Wednesday, February 5, 2014

So many questions....Not a lot of answers.

  The last 2 weeks have had their ups and downs for the Utah Jazz.  There have been wins, there have been losses.  Good games by Enes Kanter, Alec Burks.  Struggles for Gordon Hayward and Trey Burke, and injuries to the cornerstone Derrick Favors as well as Jeremy Evans.  The vets Richard Jefferson and Marvin Williams continue to battle through their own nicks and dings.  But one question remains, who are the Utah Jazz?

  We are better than half way through the season and I rack my brain game after game, trying to identify what this Jazz team hangs their hat on.  General Manager Dennis Lindsey stated at the first of the season and he wanted to see this young team develop, see what pieces he had to build with.  He also mentioned the need to build a top caliber defense.  At this point, can Dennis Lindsey say that the Jazz have accomplished either of these goals?  Only he can answer that question....

  As I watch the Jazz, I can't put my finger on one thing that this team is.  Are they a post team?  A transition team?  A 3pt shooting team?  A defensive team?  Night in and night out the Jazz have been any of these, but they are never consistently one.  And there in lies the problem....

  This is a young team that needs direction, guidelines and roles.  Just saying that we are going to compete every night is great, but young players need something to focus on, a role, something that the are going to focus on and execute.

  So what are those roles?  Do the players have them?  Do they know and understand what they are?  How were those roles chosen and do they put the player or players in the best position to be successful?  While I am not at practice and don't know what Coach Corbin and the staff go over with the players, watching the games leaves me wondering if the players know their roles.

  David Locke, radio voice for the Utah Jazz, made mention on his Tipoff podcast the fact that Alec Burks has an elite skill as an attacker/penatrator and score and the fact that that is a building block for a player and an offense.  This has lead me to think about the young core and their skills or things that are valuable or valued on this team.  What are they?  How can the Jazz build off of them?  Lets take a look....

  Derrick Favors, in my opinion, his elite skill would be a defender or rim protector.  Enes Kanter, would have to be an offensive rebounder.  Rudy Gobert, very similar to Favors as a defender and rim protector.  Trey Burke, his elite skill would have to be the mid-range game, a lost art in the NBA game.  Four players that have elite skills or talents.

  Are they being put in a position to use those skills and be successful?  I am not so sure.  For all the talk of Kanter and Favors can or can't play together (depends on which side of the fence you are on) I believe they can.  Both players have elite skills that offset each other.  While Kanter struggles on defense and his rotations he is a much better offensive rebounder than Favors.  Because the Jazz have change their philosophy on defense and the fact that they want to stop transition, they are missing out on second chance points and thus negating Kanters skill.  So why not play Favors and Kanter together?  Make Kanters role that of an offensive rebounder and hitting the offensive glass hard.  Make Derrick Favors the rim protector and defender.  He has the responsibility to get back in transition and protect the basket.  The same philosophy could be used with Gobert instead of Favors.  Or if you are going to play Favors and Gobert together, have Derrick crash the boards.  The options are there and they should be looked at a lot more than they are,

  So that leaves us with Gordon Hayward and Jeremy Evans.  What are their elite skills or talents?  While Jeremy Evans will never be a starter in the league and likely not a 6th man in the league, he can be a valuable contributor off the bench.  If you were to ask me what Jeremy's elite skill COULD be, I would tell you that I believe he could be an elite weak-side/help defender.  Jeremy is long and extremely athletic.  The prefect combination for a help defender.  I hate to say it but I don't think this skill has been developed very well for Jeremy.  One other aspect Jeremy's game that is over-looked is his energy/motor.  He plays hard all the time.  Sports Illustrated Seth Davis wrote a fantastic piece about talent in college basket ball and the need for a new definition for players other than just measurables.  If you haven't read it I would strongly suggest it, here is the link

  So what is Gordon Hayward's elite skill?  He is a good passer, a good defender, a good shooter, good from 3pt range, an average rebounder.  What is Gordon's elite skill?  While Gordon is good in a lot of areas and valuable because of this, I am not sure he has an elite skill.  He is not a great 3pt shooter.  He is good in the pick and roll but his handle tends to be loose from time to time and can be turnover prone.  The skill that I would say would be closest to elite would be defense.  He has good lateral quickness, sneaky athletic and is long.  He has the ability to defend multiple positions as well as being a good help defender.  With that being said, is Gordon focusing too much on his offense?  Has he been put in a position to enhance that skill?

You decide...

  For the Jazz, the All-star break is just around the corner.  I would hope the Jazz get some good rest, come back healthy, refreshed and focused.  I hope they have a renewed interest and effort in finding out their elite skills and identity as a team.

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