Author’s note: I think about basketball way too much. Thinking Out Loud is my attempt to get those thoughts and feelings on internet paper before I move onto another topic.
I don’t know how to say it, but it feels like the Jazz season is standing right on a precipice. The Jazz are still alive and playing mostly good basketball, but it also feels like the season could fall down the side of a mountain at any moment. Today is probably the first time this season that I feel like the Jazz will not make the playoffs. It’s not that the Jazz lost Monday night in Boston, because I didn’t expect them to win. But the way they lost, dominating at times, and then gradually fading at the end, even when it looked like Shelvin Mack had perhaps pulled victory from the jaws of defeat… That’s too much to overcome. It sounds so dramatic, and mostly it isn’t, but there is no way that the Jazz aren’t letting just a little self doubt climb into their minds. Maybe they aren’t as good as some people thought. Maybe they don’t have the man power to win close games. Maybe the Jazz just can’t get enough breaks. The season is so taxing mentally and physically and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the pressure become just too much.
On the other hand, the Jazz are still in the top 15 both offensively and defensively in the league and only 8 other teams can claim that. The Jazz are finally healthy and playing fairly well with a full(er) roster, even if the wins are not piling up like we wished they were. I could also see the Jazz using a little desperation and pulling it together for enough unexpected wins to sneak into the playoffs. I mean, the Jazz seem like they have more mental fortitude than the Rockets, don’t they?
Making the playoffs would be huge for this Jazz team and their fans, even if many people around the team continue to claim that the postseason is not the goal. For one, it would instill some belief in the young Utah Jazz. Secondly, it would introduce the country to the Utah Jazz, being on national television every other night, and that matters in terms of public perception, all-star votes, and possibly ref influence. Thirdly, it would be a good experience to see what the playoffs are like, and how hard you have to play to compete with Golden State or San Antonio.
I’ll be honest though. I want no business with the Spurs. The bright side of just making the playoffs by the hairs of our collective chinny chin chins, would be that Golden State would be the opponent. And as crazy as it sounds, I think that would be more worthwhile for the Jazz. But playing the Spurs? I might rather be the ninth best team in the West.
So the trade deadline came and went without any huge moves. I do think acquiring Shelvin Mack was a small, but successful move that will help the Jazz from like a 3.0 GPA to a 3.1 in terms of NBA academics. But it’s an improvement.
A year ago the Jazz traded Enes Kanter to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Kendrick Perkins, Grant Jerrett, Tibor Pleiss, and a future first round pick. At the time that trade looked great, especially since it opened up time for Rudy Gobert to emerge as one of the best rim protectors in the NBA. But in reality, Perkins never stepped foot in Utah, Jarrett had no impact on the team, and Tibor Pleiss looks like his ceiling is a backup center who plays 8-12 minutes per game1. The Thunder are certainly going to give their first round pick to Philadelphia this offseason, so IF Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook do not both leave Oklahoma in the next two seasons, that trade will essentially be Enes Kanter for the 27thish pick in 2018. And that is exciting because I happen to know that there are some very talented high school juniors right now.
Dennis Lindsey, and the Jazz organization, are at an interesting spot right now. They are committed to sticking with the young guys that they have and seeing it through. And as Dennis has said repeatedly, they will be judged long term on whether their faith was in the right players. I think the hardest thing about being a GM would be battling your personal like for players and your intuition that you need to trade some of them in order to be the team you need to be. It’s just a business, but if you have to interact everyday with a player, it would be so hard to essentially tell them that you need something better.
The caveat to that is the aforementioned Enes Kanter trade, where it was obvious that he wanted to go. But in a way, players are like stocks. It is wrong to treat players like possessions, Daryl Morey and Sam Hinkie, but in terms of value and timing trades, there is a comparison to be made. If you don’t think player x is going to become much more valuable, then you need to trade them in for value before everyone else discovers they have peaked, unless they are one of the most important guys on the team. Making trades at the right time and guessing how players will appreciate (or depreciate) is the trick to general managing. However, waiting until a player is unhappy and wants out limits the value you are able to receive. Trading Enes Kanter was right, but under the circumstances, it was like having your car break down and being forced to sell your stocks in order to buy a new one. It was great that you had the asset in order to be able to do that, but Clark: that stock was worth 30% more just like 5 months ago, and now you are selling it because you need some cash to buy a minivan? Anyways…
Jazz at Raptors – The Jazz will play tough in Toronto and lead in the 4th quarter, but ultimately come up just short and lose by 5 after Toronto hits some game sealing free throws. Sound familiar? Also Craig Bolerjack will get Drake and Jay-Z mixed up on the telecast, just like this beauty website, got Oprah and Whoopi Goldberg confused.
Raptors 102, Jazz 97
Jazz at Grizzlies – The Grizzlies are a good matchup for the Jazz with a lack of floor spacers and a point guard, who is great, but can’t outplay the Jazz with his crazy ability. The Jazz win and for one night on twitter, Jazz fans will feel good about the Jazz’s playoff chances.
Jazz 92, Grizzlies 85
Jazz at Pelicans – As much as I want to say the Jazz will beat the Pelicans in New Orleans, my belief in jinxing is even stronger. Craig Bolerjack could use some of that belief, as he has caused at least 85% of all Jazz free throw misses this season with jinxes.
Pelicans 133, Jazz 56