The Problem with “Potential”

November 15th, 2013 | by Scott Stevens
Image courtesy of Melissa Majchrzak, Getty Images

Image courtesy of Melissa Majchrzak, Getty Images

I’m starting to hate a certain P-word. It’s one that Utah fans have been hearing all too much lately. “Potential” is starting to have a dirty ring to it.

What does potential mean anyway? It’s a supposed or possible amount, based on hypotheticals. It’s a value with no guarantee of fulfillment. And it made Derrick Favors a lot of money.

But how long can you keep relying on potential alone? At what point do you need to start backing up the hype? It’s something I’ve been wondering about the Jazz’s young players recently. There’s a fine line between development and failure.

The entire concept of the core four is built upon potential. Each of them has shown flashes of brilliance, but still has the tendency to disappear at times. But it’s okay because the potential is still there.

It’s a word that gets thrown around too casually with young players. They aren’t held fully accountable for their performance because they supposedly haven’t reached full speed yet.

I get it, though. I really do. Not every player has the same timeline of progression. Some are more NBA ready than others, and some players get drafted into better situations as far as playing time. Players make big leaps between years two and three, three and four, etc., but I find myself looking forward to year after year as a potential breakout year for many players.

What if it never comes? What if fans keep waiting for something that never comes about? What if, for example, Favors never really develops his offensive game? Favors is the perfect example of an athlete with unlimited potential. Call it what you will—potential, upside, ceiling, whatever—this is his fourth year in the league and he needs to play like it. There are no excuses of playing time anymore.

Enes Kanter also has a lot of potential to live up to. Because of his history with the sport, his potential can be even more potent. He doesn’t have a basketball pedigree like a lot of NBA players. He really hasn’t even been playing competitively for very long at all. But while that may grant him an extra year or two, at some point, he needs to start delivering like a number three pick should. I think he has done a fairly good job of playing at a high level. I think he stands to benefit of all the core four with an increase in minutes.

Alec Burks is still a wildcard for me. Unpredictable is the only word I can think of to describe him. That’s what makes him even more frustrating. We all know what he is capable of, but I worry that he might be getting dangerously close to what CJ Miles used to be—go for 40 out of nowhere, and then struggle with his shot for the following three months.

Gordon Hayward seems to be the only one living up to his status at the moment. He has been one of the lone bright spots on this team.

Sometimes, it becomes obvious that success in the NBA is difficult to predict. Not everyone with potential is going to amount to it. For many players, they either have it or they don’t. For a fan, all you can do is put your trust in your GM to make the right decisions on draft days. And when it comes to Utah’s potential roster members who were in action on Tuesday, the Jazz could be in good hands. Potentially.

Scott Stevens

A voice of the everyday Jazz fan. Scott works as a creative writer at an advertising agency in Los Angeles. Sticking it to Laker fans every chance he gets. A former "Jazz Rowdy" and avid interneter with production and writing experience on global sports brands. He has lived everywhere from Texas to DC, and all the way to Thailand. He now happens to live on a boat.

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