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SALT LAKE CITY — Welcome to a new project that asks questions of Jazz fans who blog about the team.
This is a weekly event that will have three questions answered by a group of Jazz bloggers:
Andy @andyblarsen: Managing editor of Salt City Hoops. A numbers guy who took over at Salt City Hoops this season. Recently returned from the Sloan Analytic Conference. Co-hosts a radio show every Saturday on 97.5 FM / 1280 AM called the Salt City Hoops Saturday Show.
Amar @allthatamar: Managing editor at SLC Dunk since January 2012. Fell in love with the Utah Jazz in 1988. Since then he's followed Utah on a daily basis even though he's never lived here; fate placed him all over the world instead. Been writing about the Jazz since 1995.
Josh @Jazz9titans: Editor of Purple and Blues since March 2013. Been a Jazz fan since watching basketball in the early 90's. He can count on one hand how many games he's missed in the past five years and absolutely loves the way this Jazz team has been put together.
Moni @monilogue: Loved watching Karl Malone play on the Dream Team; became a Jazz fan the next season. Runs Jazzfanatical, which is not about x's and o's, but about the more entertaining pieces of the Jazz games including decades of pent-up Jazz fanaticism, useless commentary, exact transcriptions, gifs and critiques of players’ clothes and hair.
1**. Who is the best player on the Jazz roster?**
Andy: Derrick Favors. The big man leads the team in PER this far through the season, but more important is the wide gulf in how the team has performed with and without Favors around: the Jazz are 0-9 without him, largely because without him they turn into a complete mess defensively. Favors is also probably the best or second best rebounder on the team (depending on how you feel about the small sample size performance of Rudy Gobert), and he's made a small leap in his scoring ability this season. He's still just 22 and probably has the biggest upside of any current Jazz player – a two-way, star big man with the potential of someone like peak Jermaine O'Neal. Amar: Enes Kanter. Oh wait, you said player, not playa. Okay. Well, that’s a little harder to answer. Right now it’s automatic to lean towards either Derrick Favors or Gordon Hayward. These two guys have had up and down seasons, but with many bright spots. Gordon has taken on so much more responsibility this season, has dominated some games, but at the personal cost of his previously stellar outside shooting. Favors has shouldered so much on defense, is playing significant minutes without being in foul trouble, but at the personal cost of blocked shots. Both had to make sacrifices for the team.
Including games and total minutes played there are over 20 advanced statistics that people follow. G-Time is in the Top-5 for the team in eight categories; D-Fav makes it 16 times. The average rank for Gordon is 6.38th place, and for Derrick it’s 4.86th place. By the least advanced way of looking at advanced stats it appears that Favors is the more important piece of our Jazz puzzle right now. Furthermore, his efforts are more than just the sum of his stat line. He’s the best player on the roster right now.
Josh: This is a tough question since I can go one of three ways. Favors is an anchor that the Jazz have to have to win. Without him the Jazz lack the necessary pressure on D that gives the team a chance to win ball games. Burks has the most potential and athleticism out of all the players. He is hands down the best scorer on the Jazz,has great vision and rebounds well for a two-guard. I'm going to have to go with Gordon Hayward though for one reason and that he makes things happen. G-Hay has been in a slump shooting but he still brings the other stats that only a handful of players can do. How many guys average 15 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds or more in the NBA? Only five and the other four are Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Michael Carter-Williams. Can't ignore that.
Moni: The easy answer, especially given the Jazz's record without him and his relatively higher level of consistency, is Derrick Favors. I'm going with the easy answer.
2. What do you want to see from the Jazz by the end of the season?
Andy: I'm so torn. On the one hand, I want to see the team perform well. After all, I'm a Jazz fan, and winning is immeasurably more fun than losing. Winning would likely mean that the young players are impressing and developing, meaning much for their long-term prospects. Winning probably also helps to develop a winning culture around the team, which could be really useful later on.
On the other hand, though, there are the perverse incentives of this year's draft. The Jazz now have the 8th worst record in the league, and are just 1 game out of the 4th worst slot. Most observers feel that this draft has a well-defined top-5 players who all have star potential. In the 8th slot in the lottery, the Jazz have just a 10% chance at a top-5 pick. In the 4th slot, they would have an 82.8 percent chance. It's to the point where one extra loss now could give the Jazz tens of wins in the future, and it's hard to ignore that.
Amar: I wish to see congruence between how the Jazz play and the x's and o's that the coaching staff devise. It seems like Tyrone Corbin is attempting to unlock some obscure Xbox Achievement or something, because it’s very unusual to have a team start a ‘small ball’ lineup (effectively a non-banging, stretch-four who is actually a small forward) and play a slowed down, drag it out, halfcourt pace. Logic dictates that if you want to play a halfcourt game you want to maximize each possession. And in doing so, you play the most traditional form of basketball possible. If you want to start a small forward at power forward you automatically eschew traditional norms in favor of speed and flexibility.
Either method is a valid form of winning, but you never see teams try to do opposing things at the same time. Perhaps that’s just the way the Utah Jazz are right now by trying to ‘win now’ and ‘take our lumps’ at the same time. Whatever happened to ‘not skipping steps?’ If you’re going to start Marvin, play at a quicker pace than 27th out of 30 in the NBA.
Josh: I want to see the Jazz continue to play well. All I've heard all year after every game we win is "we should've lost." I get that this draft is huge on potential and it would be nice if the Jazz had its' choice on which player they wanted. It's not that easy though, the Jazz are a much better team than any of these bottom dwellers. THe ONLY reason the Jazz are where Sacramento is at instead of Phoenix is because of injuries to Trey, Marvin and Favors. Getting a top-10 pick will be a blessing with the guys the Jazz have and guess what this draft is not just top-heavy. Yes I'd love Jabari too, but there is a reason the Jazz make the playoffs almost every year and teams like the Kings and Cavs seem to always be in the lottery. Don't bet your franchise on a top-5 pick (here's looking at you Philadelphia). So what I want to see is this young core build more chemistry together to carry on to next year.
Moni: More than the end of this season, looking forward to a fresh start next season. It's hard to see any major changes, step forward, etc., this season in the time remaining.
3. What is the most disappointing part of this season so far?Andy: Enes Kanter. After making a lot of progress from year one to year two, Kanter's regressed in year three. His offense is down somewhat, including a 4 point drop in FG percentage (largely because he's played further away from the hoop: last year, he took nearly half of his attempts within the restricted area, now he's down to just 38% of attempts that close). His FT shooting is worse. Kanter's rebounding, his calling card as an NBA player as a rookie, has now regressed for the second straight year. And his defense has also fallen off the charts: after allowing a positional PER of 12 last season, he's now given up a 23.2 PER this season. You've all heard the stat that the Jazz are just 1-25 when Kanter starts; shocking, yes, but a little bit unfair to him given the injuries at the beginning of the season. But here's a more fair statistic: the Burke/Hayward/Jefferson/Williams/Kanter lineup is 22.6 points per 100 possessions worse than the Burke/Hayward/Jefferson/Williams/Favors lineup. That's ugly. He’s still just 21, which means he has time to turn it around, but it's discouraging that his third-year leap was backwards, not forwards.
Amar: This is easy. I’m most disappointed by the fact that Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter, and Derrick Favors have played a grand total of 41 minutes together this season. My disappointment stems from my interpretation that this season wasn’t going to be qualified by wins; rather that this season would be a year of development and discovery. Sure, at times this year Trey, Gordon, and Derrick have been hurt – but not to the level that these five lottery picks, currently all still on their rookie contracts, couldn’t have played more than only 41 minutes together this year.
It’s March now. I’m not saying start them. I’m saying that if we wanted real-time data on how they play in actual NBA games as a unit, it would be best to try this out more. A larger sample size will only confirm or refute the notions that people have, on all sides of the “play the young guys” argument.
Josh: For me the most disappointing thing this season has been the "fans". All these people (including close friends) that claim to be Jazz fans don't even watch games anymore. Let me tell you watching Hayward, Favors, Burks, Evans, Kanter and even Trey progress throughout the year and throughout their careers to this point has been awesome (way more enjoyable than the last 2 seasons of Al and Sap). Hayward, Favors and Burks all can be something special in this league and all have huge potential that seems to show up more and more every game. Anybody think Favors would be where he is at offensively this year? What about Alec turning into a James Harden/Dwayne Wade type player before our eyes? What about G Hay turning into a walking triple double (I know he hasn't gotten any yet, but you have to be impressed with his rebounding and assists this year). So again for me this year "fans" have really gotten to me and showed me that we have just as many bandwagon fans as the Lakers or Heat they just don't realize it yet.
Moni: Lack of systemic direction and development.