Salt City Hoops » Utah Jazz 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 » Utah Jazz http://saltcityhoops.com/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://saltcityhoops.com 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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Franchise Four: Getting a Star in the 2014 Draft http://saltcityhoops.com/franchise-four-getting-a-star-in-the-2014-draft/ http://saltcityhoops.com/franchise-four-getting-a-star-in-the-2014-draft/#comments Fri, 14 Mar 2014 18:22:57 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=10758 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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Either of these guys could instantly transform the Jazz. But how can Utah get its hands on them? Photo by Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY Sports

Either of these guys could instantly transform the Jazz. But how can Utah get its hands on them? Photo by Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY Sports

Wiggins. Parker. Embiid. Exum.

Like it or not, this season is as much about those guys now as it is about Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors or Ty Corbin. Like it or not, the story from here revolves around whether Utah will have turned 2014’s suffering into one of those four guys.

The Jazz have been out of the playoff race since, oh, November, but at some point this weekend, they will be mathematically eliminated from contention. Yes, there are still storylines, and some of them are intensely interesting — but all will be a footnote to Jazz history compared to the impact of landing (or not landing) a franchise-level star.

Of course, none of those four guys is guaranteed to be that; conversely, there is some nice talent outside the top 4 that could pan out, too. But at least in theory, the line between “could take your franchise to the promised land” and “might make a couple All-Star teams” is the same as the line between 4 and 5. If the season ended today, the Jazz would be a coin toss away from cross that divide. Heads, you contend; tails, try again. Ostensibly.

So what will it take to get into the top four? There are many ways to get there. Let’s look at all of them, chronologically.

First chronological method of getting to a Top 4 pick: Tank

Likelihood of this option: 0% (Depending on what you mean by tank)

The Jazz could willfully decided to start losing games. Of course, Utah would never openly do this.

There is a more subtle version, though. Once they’re officially eliminated, there’s no pretense anymore, so a team can begin to take the ultraconservative route with regard to player injuries, and give more time to still-developing players.

Of course, in a way the Jazz are already doing this. The early exile of Andris Biedrins, John Lucas III and Brandon Rush indicates that the Jazz have been focused on their youth for most of the season. Richard Jefferson is the only player over 27 getting any kind of minutes right now. But you could see another round of hip flexors and sore pinkies over the next 34 days. But flagrantly and willfully trying to lose games? Not here.

Second method: Try real hard, but lose anyway

Likelihood of getting to Top 4: 15%

Since the Jazz are a coin flip from the pre-lotto 4 spot at this second, 15% might seem low, but it’s not. Why? The Los Angeles Lakers.

LA is committed to the tank. Already tied in the win column with Utah, they only have one remaining game where they would be considered a contender even if they weren’t trying to lose: their 3/23 contest with Orlando. They do square off with lotto-bound Sacramento, Utah and Milwaukee, but all on the road, and they have a sub-.400 Knicks team visiting Staples, but New York is still purportedly trying to make the playoffs. LA should be able to hold off any aspirants to fourth worst if they want to, and they want to.

That leaves Utah, Sacramento and Boston in an apparent race for 5th-7th worst. The Kings have enough randomly good performances that I think they’ll wind up at or above 25, and Boston plays in the weak East. The Celtics have two games left against the woefully bad Sixers, plus four more contests against the sub-.500-crowd in the East. They finish anywhere between 24 and 27 wins.

Utah gets to 24 almost automatically by hosting Orlando and LA, and their next most likely wins are home dates with the Knicks and Pistons. Honestly, the most likely scenario for the Jazz going into the lotto is 5 or 6, depending on what Boston does.

Third method: Lotto luck

Likelihood of getting to Top 4: 15% to 47.7%

Chances are, if you’re here, you don’t need a primer on lottery odds. If you do, click here.

Short version: the Jazz don’t need to be among the four worst teams to get a top four pick. They just need to be the right lucky ducks on May 20.

Here are the 1-2-3 lottery winners from the past eight drafts in reverse chronological order: 3-1-8-2, 4-1-3-2, 8-1-6-2, 5-6-1-2, 3-6-4-1, 9-1-3-2, 7-5-4-1, 5-2-3-1… we could keep going, but you see the point. Only once in that sample did the top four NOT get crashed by a team from outside the four worst records.

But don’t let that fool you into rejiggering the odds in Utah’s favor: their likelihood of a top four pick is still way better if they’re a 1-4 team on lotto Thursday. They have 47.7% odds if they somehow manage to own 4th place outright or 38.5% if they’re tied for fourth worst… compared to 29.2% if they’re 5th, and it goes down from there.

The point is, finishing 5th through 7th worst isn’t necessarily a back-breaker. In fact…

Fourth method: Spend some assets

Likelihood of getting to Top 4: TBD

Even if the Jazz don’t lose enough and the ping pong balls aren’t nice enough, there’s still a way.

For a while now we’ve been talking about Utah being in “asset accumulation mode.” In NBA terms, there’s only one reason you acquire assets: to spend them.

As we’ve covered before in this space, top 10 picks (and even top 4 picks) do get moved under the right circumstances. It usually costs a combination of picks, talented players and cap space to absorb junky deals. Here’s a sample:

  • Charlotte got #2 in 2004 by packaging #4 with #33 and absorbing Peja Drobjnak’s salary.
  • Memphis got #3 in 2008 by sending #5 and three rotation players in exchange for bad contracts.
  • Seattle got a #5 pick by giving away a superstar at his prime (Ray Allen), something the Jazz can’t offer.

The Jazz will go into draft night with a top-7 pick, the Warriors’ 20-ish pick, an early second rounder, their own future picks, a 2017 unprotected from Golden State, a grundle of upcoming cap room and a group of talented youngsters.

The hitch: the Jazz can’t make a draft night deal involving any pending free agents (since sign & trade options require negotiation with the player, and that can’t happen until July 1). They can make deals involving their July 1 cap space, but then they have to wait to consummate until after the July moratorium and hope that their handshake deal holds up.

Situations have to be right on the other end of the equation, too. Trade-down teams pretty much always have one or both of these characteristics: a) they’re conflicted between the high-potential guy available at their draft position and the idea of competing more immediately with the assets they’d get back in a trade; and/or b) the guy they want will still be available a couple spots later.

That’s how Utah got to #9 last year, a trade that my draft trade study had no precedent for. Minny had eight guys they really liked, and after that they just didn’t see that much difference in the next tier. So why not get an extra pick if you are roughly as enthusiastic about the guy at 14 as you were about the guy at 9? Of course, so far that looks like a bad call, but teams think that way.

And hey, it happens, even in strong drafts. To wit, even the tankiest tanksters in LA are allegedly already considering their options if it helps them compete sooner and appease their star. Teams have different needs, and until we know which four teams own those spots, it’s impossible to say. Maybe the team at 3 or 4 thinks they have a shot at one of this summer’s marquee free agents and would prefer some cap help, even at the cost of a couple spots.

In fact, the best argument to defend the possibility that teams inside the top 4 would be willing to deal might be the Jazz. Play along: let’s say Utah won the lottery, but felt like Jabari Parker was absolutely their guy. If a trade were available to #3, where Utah could still get Jabari but also pick up an asset or two, wouldn’t they be dumb not to look at it? If you agree that the Jazz would consider that move, then you have to concede that another team would consider a move from X to Y based on their situation, favorite guys, immediate needs, etc.

So what are the chances the Jazz will make it to the top 4? Hell if I know. There are way to many layers and hypotheticals and conditionals for any of us to know. But as long as there are ways to imagine it can happen, I’ll be interested to watch it play out.

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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Trey Burke Video Interview http://saltcityhoops.com/trey-burke-video-interview/ http://saltcityhoops.com/trey-burke-video-interview/#comments Sun, 22 Dec 2013 20:16:25 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=9256 Author information
Tracy Weissenberg
Tracy Weissenberg
Tracy Weissenberg is a writer for SLAM magazine, operating the “Basketballista” blog on slamonline.com, as well as working as an on-air reporter for SLAM TV. She also works for Turner Sports, working in production for various NBA television programs.
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[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EP1P2fNqVMg&autoplay=0&rel=0&hd=1]

 

Trey Burke, acquired by the Jazz to fill a desperate need at the point guard position, spent the beginning of the season on the sidelines. The ninth overall pick suffered a fractured right index finger on October 12, causing him to miss the first 12 games of his rookie campaign. During that stretch, the Jazz went 1-11, ranking 29th in points, three-point percentage and assists.

After coming off the bench for his first two games, Burke has started every game since. His presence in the lineup contributed to an improved offense, but most importantly, wins. In Utah’s next 18 games, the team put together a 7-11 record.

“He can score,” says Head Coach Tyrone Corbin, “He’s learning a lot. He’s a guy that’s looking to get better every night he steps out there on the floor. He’s working his tail off to understand what we’re looking for from him and what gives us a chance to be effective, while we try and figure out what gives him a chance to be as effective as he wants to be on the floor.”

courtesy: Getty Images

courtesy: Getty Images

Asked if he expected Burke to be able to instantly contribute, Corbin says, “Yeah. He was College Player of the Year. The way the team is now, we understood we were going to have him on the floor a lot. We were going to demand a lot from him. He responded to it. As he picked things up, we demand more from him.”

Burke is averaging 13.2 points and 4.9 assists in just under 30 minutes. Although he is shooting under 40 percent from the field, many have noticed his innate scoring ability, which Corbin calls the most NBA-ready aspect of his game. “He can really shoot the ball. He can shoot it, so that gives you a chance. He’s a point guard by nature, who’s a scoring point guard, so some of those things allow him to be able to be on the floor and be effective on the floor because he can put the ball in the hole.”

“He’s done a great job of coming in, being ready to score. [Burke] spaces the floor for us pretty well and has knocked down some shots,” says fourth-year forward Gordon Hayward.

Already the natural scorer, Burke’s shooting percentages can be attributed to both his sudden immersion in the offense and the lack of double-teams drawn by Utah’s roster. Derrick Favors is currently the only member of the team averaging better than 50 percent from the field.

While the Jazz is a team in transition, Burke has quickly provided a spark for the offense and bright spot for the future.

Atlanta point guard Jeff Teague, who experienced a contrasting career trajectory to Burke’s, was familiar with the 21-year-old from his two-year career at Michigan. “I watched a lot of his college games, I’m a big college fan, so I know he’s a really talented player. He’s going to come out and play hard and do what he does best–he can score the basketball, he can make shots.”

While Teague started only 10 games in his first two NBA seasons, he is putting up career-high points and assists in his third straight starting campaign.

“He makes the right plays, he makes shots,” Teague says of Burke, “That’s all you can really ask for out of a rookie.”

Author information

Tracy Weissenberg
Tracy Weissenberg
Tracy Weissenberg is a writer for SLAM magazine, operating the “Basketballista” blog on slamonline.com, as well as working as an on-air reporter for SLAM TV. She also works for Turner Sports, working in production for various NBA television programs.
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Paul Millsap Jazz Media Interview http://saltcityhoops.com/paul-millsap-jazz-media-interview/ http://saltcityhoops.com/paul-millsap-jazz-media-interview/#comments Fri, 20 Dec 2013 22:45:15 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=9241 Author information
Tracy Weissenberg
Tracy Weissenberg
Tracy Weissenberg is a writer for SLAM magazine, operating the “Basketballista” blog on slamonline.com, as well as working as an on-air reporter for SLAM TV. She also works for Turner Sports, working in production for various NBA television programs.
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As reporters congregated around Paul Millsap, the eighth-year forward’s tone had a bittersweet tinge when reminiscing about his time as a member of the Utah Jazz. Millsap, the 47th overall pick in 2006, grew into a household name during his seven seasons with the Jazz. This past summer, Millsap signed with Atlanta as an unrestricted agent after the Jazz decided on a drastic rebuild. This season, the versatile forward is averaging 16.5 points, 8.1 rebounds and a career-best 43.4 percent from three.

courtesy: Getty Images

courtesy: Getty Images

As he prepared to face his former team for the first time, Millsap spoke to the media about his past with the Jazz and current opportunity in Atlanta.

On how his career ended in Utah:

Paul Millsap: “For me, it was a little disappointing. Anywhere you go, you want to try to win big, and I wasn’t able to do that. I felt like I’d done all I could do, so had to move on.”

On whether he was surprised to not re-sign with Jazz: 

PM: “I don’t know. Things happen for a reason. I feel like that and [that I landed] where I’m at for a reason. I can’t really look back in the past and say ‘if this, if that.’ I’ve got to move forward.”

On whether he knew he could shoot threes at the career-high percentage he is averaging this season: 

PM: “Did I know? Yeah. Did I have the confidence to do it? No. Getting here, the coaching staff, giving me the confidence, the players, giving me the confidence to put me in the situations to shoot it and make it.”

On his expanded role on offense:

PM: “Here, they’re pushing me to shoot it more and it’s part of the offense. I feel like, they feel like, that we’re at our best if I space the floor and shoot the ball…It moves me out from under the basket a lot, getting banged on, so that helps a lot.”

On whether he sensed Jazz were on the verge of a drastic rebuild:

PM: “No, not at all. I don’t think anybody had seen it coming. It was one of those things that happened. You can’t help but respect the decision from the front office, they have control over that.”

On his rise from late second-round pick to top option:

PM: “It feels great to know that your hard work pays off. Over the years, I busted my butt to get where I’m at, so I’m very grateful. I feel like I’m getting another opportunity to come out here and showcase my talents.”

On Gordon Hayward’s leadership:

PM: “He’s more of a floor leader than a vocal leader. I think everybody knows G’s a pretty quiet guy. When he gets on the court, the ball’s in his hands, he makes decisions. He’s a good decision maker. As far as leading, he’s pretty much a good leader on the court.”

On his time in Utah, whether one memory stands out: 

PM “All of it’s together, it just brings up one incredible career in Utah. Not just one memory sticks out. Over the course of the years, met great people, befriended a lot of people. It was great times.”

On whether he has incentive to play his best game against former team:

PM: “A win would be good enough for me.”

Author information

Tracy Weissenberg
Tracy Weissenberg
Tracy Weissenberg is a writer for SLAM magazine, operating the “Basketballista” blog on slamonline.com, as well as working as an on-air reporter for SLAM TV. She also works for Turner Sports, working in production for various NBA television programs.
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JazzRank #10: John Lucas III – More than a Journeyman http://saltcityhoops.com/jazzrank-10-john-lucas-iii-more-than-a-journeyman/ http://saltcityhoops.com/jazzrank-10-john-lucas-iii-more-than-a-journeyman/#comments Fri, 11 Oct 2013 19:48:53 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=7923 Author information
Mario Alejandre
Mario Alejandre is a proud alumni of both the University of Utah and Biola University in La Mirada, California. During the day he works as a Case Administrator for the Federal Courts is Salt Lake City. In his spare time, he teaches two classes at his local church and writes for other blogs on matters of faith, and pop culture. His love for music and movies often finds its way into his work. He is the husband to his incomparable wife, Tera. Together, they share of love of the Utah Jazz that they are passing on to their two children. Mario enjoys exploring the intersection of sports with other aspects of life (philosophy, sociology, and identity to name three) and believes they make for important discussions. Don't worry, it's not always as serious as it sounds.
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Journeyman: Any experienced, competent, but routine worker or performer.

As the Utah Jazz prepare for the 2013-2014 season, most of the fan base’s interest is going to be in watching how the core of young players develop. While the front office’s big off-season move involved trading for their point guard of the future and taking on one-year salaries for more financial flexibility and future draft picks, another signing seemingly went under the radar.BPzvYimCYAAHQus.jpg-large

On July 22, 2013, the Jazz franchise signed 5’11” point guard John Lucas III to a two-year contract, without much fanfare. Lucas’s most memorable highlight might forever be one that occurred before he ever donned an NBA jersey: he hit the game winning shot that sent the Oklahoma State Cowboys to the Final Four over St. Joe’s in the 2004 NCAA tournament.  His willingness to take the big shot reminded many NBA fans of his basketball DNA; would he have the same on-court success as his father, John Lucas Jr.?

Before singing with the Jazz, Lucas had spent time with three other NBA franchises (Houston, Chicago and Toronto). He’s also spent time playing the game globally in Italy, Spain and China. His career numbers are modest, with career averages of 5.1 pts, 1 rebound and 1.5 assists per game. It’s about what one might expect for a backup point guard. For stat geeks, his advanced stats suggest that he’d be a productive player given more minutes, which is reassuring if he’s ever called on to play extended minutes. For many, John Lucas III is the quintessential NBA journeyman. However, if beauty is in the eye of the beholder and if it’s true that the numbers don’t always tell the entire story, then Jazz fans have one of the game’s true character guys who could help continue to mold some of the younger guards on the Jazz’s roster.

Fathers can cast long shadows over the lives of their sons. For some, a lifetime can be spent trying to create an identity apart from this shadow. For others, the bond between a father and son runs much deeper. Our culture is all too familiar of the narrative that involves a child’s exposure to substance abuse. There are too few happy endings. However, on occasion, we are reminded that redemption is still a better story. Most people familiar with the sports landscape know that John Lucas Jr has dedicated his life to helping athletes who struggle with substance abuse. JL3’s journey has no doubt been shaped by these experiences. It’s no wonder then, when Baylor University basketball was rocked by a scandal involving widespread drug abuse and the murder of a teammate, Lucas III had the wisdom to continue his education at Oklahoma State. His life’s experiences up to that point (his father had turned his life around by then) had prepared him to handle this type of adversity and respond accordingly, an intangible virtue for an NBA point guard.

For most Jazz fans, the love of their team also includes loving the individual parts that make up the whole. It matters to the organization and to the larger Jazz community that the ‘right kind of player’ finds his way into a Jazz uniform. John Lucas III’s narrative fits that description perfectly. It should be easy for Jazz fans to cheer for someone who has experienced so much adversity yet gracefully embodies what it means to overcome. It should be easy to cheer for someone who will contribute to the team’s success on the court and have an influence on his teammates off of it.

With John Lucas III, the numbers don’t tell the entire story. While his stats may suggest to some that he’s just a typical NBA journeyman, the sum total of his life suggests so much more.

Author information

Mario Alejandre
Mario Alejandre is a proud alumni of both the University of Utah and Biola University in La Mirada, California. During the day he works as a Case Administrator for the Federal Courts is Salt Lake City. In his spare time, he teaches two classes at his local church and writes for other blogs on matters of faith, and pop culture. His love for music and movies often finds its way into his work. He is the husband to his incomparable wife, Tera. Together, they share of love of the Utah Jazz that they are passing on to their two children. Mario enjoys exploring the intersection of sports with other aspects of life (philosophy, sociology, and identity to name three) and believes they make for important discussions. Don't worry, it's not always as serious as it sounds.
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The 2013-14 Jazz Season Can Be Enjoyable, if…. http://saltcityhoops.com/the-2013-14-jazz-season-can-be-enjoyable-if/ http://saltcityhoops.com/the-2013-14-jazz-season-can-be-enjoyable-if/#comments Tue, 27 Aug 2013 18:07:18 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=7493 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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I’d like to begin this post with a hard truth about Jazz fans.

We’re not great with objective analysis and reasonable expectations for our team.

I don’t want to begin my post with such negativity, but it has to be said.  We’re not the only fan base with this lack of rationality.  Every other team in the league has throngs of fans incapable of taking off the rose-colored glasses and critiquing their team without showing at least a small amount of bias.

By all accounts, the 2013-14 Utah Jazz season appears to be a pretty rough one for the Jazz, chock-full of growing pains and plenty of losses.  When the most optimistic/irrational fans even mention the word “playoffs” in the same sentence as “the Jazz” and “next season,” I instantly morph into Jim Mora, Jr.

“Playoffs?  Don’t talk about playoffs!  Playoffs?!  Are you kiddin’ me?”

Now that I’ve sufficiently bummed you out, let me confess that I am extremely excited for the upcoming season.  No, it’s not because I expect the Jazz to surprise everyone, win 50+ games and make a deep playoff run.  Rather, it’s because I believe the upcoming season to be the most important Utah Jazz season in recent memory.  The development and cohesion of our extremely young team is critical to having future success.

Despite the lack of W’s that appears to await us, the upcoming season can still be extremely enjoyable, entertaining and exciting, provided our expectations are reasonable.

First, let’s realize that we’re getting precisely what many of us were clamoring for next season: the young guys are going to be more minutes!  Hooray! Now that the dramatic roster surgery is done, the so-called “core four” (or is it “core five” now with Burks?  “Core six” with Gobert?  I’m just going to stick with “the young guys”) will have ample opportunity to prove their mettle and soak up serious minutes.  No more playing expiring vets instead of our young, key components of the future.  This is a good thing.  You should be excited about watching the likes of Burks, Hayward, Kanter, Favors and Burke really showing what they can do against starting-caliber NBA players.

Let’s continue the ride on the brutal honesty train.  Didn’t we pick the perfect year to rebuild and, subsequently, to be bad? No one likes to lose, and the Utah Jazz is not the kind of team to intentionally tank games to secure the best odds possible in the NBA draft lottery.  But rebuilding, by all accounts a necessary phase in the assembly of a contender, has the undesired side effect of a healthy dose of L’s.  While intrinsically bad, these L’s will improve our odds to get one of the potentially franchise-altering superstars likely available in next year’s draft, such as Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker or Julius Randle.

I’d also like to take this moment to dump a few more wheelbarrows of praise on Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey for opting to take on a boatload of salary from the Warriors for the princely ransom that he did (multiple first-round and second-round draft picks) instead of over-spending on free agents that more than likely wouldn’t have been long-term solutions in Utah anyway.  Because of this foresight, the Jazz have two first-round picks in what is shaping up to be the most stacked draft since 2003.  The sting of every Jazz loss will be soothed by the cool balm of being closer to adding a superstar through the draft, which is essentially the only way the Jazz will ever get a player of that caliber.

So, dear Jazz fans, rejoice in the fact that the future for the Jazz is blindingly bright.  Our cavalcade of young and talented players who haven’t yet scratched the surface of their potential will likely have two more young and talented players bestowed upon them as a reward for getting through a win-challenged campaign.  The multitude of players and things to be excited about can make the 2013-14 season tolerable, if not downright enjoyable.

Provided you can look past the whole “not winning” thing.

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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Jimmer to the Jazz: The Pros and Cons http://saltcityhoops.com/jimmer-to-the-jazz-the-pros-and-cons/ http://saltcityhoops.com/jimmer-to-the-jazz-the-pros-and-cons/#comments Tue, 23 Jul 2013 20:33:39 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=7161 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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jimmer

 

When it comes to hypothetical situations, none tears Jazz nation asunder more quickly than mentioning “Jimmer Fredette” and “Utah Jazz” in the same sentence.  Normally put aside in favor of a shared Jazz fandom, either side of the BYU/Utah “Holy War” froths at the mouth either for or against Utah making a play to add the former BYU wunderkind and adopted son of Provo.

Because I’ve had a brother attend and graduate from each of the Holy War participants, I’ve come to consider myself as something of a Switzerland regarding the Ute/Cougar rivalry.  In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit a slight leaning towards BYU, as that was the first school a sibling attended, thus garnering my interest for a longer period of time.  Nonetheless, I hereby declare myself an impartial observer of the situation, and have committed myself to looking at the move purely from a basketball standpoint.

The Pros:

While some of the luster has certainly faded, Jimmer maintains cult hero status in the Beehive State, making him the best investment-per-dollar the Jazz could make from purely a marketing standpoint.  With what appears to be a rocky season ahead, bringing the Jimmy Chitwood of Provo back to Utah would certainly generate buzz and inject some excitement into a potentially otherwise lackluster year.

From his rookie year to last season, Jimmer’s field goal and three-point field goal percentages both increased.  Though still only shooting 42% from the floor, his 41.7% from three was more than respectable.  Jimmer would likely see an increased number of open looks from deep playing within Utah’s flex offense, which is more conducive to his playing style than the unique sets run by the Kings, which appeared to center around DeMarcus Cousins getting angry and Marcus Thornton chucking it at will.  Also bolstering the hypothesis that a move to the Jazz would improve Jimmer’s statistics is the fact that thus far in his career, his playing time has been less reliable than a recently rear-ended 1973 Ford Pinto.

Dennis Lindsey’s desire to utilize the remaining cap space to acquire additional assets via taking on an unwanted contract could be a way to get Fredette without giving up anything other than the cap space Lindsey was planning on giving up anyway.  Though my fellow SCH blogger Dan Clayton believed the Kings were not high on the list of likely teams wanting to pay to dump salary, the Kings may be willing to part with Jimmer if it also means jettisoning an undesirable player/contract, such as Travis Outlaw.

Have you seen the Jazz’s bench lately?  To say it could use some additional depth is an understatement.

 

The Cons:

Jimmer’s fame/infamy in Utah, while bringing in additional interest, could prove to be too potent, to the point where warring factions of fans booing or cheering when Fredette checks in could put a damper on or completely overshadow other more important aspects of the game, such as the development of the key Jazz players.  Would Lindsey & Co. really want to bring in such a polarizing player that would usurp the spotlight from Favors, Hayward, Burke, Kanter and Burks, esq.?

Yes, the current Jazz bench is shallow, but where exactly would Jimmer fit in?  It certainly wouldn’t be in place of Alec Burks, whose prominence figures to rise the most significantly next year.  Would Utah play Jimmer over new acquisition Brandon Rush, who boasts a very similar three-point percentage while providing better defense and athleticism?  This also seems unlikely, leaving only the possibility of Fredette playing a backup point guard role.  Fredette’s pedestrian 3.4 assists per 36 minutes raises questions about how effective he can be as a floor general/facilitator in the NBA, especially considering he was a pure scorer in college.  While Jimmer probably has a little more upside than newly-inked Jazzman John Lucas III, Lucas is a better pure fit at the reserve point guard slot.

The Verdict

Acquiring Jimmer Fredette would be a reasonable roll of the dice for the Utah Jazz.  In the ever-evolving NBA game, you can never have too many 41% three-point shooters.  As no other three point specialists are available for that price, nor do they have the instant buzz generating capabilities and name recognition that Fredette garners in Utah.  As Sacramento is also under the cap, the asking price may end up being too high, depending on how desperate the Kings are to shed salary, either to get further under the cap or to take on another player via trade.

Yes, bringing Jimmer to play in the half-friendly confines of Energy Solutions Arena has some Tebow-ish potential to command an undue amount of notice. I would anticipate the hullabaloo to die down in a relatively short amount of time, making the move a solid, yet unspectacular one in terms of basketball impact.

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 if the Deron Williams Trade Never Happened? http://saltcityhoops.com/what-if-the-deron-williams-trade-never-happened/ http://saltcityhoops.com/what-if-the-deron-williams-trade-never-happened/#comments Wed, 17 Jul 2013 15:34:20 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=7087 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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williams

A wise man once said “dealing in hypotheticals is a fool’s errand.”  (Okay, I actually just made that up, but doesn’t that sound like something a wise man would say?)  Regardless, I’m preparing to embark on a hypothetical journey exploring the most likely outcomes for the Utah Jazz had the front office not shipped Deron Williams out of town on February 23, 2011.

As of Williams’ last game with Utah, the Jazz held a 31-26 record and were in the midst of a slump, losing 7 of their past 9.  Had Deron not been jettisoned, I have to believe they would’ve stopped the skid eventually.  I know this is assuming a lot, but hey, this is a hypothetical situation; assumptions have to be made.  Utah had a number of close losses post-Deron, and a player of his caliber would most likely have been good for an extra 3-5 points, turning several of those losses into wins.  In this hypothetical scenario, Utah rights the ship, sneaks into the playoffs in the 8th seed and gets swept by the San Antonio Spurs.

Logic dictates that the Jazz front office would’ve looked into dealing Williams that offseason as well, as Deron had a player option for the following season and could bolt Utah for greener pastures, leaving the Jazz without compensation.  However, this scenario assumes Deron was never traded and played out the remainder of his contract.

While no Deron trade would mean no 2010-11 meltdown, it would also mean Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks would’ve never joined the team.  Utah would’ve been selecting in the late teens to early 20’s of the draft, and would’ve likely been looking to acquire either a young point guard as an insurance policy if Deron left or a small forward.  Notable players who would’ve fit the bill in that range would’ve been Tobias Harris, Nolan Smith, Reggie Jackson, Norris Cole, Cory Joseph and Jimmy Butler.

In the 2011 offseason, Williams would’ve undoubtedly pushed for the Jazz to sign a big-name free agent for him to play alongside.  Unfortunately for Williams, a big name was not available via unrestricted free agency in 2011, at least that wasn’t at a position of need for Utah (i.e. Nene) or an over-the-hill star who would not fit in well in Utah (i.e. Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady.)  The Jazz would’ve likely spent their money on minor pieces that fit well with the Jazz, causing Williams to throw another basketball or two at Gordon Hayward’s head.

The following season (Deron’s last with the Jazz) would likely have been very similar to the last season, with Utah putting up a respectable but not overwhelming number of wins, grabbing a 7th or 8th seed, and bowing out in the first round of the playoffs, after which Deron would’ve opted out of his contract.

And let’s be realistic, he wouldn’t have re-signed.

So where would that have left us for last season?  Utah would be without Deron Williams, without Enes Kanter, without Derrick Favors, without Alec Burks and likely with someone like Nolan Smith or Tobias Harris in their place.  Yes, the rebuilding process would’ve began much sooner, which numerous Jazz fans think it should have, but Utah would have been light years behind where they are now in terms of acquiring assets.  A team with that dearth of talent would almost undoubtedly earn a relatively high lottery pick in a 2013 draft that was widely known to be fairly weak at the top.  Even adding an Alex Len, a Ben McLemore or a Nerlens Noel to the Jazz roster still leaves them far behind where they are now.

No, I don’t expect the Jazz to win more games than they lose in the 2013-14 season, but this retrospective look at the Deron Williams trade makes me appreciate it all over again.  Something Utah’s front office did 2 ½ years ago is still paying dividends, and will continue to become an even better value trade for the Jazz if Burke develops into the point guard Utah’s front office believes he is capable of being.

It was a shock and a downer to many fans when Williams was dealt.  In hindsight, Jazz fans should probably give thanks the Jazz powers-that-be had the foresight to get significant value in return for their mercurial star who was unlikely to stay for long.

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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Interview With Dionte Christmas http://saltcityhoops.com/interview-with-dionte-christmas/ http://saltcityhoops.com/interview-with-dionte-christmas/#comments Sun, 07 Jul 2013 14:16:33 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=6900 Author information
Tracy Weissenberg
Tracy Weissenberg
Tracy Weissenberg is a writer for SLAM magazine, operating the “Basketballista” blog on slamonline.com, as well as working as an on-air reporter for SLAM TV. She also works for Turner Sports, working in production for various NBA television programs.
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The former Temple University star, overseas pro and NBA hopeful is on the Jazz Summer League Roster. 

Each year, Summer League arrives shortly after the Draft. It is where the top picks, undrafted free agents, former lottery picks, and NBA and overseas journeymen converge for the chance to make a name for themselves in a sea of pro-level talent. Those games will have a different meaning for everyone, and for those without a guaranteed contract or place on a roster, it is an audition.

The top picks play alongside journeymen, huddling up with players who will continue forging their basketball odysseys in leagues across the world. For every success story, there are hundreds of hopefuls who have cycled in and out of summer league. That is what makes the paradox of the rosters so special. Dreams are realized, and dreams are fought for.

Dionte Christmas has been so close to realizing his. In 2009, the year he went undrafted as a senior out of Temple, he participated in training camp for his hometown Sixers. Last season, he averaged 12.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists for the Celtics in Orlando Summer League. He continued playing for the Celtics in Las Vegas Summer League, averaging 14.2 points on 48% shooting. His play earned him a partially guaranteed contract, but he was eventually released by the Celtics after appearing in four preseason games.

After playing in Russia and Italy this past season, Christmas is back to work, preparing to play with the Utah Jazz in the 2013 Orlando Summer League. While the Jazz acquired No. 9 overall pick Trey Burke in the Draft, they are in definite need of a scoring two guard. I got a chance to catch up with Christmas while he prepares for the Jazz’s first Summer League game on Sunday, July 7.

Tracy Weissenberg: I think a lot of people remember you with the Celtics last year. Can you catch everybody up on your career since then?

Dionte Christmas: I still keep in contact with those guys. Great organization…they gave me a great opportunity. [After being released] I signed with one of the biggest teams in Europe. I signed with CSKA, but I finished the year off in Italy with Siena. We won an Italian championship. So I had a pretty good year individually. I’m just back trying to get back into the NBA and trying to get another contract with a team and hopefully just stay over here for the year. Time is winding down for me, but I’m still feeling great. I’m still young. Like I said before, I’m going to just keep trying until I get it.

TW: Can you talk about the game overseas, how does it prepare you for these opportunities?

DC: Very physical. I know the NBA is very physical as well. Playing in Euroleague is very physical every single night. You’re playing top level basketball every single night. I think that prepared me for situations like this, like Summer League and to play in the NBA. I believe I can play in the NBA and I’ve been told by a lot of people high in the game of basketball such as Doc Rivers and Aaron McKie, coach for the Sixers. A lot of people told me I can play in the NBA, so I’m never going to stop chasing this dream. Hopefully, this year it can happen. Last year I was so close, I was knocking on the door, and this year, hopefully I can get in.

TW: You were pretty close with Philadelphia in 2009.

DC: Yeah, a lot of times I was very close. I was very, very close. But the NBA is a game of numbers, it’s a numbers game. So sometimes, you’re good enough to play, but some teams may need something and you’re the one guy that they have to let go. I believe that happened to me twice so far in my career, and I’ve been told that. I can’t hang my head, I’ve never hung my head. I’ve never given up one time. I believe God has His plan for me. I should keep playing hard and keep respecting the game, and just keep giving it my all. I think it will happen. Even if it doesn’t happen this year, it will happen next year.

I look at the guy [Chris] Copeland this year for the Knicks, he was 28. He played really well. I’m never going to give it up.

TW: You’re taking my questions! I was going to ask you about Chris Copeland. He told me he never even got the chance to play in Summer League until 2012. He just had a successful rookie campaign, so you have paid attention to stories like his?

DC: Yeah, for sure. I love stories like that. My favorite story to tell people is me and Wesley Matthews. We came out together [in the 2009 Draft], both of us were undrafted. We went to Orlando, we went to Vegas, and we didn’t really know what was going to happen. He got picked up by the Jazz, and he was just going through camp, not knowing what to expect. He had that one chance in the playoffs, I think a couple of people got hurt, and he played really well against Kobe Bryant. The next year, he signed for $35 million. That right there just showed me you never give up, and a lot could happen. There have been a couple of guys that played in Summer League that got contracts, and Chris Copeland is another great story that is mind-blowing to me. He played Summer League, played well, played preseason, played well, and got some minutes. Now, he’s probably going to get a big contract this year. I tip my hat off to them, I respect them a lot for that.

TW: You’ve talked about coming so close to your NBA dream in the past. How do you personally deal with bouncing back and continuing your career?

DC: Since I was young my dad, he’s like my brother, he’s always told me never to give up. One story that comes to mind when I was young, I think I was like 11 years old, my dad asked me what sport I wanted to play–either football, basketball or baseball. He told me whatever sport I chose, I had to play that sport, he would never let me quit. I chose basketball, and the first time I played basketball, I got cut. I wasn’t that good. Actually, that was my worst sport. I got cut, so he actually went to the coach, and asked the coach, can I continue to practice with the team but just not play games? And the coach said yes, cause he was a good friend of my dad. So I had to go into practice every day with the team that cut me. That right there got me prepared for times like this. I’ve been cut before. The Sixers have cut me. Teams have said no to me. It just motivates me. I think every year I’ve gained from each team that’s released me or has cut me or whatever the case may be. My focus is the same and my game has elevated to another level, so I just want to showcase that this year.

TW: You’ve played in Russia, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Israel. What have been the best aspects of those experiences because you’ve really traveled the globe?

DC: Yeah, my mom and dad and grandma really say that all the time. I’m only 26 and I’ve seen the world. I get a chance to see the world and play the game that I love to play. That’s the beauty of it. I thank God everyday. When I play, I thank God for the blessings and everything he’s given to me up to this point. A lot of people haven’t seen the things I’ve seen or made the money I’ve made or gotten the opportunities that I’ve gotten.

TW: What is the hardest aspect of having a professional career overseas?

DC: Not seeing your family and being away from home, that’s definitely the hardest part. I’ve been over there for four or five years now. I don’t want to say it’s getting easier, but I’m starting to deal with it better. This year, I didn’t get home until June 21. If I do go back, I would have to go back sometime in August. I get about a month and a half, tops, home, so you have to just cherish the time you have with your family.

TW: How do you view the opportunity of Summer League? 

DC: Going to Summer League, I take it as going to work. There’s 30 teams, and you just need one person, one team to like you. I’m not just playing for the name on my chest, I’m playing for all the teams there, representing themselves and watching Summer League. It’ll be another great opportunity for me. Like I said, I signed a huge deal last year in Russia, and I think it was all because of Summer League and the way I played. I’m not just playing for NBA teams, I’m playing for some of the top level overseas teams [to scout me] as well. It’s going to be another great opportunity for me and to showcase what I can do.

TW: You’re playing for the Jazz, who have a few guard slots opening up because Randy Foye and Mo Williams are free agents. I know the roster isn’t fully shaped yet, but did you break down their situation, and see yourself as a potential fit?

DC: Yeah, for sure. I watched them this year, they had Randy Foye, and in the past they’ve had some good shooters and great playmakers. I definitely could see myself playing there. Throughout the practice today, I picked up some of the things that they do during the season. I think I could definitely could fit in with the Utah Jazz. It’s a great program and I’m just happy to play for them.

TW: You’ve been around some great NBA teams and veterans, like last year with the Celtics. Has anything you’ve seen during practice or any advice you have received stuck with you?

DC: Watching their work ethic, and watching how hard those guys work. Those guys are established Hall of Famers. So just watching that was enough for me, but I definitely talked to those guys personally…talking to Doc Rivers was great too. Doc told me, you know, he definitely thinks that I’m an NBA player, he definitely thinks that I belong in the NBA. Never stop what I’m doing, don’t give up my dream, just keep playing, keep fighting, and things will all fall into place. Doc talked to me for a long time after [the Celtics] released me. I love Doc, he’s a great guy. I’m very happy for him and his new job. He’ll do great things in L.A., I believe.

Author information

Tracy Weissenberg
Tracy Weissenberg
Tracy Weissenberg is a writer for SLAM magazine, operating the “Basketballista” blog on slamonline.com, as well as working as an on-air reporter for SLAM TV. She also works for Turner Sports, working in production for various NBA television programs.
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Christmas, or Something Like It http://saltcityhoops.com/is-it-christmas/ http://saltcityhoops.com/is-it-christmas/#comments Sat, 06 Jul 2013 23:10:58 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=6844 Author information
Mario Alejandre
Mario Alejandre is a proud alumni of both the University of Utah and Biola University in La Mirada, California. During the day he works as a Case Administrator for the Federal Courts is Salt Lake City. In his spare time, he teaches two classes at his local church and writes for other blogs on matters of faith, and pop culture. His love for music and movies often finds its way into his work. He is the husband to his incomparable wife, Tera. Together, they share of love of the Utah Jazz that they are passing on to their two children. Mario enjoys exploring the intersection of sports with other aspects of life (philosophy, sociology, and identity to name three) and believes they make for important discussions. Don't worry, it's not always as serious as it sounds.
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Did you ever make a list of preferred gifts that you’d make at Christmastime for the gift-giving power brokers? Remember waking up as a kid on Christmas morning wondering how many of those things on your list you would be able to cross off? As a kid, I can remember opening gifts that could only be described by saying, ‘it’s exactly what I wanted.’ While I no longer keep lists for Christmas gifts (I’ve thankfully outgrown that), I know that as a sports fan, I have those types of lists for my favorite teams. Those lists are usually comprised of players I hope come to play in my city for my team, or for a particular player to stay on board, not leaving for what might seem to be greener pastures via free agency. These last few weeks have provided for some of those magical moments for Jazz fans that can only be described as ‘exactly what I wanted,’ and there have been some moments that serve as a reminder that ‘what I want’ may be more painful than originally envisioned.

The Draft: Like so many Jazz fans, the words that I would use to describe this year’s draft was, ‘Surprised, Success, and simply, YES!’ Over the course of the weeks leading up to the draft, the conversation that fans and Jazz insiders had centered on was whether or not the point guard that would be available at 14 or 21 would really be the kind of player that could have a long-term career as a starter in the league. The elephant in the room was that even though everyone (including mock draft guys) knew the Jazz had a glaring weakness at that position, the kind of PG they coveted would be long gone by 14. The Jazz’s next starting point guard would not be coming from the draft. If anything, the Jazz would draft their next solid backup PG, who’d steady the ship for the next year or two while the search the franchise’s next floor general continued.

ralphie-christmas-storyBut just like Ralphie in A Christmas Story was determined to get his Red Rider BB gun, the fan base longed for their next big thing. Then it happened: I got the alert saying that the Jazz swapped their two first-round picks for the University of Michigan star. Is Trey Burke the answer to every deficiency the Jazz had last year? No. Is there something about him that inspires hope that things are heading in the right direction? Yes. What can’t be underestimated is the rate in which he won at every level. From the presence of his parents at his introductory presser (his dad also serves as his agent), to leading a Jr. Jazz camp clinic the day after he was drafted, to indicating he wants to play his entire career in Utah, Trey Burke may be the guy to make Jazz fan’s forget their beloved team once passed on CP3.

In addition, Rudy Gobert adds an interesting piece to the Jazz’s front line. If indeed, league trends in officiating continue and ‘verticality’ continues to favor the defensive player’s efforts on that end of the floor, then this pick actually does have the potential to be the diamond-in-the-rough that most of us envisioned at the point guard position. Getting even better, Rudy Gobert tweeted that he was looking forward to working with The Mailman to improve his game. What’s not to love about a guy with a 7’9″ wingspan with sharp elbows and a decisive outlet pass? What’s more, GM Dennis Lindsey accomplished all of this without compromising any future assets. (More on this in a moment). Of all the things Dennis Lindsey gave Jazz fans this night, the one that proved to be most cherished: optimism.

Free Agency: WIth free agency negotiations hitting full throttle, the fan base’s long history of being jilted by players surfaced once again. Why won’t player A and/or B come to Utah with all of its available cap space? With all of the drama surrounding Dwight Howard, day after day, Jazz fans lived on a diet of speculation and rumors. To no one’s surprise, Big Al signed with another team. As the opening days of free agency came and went, the excitement of draft night began to ebb.

Then the trade broke that had most Jazz fans scratching their heads. What started out as an interest in Andrew Bogut (and hopefully Harrison Barnes or Klay Thompson) quickly turned into the duo of Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson. Huh? My initial reaction was that there was no way the Jazz just enabled a Western Conference opponent to better themselves at their expense. Then the details that filled out the trade began to trickle in. The Jazz received two unprotected first round picks and multiple 2nd round picks. They also added an additional player (Brandon Rush) that may fill a substantial team need, but whose health is still to be determined.

This move allows the Jazz to accomplish a few other things:

  • It allows the team meet the minimum salary requirements without overspending for a player whose contract may handcuff them in the years to come.
  • It will maximize the amount of time the young players will get if they can keep themselves on the court. Ty won’t have the game management considerations that he admittedly had to take into consideration last year.
  • This move allowed the Jazz to acquire multiple draft picks, which is still the most viable way for this franchise to continue to acquire talent.
  • Lindsey’s ability to get Golden State to give up what they did is a reminder that a long term vision is needed to be successful. I think in the end, Golden State will regret conceding so much in this trade.
  • Without the presence of a dominant veteran figure, the desire for leadership to emerge from the young core is not only expected, it will be necessary (I’m convinced this will end up being a hybrid of Burke/Hayward next season).
  • Most importantly, the financial flexibility reinforces a commitment to the youth movement in that it gives the Jazz an opportunity to keep guys like Burke, Favors, Kanter and Hayward around for as long as possible. There is no one on the market who is available now that I’d rather have long term than any of the four players I just mentioned.

Conclusion: So far, Dennis Lindsey has indicated that the Jazz wanted to be aggressive on draft day. They were. He indicated there were no skipping steps in the rebuilding process, and the trade with the Golden State Warriors is evidence that this process is well under way. Jazz fans should be excited about the youth movement, even if it means more L’s than W’s in 2013-2014. Lindsey has spoken about ‘financial flexibility’ to anyone who asks him about the teams’ long term success. It’s an asset that, once invested, can take years to show returns. There are no guarantees, but if this means that for the next 10+ years Jazz fans are treated to the finished product that is often imagined with the young guys, that will truly be the gift that every Jazz fan wants.

Author information

Mario Alejandre
Mario Alejandre is a proud alumni of both the University of Utah and Biola University in La Mirada, California. During the day he works as a Case Administrator for the Federal Courts is Salt Lake City. In his spare time, he teaches two classes at his local church and writes for other blogs on matters of faith, and pop culture. His love for music and movies often finds its way into his work. He is the husband to his incomparable wife, Tera. Together, they share of love of the Utah Jazz that they are passing on to their two children. Mario enjoys exploring the intersection of sports with other aspects of life (philosophy, sociology, and identity to name three) and believes they make for important discussions. Don't worry, it's not always as serious as it sounds.
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