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SALT LAKE CITY — In their first 21 games, the Utah Jazz have gone through the tough stretch with injuries, schedule and learning.
They now have 75 percent of the schedule remaining to show growth.
The Jazz have gone from historically bad to just bad in the early stretch of the season. They have had the second-hardest strength of schedule to this point and have missed a large part of the team to injuries here and there.
Here are updated grades after the first quarter of the season.
Hayward is Utah's MVP so far. He is averaging 16.7 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game. He has had good games and bad games, especially in his shooting. A 1-for-17 shooting night in New Orléans stands as the low-water mark, but he dished out 11 assists and grabbed six rebounds. A 29-point night on 66 percent shooting was a great night. He also had five rebounds and three assists.
Before the season started a “C” grade was five assists and five rebounds; a “B” was 16 points, with six rebounds and six assists. Right now he somewhere between those two.
His biggest issue is his shooting percentage. For his career he is shooting 44 percent from the field, including 38 percent from 3-point range. Currently, he is shooting 39 percent and 28 percent from deep. Fixing those area will move him up the grading curve.
Grades so far
|John Lucas III||Fail|
Derrick Favors:Favors has had a quiet year, but it has actually been really good. If he were on another team, he would be garnering some more buzz.
The big man is averaging 13.7 points with 9.9 rebounds. He has had foul trouble at times, but overall, he's staying on the court. His 32.7 minutes per game are second on the team.
He's a top-15 rebounder and has affected the game with blocks and steals. He had 1.2 blocks per game and 1.3 steals. His length causes issues. Preseason a “B” was a 10-point, 10-rebound line. He has basically had that and a little more. He's not an “A” yet, but he's getting close.
Getting is blocks up is one issue he could fix. Most of his stats have either gone up, such as his shooting numbers, or stayed close, like his rebounds, but his blocks have fallen with his starting gig. Reestablishing himself as a shot-blocker is the quickest way to up this grade.
How good has Burke been in his eight games? Well, record-wise the Jazz are 1-15 when he plays fewer than 21 minutes and 3-2 when he plays more. This probably isn't sustainable as a number, but his solid play makes a significant difference.
Since the team lifted his minute restriction in the Chicago game, Burke has scored at least 13 points per game, including two 20-point games. Before this season the majority of his grades being based on assists, which seems unfair. He's more of a scorer, but his ability to control the ball is impressive.
He has only had two games with more than one turnover. Two total turnovers in 108 minutes of play from the Phoenix road win to the Pacers game is incredible. His “A” mark was about making winning plays and he already made a huge one in overtime against the Rockets with his big 3-pointer and making a play to get Marvin Williams a big shot.
This has been a rough season so far for Kanter. An injury and wavering confidence have him playing well below expectations. A early season passing grade was scoring 10 points per game. He has done that, but his inconsistency has hurt him.
He averaged 12.8 points per game, but he has five 20-point games and six single-digit games. His defense hasn't been great either and that has held him back. Expectations might be tempered a little bit.
Much like Kanter, this is a tough grade early season for Burks. He has been close to awful early on and he hasn't hit from outside very well. However, like most of the Jazz team his performance after Burke's return has been significantly better.
Before the season, 10 ppg and a shooting in the high 30s from 3-point range was just passing. He's done half of that. He's averaging 11.6 points per game, but once Burke came back he has started to level out. Burks can't get a great grade on those few games, but he doesn't fail. His grading criteria was a bit steep, his expectations were high, so this might ease up at the next grading time.
Evans is being upgraded to the graded system because he has been such a surprise. He clearly has a role in the offense and he achieved the preseason goal of him just playing in games, now a grading addition.
An “A” is keeping up his pace. Well, probably just shy of that. He's shooting 78 percent, crazy. The number he could produce is nine points and 4.5 reobunds in 19 minutes. If he reaches those numbers, it's a great year.
Ending the season over 50 percent shooting with a significant number of minutes is a “B.” He will earn a “C” if he loses minutes due to poor play. A “D” would be an actual loss of his role on the team. Honestly it would be hard for his season to be a disappointment at this point.
Williams is probably the biggest surprise this season. He was missing his shot last year, but after offseason surgery on his foot he has become the best 3-point shooter on the team.
Just like Evans he has a new grading criteria. He's already earned a passing grade, and now will have real grades. His “A” grade is him keeping up his 40 percent 3-point shooting. His ability to stretch the floor has been huge this year.
A “B” grade would be a drop off in his shooting, but maintaining his ability to be dangerous. His shooting could dip into the high 30s, and as long as defenses still focus on him it is a good year.
For a “C” he would probably lose his starting role to Kanter, but still be a viable rotation player.
A “D” is about him reverting to last year's form where he was a 32-percent shooter from outside and 42 percent overall.
What an interesting year for Jefferson. It has been good although he's not shooting well. He hasn't been great, but not as bad as some believe. He needs to shoot better and produce more, but he is fine with his role as a starter, but not necessarily a finisher.
That is a “D” in my preseason ranking, but I think he's been a little better than that.
This first-round pick has been good this season. He isn't a force on offense, and for a team missing offense, it has hurt his time. He plays when the matchup is good. When teams go small with their second unit he doesn't play.
If Kanter regains his starting spot, Gobert probably gets more minutes because Williams doesn't play center very often. Gobert played, which is a passing grade, and he's played well. It would be nice if he had more minutes to give him a more complete grade.
This late addition to the team gets an automatic "A," or passing grade, for what he has done. The backup point guard has proven himself worthy of giving Burke a break. When he plays, and John Lucas III doesn't, the Jazz have been significantly better. He is now graded pass/fail for now. If he can play 12-18 minutes per night he passes because he is playing.
Brandon Rush: He needs to play more than six games and any sort of extended time.
Andris Biedrins: Like Rush, the same can be said for Biedrins. If he plays with Kanter more it will be a fail, that was rough.
John Lucas III: He's been better than people gave him credit for, but his “pure point guard” play has been a failure.
Mike Harris: Where little is expected little is required. He has done enough with his little time to get a passing grade.
Ian Clark: This isn't really his fault, but he has played a little bit and when he is in he hasn't hit shots. As a shooter that is a fail.
While this team was about losing to get a high draft pick, they were losing horrendously. Even though the Jazz were losing it wouldn't be an “A” on my preseason rank. Now they are in position to get a high draft pick and have been competitive.
This team easily earns an A grade overall. They would have the third-best chance to win the lottery and shown off the future they already have.
It hasn't been pretty, but now that the Jazz are healthy they can show who they actually are. Head coach Tyrone Corbin has a full-choice of players and now his line-ups are slowly becoming more consistent. This is still a teaching year and he will make some odd choices to try to develop chemistry, but after 21 games the team is going in the right general direction.
The Jazz have played the second-hardest schedule so far this season. They will stay in the top of that list because the Western Conference has much better teams than the Eastern Conference. They will eventually get some softer opponents as the East comes to Utah more often.
The goal is still to learn how to win, but lose to get the lottery. Early prediction of 27 wins still stands.