For NBA fans this is time of year is the culmination of a great season. Conference Finals have just kicked off. In the Western Conference You have the #2 seed the Houston Rockets Versus the #1 seed Golden State Warriors. The Eastern Conference consists of the #1 seed Atlanta Hawks versus the #2 seed Cleveland Cavaliers. These series will be exciting and a lot of fun to watch, but they play styles of this years conference finals will be different then those in recent history and those of the great 80's and 90's.
Back in the 80's and 90's playoffs were dominated by big men and post play. Names like Mchale, Parish, Jabbar, Olajuwon, Thorpe, Robinson, Malone. More Recently Garnett, Duncan, O'neal, Gasol, Nowitzki.
But this year is different. Of the four teams not one of them has a 2 way dominant big man. Names like Howard, Bogut, Horford, Mozgof all more known for their defense. The days of the dominant 2 way big man are history.
This season and this year's playoffs will be dominated by the 6'5" to 6'8" swing-man. The NBA game has changed. Speed, spacing and shooting are all a premium in today's NBA. The days of pounding the ball into the posts are gone.
In both series, all of these teams have a plethora of 6'5" to 6'8" swing-men.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have Lebron James, JR Smith and Iman Shumpert. These three will all play major roles and will be vital to the Cavaliers success. The Cavs also have Shawn Marion, James Jones and Mike Miller that all fit the category but will likely play a minimal role.
The Atlanta Hawks have Kyle Korver, Demarre Carroll, Paul Millsap, Kent Bazemore. Mike Scott is also in this class as well as Thabo Sefelosha. Scott will likely play a lesser role and Sefelosha is injured.
The Golden State Warriors have Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, Shaun Livingston and Andre Igoudala. These five will all have major roles in the Warriors success. The Warriors also have Justin Holiday and Brandon Rush that also fit this category.
The value of players of this size is that they can both offensively and defensively can play multiple positions. While the size and versatility of these players is a must, all these players must be very athletic as well. We have seen Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green defend shooting guards, small forwards, power forwards and centers. Houston's Trevor Ariza will likely be guarding shooting guards and small forwards. But if Houston goes small will likely play some power forward. Cleveland's LeBron James will guard all positions on the floor.
Being able to do this allows teams to be very flexible. Teams are able to play a small and play in transition with pace. This also allows teams to slow the pace and play in half court set, as players of that size with a post skill-set stay in the game. Players like Paul Millsap, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green as well as LeBron James all have a very good post skill set. Being able to play both styles is a must in today's NBA. The ability to go from transition to a post oriented game as the playoffs tighten up is a must.
On defense, all of these teams have multiple players of this size and skill-set on the floor at the same time. It allows them to switch everything whether that is in the pick and roll or chasing players on off-ball screens. Defense maybe the most valuable part of this type of player.
The Golden State Warriors and the Atlanta Hawks are the cream of the crop of this style of basketball. It will be interesting to see if the Houston Rockets and the Cleveland Cavaliers have the horses to be able to compete with these two teams. The lack of depth for both Houston and Cleveland could play a major factor in their series.
So what does this mean for the future of the NBA and specifically for the Utah Jazz? Currently the Utah Jazz have Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, Joe Ingles, Dante Exum and Rodney Hood that are all legitimate NBA talents. The Jazz also have Chris Johnson and Elijah Millsap both considered to be fringe NBA talents that fit this category.
This class of players ranges from point guards to post talented players as well as knock down shooters. There are elite athletes, great length and talented defenders.
If you are the Utah Jazz, with the direction of the NBA, this is the type and pool of players you should be picking from for this year's draft. Now it's time to pick your poison!
Thursday, May 21, 2015
Thursday, May 14, 2015
Okay everyone, its been far too long. Life is busy and really seemed to get the best of me last year. Time to turn the page and start anew.....
So lets talk some Utah Jazz 2015 draft options!
The Jazz had a much better than expected 2014-2015 season and many feel that the team is on the cusp of making it back to the playoffs! With core pieces Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks all locked in to long term deals and key pieces Rudy Gobert and Dante Exum on rookie contracts, the Jazz have a foundation.
The Jazz also have number of assets in terms of non-guaranteed contracts and future picks. So there are a lot of options going in to this off-season.
Some of the issues that need to be address this off-season for the Utah Jazz are as follows...
- Shooting. The Jazz did not have a lot of floor spacing shooters on the roster last year. With the ball in Gordon Hayward's hands in the pick and roll the Jazz were left with Trey Burke, Dante Exum, Joe Ingles and Rodney Hood as the floor spacers. Rodney was hit with the injury bug most of the season. When healthy, Hood was the Jazz most effective floor spacer.
- TALENTED Depth. The Jazz end the season with 7 rookies on the roster. 4 of those rookies (Exum, Ingles, Hood, Milsap) were counted on to be rotation players. Exum and Hood both are solid or better NBA players. Joe Ingles while a rookie, was a veteran presence having played professionally over seas for years. I believe Ingles likely to be an 8th or 9th man on a roster. The key for the Jazz in this regard, is finding possible upgrades to the bench.
- A Stretch Big. The Jazz started the season with a lot of depth at the 4-5 positions with Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Rudy Gobert, Trevor Booker, Jeremy Evans. At the trade deadline the Jazz moved disgruntled big man Enes Kanter to the Oklahoma City Thunder. This really thinned out the rotation and the depth at the paint positions. The majority of the minutes being played by Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert with Trevor Booker being the 3rd big in the rotation. While Booker was a capable 3rd big, he is a bit undersized and is a high energy player, making it difficult to keep him on the floor for long periods of time while maintaining his effectiveness.
- Point Guard play. Many believe that Dante Exum is the point guard of the future, but in typical rookie fashion, Dante struggled and left fans and the organization wanting more. His counter part, Trey Burke was not much better. The Jazz made Dante the starter about a 1/3 of the way through the season. Dante was a really good defender and ended up being a much better spot up shooter than expected. The biggest knock on Dante is his lack of aggression. Constantly breaking the paint and failing to make plays for himself or for teammates. Trey Burke really struggled with consistency and pace again this season. For every good game Trey had, he would follow it up with at least three 25% shooting games. Not good enough.
After looking at these needs, here are some likely scenarios for draft night for the Jazz...
- Stand Pat. The Jazz can stay where they are at at the #12 pick and pick from a pool of Frank Kaminsky, Kelly Oubre, Devin Booker. All three of these players fill a need for the Utah Jazz. Kaminsky with his shooting and size. Booker is a shooter that needs to develope the rest of his game. He does have prototypical shooting guard size. Kelly Oubre has the highest upside of all three and is the one with the "star potential" of this bunch. He is a super athletic wing with great length.
- Move up. Likely targets for the Jazz to move up would include the likes of DeAngelo Russell, Emmanuel Mudiay, Mario Hezonja, Justise Winslow or Kristaps Porzingis. For the Jazz to get any of these players they would likely have to move up to the top 3-4 spots. Doing so would require the Jazz to give up assets currently on the roster as well as future considerations. Personally, the only way I am moving up for any of these players is if the organization feels that one of these players is a sure fire star. Early word on this draft class is there is no sure fire superstar. Two players that have been mentioned with that potential are Russell and Mudiay.
- Move Back. Targets the Jazz may have interest in would be Sam Dekker, R.J. Hunter, Kevon Looney, Justin Anderson, Trey Lyles and Bobby Portis. Moving back secures the Jazz that TALENTED depth and likely future assets, I am not opposed to this option, as I feel this draft has a number of talented rotational players in the back end of this class.
Personally, I feel the best option for the Utah Jazz is to stand pat. They will have their pick of some really talented players that they will be able to add to their very young core. With the return of a healthy Alec Burks and Rodney Hood as well as a solid summer league for Dante Exum. This team could gel really well and add an additional talent to the mix in their push for the playoffs.
So put on your NBA GM hat, What do you do?????
Monday, June 2, 2014
This summer in the NBA is a pretty special one. Starting Thursday we have a rematch of last years finals With the Spurs versus the Heat. Which proved to be a great series. This will be the first time since the 97-98 season in which we have had the same two teams return to the finals. The last teams to do so were the Utah Jazz and Chicago Bulls. Kind of ironic, considering these two teams are fashioned similar to the Jazz and Bulls of the 90's. Should make for another great series.
Then in a few weeks we have the most coveted draft since Lebron James came in to the league. A draft deep on talent with the top 3-4 players considered franchise building/cornerstone type players. Four days following the draft, free agency begins with big names like James, Wade, Bosh, Nowitzki, Anthony all having the ability to find a new home if they so choose.
But the biggest name being talked about is not a draft pick, not a free agent to be, but a player that is under contract next season. A player that seemingly holds all the power in their hands due to an early out clause in his contract that could make him a free agent in the summer of 14-15, that being Kevin Love.
Love has been been a Timberwolf his entire career having been drafted by the Memphis Grizzlies and traded on draft day 2008 to Minnesota. In his six years in Minnesota, the Timberwolves are yet to make the playoffs much to the dismay of Love. So much so that there was a rumor at the beginning of last season that Love had requested to be traded. The rumor was denied by both love and the franchise but the foundation had been laid. Love was not happy and Minnesota need to appease him by adding quality teammates or lose him in free agency. Minnesota chose to call Love's bluff and did not trade him before the deadline last season.
Bringing us to present day.....
Love and his camp have officially lobbied for a trade now and are no longer denying their desire to move on. As for Minnesota, they seem to want to believe it is all a bad dream. They continue to hold to the fact that Love is under contract for the next season and that they fully expect him to play for the Timberwolves. There have been hints and rumors that Minnesota is softening its stance on trading Love as they know they can not let him walk or lose him for nothing.
And that is where things get difficult.
With Love having an early termination clause on his contract and technically only being under contract for the following season, he has all the power or control over where he gets traded. At this point no team seems to be willing to role the dice on Love without the assurance that he will sign an extension. The one team that might would be the Los Angles Lakers who did so with Dwight Howard who in turn left money on the table and left the lights of L.A. for greener pastures in Houston Texas.
But this is different, as the Lakers are supposedly a preferred destination for Kevin Love. It would be unlikely that the Lakers would need that assurance from Love, as he is a west coast guy, a southern California guy having been born in Santa Monica. Last year Love was asked about playing for the Lakers and said that he was not sure the Lakers were a better situation than he was currently in in Minnesota. He went as far as to say the Timberwolves were the better team. True at the time.....
But are we to believe that Love doesn't really want to play for the Lakers? I believe that if he could choose and all things were equal, there is no way he turns down the Lakers.
So what other options are there? Cleveland did just win the #1 pick in this summers draft. They are said to be in a "win now" situation and seem to be likely suitors for Love. What about the Phoenix Suns? They have multiple first round picks as well as a couple of young assets they could move. The Suns first round picks include 14,18 and 27. Is the combination of those picks and Gerald Green appealing? What about the Chicago Bulls? They have picks 16 and 19 the expiring contract of Carlos Boozer. Maybe Jimmy Butler, Tony Snell. Its unlikely they give up Taj Gibson....Or the Golden State Warriors. They have no pick this year, but have young players like Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes. Many Jazz fans have clamored to get in the Love sweepstakes and the Jazz do have both picks and assets to do so, but I find it hard to believe the Jazz could get the assurance that Love would sign and extension.
Now we have the Flavor of the Month, the Boston Celtics.
This weekend was a hot weekend for Love and Celtics rumors. As Love took in a Red Sox game at Fenway. It was also reported that Rajon Rondo happen to be at the same game. There was also the this tweet from Red Sox DH David Ortiz, #cityofchampions. As well as the rumored communication with Celtics legend Bill Walton. Again, do the Celtics have the pieces to make this happen? First off, they have a relationship with Minnesota thanks to a trade years ago in which a very similar situation was transpiring with then Timber wolf Kevin Garnett. The Celtics also have picks 6 and 17 in this years draft. They actually have 17 first round picks stockpiled in the next 10 years! So picks, they have the assets. What about players? They have a good young small forward in Jeff Green, a young power forward in Jared Sullinger, big man Kelly Olynyk and veteran Gerald Wallace. If the Celtics look to make the deal it is unlikely that they add Rajan Rondo, who too has been rumored to be on the trading block. So clearly the Celtics have the assets.
This may be the best situation for Love. He would get the big market he so desires. Would have the opportunity to play with a great point guard in Rajon Rondo and the Celtics will likely have picks and the flexibility to add a few other pieces to their two studs. Personally, if Love is going to go somewhere, this is one place that I would like to see him. One, it keeps him from the Lakers and two he is on the east coast. I would like to see a little more balance in the conferences and this would help move towards that.
Its only a matter of time at at this point. Love has said he wants to be traded before the season and with the teams in play its likely that a trade gets done in the next couple of weeks. Where ever Mr.Love ends up, I hope that he is able to get back "that loving feeling" again....
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
The more I look at this draft and the top 7 teams picking the more questions I have about how it will all go down. We have all heard that NBA front offices generally tier players. Meaning they put 3-5 different players in a one tier, 3-5 others in a second tier and so on. This gives teams player pools to draft from according to draft position.
In this draft there is a lot of talk about the top 2 tiers of players. The first tier consisting of Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker and Dante Exum. The second tier consists of Marcus Smart, Noah Vonleh, Aaron Gordon, Julius Randle. The more I have looked at things the more I believe that these two tiers may not have as much separation as people think. I believe with these two groups it boils down to immediate impact versus long term intentional.
In the first tier, I believe there is one player that has an immediate impact, that being Jabari Parker. The other three players will all get ample playing time and opportunity regardless of where they are drafted. The second tier I believe has three players that will be immediate impacts, those players being Julius Randle, Marcus Smart and Aaron Gordon.
Noah Vonleh, Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Dante Exum have the most upside of any players in this draft and all could very likely be the best player at their position some day, but I believe you may have to wait on them for a couple of years.
So that brings the question, potential versus impact? Not sure there is a good way to answer that question with such a special draft. So lets try to dumb things down a bit. Lets take a close look at the top 5 teams and their most glaring needs.
#1-Cleveland Cavaliers-Joel Embiid
Well I could take some low blows here and let the Cavs have it but lets take the high road. Players returning for this young Cavs team include, Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett, Jarrett Jack, Tyler Zeller and Sergey Karasev. Pretty easy to see the Cavs lack a starting NBA center. If they don't go that route the small forward position would be the next spot to look at. If I am the Cavs I don't think you can pass on Joel Embiid. (barring back issues) If they don't want to role the dice with a big man with back problems then they will have a choice between Parker and Wiggins. Not sure which player is a better fit here. Parker would likely be the better choice as he is a better shooter than Wiggins and Cleveland already has a pair of ball dominant players in Irving and Waiters.
#2-Milwaukee Bucks-Dante Exum
This is where things can get interesting. The Bucks have OJ Mayo, Ersan Ilyasova, Zaza Pachulia, Carlos Delfino, Larry Sanders, Brandon Knight, John Henson, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Yep the all name team...The Bucks biggest needs seem to be the guard positions. Last season Milwaukee ran a two guard backcourt with Gary Neal and Brandon Knight for much of the season (till they traded Neal) They seemed to like having Knight as a play making guard looking for his shot more so than a true point guard. O.J. (hold the) Mayo gave them absolutely nothing last year. He was in terrible shape and was injured often. They also have number of young bigs that have either under performed, been injured or caused some other sort of drama. The lone bright spot for the Bucks is their young stud small forward Giannis Antetokounmpo better known as the "Greek Freak". So with Embiid off the board here, I believe the Bucks have 2 plays, Andrew Wiggins or Dante Exum. I believe Exum is in play here because they need a true point guard and he is a player that they could pair with Knight to develop as a backcourt of the future. The other option is Wiggins. I believe that Wiggins will end up as a shooting guard in the NBA, as he is rail thin and more of a slasher. Not sure if the Bucks can go wrong with either player here, but with a point guard dominant league I would have to take Exum.
#3-Philadelphia 76ers-Andrew Wiggins
This one falls right in to the Sixers lap perfectly. The Sixers have Micheal Carter-Williams, Thaddeous Young, Nerlen Noel, Eric Maynor, Tony Wroten and Arnette Moultrie. The Sixers clearly have a number of glaring holes. The Sixers top pick Nerlens Noel did not set foot on the court last season as he was recovering from a torn ACL. They clearly did all they could to clear cap and put themselves in the best lottery position. Thad Young was arguably their best player and he was playing out of position most of the year, as the had him playing the power forward a lot. They used him as a stretch 4 but he is not a great 3 point shooter at 30%. Young is a small forward and a talented one at that. If the Sixers choose to go to a small line up then he could play some stretch 4, but this is not something that should be relied upon. Two spots the Sixers need, a power forward or a shooting guard. This gives the Sixers options. They can go with the NBA-ready Julius Randle, who's upside and potential may not be what they would hope for. Another possibilty is Noah Vonleh. Extremely long smooth shooting big that developed a passable back to the basket game last year at Indiana. He also had some of the best overall numbers at the combine. Vonleh would be a great fit as he has the ability to stretch the floor making room for MCW to create for his teammates. Lastly and in my opinion the most likely scenario, Andrew Wiggins. Arguably the player likely to be a star in the league. He is long and a freak athlete. He is a two way player that has the potential to be a defensive stopper. Many compare him to Paul George defensively. Pairing MCW with the likes of Wiggins would give opposing backcourts fits for years to come.
#4-Orlando Magic-Jabari Parker
With Dante Exum the guy the Magic seem to covet the most off the board and the top 2 studs in Wiggins and Embiid gone, the Magic have to select Parker right? Well next years roster has Aaron Aflfalo, Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris, Andrew Nicholson, Moe Harkless, Nikola Vucevic all under contract. That leaves a lot of holes to fill. Again the biggest needs look to be the power forward position, small forward position and the point guard position. Currently the Magic have both Harris and Harkless playing the small forward position. Harkless is the more natural fit there but has yet to blossom. Harris has the appropriate size and length but lacks quickness. The Magic also used Harris at the 4 position where he seemed to be most effective. The Magic have long coveted an explosive point guard and had hoped to land Exum here. With Exum off the board do the Magic take a Marcus Smart? Smart is the one player I believe is going to come in to next season and make every team that passed on him pay. The knock is his jumper, and the lack of players on the Magic roster that can knock down open jumpers and open up the lane is....? Smart likely is not the best fit here. Jabari Parker gives the Magic a true small forward that is NBA-ready and will make an immediate impact. He adds spacing for player like Vucevic down low and opens driving lanes for Oladipo. Unfortunately for Jazz Fans Jabari should be there man.
#5-Utah Jazz-Aaron Gordon/Marcus Smart
This is a depressing position for most Jazz fans. The thought that Philly, Orlando and Milwaukee all "tanked" better than Utah did is a knife in the heart. To be honest at times, if I dwell on it, I feel the same way. The Trey Burke buzzer beater versus Orlando while at the time was fun to watch and exciting, is that "knife". The Jazz have Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Jeremy Evans, Rudy Gobert. The Jazz have a solid young player at every position so regardless of what position you pick you will be duplicating. Jazz fans are clamoring for the Jazz to make a trade and move up in this draft. I just can't see that happening. Short of giving up Derrick Favors and picks the Jazz don't have much that is considered valuable enough to move up. So where do the Jazz go? In my opinion the biggest need is at the small forward position. With Gordon Hayward's pending free agency the Jazz should look to shore up this position regardless of how things work out with Hayward. With Parker and Wiggins having come off the board already, that leaves only one other player that can play both the small forward and while a bit undersized, the power forward position, that being Aaron Gordon. There is a lot to like with Gordon. He is a defensive monster that moves like a guard laterally and has the length and athleticism to block shots and be a rim protector. Gordon is a great ball handler for his size and often sparked the break on his own while playing at Arizona. Gordon's weakness is the same as Marcus Smart....shooting. Given the right offensive concepts and the athleticism that the Jazz currently have could help negate some of the weaknesses of Gordon. The other option here in my opinion is Marcus Smart. Chad Ford has gone on record saying Jazz fans should not be shocked if the Jazz selected another point guard. Does this mean the Jazz are not that high on Trey Burke? Only the front office knows for sure. But the combo of Burke and Smart could work. They balance out each others strengths and weaknesses. There is also the thought that the Jazz could move Burke and have Smart and Burks as the backcourt of the future. In my opinion the Jazz can't go wrong here with either player. Both players come in and make an immediate impact. Personally, I can't choose between the two so I am going to call them 1a and 1b being Gordon and Smart.
This draft has so much potential and there will clearly be some franchise players, possibly more than people think....June 26th can't get here soon enough!
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
|Can we expect another pick like this?|
Wow! That may be an understatement for both Jazz fans and NBA fans as a collective after last nights Draft Lottery. The Cleveland Cavaliers with a 1.7% chance of securing the #1 pick, did so for the 3rd time in four years and for a second consecutive year. We could go on and on about conspiracy theories and the lottery being rigged, but I won't.
The only statement I will make on this is that Cleveland is a smoldering dumpster fire of an organization and its unfortunate that poorly run franchises continue to win the lottery. They fire a coach, then turn around and rehire him after he was fired by his previous team after 8 games. They sign players to hefty contracts (Andrew Bynum) and then pay them to walk. Lastly, they clearly under-develop talent. Kyrie, Trystan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Anthony Bennett and now you can add this years first pick to that list (if they don't trade it....it would be the only smart thing they have done....) We can comfortably call the Cleveland Cavaliers the modern day L.A. Clippers. #SAD!
Ok, enough of that. Lets take a look at (in my opinion) the only 2 options the Utah Jazz really have with this draft. Lets preface this by saying that there is a general consensus that there are 3-4 sure fire players. Those being Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid (if the back checks out) and Dante Exum. Well as luck would have it, the Jazz are sitting at #5. If the consensus is that these are franchise corner stone players, its unlikely that teams in the top 4 are going to trade out of those spots without getting a current top 10-15 player in the league. So as far as the Jazz are concerned moving up is highly unlikely. So that brings us back to our only two options.
Option #1- The Jazz keep the #5, #23 and the #35 pick and use them according to best available and need.
As currently constructed the Jazz have Derrick Favors, Alec Burks, Trey Burke, Enes Kanter, Jeremy Evans, John Lucas III and Rudy Gobert on guaranteed contracts for next season. Gordon Hayward is a restricted free agent and Diante Garrett, Ian Clark and Malcolm Thomas are all team options. The Jazz clearly lacked depth last season particularly at the wing position. While Richard Jefferson was a nice vet, he didn't give you much other than that veteran presence. Brandon Rush gave you nothing. Ian Clark and Malcolm Thomas barely saw the court. The Jazz had depth with the front court but it was inexperienced depth, young and raw talents.
Option #2- The Jazz keep the #5 pick, but get aggressive and package the #23 and a current asset to move up in the first round.
The Sacramento Kings have already come out and said that they are looking to move the #8 pick. They are said to want an impact veteran, someone that can help them make that jump and develop with their young core. There will be other teams besides the Kings that have 2 first rounders like the Bulls or the Sixers that may look to save cap room for the pending free agent class. Plays like this would give the Utah Jazz an opportunity to grab a couple of high level players that could come in and contribute right away. Radio voice of the Utah Jazz, David Locke, said that he really likes the talent pool in picks 15-20. An example that I am personally fond of, would be to select Marcus Smart with the #5 pick and then package the #23 and Alec Burks or Gordon Hayward for Sacramento's #8 pick. Giving the Utah Jazz the choice between Doug McDermott or Aaron Gordon (according to Draft Express). All three of these players have a high probability of coming in and contributing right away. Smart and McDermott would be a perfect compliment to the current roster and to each other. Smart and Gordon along with Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert would make for a scary good defensive unit.
In my opinion, these are the to best and most feasible options for this young Utah Jazz squad. I like where the Jazz are at currently. I like the pieces they have to work with and love their financial flexibility. I would hate to see the Jazz package any of their picks for a good or mid-level player and sacrifice the flexibility they have worked so hard to establish. These two options allow this young team to continue to develop together and have the ability to make a splash in free agency or in the trade market. But I am not a GM and not Dennis Lindsey......