Dancing With Noah

Just messing around, getting triple doubles

Let Your Heroes go in Peace – the Utah Jazz

For as long as I’ve been following the NBA, the Utah Jazz have been identifiable by the presence of players and a single coach who’ve cultivated a respectable workmanlike ethos. From their ancient leathery coach, Jerry Sloan, the approach flowed toward the blue collar duo of Stockton and Malone and was seamlessly transitioned to a modern-day version in Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer. The Jazz we knew are no more.

The new Jazz are a mishmash of good, but not great players. Their fans go to sleep at night whispering soft prayers to the basketball gods, “Please let this be the year of The Al Jefferson. And maybe if you could see to it that Derrick Favors can become a starter and Enes Kanter can be the real deal; well, it’d kinda cool. ” Regardless of how the basketball gods respond to those requests, big Al’s support system is still young, shallow and somewhat unreliable. That description might sound more applicable to a group of teenagers, but it fits the new Jazz too. Al’s flanked by delicate Devin Harris (averages missing 14 games per year) and Paul Millsap. After that it starts getting lean. It doesn’t look like Andrei Kirilenko is going to re-sign which leaves Gordon Hayward (a tribute to classical Jazz roots), CJ Miles and Raja Bell to fight for the last two starting spots.

This isn’t a squad to inspire fear in the hearts of competitors. Unless Kanter and Favors are able to replicate some Ralph Sampson/Akeem Olajuwon mid-80s type performances, these guys should fall short of the playoffs again. With a group of good players, but no anchor, no Deron or Karl, it’s going to be a challenging climb into the top-eight in the conference. Looking at their opponents last year, they were able to compete with non-playoff teams and Eastern Conference foes, but consistently struggled against inter-conference playoff teams:

 

 Opponent Games Wins Losses Win%
Vs West Conf Playoff teams

31

10

21

32.3%

Vs Non West Playoff teams

21

11

10

52.4%

Vs East Conf Playoff teams

16

8

8

50.0%

Vs Non East Playoff teams

14

10

4

71.4%

 

If Jefferson makes the leap to an elite post player (very possible given his skill-set and the lack of quality bigs in the league) and Favors/Kanter/Hayward make significant improvements, the Jazz could leapfrog Denver or New Orleans for one of the last playoff spots; aka lambs to the Mavs/Lakers/Thunder slaughter. It’s not a contending team, but the Jazz have just enough talent to compete for the playoffs and just enough youth to keep fans intrigued by a promising, but undefined future. It’s OK to let go; Karl, John, Deron, Jerry and especially Al insist on it.

 

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