1. The Jazz unveiled a new starting lineup tonight, and it performed pretty well.
For the first time this season, Richard Jefferson didn’t start. Instead, Corbin chose to start all 5 of the Jazz’s recent lottery picks in a move fans and pundits alike have been calling for all season. So how did it work out? It wasn’t a revelatory success, but the lineup competed quite well against a Portland team the Jazz had significantly struggled with all year.
The lineup played 17 minutes together and was outscored by 1 point. In those 17 minutes, the group shot 46.9% (15-32), including 3-7 from three, accumulated 16 rebounds, garnered 11 assists, and turned the ball over 5 times. Somewhat worryingly, they drew only 3 fouls while committing 11 against Portland. All in all, though, that’s a pretty good performance against a team the Jazz have lost to by a combined 51 points so far this season.
On the positive side, it was nice to see Alec Burks play a career high in minutes. On the negative side, he played a smaller role when he was in the game: Alec actually received only one more touch of the ball in 42 minutes tonight than he did Tuesday against Dallas in 29 minutes.
One downside of the move, though: it weakened the bench. Indeed, all but 12 of the Jazz’s 99 points tonight were scored by players born in the 1990’s. That’s a new story for the Jazz, who have dedicated many of the minutes at the forward positions to Marvin Williams and Richard Jefferson. Corbin refused to say if this starting lineup would finish out the rest of the season, but I would bet that it would: with only three games left, why make a change back? The new lineup did seem to infuse EnergySolutions Arena with a new energy, especially during the 1st quarter when the Jazz went on a run to steal the lead from Portland.
2. Enes Kanter had a really nice game.
Enes Kanter and I have had a fun little back-and-forth this season in the postgame interviews. He’s made it known that he’s reading my Twitter feed (@andyblarsen)1, and this week, I posted some bad news about him: that he was ranked last in the league in adjusted teammate PPS. That led to this exchange after the game2:
Me: “You’ve had a couple of good rebounding games in a row now, is there anything that you’ve been doing different recently?”
Enes: “Just reading Tweets, reading your Tweets.” *I laugh nervously* “You know I’m just being more focused. Coach told me ‘We know you can score, but we want you to be out there getting some defensive rebounds’, so that’s what I’ve focused on the last games, getting those rebounds.”
Me: “But you’re getting the offensive ones too.”
Enes: “Offensive ones, it’s natural. Defense, I’m just trying to work hard.”
Whether it’s me (unlikely) or Coach Corbin (significantly more likely) inspiring Kanter to work hard on the glass, he’s showing big production down there. His rebounding had slipped from his rookie season, so it’s great to see him continue to battle for the boards in multiple ways: he’s both getting his body to where rebounds will land and then doing a fantastic job grabbing them once they come his way.
Kanter’s game tonight also displayed some important skills that will really help that PPS stat above. He had 4 assists tonight, finding open teammates, and nailed his open jump shots, hitting 4 of 6 uncontested looks tonight. If he keeps doing that, he’ll start to productively shift the defense towards him, making things easier for those around him on the floor.
Good on you, Mr. Kanter.
3. Derrick Favors against LaMarcus Aldridge
On my appearance on ABC4’s Real Sports Live last Sunday, host Bill Riley asked me to rate the Jazz young guys on a 1-10 scale. While I didn’t commit to a number for each of the players, I did say that the Jazz’s young core weren’t going to be ranked 9 or 10, in short there are no franchise cornerstones in this group.
SCH reader Aaron, though, had an interesting comparison for the type of player Derrick Favors could become: LaMarcus Aldridge. They are similar sizes and play similar positions, but right now Aldridge has a much more advanced skillset than Favors does. Prompted by Aaron’s response, I asked Favors if Aldridge was someone he looked up to: “Yeah, I love his game. He’s one of those guys, man, you know he can take you outside, take you inside. I love his game. Every time I go against him I just try to play against him as best as I can, and just try to learn something from him.”
It’s cool to see Favors (who still is just 22!) take such a liking to a guy with Aldridge’s skillset. While it will be very difficult to get there, Aldridge’s game provides Favors with a model to improve offensively while still being a rebounding and defensive force. If Favors does develop to be like Aldridge, Dennis Lindsey and company will be very pleased.