1. Jazz started Marvin Williams tonight against Carmelo Anthony.
I actually like this move. During the Knicks media session, coach Mike Woodson announced that Amare Stoudemire wouldn’t be playing, calling it a “maintenance game” for the aging power forward. This meant that Carmelo Anthony played at PF in his place. Initially, Corbin had said that he would be starting his recent frontcourt pairing of Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, however, once the Knicks went small, the Jazz had to follow.
There are some who would say that the Jazz keep their usual starting lineup and their size advantage down low, but I disagree (at least in this case). Derrick Favors doesn’t have the skills to guard Carmelo on the perimeter; he’s a much more effective defender closer to the basket. If he guarded Carmelo, Favors’ best skill would be largely taken out of the game. Meanwhile, Favors isn’t enough of a bully offensively to use his size advantage down low against Anthony.
I like changing the starting lineup based on opponent: it gives the Jazz a much better chance to stay in the game early, leading to more meaningful minutes throughout the game. When a game’s lost in the game’s first 6 minutes (as Sunday night’s was), the situation’s simply a lost cause for everybody.
It’s worth noting, though, that Marvin Williams wasn’t really effective on either end tonight in his starting role: he scored just 5 points and Anthony, his counterpart, had 34. But Carmelo is a star, and the Jazz didn’t get forced into the sorts of possession-killing rotations that they would have had to make had Favors been guarding Anthony.
Relatedly: the Jazz’s defense wasn’t the problem tonight, it was the offense. That’s semi-obvious based simply on the final score. Based on player skills, you’d hope Kanter would give you more scoring than Williams; he certainly scores more individually. But when comparing the two lineups, Burke/Hayward/Jefferson/Favors/Kanter scores 8.3 fewer points per 100 possessions than Burke/Hayward/Jefferson/Williams/Favors. So Corbin played the lineup with better offensive and defensive performance, which matched up better against his opponent, and got beaten. Oh well, I guess.
2. Jeremy Evans playing time decreased.
In the last 5 games, Jeremy Evans has played just 21 minutes in non-garbage time, a stark decrease from earlier in the season in which he was, at times, the Jazz’s first man off the bench. It’s a little bit of a strange situation, as Corbin chose to play Ian Clark, John Lucas, and Diante Garrett more with Alec Burks in the game rather than shift the lineup in the opposite direction. Initially, I thought the decrease was due to Favors and Kanter starting together, thus moving Marvin Williams to be the backup PF and pushing Evans to 3rd string, but tonight’s near-DNP with the old starting lineup disproves this. I’m not entirely sure what’s going on.
I asked Evans if Corbin had talked to him about the minutes: “A little bit. It’s his decision, and I think it’s the right decision. I’m just waiting until he calls my name.”
When asked if he wasn’t playing due to matchups, he answered “Yeah, pretty much. Some of the guys we played, like tonight, when they have Melo at the 4, you gotta get a perimeter guy like Marv who’s played more at the perimeter in his career. It’ll come with experience.”
Credit to Evans, at least, for being professional about the situation.
3. Corbin’s thoughts on one-and-done
With this year’s NCAA tournament coming up, I asked Jazz coach Ty Corbin about his thoughts on the NBA’s one-and-done rule. New NBA commissioner Adam Silver has made it his first priority to raise the age limit, trying to make kids play in college for a minimum of two years. Corbin’s coached a lot of one-and-dones in his time in Utah, but didn’t think the rule needed to be changed:
“It’s kind of two-fold, I have a son who I would like to experience college, but if I also had a son who was ready for the NBA I would want him to be able to do that. I think there’s a lot of great experiences from going to college and waiting and learning, but I don’t think it’s fair for guys to be available for the job and not have an opportunity to get the job. You never know what could happen… you’d hate to make a kid go back to school and tear a knee up of something and can’t follow his dream. I do think there’s a lot of value in going to school, and enjoying school and learning and growing up, but I wouldn’t like to take the opportunity away from a kid.”
I agree with Corbin. From the NBA’s perspective, I don’t see value in preventing the best players available from playing in the league, the the last few draft classes have shown the value the one-and-dones can immediately have in the NBA. From the player’s perspective, playing in the NBA earlier means getting to their second contract more quickly, allowing for more money. Plus, NBA players get an 82 game, 9 month schedule in which to practice compared to a 4 month, 35 game season. At the NBA level, they learn the professional game, not the slow-down, zone-heavy style of NCAA basketball. To me, it doesn’t make any sense for Silver to be pushing this angle.