-17 season.
Also, be sure to check out the previous three days’ “Staff Scrimmage” articles:
Now, let’s talk hardware.
Thatcher Olson: Yes. Without getting too far ahead of ourselves, the Jazz should have a very good team, with the potential for a top four seed. Gordon Hayward has proven himself to be an all-around player, with a formidable offensive and defensive game. His game has gained more recognition each year, and this is the year he brings the Jazz back to the All-Star game.
Aaron Hefner: If the Jazz are top 6-ish in the West this season, they will almost certainly have a player at the All-Star game. Hayward is the heavy favorite to represent the Jazz, but if Rudy Gobert had a really strong season to that point, he could get the nod. Derrick Favors will get more attention this year than previous years, but I don’t think it will result in All-Star honors.
Laura Thompson: Absolutely: Hayward. The Jazz are going to be a significantly better team 1 and teams in the playoff hunt are rarely shut out from having a player in the All-Star game. While Hayward won’t win the fan vote, he’s very well-respected with the league’s coaches and they’ll vote him in as a reserve. Favors could be a sneaky vote, but Hayward will make it before Favors.
David Smith: If Utah gets off to a strong start, yes, it will have an All-Star. My guess would be Hayward, who most coaches probably view as the team’s best player. To me, Favors is right up there — a grossly underrated player. But the nod here goes to Hayward, with his versatility being a selling point. It should be noted that all 11 non-Kobe All-Stars from the 2016 squad could easily be back. So the competition could be tough. Count me as one who would be happy with 13 to 15 on each All-Star squad, just like a normal NBA roster.
Matt Pacenza: I think so, although this will probably have more to do with the team’s record than it will the performance of any given player. Voters tend to pick All-Stars from teams that are, say, at least 32-20, which the Jazz might reasonably be in January. The West is loaded, as always, but I’ll say that Hayward could take Kobe Bryant’s spot. Either Gobert or Favors could stake a claim on DeMarcus Cousins’ berth if the Kings continue to flail, but the terriying Karl-Anthony Towns may rise up and seize that spot instead.
Thatcher: While Snyder has proven to be a very good coach thus far, it would take a lot to get much COY recognition. The Jazz have a good team, and expectations around the league are very high. However, Quin could get top 3 recognition (or better) by leading the Jazz to a 2nd or 3rd-place finish in the Western Conference. Passing the Clippers and/or Spurs could vault him into serious consideration.
Aaron: Finishing top 3 in COY voting is very difficult. The competition for that title is going to be stiff this season. Here are a couple of the early favorites and their narratives: Gregg Popovich leading the post-Duncan Spurs, Brad Stevens with a star player, Rick Carlisle with an improved and healthy roster, Mike D’Antoni’s offensive behemoth and Frank Vogel with an overhauled Orlando crew. Snyder would have to finish 3rd or 4th in the West to have a shot at top 3 in COY voting.
Laura: If the Jazz are 4th or better in the West, Snyder will finish top 3 in COY voting. People love an underdog story, and even with the hype and bandwagon support the team has gotten in recent months, this is still a team that didn’t make the playoffs last year. To take a leap to a homecourt playoff berth in a single season would be the ticket to show voters what Snyder and company have been building in Utah.
David: First, obviously experiencing a jump in wins would help his contention. A fourth or fifth seed would get a lot of voters’ attention. Second, boasting a top-three defense will also help garner support. If healthy, there are no reasons the Jazz couldn’t be the NBA’s standard on defense.
Matt: Let’s say 53 wins and a top three seed. Even if the Warriors and Spurs finish in the top two spots again, voters are typically a bit jaded by consistent success from the likes of Popovich and (more recently) Steve Kerr. Tom Thibodeau will be a strong candidate if the young Wolves make the playoffs, as will Stevens if the Celtics top 50 games again. But Snyder will have a legitimate shot at a top three finish.
Thatcher: While Gobert is known as one of the best defensive players in the game — and the very best rim protector — the awards didn’t reflect that. Two things need to happen to change that this year: 1) Gobert needs to remain healthy. 2) The Jazz need to make the playoffs. If Gobert helps the team to a top defense and a playoff appearance, he’ll get the awards respect he deserves.
Aaron: Health is going to be a major factor in him achieving either accolade. If he stays healthy and anchors a Jazz improvement to top five defensive efficiency, it would be a gross injustice for him not to make first team All-D or top three in DPOY voting. However, our favorite Frenchman could be left out seeing as DeAndre Jordan held down the first-team spot last year.
Laura: Health and staying out of foul trouble. Those two things will keep him on the floor long enough to make his defensive presence felt, with an honorable mention to improved free-throw shooting. While some of his defensive stats were consistent from 2014-15 to last season2, others were down; his blocks (4.7 to 3.7) and rebounds (19.1 to 18.2) per 100 possessions dropped and those are stats DPOY voters like. But his defensive impact can be so good that, especially with gaudy stats to back him up, that court time will be the key.
David: Being the centerpiece — pun intended — of a swarming, stout and intimidating defense would have to open some more eyes. Gobert’s presence is well known. A jump in overall success for the Jazz, coupled with a big jump in national television appearances, could help the Stifle Tower’s cause.
Matt: To unseat Jordan, first-team All-D center the past two years, Rudy will have to stay healthy and the Jazz will have to win even more games than predicted3. If the Jazz win more than 50 and finish with a top-five defense4, Gobert unseats Jordan.
Thatcher: No. While the Jazz should have a very good bench — maybe one of the best in the league — I think their depth means no 6MOY candidates. The Jazz won’t rely on one or two reserves, but rather on the overall impact of a strong bench. Potential candidates like Joe Johnson, Alec Burks and maybe even Trey Lyles will see minutes spread around and might even miss games to rest, hurting their 6MOY chances.
Aaron: Recent 6MOY winners are almost always high-scoring guards or wings. Burks could carry that torch, but it’s unlikely he will be playing the minutes that Jamal Crawford, Lou Williams and JR Smith were in their award seasons5. In fact, it’s quite possible Burks is the 7th, 8th or even 9th man in Utah’s rotation — behind Johnson, Dante Exum and one of the reserve bigs. Because of that, I don’t think they’ll have a top competitor for 6MOY.
Laura: While I’m tempted to list whoever comes off the bench out of Rodney Hood and Johnson, I’m going to say no. The depth of this team means there’s no one particular player who will stand out so dramatically. Burks could be a tempting selection, but he’s coming off injury and has yet to play a large number of games under Snyder. With those wings playing alongside Exum, Lyles, Joe Ingles and Boris Diaw coming off the bench, the offensive firepower will likely come by committee.
David: One could see several guys contributing enough to be mentioned. Johnson, who has started nearly 1,000 straight games, could be the top candidate if he provides leadership and shooting off the pine. Arguments could also be made for Lyles, Exum or Burks. All this said, it will probably go to a high-volume scorer. Given Utah’s potential balance, it may not field a top scoring reserve.
Matt: I don’t think so. I don’t see any of Burks, Johnson or Lyles playing enough minutes — or scoring enough points — to challenge the likes of Crawford or Andre Iguodala. This is largely a good thing, because the Jazz have two strong backup wings, and up to three decent backup bigs, so no one bench player is going to sport eye-popping numbers. The depressing alternative scenario involves an injury or two forcing big minutes on the first guy off the bench, but why let our optimistic preseason minds wander to such dark places?
Thatcher: Lyles. He came on very strong near the end of last year, and he has plenty of room to improve. Add in more minutes, and we should see a big jump in production from Lyles. This, combined with likely improvement for the Jazz overall, could garner him some MIP candidate consideration.
Aaron: Exum, no question. Jazz fans fell in love with the oft-cited flashes of brilliance from the skinny Australian, but his rookie year was actually quite abysmal by some measures, especially on offense. Since then, he has grown physically, mentally and emotionally after more than a year of watching from the sidelines. This season he will have the opportunity to make an enormous jump from his 5.7 rookie PER.
Laura: Hood and Gobert. Both had nice sophomore seasons, but each was plagued with inconsistency and Gobert in particular was hampered by unrealistic expectations and slowed by injuries. Hood’s versatility is what gives him the edge here. Given that he now has a year of starting under his belt and wings often make a jump during year three, this could be his break-out year.
David: Lyles came on as his rookie campaign progressed. With a good uptick in minutes and a more prominent role in the team’s schemes, he could be poised to make a very solid jump. Having a strong surrounding cast in the second unit will only help him get better looks. He will need to make concerted improvement defensively.
Matt: I doubt anyone will. The most obvious “leap” candidates are the young Lyles and Exum, but I wonder if either will play enough to really stand out. Exum or Burks would be interesting Comeback Player of the Year candidates, but that honor was last given in 1986. As with my 6MOY answer, MIP maybe becomes a possibility if injuries elsewhere force Lyles or Exum to play 30 minutes a night.