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Front court is the key to the current and the future for the Jazz

Front court is the key to the current and the future for the Jazz

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SALT LAKE CITY - In three weeks the Jazz will play their first preseason game with the actual season starting in a month and a half, and one of the big questions left is how they can balance a loaded front court.

By now everyone knows the good or bad that is the Jazz's front court. There is a lot of talent, experience, youth and unknowns. Great defense, offense, explosion and adaptability to go along with some poor defense, offense, explosion and adaptability.

Ultimately this unit will push the Jazz or drag them down, can Tyrone Corbin and the Jazz make it work, or could it lead to a mid-season move?

Brad Doolittle from "Basketball Prospectus," via "ESPN," wrote about the four positional battles that could define this season. Not surprisingly the Jazz frontcourt rotation is on the list.

"It's one thing to have depth of talent and with Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap,Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Jeremy Evans on the roster, Utah certainly has that going for it."

The issue that Doolittle points out is that Jefferson and Millsap could be leaving at the end of the season and Corbin has to figure out a way to balance them with the future of Favors and Kanter.

"The temptation for Tyrone Corbin will be to continue to lean heavily on Jefferson and Millsap, especially because the Jazz will be a playoff contender. Corbin can't lose sight of the seasons to come, however, and he doesn't want to risk Favors in particular becoming disgruntled by a continuing lack of minutes."

Experience vs. the future. The balance between the two could be the most difficult coaching job that Corbin will ever have. However, if done right the Jazz should be able to match up with anyone in the NBA.

Steve Danziger of "3 Shades of Blue," the Memphis Grizzlies TrueHoop blog, ran an article about the different teams in the Northwest and compares the Grizzlies and the Jazz.

Paul Millsap is entering the last year of his contract and how the Jazz deal with him and Al Jefferson could be a key turning point for this season.
Paul Millsap is entering the last year of his contract and how the Jazz deal with him and Al Jefferson could be a key turning point for this season.

"The Grizzlies front line is very good. I can easily say it is one of the best in the league. However, the Jazz have one of the few that I think could truly keep up with ours. Due to the varied abilities of their post players, Marc, Zach, Darrell, and Mo will absolutely have their hands full in the trenches. If we want to fare well against them, I would have to hope that for starters, Darrell hasn't lost any explosiveness, because he will need all of it against Favors."

The Grizzlies have a front court that is as good as most will see and being able to compare them is actually quite a compliment for the Jazz. The Grizzlies shocked the Spurs two years ago with a powerful front line. If the Jazz can harness their power the same way then they could sneak up on some people.

So can the Jazz use their front line the right way? Is there a right way? According to Jack Winter of "Saving the Skyhook" blog the answer is the big lineup.

"In the 113 minutes they played together in the 2012 regular season, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors, and Al Jefferson posted a plus/minus (per 48 minutes) mark of +30.9. That number led all three-man units that played at least 100 minutes by a full eight points."

The plus/minus stat isn't concrete as a decision making devise, but 31 points plus over 48 minutes is huge, regardless of how it is interpreted. This is because the three can add their own spin on everything.

"Millsap, Jefferson, and Favors all deserve minutes and each have a legitimate claim to status as Utah's franchise player," Winter wrote. "The former is one of basketball's most unique and underrated two-way players, the median might be the league's best post scorer, and the latter has a combination of size, athleticism, raw skills, and youth the other two don't come close to matching."

This line could, should and has worked, but it might not be sustainable through the long run. It would leave Kanter and Evans to come off the bench and if the front court got into any foul trouble they would have to shoulder the load.

They also have a need for minutes at the small forward position. If they played the big line extensively it could create a similar problem with the shooing guard and small forward position.

So the last option would be making a deal for one of the big men. Favors seems to be considered the future and, with Kanter, has a rookie deal that is very favorable for the Jazz to keep. This would leave Millsap or Jefferson with expiring contracts.

Denim Millward of the "Bleacher Report" wrote about this option as a solution for the problem. Millward wrote that the big line could work, but there are issues with it.

"As Millsap logged relatively few minutes at small forward last season, the sample size is too small to draw any definite conclusions about the long-term success of the 'big' lineup that would feature Millsap at small forward. Also, as Millsap spends additional time at small forward, teams would have additional time to tweak their own lineups to exploit Millsap's weaknesses at the position."

Millsap or Jefferson would have to come off the bench, assuming Favors get the starts, and it could create some contention for a team that has pretty good chemistry.

So what could a trade bring in for the Jazz, according to Millward it might be quite a bit.

"Utah is in a position to parlay its frontcourt depth into an All-Star-caliber guard. It makes a lot of sense for Utah to package Millsap or Jefferson with one of its many guards in a trade-deadline deal and get a dominant scorer and/or a significantly better perimeter defender than what it has now. Utah would then be a much better balanced team and would take a significant leap forward in Western Conference contention."

This is the biggest question the Jazz have left is how they deal with their bigs. This will affect not only this season but years to come.

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Jarom Moore


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