D.C. Council Opening Statements: Wizards at Jazz, Game 43
The Wizards are, once again, gunning for .512, hoping to leave .500 in the dust … for now. Without much delay, let’s get into today’s opening statements, as we have two guests stopping by TAI to talk about Jazz and other hepcats.
Clint Peterson is an avid basketball fan and distinguished alumni of Hardwood Paroxysm who has written for various Utah Jazz blogs including WeAreUtahJazz over the years. Proud father and accredited illustrator, you can follow him on Twitter at @Clintonite33.
Teams: Wizards at Jazz
Time: 9:00 p.m. ET
Venue: EnergySolutions Arena, Salt Lake City, UT
Radio: WFED-AM 1500
Spread: Wizards fav’d by 2 points
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Q #1: Did you expect to be one of the bottom five teams in the league at this point and where are the silver linings?
@Ben_Dowsett: Yes. Utah lost it’s entire starting front court in free agency by design, was likely to start a rookie point guard and at least three guys under 23 (if not four or five), and took on a fairly obvious salary dump from the Warriors over the offseason to pick up a couple extra first-round picks. This has always been a rebuilding year in Utah, and the silver lining will likely be the high pick they should be able to nab in a stacked draft.
@Clintonite33: Before preseason, after the team’s annual free scrimmage for fans, I expected them to win about 35 games based on how good some of the youngsters looked, especially Enes Kanter. But by the time preseason wrapped up I’d lowered my expectations to between 25-28 wins, so I suppose while I hadn’t thought of where they’d end up in relation to the rest of the league, 25 wins is generally good enough to end up in the bottom five or so.
Obviously, the low-hanging fruit when it comes to silver linings is the possibility to land a top-tier, potential franchise-changer in a stellar draft. When the mothership landed it’s perennial lottery machine for us to play with I took a single spin on it then put it back in the box. For obvious reasons.
Trey Burke has been a pleasant surprise as well, although it seems he’s began to run into circulated scouting reports of late, cooling his hot start as the Utah Jazz’s premiere point guard of the future. His 3-point shooting has been better than many expected at this stage and he shows an ability to adjust rather quickly to changing situations.
Marvin Williams has been surprisingly effective in a stretch-4 role for Ty Corbin and there seems to be an increasing likelihood that he is re-signed with Utah, provided the price is right. Having a stretch-4 with the ability to play defense is a valuable asset on the floor for any team.
Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward, with Alec Burks anchoring the bench — future Sixth-Man Award contender? — have all shown that they will be contributors to success in their NBA careers.
Q #2: Like John Wall, Derrick Favors, third pick in the 2010 draft, got an extension (but not a max). The salary boost doesn’t kick in until next year, but how has he lived up to expectations after signing on the dotted line?
Does his four-year, $49 million extension (Wall got five years and $80 million) feel about right, or will the Jazz eventually feel like they’re getting a steal?
@Ben_Dowsett: Favors has mostly been a bright spot amid a tough year, albeit again an expected one. He’s shown flashes of a far more complete offensive game than most had projected so early, and if he can make these flashes more consistent while coming anywhere close to his ceiling defensively within the next couple seasons, he will absolutely be a bargain at just over $12 million per year. I also have lots of thoughts on the potential future of the Favors-Kanter pairing – my piece from earlier this week on exactly that subject can be found here.
@Clintonite33: Final part of this question: How does Favors mesh with Kanter?
Derrick Favors has undoubtedly been the most consistent player for the Utah Jazz this season — and while a gametime decision for tonight’s tilt, he participated in shootaround this morning; I expect he’ll play tonight after sitting out with a hip flexor strain the last game. On a young, inexperienced team that you aren’t quite sure what you’ll get from night to night, Favors has been quietly approaching pencil-in status; that is, you can almost pencil in what he’ll put up on the stat sheet from game to game.
As is often the case when a player goes from showcasing strengths in short bursts off the bench to instead starting, Favors’ defense has taken the biggest hit via his leap in playing time. He had to learn how to pace himself in order to get one of the league’s highest foul rates way down in order to stay on the floor for starters’ minutes. That said, his offensive development is further ahead than almost anyone expected.
Making those leaps upward to the next level in the NBA is a lot more difficult than many fans realize, but Favors has the tools and confidence to compete with the league’s elite big men, and in time I believe his contract will appear to be a stark steal by the savvy Jazz brass.
Enes Kanter has been somewhat disappointing for those that had pinned high hopes on him based on his draft pick status. What’s easy to forget here is context: that it was a pretty poor draft crop to choose from when he went third overall in 2011 (Jan Vesely went sixth). Kanter in the a starting lineup has been very poor, at best, this season — the Jazz are 1-18 when starts — but in particular they seem to struggle when he and Favors share the floor.
Ty Corbin pulled Kanter and inserted Marvin Williams at the starting power forward spot, a move that proved beneficial to the team, and Williams and Kanter’s confidence, as Kanter has been able to once again excel against second-tier bigs, rather than get torched possession after possession versus first teamers.
According to many, there seems to be an overriding need to force Favors to play successfully with Kanter beside him. The reality is, they might never mesh on the floor together on a nightly basis, leaving the large Turk as one of the best No. 3 bigs in the league. And there’s nothing wrong with that. In order to compete at the highest level, you have to have a good bench, and paired with young French giant Rudy Gobert, the Jazz could once again soon have one of the most frightful second-line sets of big men in the NBA.
Q #3: With potentially $30 million in expiring salaries after this season, what do you have your eye on?
@Ben_Dowsett: The Jazz will have a ton of options with all their cap room. Recent statements seem to indicate that the front office is intent on re-signing Gordon Hayward, plus a small chunk for their likely incoming lottery pick. Despite their record, this team has shown the ability to compete in stretches with even tough competition this season; the addition of an elite prospect could leave them with six core pieces. Rather than go crazy and use the salary space immediately, I’d likely prefer to see them roll it over for when it’s needed for various extensions over the next few years and focus on continuing to make this young core a contending one.
@Clintonite33: Flexibility for a future that includes teams getting increasingly desperate to move players in order to avoid paying incremental luxury tax penalties. Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey has put together a promising core of young guys that will only continue to improve while maintaining mass amounts of financial flexibility to fill in any apparent gaps. And I believe Lindsey has also laid the groundwork to battle a longstanding stereotype that free agents will avoid Utah at all costs.
Why didn’t you personally give the Jazz name back to New Orleans?
@Ben_Dowsett: People in Utah like Jazz music, too!
@Clintonite33: Have you seen that magnificent pelican? I wouldn’t rob you all of Pierre’s glorious terror.
When people hear Deron Williams’ name in SLC, do they still whisper ‘coach killer’?
@Ben_Dowsett: I dunno about others, but I whisper “seller’s satisfaction” (the opposite of buyer’s remorse). Williams in a Nets uniform has never performed at as high a level as his two peak seasons in Utah. He has been involved in yet another coaching fiasco, and has spent big portions of the last two years out with nagging injuries. In the meantime, the Jazz obtained two top-five lottery picks.
@Clintonite33: Deron still lives in Utah in the offseason and is an avid golfer, frequenting our most golf courses per capita in the nation. Despite this, they don’t even bother to whisper their discontent about Williams and how an era came to an end.
Seems like people have been ready to fire Ty Corbin… at least last year. How hot is his seat now?
@Ben_Dowsett: Less hot than last season, I think. Things haven’t been perfect or anywhere close, but Corbin has shown some creativity and moxie in a year where he’s in a tough position personnel-wise. I’ve been far less critical of him than I had expected I might have to be.
@Clintonite33: To be perfectly frank, the detractors are quite vocal about their displeasure and relentless in their pursuit of pitchforks and torches, but I’m not convinced this is actually a majority. Corbin has improved a lot in many areas of game management and has legend Jerry Sloan to lean on daily as what amounts to the Utah Jazz Coach of the Coaches — Sloan has been quietly involved in the daily duties of the staff and franchise.
Let’s also not forget that it was Ty Corbin who leaned on Lindsey so hard to move up for Trey Burke in the last draft, showing us that he knew what he needed on this roster. It will be fascinating to see this summer if Corbin has done enough to become “Dennis Lindsey’s guy” for the future. He’s certainly headed in the right direction, provided he can find some defense somewhere on his depth chart.