Watching the Spurs win was great for this Jazz fan. In the Spurs you’ve got a team-first, small-market team that plays with precision, with passing, and without ego, and it was incredibly refreshing to see them beat the Heat so handily. But I specifically wondered how the Spurs winning would affect the Jazz. Here are a few points where I think we, as Jazz fans, can see a light at the end of the championship tunnel.
There’s hope for the small-market teams. Yes, Miami is somehow considered a small market since it’s not Los Angeles, New York City, or Chicago. And Miami still has more panache and flair than, say, San Antonio or Salt Lake City.1 But San Antonio is much more of a small market in the same vein that Salt Lake City is, far more than Miami is similar to Salt Lake City. There are fewer attractions (the beach of Miami, the celebrities of LA, the flash of New York City), less of a nightlife, maybe fewer endorsement opportunities thanks to being a smaller market, but both the Spurs and the Jazz have talked about patterning each team after the other, knowing the obstacles small markets face in a league with superstars wanting to play in big markets.
The Big Three Via Draft vs. The Big Three Via
Collusion Free Agency. Okay, I know it’s not really collusion. There wasn’t anything against the rules with what LeBron, Wade, and Bosh did, but it takes a really unique situation to get three superstars to want to play in the same place, even taking a pay cut from what they could get elsewhere. If the Heat had won the series, as Dan Clayton has pointed out before, it would have created an even greater imbalance between the big markets where the superstars want to play there and the small markets trying to catch up. The have’s and the have not’s would have become even farther apart.
The importance of a great coach. This Finals series showcased two great coaches, but one of the coaches – Greg Popovich – is one of the best of all time, and had a bench and a point guard he could trust; Spoelstra did not. But Spoelstra kept trying different lineups, different looks, anything to mix things up and try and gain some sort of advantage in the series. Unfortunately, while the Heat’s starters are very talented, their talent is very thin after that. Popovich found ways to minimize any advantages the Heat may have had, and used his role players perfectly.
The importance of player development. Boris Diaw. Tiago Splitter. Kawhi Leonard. Players that aren’t great,2 and quite possibly wouldn’t be great on any other team. But fit them into a system where there’s passing and cutting – and which they follow with precision – and give the players both the opportunity (playing time) and skills (shooting coach extraordinaire), and you’ve got a perfect recipe for effective, impactful player development.3 This section could also be called: The importance of a solid, deep bench/aka perfectly suited role players.
The importance of an effective system. The precision with which the Spurs play is a thing of beauty. They get into their offense quickly (please take note of this, Coach Snyder), each player gets to his spot quickly, and the passes are perfectly precise. When you combine all of that with a very unselfish team – starting with superstar in Tim Duncan – you can essentially plug and play any number of the well-suited role players into the system and it still flows effortlessly. They still get buckets, and they still get defensive stops. The Spurs’ system makes average players look good, and good players look elite.
The importance of superstars. I think this series, just like so many Finals before, showed just how important it is to have a superstar, or multiple superstars, in order to compete for a championship. Both the Spurs and the Heat have three superstars capable of being a #1 guy on any team. 4 The other teams in the Conference Finals, Indiana and Oklahoma City, also had superstar players. Good, contending playoff teams have superstars; that’s just the way it is. But if you want to compete for a championship, you need a superstar.5
Each of these areas have to be encouraging for Jazz supporters; they’re examples of where the team can improve and has already taken steps in the right direction. So, fellow Jazz fans, what else would you add that’s encouraging about the Spurs’ win?