Salt City Hoops » Eastern Conference http://saltcityhoops.com The ESPN TrueHoop Utah Jazz Site Wed, 17 Sep 2014 19:09:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 The ESPN TrueHoop Utah Jazz Site Salt City Hoops no The ESPN TrueHoop Utah Jazz Site Salt City Hoops » Eastern Conference http://saltcityhoops.com/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://saltcityhoops.com SCH Division Preview Hub http://saltcityhoops.com/sch-division-preview-hub/ http://saltcityhoops.com/sch-division-preview-hub/#comments Tue, 26 Oct 2010 21:45:53 +0000 http://www.saltcityhoops.com/?p=2611 Author information
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New Season - New Logo

The Salt City Hoops staff has been hard at work previewing each of the contenders in the NBA.  Sure the season starts today, but come playoff time, only 16 teams will get to play in the second season – and have a shot at the Larry O’Brien trophy and a place in the hall of NBA champions.  Add the Utah Jazz to this list, and there are 19 teams fighting for 16 spots.  Who will be left on the outside looking in?

We’ve evaluated the key matchups, sounded the high notes and the low notes, revisited (sometimes painfully) the history between the franchises, scrutinized the players and coaches, and given you an outlook for the coming season.  Here, then, to kick of the 2009-2010 NBA season are links to each of those previews:

Atlantic Division: Boston CelticsNY Knicks

Central Division: Chicago BullsMilwaukee BucksIndiana Pacers

Southeast Division: Atlanta HawksCharlotte BobcatsMiami Heat | Orlando Magic

Northwest Division: OKC ThunderDenver NuggetsPortland Trailblazers

Pacific Division: LA LakersLA ClippersPhoenix Suns

Southwest Division: Houston RocketsSan Antonio SpursDallas Mavericks

Be sure to check back during the season to see how we did in our prognosticating!

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Jefferson
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Division Previews: Orlando Magic, Southeast Division – Eastern Conference http://saltcityhoops.com/divisional-previews-orlando-magic-southeast-division-eastern-conference/ http://saltcityhoops.com/divisional-previews-orlando-magic-southeast-division-eastern-conference/#comments Wed, 20 Oct 2010 22:00:58 +0000 http://www.saltcityhoops.com/?p=2387 Author information
Jeff Lind
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In the final days leading up to regular season action, SCH will be posting divisional previews of the top teams in all six NBA divisions. Come back early and often for updates.

Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images

Key Matchups

Dwight Howard v. Al Jefferson – On one hand you have Howard: a battle tested, 6’11” 265 lbs, defensive beast. On the other you have Jefferson: A relatively untested, 6’10” 280 lb, offensive low block power. These two are nearly a wash, size wise (although you can bet that Dwight will be chiseled and in game shape come opening tip), so it’ll be fantastic to see them battle on either end for big man domination. It’s no secret that Al was a little heavy when he weighed in at training camp, so here’s to the rigor of Jerry Sloan’s intense preseason workouts that will hopefully have him game-ready come Orlando time.

Vince Carter v. Raja Bell – Carter is one of the most amazing offensive players I have ever seen, and he’s (allegedly) looked good this preseason. He’s athletic, strong, has a silky smooth jump shot, and last season showed us that he still has all the moves… when he bothers to play. He’s 33 and has a propensity to disappear in important games, but he’s also playing for a contract this year and (whether they like it or not) stands as the Magic’s most potent go-to threat. Conversely, Raja Bell is the newly proclaimed stopper for the Jazz, and if he has the guts to clothesline Kobe, he won’t fear getting up in Carter’s business. How Carter reacts to Bell’s tenacious defense within the Jazz system will be the most interesting storyline in these games. Will Vince rise to the challenge and use his athleticism to play above Bell, or will he shrug off the necessary work and let one of his many wing back-ups pick up the slack?

High Notes | Low Notes

The Magic finished 1st in the Southeast division last year with the 4th best offensive rating in the NBA. They also had the 3rd best defensive rating in the league. Unfortunately, they also allowed the 4th most points by an opponent of all 30 teams, and got dispensed by the Celtics in the second round of the playoffs. Seeding from a great regular season doesn’t mean much if you can’t come up big when it counts.

History

Last season the Jazz played two games against Orlando and each squad won on their respective home courts.

On Dec. 10 in Salt Lake City, Deron Williams scored 34 points to lead the Jazz past Carter’s own 34 points, and Howard’s 18 points & 10 rebounds. With that win, the Jazz broke the Magic’s franchise-record eight-game road winning streak.

On Dec. 21, the Magic returned the favor in Orlando. Dwight Howard led the Magic to a win with 21 points and five blocks (um… yeah. FIVE). The Magic scored 64 points in the second half of that game on their way to a 104-99 victory over the Jazz.

In the random stat department: the last time an opponent had a 20/20 game versus the Jazz was on March 15, 2009. Guess who the player was? Yep. Dwight Howard (28 pts, 20 rebs).

Player/Coach Notes

Stan Van Gundy is one of the rare coaches that seems to successfully walk the fine line of player coach and disciplinarian. He calls out his players in the media, yet he always finds their forgiveness with spontaneous goofiness. He trusts his shooters, and constantly preaches defensive uniformity. He’s good, and in the past two years Van Gundy has helped the Magic finish 18 games over .500 (in each year). He’s one of my favorite coaches not named Sloan. He doesn’t lie down for garbage from players, he plays his fair share of mind games in the media, and he always seems to have a good time with it.

Jerry Sloan’s all time win/loss record against the Magic is 24/19. Since Jerry Sloan was named head coach by the Jazz in 1988, the Orlando Magic have had eight coaching changes.

Outlook

The Magic are a good  team hovering at the top of an increasingly crowded east. After getting axed last year by the Celtics, you would think that the Magic would try and reload with better weapons. Instead they settled for a Quentin Richardson downgrade (for Matt Barnes) and sending Howard to summer camp with Hakeem Olajuwon (who is hoping to return with some more refined low post moves). I like Orlando’s team and coach, and I’d love to see them compete hard for an Eastern Conference title. Unfortunately, without any additional movement or major player changes, I think we’ll see much of the same out of Orlando: a strong regular season with a mid-round exit in the Eastern Conference Playoffs.

[CAVEAT: If Vince plays up this contract year, Howard really does learn some subtle low post moves, if Rashard Lewis pulls it together on a consistent basis, and Van Gundy learns how to use Reddick effectively (who is a total stud), then these guys could be really, really scary. They just haven't shown that they can do it on the big stage yet, and the Celtics have. Give me something to believe in Orlando!]

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Division Previews: Miami Heat, Southeast Division – Eastern Conference http://saltcityhoops.com/divisional-previews-miami-heat-southeast-division/ http://saltcityhoops.com/divisional-previews-miami-heat-southeast-division/#comments Wed, 20 Oct 2010 20:00:15 +0000 http://www.saltcityhoops.com/?p=2262 Author information
Mychal
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In the final days leading up to regular season action, SCH will be posting divisional previews of the top teams in all six NBA divisions. Come back early and often for updates.

Coming together like Voltron hasn't always ended well

Overview

What can be said about the Miami Heat that hasn’t been written in hyperbole? It’s like taking a frontpage ad in the New York Times telling people that Columbus arrived in America. It’s world changing news, but it’s 500 years too late.

If you haven’t heard by now and do not own a television, computer, radio, ipod, cell phone, landline phone, never been in a sports bar, don’t have at least one friend with half a brain, never watched half a second of ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN U, ESPN Classic, ESPN Does Las Vegas, or just came out of your bomb shelter from 1963, this guy named LeBron, formerly of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who is kind of good at basketball took his talents to South Beach. Not only did he go to South Beach but he took his friend Chris Bosh, formerly of the Toronto Raptors, there, too, while Dwyane Wade re-signed with Miami. Add in Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, and a handful of veterans past their prime that are chasing for a ring and you have a very happy Pat Riley.

This is the kind of “Wouldn’t It Be Awesome If This Could Really Happen” team that immature guys like myself make in NBA2K11. But then it really happened. Kudos to Pat Riley for pulling it off. I’m now convinced Pat Riley could sell high fructose corn syrup to a diabetic. I’m sure in another life Pat Riley was a used car salesman – and a damn good one, too.

Key Matchups

(Photo: Walter Iooss Jr./SI)

Dwyane Wade/LeBron James/Chris Bosh vs Deron Williams/Andrei Kirilenko/Al Jefferson

Call me delusional. Call me crazy. Call me a homer. But the Jazz can match up against Miami. Don’t believe me? Look at this:

Deron Williams 6’3″ 209 lbs. vs Dwyane Wade 6’4″ 220 lbs.

Let’s first focus on this strictly in a defensive point of view. Deron Williams has quietly put himself in the discussion as one of the best perimeter defenders at his position. We have seen him shut down Brandon Roy, Chris Paul, and other good perimeter players. He plays big for his position. He offensively can compete with Dwyane Wade on most nights. While he is not as explosive as a scorer he is a smart point guard who can get the Jazz’s offense humming like a well oiled machine of back doors and cuts. Dwyane Wade can take over a game offensively. We saw it in the Boston series in last season’s playoffs. But with Williams guarding him as well as Raja Bell don’t count on it happening.

Advantage: Neutral

Al Jefferson 6’10” 280 lbs. vs Chris Bosh 6’11” 235 lbs.

Bosh is a top 5 PF in this league. He is long. He is quick. He has a silky smooth midrange game too. Unfortunately for Bosh he will be facing another top 5 PF when he faces up against Al Jefferson. If Al Jefferson wasn’t playing for the Toyota Timberwolves the last two seasons he would be in a discussion as a top 3 PF. Bosh is facing a guy who outweighs him by 45 pounds. If you don’t think that is a big weight disparity then go to your local gym, pick up a 45 pound weight, throw it at your friend, and then see how he fares. Jefferson may be outhustled a couple times in transition but Jefferson is going to love coming off a screen to an isolation that leaves just him and Bosh down low.

Advantage: Big Al

Andrei Kirilenko 6’9″ 235 lbs. vs LeBron James 6’8″ 250 lbs.

This is the matchup that the Jazz will focus on all night. If Deron Williams and Al Jefferson are focused and on their game, LeBron can become their main concern. The key will be making LeBron feel like he has to do it by himself. Andrei Kirilenko has put more weight on this year and looks to be in better condition but LeBron is still LeBron. He’s the reigning MVP and can go into God-mode at any stage of the game. Kirilenko’s job will be pestering him, causing turnovers, and preventing LeBron from getting his teammates involved. Turn this game into LeBron vs. Utah. If he is able to get Dwayne Wade & Chris Bosh to work in complete harmony then they will have formed Voltron. Game Over.

Advantage: LeBron James

Final Verdict

This daunting matchup is not as bad as it would seem. Yes, this is still 3 of the 5 starting U.S.A. dream team players vs Utah but don’t forget that D-Will was part of that Dream Team, Kirilenko led his Russian team to Euro gold, and Al Jefferson might be given a long look by the U.S. team after this season.

Which leads us to …

Jazz Bench vs Heat Bench

This is where this game will be won. If the Jazz starters can play sound defensively then it’ll be up to the starters to play assassins to the Heat’s aging bench. Allow me to list those on the Jazz bench who’ll be fighting for minutes:

  1. C.J. Miles
  2. Gordon Hayward
  3. Earl Watson
  4. Mehmet Okur*
  5. Kyrylo Fesenko
  6. Ronnie Price
  7. Jeremy Evans

*when healthy

Now let’s compare that to those who’ll be fighting for minutes on Miami’s bench:

  1. Udonis Haslem
  2. Zydrunas Ilgauskus
  3. James Jones
  4. Eddie House
  5. Patrick Beverly
  6. Carlos Arroyo

You know when you watch The Discovery Channel and they have a documentary on how lions hunt? Let me give you a quick summation:

Lions don’t hunt alone. They work in a group known as a pride. They are very patient hunters. They lack the stamina for a long drawn out attack. So they must wait for the perfect time to attack. Say they are hunting zebra. They will follow the herd and make a target on their weakest herd members. Who are the weak members of the zebra herd? The newborns and the old frail elders. This pride of lions will follow the zebra until the strongest of this herd are tired and need rest. So when the leaders of the herd of zebra come to a pond of water to get their much needed rest that’s when the pride of lions attack. They go for the weak of the herd and make them dinner. It’s an unforeseen attack. Most of the pride are hidden in the brush. They work in an ambush.

What does The Discovery Channel have to do with basketball? The Jazz’s bench will be Utah’s pride of lions. The Jazz will wait patiently and weather the storm of LeBron, Wade, and Bosh until they will inevitably have to get their rest. Miami will then have to send out their young bucks and frail elders. That’s when the Jazz will unleash their pride of lions on Miami’s weak, their newborns and frail old veterans.

If Utah’s bench comes ready to attack then they can put their team in a position late in the game to win it.

Advantage: Utah

High Notes | Low Notes

The Miami Heat are the antithesis of the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Utah Jazz.  Instead of patient building through the draft they struck gold in Free Agency with LeBron, Wade, and Bosh.  They have one goal and that’s to win a ring and many rings.

With a potential lockout looming, a new collective bargaining agreement around the corner, and the possibility of a hard cap the Heat’s window is surprisingly small.  Next year’s new CBA could limit the Heat’s flexibility to build around the three headed monster of LeBron, Wade, and Bosh.  Crazy as it seems but the Heat’s window for winning a championship could be limited to the next 3 years.  After that it could be very possible that the Heat would have to trade one of their core pieces just to allow for flexibility with their roster.  The greatest enemy to Miami’s future success might not wear an L.A., Boston, or Orlando jersey, but a suit and tie.

[Author's Note:  I'm not saying this is the coming reality but it is a plausible outcome of the upcoming labor talks.  The owners want a hard cap.  They also don't want to face the crisis of losing their franchise's superstar a la LeBron James.  LeBron's decision to leave Cleveland, and to a lesser extent Bosh's decision to leave Toronto, will have a profound effect on how owners go into labor talks this offseason.  Owners will want a way to keep their stars home, especially small market teams.  The Miami Heat are good for the NBA this year but super teams cannot become the norm.  We have seen what the lack in parity has done to baseball.]

The Heat will be a fast break nightmare.  They want to get out and use their gazelles, LeBron/Wade/Bosh, to beat you.  With LeBron running the point they will try to force matchup problems with the opposing team.  Their goal is to get the opposing team’s players to defend out of their normal position.  This is a super team.  Make no mistake.  Opposing teams only hope will be to disrupt the Heat’s offense early with deflections, slow down the fast break, take advantage of the Heat’s weak bench, and hope that by the end of the game that they are in a position to possibly win it.

History

Utah leads the series 28-19 all-time; 1-1 last season.

Two seasons ago the Utah Jazz were coming off a Western Conference Finals appearance.  They were picked as that year’s darlings to challenge for the top spot in the West.  Then disaster struck.  Injuries plagued everyone from Deron Williams, Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer, Paul Millsap, and beyond.  Then slowly they started getting healthy again.  They traded for Kyle Korver and after the All-Star Break they went on a winning streak of epic proportions.  It seemed the Jazz were back on track and looking like the darlings the media thought they were.  Then the Jazz went on their last East coast roadtrip.  They easily handled Indiana and Toronto, lost a close game to Atlanta, and were preparing for the Miami Heat 3 days after that.

Starting to sound familiar?  It should.

Because in that Miami Heat game the Jazz destroyed the Miami Heat for 47 minutes and 5 seconds.  Then in what Deron Williams would later say, “We did a how-to on how to lose a basketball game,”  Miami overcame the Jazz’s 7 point lead in 55 seconds.  The game went into 3 overtimes and the Heat beat the Jazz with Wade scoring 50 points.  The Jazz never recovered.  They went on to finish the season 10-13 dropping to the 8th seed in the playoffs and having a forgettable 1st round exit against the Lakers.  In that one game the Heat created a mental ceiling for that young Jazz squad and they never mentally got past that – not that season nor the next.

Don’t think for a moment Deron Williams has forgotten that.

Coach Notes

Erik Spoelstra will be coaching against a guy who could actually be his grandpa.

In the year Erik Spoelstra was born, 1970, Jerry Sloan averaged 18 pts, 8 reb, and 3 ast for the season with the Chicago Bulls.  While Spoelstra was soiling a diaper, Sloan was making guys soil their pants while he defended them.

Outlook

Voltron has been formed.  This team will contend for the right to represent the Eastern Conference in the Finals this year.  If the Heat can stay healthy (right now that’s a big if) then they will be a force to be reckoned with.  Not many teams can match up defensively to guard them and this is one experiment I’m excited to witness.  They are one of the elite teams in the NBA without question.  The Jazz have a chance to steal a win in Miami on if the Heat are still nursing injuries and getting in rhythm with each other.  That said, the Jazz will finish the season series with the Heat 0-2.  I said the Jazz can matchup against them but to beat them it has to be a perfect storm.

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Division Previews: Atlanta Hawks, Southeast Division – Eastern Conference http://saltcityhoops.com/divisional-previews-atlanta-hawks-southeast-division-eastern-conference/ http://saltcityhoops.com/divisional-previews-atlanta-hawks-southeast-division-eastern-conference/#comments Wed, 20 Oct 2010 15:30:42 +0000 http://www.saltcityhoops.com/?p=2347 Author information
Jefferson
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In the final days leading up to regular season action, SCH will be posting divisional previews of the top teams in all six NBA divisions. Come back early and often for updates.

The Million Dollar Man - $119 mil over six seasons (AP)

Key Matchups

The Jazz get an early dose of the Hawks, playing in Atlanta on their first extended road trip of the season – four games against Eastern Conference playoff teams.  After visits to Miami and Orlando, Utah will visit Atlanta on November 12th (on the first night of a back-to-back with Charlotte on the back end).  Atlanta visits Salt Lake City on January 5th during the New Year home stand.

AK47 vs. Joe Johnson

Granted, AK and Joe Johnson play different positions of the floor, and have completely different games.  Still, I’ll be interested to see how Utah’s max contract mistake compares to Atlanta’s max contract man.  In the Summer of LeBron, who would have thought that Joe Johnson would have come away with the biggest payday of 2010?  Joe Johnson is a solid player, to be sure – consistent to say the least [averaged at least 20 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and a steal in each of his past five seasons].  Johnson’s offensive success comes primarily from isolation plays – Utah can concede 20 points to Joe Johnson, especially if it means keeping the other players uninvolved in the offense.  In the Conference semi-finals last year, Orlando kept JJ quiet (only 12.8 points and less than 30% from the field).  That’s a lot of cheddar for someone who essentially choked in the biggest games of the year for his team.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big Kirilenko fan…  I still remember watching his first game in Utah from the nosebleeds in the former-Delta Center. I turned to my Dad and told him that the young Russian was something special. Following the 2004 All-Star campaign, he definitely made a strong case for max money.  His first season after the max deal? Injury plagued – he sat out half of the games.  Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20, and $17.9 million this year seems a little steep for a 12 points, 4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and a block.  AK only played in 58 games last year, but provided some much needed energy off the bench and found ways to contribute when his number was called.  I was worried that the trade rumors might have injured his famously frail ego, but he’s shown quite the opposite in the preseason.  AK has been firing on all cylinders, and if he stays healthy, will have a huge impact this season.  It doesn’t hurt that its a contract year, either.

Al Jefferson v. Al Horford

Standing 6’10” and putting up a double-double in points and rebounds, Al is one tough big man.  Which Al, you ask?  Why both, of course.  Al Jefferson is just a year older and averages a couple more points, but essentially, these two players share many of the same traits.  Al Horford has less experience in the league (he spent some time developing his game with Joakim Noah and Corey Brewer at Florida – and helping his team earn an NCAA championship).  Horford shoots nearly 80% from the free-throw line (Al Jefferson is just 70% from the charity stripe).  Horford has posted better numbers during each of his three NBA seasons.  It will be exciting to see these two mirror each other when the Jazz and Hawks take the court.

How will Al stack up against "Big Al"? (Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty Images)

High Notes | Low Notes

The more things change, the more they stay the same – at least in Atlanta.  This Hawks team will look quite a bit like the Hawks teams of the past.  Atlanta is not a great rebounding team – and it does not defend very well on the perimeter.  The core is young, but they have played together in the same system for a while now.  Even with a coaching change (see below), there’s not much different in Atlanta.  While the starting 5 are respectable, the bench leaves much to be desired.  Expect more of the same from Atlanta – a winning team that is simply not built for the playoffs.

History

Utah leads the all-time series 47-38.  Atlanta swept the season series from Utah last year.  Prior to 2010, Atlanta had not won in Utah since 1993 when Dominque Wilkins, AKA the Human Highlight Reel posted 43 points against the Jazz.  AK and D-Will watched that home dominance streak end in street clothes – in what was a very close game.  Joe Johnson scored 11 points in the final frame to overcome Utah’s lead and guide Atlanta to a victory.

Player/Coach Notes

Larry Drew was named Head Coach of the Hawks this summer.  Prior to being named Head Coach, Drew served six seasons as lead assistant to ousted Hawks Coach Mike Woodson – in other words, don’t look for any significant changes due to the leadership change.

Drew is just one of the hundreds of coaching changes in the NBA since Jerry Sloan was named as Utah’s Bench Leader.  In fact, with the retirement of Bobby Cox (GM of Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves), Jerry Sloan is now the longest serving coach in all of professional sports.

Former Number 2 overall pick Marvin Williams will start at SF for the Hawks.  Marvin Williams never developed into the all-around player Atlanta had hoped.  I’m sure Atlanta would like to have the 2nd pick in 2005 back – leaving both D-Will and CP3 on the table for the Jazz and Hornets, respectively.

Outlook

Atlanta is mired in the best and deepest division in the Eastern Conference.  Atlanta is a playoff team, for sure, but I’d be surprised if they make it out of the first round in the upcoming year.  As a lower seed in the East, they will likely be paired with Boston, Chicago, Orlando or Miami – all of whom can beat ATL in a 7 game series.  I am not convinced that the Jazz have improved enough on the road to guarantee an early road win in November against the Hawks.  I do know, however, that the Jazz are capable of beating the Hawks – and should win both games this year.  Utah is too deep to allow Atlanta’s starting five to control a game.

Contact Jefferson W. Boswell at jeffersonboz [at] gmail [dot] com

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Jefferson
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Division Previews: Milwaukee Bucks, Central Division – Eastern Conference http://saltcityhoops.com/divisional-previews-milwaukee-bucks-central-division-eastern-confernce/ http://saltcityhoops.com/divisional-previews-milwaukee-bucks-central-division-eastern-confernce/#comments Tue, 19 Oct 2010 21:00:41 +0000 http://www.saltcityhoops.com/?p=2158 Author information
Mychal
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In the final days leading up to regular season action, SCH will be posting divisional previews of the top teams in all six NBA divisions. Come back early and often for updates.

Fear the Deer

Key Matchups

D-Will vs Young Buck

Brandon Jennings wasn’t supposed to be this good.  In just his 7th game in the season he dropped 55 points on the hapless Golden State Warriors.  He never looked back.  While he didn’t quite score in volumes like that again he did steadily improve.  He’s a fast and nimble point guard with a killer floater.  But he’s 6’1″ and weighs 169 pounds wet.  Just the type of player that Deron Williams eats for breakfast.  Jennings will be improved in his sophomore campaign but unless he grew 3 inches and put on 30 pounds this is going to be a rough matchup for Jennings.

Brandon also struggled last year with his jumper only hitting 32.3% on 2s away from the rim and has trouble finishing inside against bigger opponents, only 39.7% – worst mark for any player with 200 attempts or more.  Expect the Jazz to get Deron isolated against Jennings in the post often.  Defensively the Jazz’s tendency to allow more 3s than most teams could allow Jennings to burn them.  This is a guy that can light up anybody for 30+ points if the conditions are right.  But Deron’s size should bother Jennings all game long.  If Deron seems to have trouble guarding his speed the Jazz could potentially put Raja Bell on the Young Buck.  You don’t want to see Raja when he gets angry.

Advantage – Jazz

Corey Maggette/John Salmons vs. Andrei Kirilenko/Raja Bell

I know that in Utah the matchup that will get all the press will be Big Al vs. Andrew Bogut, but that matchup won’t determine the game.  What, you say?  How do these teams’ second best players not impact the end result?  I’ll show you.

The Bucks last year were the 3rd best team in defensive efficiency.  Out of 100 possessions opponents only got 94.05 shots up on them.  What does that mean? Well, for a Jazz team that averaged a FG% of 49% getting less shots means less points.  Less shots turns a 49% field goal percentage to a 47% field goal percentage if you count those lost possessions as misses instead of simple lost possessions.  What does that have to do with Maggette and Salmons?

[Author's Sidenote:  This team is going to give Miami fits.  Really.]

For all of the Bucks defensive strengths they were an offensive mess.  They ranked 23rd in offensive efficiency – only averaging 97 points a game.  Their offense received a shot in the arm when it acquired Salmons in an offseason trade.  He was their offense most nights.  Now in the offseason the Bucks added Maggette to boost this offense.  The quickest way to put the Bucks’ offense in a standstill is to shut these two down.  It will be AK and Bell’s responsibility.  It will be a rough night.

The Jazz are known for taking risks on defense.  This by default results in fouls – a lot of fouls.  Maggette is the league’s best at getting to the charity stripe.  Expect Maggette to bring a tent, a sleeping bag, and some marshmallows to the game because he’ll be camped at the free throw line all night.

Advantage – Milwaukee.

High Notes | Low Notes

This is an up and coming team.  They overcame injuries to key players (Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut) to have a successful season, still made the playoffs without arguably their best player (Bogut), and even managed to push Atlanta to 7 games shorthanded.  Now they have reloaded in the offseason by adding Maggette, Drew Gooden, and Chris Douglas-Roberts.  This will no longer be an offensively challenged team.  They were already a good team despite their offense being ranked 23rd in the Association.  Now they added offensive firepower to a top 5 defense.  If Brandon Jennings can continue his development as one of the best up and coming point guards in the league and Maggette can buy into playing defense expect the Bucks to be a top 10 team.

History

All time series is tied 41-41; 1-1 last season season.

The Milwaukee Bucks only allowed the Jazz to score 99 points a game in their two meetings last season.  The only teams to do better? Atlanta, L.A. Lakers, Boston, and (gasp!) New York.  To make matters worse the Jazz averaged 23 assists per game against them and shot a miserable 30% from 3.  Milwaukee gives the Jazz offense fits.

2005 #1 draft pick out of Utah, Andrew Bogut, will make his annual reunion tour with his beloved Utah.  Technically he’s from Australia but it’s a homecoming of sorts.

The most recent meeting between these two was a physical match that resulted in ex-Jazzman Carlos Boozer being ejected from the game with 16.7 seconds left while disputing a non call.  It was one of those close losses (even though the final score doesn’t give the game justice) the Jazz wish they could have had back.

Player/Coach Notes

Scott Skiles and Jerry Sloan are known for their hard-nosed approach to defense.  Both will agree that it doesn’t matter how many points a player can score; if the player can’t play defense he’s not cut out for this league.  In fact, last season while Scott Skiles’ Bucks allowed only 94.05 shots per 100 possessions the Jazz allowed 94.91 per 100.

Watch the sidelines.  Skiles and Sloan could set a record for most combined scowls in a game.

Outlook

Fear the Deer.

This is a team that despite numerous weaknesses made up for it with their defensive prowess.  This year’s model now is more potent on offense and will continue to test teams on the defensive end.  They lost to the Hawks in the 1st round of the playoffs last year.  But they were arguably without their best player and still managed to push the Hawks to 7 games.

Watch out for this team.

They are the Bizarro Heat.  Defensively sound.  If Bogut can stay healthy for the season the Bucks could surprise some people in the East as a 4 seed.

[Author's Note:  This team is built like the 2004 Detroit Pistons that beat the powerhouse 2004 Lakers.  Defensive minded and hard-nosed.  I would love to see the Bucks play the Heat in a 7 game series.  Delicious basketball right there.  Milwaukee could very well be their Kryptonite.  Just a prediction.]

The Jazz split the season series with them 1-1.  But the Jazz’s win against them came before the Salmons trade.  The Bucks then went on to win 14 out of their next 16 games after that trade.  Don’t forget that the Jazz’s loss to the Bucks last season came during that stretch.

I see the Jazz splitting the season series against them with each team winning at home but the Jazz will play the Bucks on the back end of a back to back after playing the Clippers this season.  That might spell disaster and allow the Bucks to steal one in Utah while Utah is licking their wounds from battling inside against the man child, Blake Griffin, and the Geico Caveman, Kaman.

Follow Mychal on twitter.  (@My_Lo)

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Mychal
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Division Previews: Indiana Pacers, Central Division – Eastern Conference http://saltcityhoops.com/divisional-previews-indiana-pacers-central-division-eastern-conference/ http://saltcityhoops.com/divisional-previews-indiana-pacers-central-division-eastern-conference/#comments Tue, 19 Oct 2010 18:00:42 +0000 http://www.saltcityhoops.com/?p=2215 Author information
Jeff Lind
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In the final days leading up to regular season action, SCH will be posting divisional previews of the top teams in all six NBA divisions. Come back early and often for updates.

Key Matchups

Darren Collison vs. Deron Williams/Earl Watson

It’s hard to say exactly what the key matchups are going to be here. The Pacers always seem to be trading out half their roster, and basketball is a game of chemistry.  From a Jazz perspective, I think I’m most excited to see how Darren Collison matches up against elite point guards like Deron Williams. It’ll be interesting to see how he fits into/runs the offense and if he really is as good as he looked running things in CP3’s absence last year. When you’re playing behind one of the elite PG’s, all you have to do is NOT be terrible and everyone is happy. He overachieved in that situation, and now it’s time to see if that was a contract/one time thing, or if he is the real deal.

Danny Granger v. Andrei Kirilenko (or anyone he plays).

Keep an eye on Danny Granger, who still stands as the Pacer’s biggest threat to any and all opponents (averaged 24.1 ppg last season). He’s an extremely high scoring player with an ability to stuff the stat sheet on any given night… the real question with Granger is this: will he take time away from scoring to do the other menial (read: “fundamental”) things that he could do well? He’s the kind of player that has the ability to take over a game at a moment’s notice… if he really wants to. A healthy (contract year) Andrei should be able to limit his scoring opportunities, or at least slow him down and force Granger to use his teammates.

High Notes | Low Notes

The Pacers are a high octane offense. They run. Hard. They score fast and often, so if you can’t slow them down then you have to keep up. Unfortunately (for them), they have been terrible on the defensive side, which makes keeping up a bit easier.

The Pacers weren’t particularly great at anything last year. They were 16th in scoring, 19th in rebounding, and 23rd in points allowed, so until they pick some of those categories up, they’ll never really compete for the East.

History

Utah is 36-35 all time versus the Pacers, splitting two games last year. Last March when Utah played in Indiana, Granger scored 44 points (and had a 4 point play), showing how dangerous he really is. The Pacers need a playoff spot this year, and they can punish defenses that don’t take them seriously. If the Jazz sleep on them at all, it’ll be a quick loss. Saying that, if the Jazz play hard, they should dispense of Indiana pretty handily.

Here’s a random stat for you: On October 22, 1989 the Jazz scored their fewest points in franchise history (65) versus Indiana (in Indy). That game also stands as Utah’s greatest loss differential (-35). What’s that mean to the team this year? Nothing, but you’ll sound smart when you toss those numbers out over lunch when the Jazz face the Pacers this year.

Player/Coach Notes

As the second fastest team last year (I feel like I’ve mentioned their speed 15+ times in this article), you can bet that the Pacer’s coach, Jim O’Brien, will keep the team running. Add Collison’s ability to distribute the ball from point, and you can look for the Pacers system to improve from last year. Saying that, if I had to bet my life on one game between Jim O’Brien + Darren Collison, and Jerry Sloan + Deron Williams, I’m going with our Utah boys. Every. Single. Time.

Outlook

The Pacers need to do three things to have a successful season:

1) Develop their core: At some point, you have to play the hand you’ve been dealt. Granger is healthy, they have a great distributor in Collison, and you have some solid pieces (Rush, Dunleavy, Hansborough). You know you’re not going to challenge for the top of the east, but you can focus on developing the team and finally establishing a core to build around.

2) Stay healthy: Everything hinges on this. It seems silly because every team needs to stay healthy, but the Pacers are working with a razor thin bench, which means they have almost no margin for error. If they lose any key players, the season could slip away quickly.

3) Make the playoffs: The top of the east is strong, but the bottom is still a bit of a mess. The Pacers have a good opportunity to squeak into the 7 or 8 spot this year. Do that and make a bit of a stand with your core team intact, and I’d consider the season a success.

Follow Jeff on Twitter!

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Jeff Lind
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Division Previews: Chicago Bulls, Central Division – Eastern Conference http://saltcityhoops.com/divisional-previews-chicago-bulls-central-division-eastern-conference/ http://saltcityhoops.com/divisional-previews-chicago-bulls-central-division-eastern-conference/#comments Tue, 19 Oct 2010 15:05:23 +0000 http://www.saltcityhoops.com/?p=2225 Author information
Brian Henderson
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In the final days leading up to regular season action, SCH will be posting divisional previews of the top teams in all six NBA divisions. Come back early and often for updates.

Overview

Welcome to the Derrick Rose show, which now boasts a cast of supporting characters that will make the Bulls one of the toughest teams in the league this year. The Bulls were 41-41 last year, and nabbed the eighth seed in the playoffs, where they were eliminated by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round—their second first round exit in as many years. Sure, the Bulls lost veterans Kirk Hinrich and Brad Miller, but after adding Jazz-Lite (Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, and Ronnie Brewer), these Chicago Dawgs are ready to nip at the heels of Orlando, Boston and Miami in the East. Expect Chicago to contend for the fourth or fifth seed in the East this season.

Key Matchups

D-Will vs. D-Rose

Williams and Rose will be a marquee matchup. To be sure, Rose loves the fast break and he has the edge as a pure scoring threat. D-Will, though, distributes the ball better than Rose—which difference may be more systemic than talent-based. Ultimately, if Williams implements Coach Sloan’s plan for him to improve the use his size on smaller defenders in the paint, he will be virtually unstoppable with his offensive repertoire, even for Rose.

Big Al vs. Noah & Boozer

Joakim Noah is one of my favorite players in the league. He moves to the symphony inside his own head, and delights NBA fans with his impassioned play and ever-improving game. Expect another statistical crescendo from Noah this year, in scoring and rebounding, especially now that he can team up with Boozer in the post. With outside shooting strengthened, Chicago will finally be able to spread defenses and prevent the double teams that have hindered them under the basket the past few years.

Millsap vs. Deng

Mentor to Deng: The Late, Great Manute Bol

Deng has been a steady performer in the league for 6 years now—averaging 15.8 points and 6.5 boards for his career. Nevertheless, he has probably not met expectations for his progress as a player. Could he finally demonstrate his latent star power that he has not quite tapped yet? Probably not more than he has. He’s a strong, steady performer, though and will provide a solid matchup with Millsap. Favorite fact: Deng’s basketball mentor? The late, great Manute Bol, fellow Dinka tribesman, who taught Deng how to play in Egypt after his father brought the family from Sudan to avoid their civil war.

High Notes | Low Notes

The Bulls will be a high-scoring, fast break team on offense and tough as nails on defense. Head coach Tom Thibodeau will want to take the bit out of Rose’s mouth, and let him run on Utah. With outside shooting help, Korver and Brewer will help spread the floor and relieve some of the pressure on Rose–which will boost his own numbers. This year, though, as the Jazz have added some athleticism and tougher defense, the team will be able to contend well in transition defense with the Bulls.

Carlos Boozer will miss the first month of the season due to a broken finger he sustained in a hotel room fall. (He was probably reenacting scenes from his own defensive playoff performance for the Jazz.) His early season absence won’t influence the matchup with Utah, as the two teams square off in February and March, long after Boozer’s return to the lineup.

With Boozer, Deng, and Noah, and backups Taj Gibson and James Johnson, the Bulls are long and strong in the front court. One on one, Jefferson can’t be contained by any of them, with his strength in the block and his scoring ability facing the basket. But the Bulls may have more front court depth, especially if Memo is not at full speed by the time these teams play. Consequently, the low post matchup is a draw.

History

Just a little history with the Jazz.

Reviewing the history between Chicago and Utah is like rummaging through a box of love letters from your biggest heartbreak. What good does it do to relive the pain? The Jazz climbed the NBA Finals mountain twice, in 1997 and 1998, only to be shoved back down the slope both times by MJ, Pippen and their cronies. The consolation prize of being immortalized in replays of Michael Jordan’s “Ten Best” moments is cold comfort. Whether “The Flu” game, or “The Push Off”, as we in Utah call it, the wounds run deep. That said, I don’t sense an outright hatred for the Bulls in Jazzland. The teams don’t play often enough for that, and when they locked horns in those epic Finals series’, the end feeling was moreso one of being awed as witnesses to MJ’s histrionics rather than filled with boiling anger like, say, many Jazz fans feel towards the Lakers. With so much Utah firepower loaded in the Windy City for the upcoming season, surely these games will be of high interest to Jazz fans.

Coach Notes

Some things never change. (Photo: Brett Ballantini)

Coach Sloan got his head coaching start with the Bulls, but first built his reputation as a gritty defender with them as a player, where he broke that nose enough times to give Jeremy Evans and his artistic talent something compelling to work with when sketching his new boss. On Chicago’s side, Tom Thibodeau brings his renowned defensive mindset from the Celtics (where he was Doc Rivers’ assistant and helped Boston become the best defensive team in the league during their 2008 title run) to his debut as an NBA head coach in the Windy City. Surely as a result, the Bulls will be among the league’s best defenses. Stories are already emerging from Bulls practices that “Thibs” will stop at every defensive miscue and rerun it until the players get it right. That said, Thibodeau’s offensive plans should not be underestimated. It should be fun to watch his team throughout the season, as he is widely regarded as one of the bright young coaching minds in the game.

Outlook

This season, Derrick Rose will become more acclaimed as one of the best point guards (and one of the best players) in the league. The first Chicago All-Star since Michael Jordan in 1998, Rose is no longer flying under the radar. But Jerry Reinsdorf’s additions of Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver and Carlos Boozer will give Rose and his talented core of returning veterans the help they need to establish the Bulls as one of the toughest teams in the East. They are not yet to be grouped with Boston or Orlando (don’t get me started on Miami), but they will contend with Milwaukee for the fourth or fifth playoff seed in the Eastern Conference. Utah’s two regular season tilts with Chicago will provide the Jazz an opportunity to show, just before and just after the All-Star break, that the Jazz can compete down the stretch with one of the league’s toughest defenses and most explosive offenses.

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Brian Henderson
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Division Previews: Boston Celtics, Atlantic Division – Eastern Conference http://saltcityhoops.com/divisional-previews-boston-celtics-atlantic-division-eastern-conference/ http://saltcityhoops.com/divisional-previews-boston-celtics-atlantic-division-eastern-conference/#comments Mon, 18 Oct 2010 15:20:57 +0000 http://www.saltcityhoops.com/?p=2146 Author information
Jefferson
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In the final days leading up to regular season action, SCH will be posting divisional previews of the top teams in all six NBA divisions. Come back early and often for updates.

Key Matchups

By the time the Jazz actually play the Celtics (in the cold of winter), we’ll have a much better idea of the cohesion and potential of the Utah Jazz roster.  Looking ahead, though, there are a couple of interesting match-ups to pay attention to when the Jazz finally do square off against Boston.

D-Will vs. Rondo

Elite Point Guard vs. Elite Point Guard.  D-Will has the size.  Rondo has the ring.  Last season, Rajon’s numbers were respectable [13.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, 9.8 assists and 2.3 steals per game].  He faltered from the free throw line [only 62.1%], though, clearing way for the “hack-a-shaq” option, and keeping him off the court when it really mattered.  In recent years, Deron has had his way with smaller point guards – and Rondo gives up two inches and nearly 40 pounds to him.  Look for Deron to take this guy deep into the post and show-off his skills.  Rondo requires help down low with Williams, who has a knack for finding the open guy.  [Authors note: I've always been a little peeved that Rondo wears his headband upside down to disrespect the league...where else could this guy earn $9 mil a year?]  Advantage? Utah.

“Big Al” v. The Two Headed O’Neal Monster

At one point both Shaq and Jermaine O’Neal could strike fear into their opponents.  Now, they will try to team up (with Kendrick Perkins, on occasion) to collectively attempt what they could formerly do alone.  Come January & February, Big Al will have acclimated to Jerry Sloan’s system and be used to winning basketball.  Big Al will score, as usual – look for him to play pretty decent defense on the older O’Neals.  The Boston big-bodies (KG, Big Baby and the O’Neals) will likely grab more than their share of rebounds.  Against Boston’s Bigs, Jefferson will likely tire unless he can get some quality assistance from Fes or Elson.  Advantage? Neutral (slight favor to Boston)

High Notes | Low Notes

Boston is deep.  The starters are stars and their back ups have great potential.  Once Coach Sloan settles into a 7-8 man rotation, it’s likely that Boston can throw fresh legs at the Jazz (my prediction for Boston is a 9-11 man rotation).  Plus, Boston knows what it takes to win it all.  People often forget to mention Boston as a recent champion, assuming that the Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo ‘chip was simply a flash in the pan.  In fact, were it not for the juggernaut LA Lakers, they could’ve added another banner to the already loaded rafters (17 titles).  There is a fine line between experience and age, and Boston is dangerously close to the latter. Injuries, fatigue, and regular-season motivation could combine to favor a younger Jazz squad.

History

Boston leads the series: 45-36 all time, 1-1 last season.

On his last visit to Utah, Coach Doc Rivers got two quick technical fouls and had to watch the rest of the game from the locker room for mouthing off to the officials (allegedly).

Al Jefferson was the centerpiece of the blockbuster trade that sent Kevin Garnett to Bean-town and his championship ring, and banished Big Al to the frozen wastelands of Minnesota (the basketball equivalent to a Toyota, in his words).

Player/Coach Notes

Doc Rivers spent 13 years as a player in the league.  This will be his 11th as a Head Coach.  Still, Doc Rivers was lacing up his hightops as a player in Atlanta while Coach Sloan was leading the Jazz and learning the ropes.  By Sloan standards, Doc is just a kid.  He has a high basketball IQ and has had success getting his players to buy into his system.

Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Shaq, & Jermaine O’Neal have combined for 73 years of experience.

Outlook

While the Celtics earned a reputation for taking the regular season less than seriously last year, a lot would have to go bad for them to lose the Atlantic Division Championship this year.  Utah travels to Boston on January 21, 2011 and the Celtics make their trek to Utah on February 28, 2011.  If I were a betting man, my guess is the season series splits again going to the home team.

Contact Jefferson W. Boswell at jeffersonboz [at] gmail [dot] com

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Jefferson
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