Monday, April 28, 2014

NBA Playoff's have been great. Except....

  The first round of the 2014 NBA playoffs have been absolutely fantastic!  The games have been what every NBA fan could hope for.  And to be completely honest the games should be the story, but unfortunately they are not.  The league is mired in controversy thanks to the ignorance of one "entitled billionaire"  While I have my opinion and share the opinion as many others, I am not going to let this buffoon ruin my love for the NBA or the Playoffs.  Adam Silver will handle his business and I will wait for his decision.

  So lets move on.....

  Lets talk about how great the Playoffs have been thus far.  There have been 7 overtime games already!  There have only been a couple of blowouts and only one series that has been dominated by one team.  There has been drama and excitement in every series.  This is why I watch playoff basketball.  Lets run down the series.

Dallas Maverick vs. San Antonio Spurs-

  This is the best series no one is watching.  For the basketball purist, this series has been a lot of fun.  These two team are the two "old men" teams at the Y or the Rec center that have played together since the dinosaurs walked the earth!  The execute you to death, play good defense and can flat out shoot.  At one point in game two, I watch Jose Calederon hit 4 straight jumpers from the left elbow, all pure.  But that was to be overshadowed by Vince Carter turning back the clock and hitting an unbelievable 3 in the corner for the win.  Right after Manu Ginobli had given the Spurs the lead on a great drive to the basket.  Fantastic series!

Atlanta Hawks vs. Indiana Pacers-

  This is a bad match-up for the Pacers.  The Hawks penetration and kick game has been unstoppable.  Jeff Teague has shown his superior speed and quickness and has given Indiana fits.  The Pacers Roy Hibbert is having a complete melt down and Lance Stephenson just wants to dribble the ball for the entire 24 seconds on the shot clock.  To be honest the Pacers are such a mess I find myself pulling for the Hawks and the upset to see how "Larrry Legend" handles things and if he blows up that team.

Brooklyn Nets vs Toronto Raptors-

  This one is going to come down to will....period!  The series is tied 2-2 with both teams having one a road game.  These teams don't like each other and it has been chippy at times.  Paul Pierce did what Paul Pierce does in the playoffs, he closed out game one for the Nets in Toronto.  This series has a bit of a "David vs Goliath" feel to it and Toronto is giving Brooklyn everything they can handle.  Deron Williams really has been a non-factor in the series thus far.  Game four he was held to 10 pts.  If the Nets want to move on Williams will have to be much better and play up to the contract that he received.

Memphis Grizzlies vs. Oklahoma City Thunder-

  This series has been interesting.  The series is ties 2-2 but could very well be 3-1 for either team.  There have been a number of 4 point plays in this series and some really boneheaded plays to close out games by Tony Allen.  Luckily for him, the Grizz have been able to hold on.  3 of the 4 games in this series alone have gone to overtime!  Gotta love bonus basketball!  Now we have a 3 game series and if it is anything like the first 4, you would be wise to tune in.

Los Angles Clippers vs. Golden State Warriors-

  This series is tied at two games a piece but would likely be 3-1 for the Clips had Sterling joined the 21st century.  I can't even call him an owner or Mr. he does not deserve even that consideration.  No one can tell me that this won't be a major distraction for the Clippers the remainder of the playoffs, regardless of Adam Silver's investigation.  Here is a team that had a legitimate chance of making the finals and now who knows where their heads will be.  This will be the ultimate test for Doc Rivers and his staff to get these kids refocused on the task at hand.  Best of luck to the Clips.

Charlotte Bobcats vs. Miami Heat-

  Gotta be honest here, I had hoped that the Cats could give Miami a little better series.  But with Big Al's injury that just wasn't going to happen.  Give it to the big fella, he is out there battling, but he is not 100% and that is what it was going to take to give Miami a series.  Lebron is doing what Lebron does, leading his team.  Dwayne Wade looks relatively healthy but time will tell.  This was the best first round match-up for the Heat as they won't have to overextend anyone and can continue to nurse their bumps and bruises.

Portland Trailblazers vs. Houston Rockets-

  In my opinion, this has been the most entertaining series thus far.  LaMarcus Aldrige has been amazing scoring 46,43,23 and 29 respectively!  The Rockets have had no answer for him.  James Harden has been ineffective and inefficient in the series.  Game 3 had a game winner by a rookie Troy Daniels playing in his first playoff game! Game 4 was all about grit and toughness.  It went to overtime where the Blazers pulled out a win 123-120.  The series is 3-1 Portland with the Blazers looking to close it out in Houston on Wednesday.

Washington Wizards vs. Chicago Bulls-

  Can't say I saw this one coming!  This series has been all Wiz and their team balance.  The Bulls are known as a defensive juggernaut but they simply can not score.  Mike Dunleavy had an outburst in game 3 scoring 35 pts hitting eight 3 pointers and giving the Bulls their only win of the series.  The Wiz will look to close it out on Tuesday in Chicago.

  This is why we watch.  To watch these incredible athletes compete and give it everything physically possible to give their team a chance.  I love this time of year and am not going to let one moron be the focus of this great game and these great series.

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Blueprints: What the Utah Jazz are trying to build

  So far we have taken a look at the foundation of the Utah Jazz and also some of the "Raw Materials" that they have to work with.  As stated previously, I feel optimistic with the pieces the Jazz have and what they feel should be the foundation for the organization going forward.

  Now lets take a look at the "blueprints" for the Utah Jazz.  First off, we should define "blueprints"  I would consider the blueprints to be the design or concepts to building this franchise.  The blueprints could include certain "materials" and dimensions of "materials" needed to build the structure the Jazz are looking for.  It could also provide some instruction and definition as to how those materials and concepts are to be used.

  Now that we have an understanding as to what the "blueprints" could or should contain, lets begin to draw the "blueprints" for the Utah Jazz franchise.

  To begin, there must be a concept.  Everything that this franchise does or will do will be predicated off of a concept.  So there are a handful of different concepts out there that the Utah Jazz can look at or adopt.  The Jazz can look to be a defensive elite team, a balanced team, an offensive juggernaut and I would say one wild card, that being the superstar conglomerate.  There are also subsets to each of these concepts that can give the franchise a more detailed picture or "blueprint"  We can classify teams right now that are running each of these concepts.  Defensive elites consist of the Chicago Bulls, Indian Pacers, Memphis Grizzlies.  The well balanced teams look to be the Golden State Warriors, Portland Trailblazers, Toronto Raptors and everyone's favorite the San Antonio Spurs.  Offensive juggernauts look like the Houston Rockets, Los Angles Clippers and believe it or not the Washington Wizards .  Then we have our superstar conglomerates consisting of the Miami Heat, Brooklyn Nets and the Knicks tried but failed miserably.

  So what concept is the best for the Utah Jazz?  While we would all love to be a superstar conglomerate, we know that the market of Utah and the stigma attached will likely never allow for that.  So lets just toss that one out now.  That leaves us with our 3 main categories.  Dennis Lindsey wants defense.  Hardcore Jazz fans and those with a knowledge of the game also want defense.  The casual fan needs to be entertained so the likely lean towards the offensive side of things.  Granted you are never going to make everyone happy but what if you go with a well balanced team?  For the Jazz, you end up as the San Antonio Spurs and no one wants to watch you because your boring, slow and do the same thing over and over.  The Spurs have been in the playoffs for the the last 17 years!  They have competed for championships in better than half of those 17 years.  Is that such a bad thing?

  Also, look at what is taking place in the playoffs as we speak, the #1 seed Indiana Pacers are down 2-1 to the #8 seed Atlanta Hawks.  Indiana is an defensive elite team that can not score the ball!  The Houston Rockets, an offensive juggernaut the #4 seed are down 2-0 to the well balanced #5 seed Portland Trailblazers.  Teams that are one extreme or the other perform well during the regular season and can stack up wins.  When it comes to the playoffs teams have more time to game plan.  A balanced team can adjust and change some of their subsets to the concepts that they run and exploit their opponents weaknesses.  It is much harder for a team that is offensive or defensive heavy to make those adjustment late in the season or on the fly in a series.

  Now where would this concept and the subsets come from?  I am going to say two places, the "Engineer and the Foreman"  The "Engineer" I would tab as Dennis Lindsey.  The "Foreman" would be the coach and staff that are brought in to develop these concepts.  What type of foremen is Lindsey looking for?  There have been a number of names and possible candidates out there but the hiring process has yet to begin.  Also President Randy Rigby mentioned that this will not simply be a Dennis Lindsey hire.  He stated that Dennis is looking for input from all parts of the organization.  I believe that will be to the benefit of the entire franchise as they narrow down the search.  Once the decision is made on who that "foreman" is going to be, will we have a better idea of what direction and what concepts the Utah Jazz are looking to use.

  With that said that and the "raw materials" the Utah Jazz have it makes complete sense to choose the concept of a balanced team.  The Jazz have defenders in Favors and Gobert.  They have offensive spark plugs like Alec Burks Enes Kanter.  The also have well balanced players like Gordon Hayward and Trey Burke.  I believe if you add that one "superstar" and the correct  "foreman" you have the design for a structure that can be extremely successful.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Raw Materials: What the Utah Jazz have to work with

  A few days ago we began the discussion of building a foundation for the Utah Jazz.  Some of the "keys" that were discussed was the need for a "foundation" or principals and concepts.  We know that Dennis Lindsey has said that he wants a great defensive team, that likely being the number one principal that Lindsey is looking for.  Another principal that I believe that Lindsey is looking for is a "2 big" system.  His quotes as of the last couple games of the season and since, seem to insist on Kanter and Favors playing together.  That brings us to the "Cornerstone" Derrick Favors.  He is the key to the defensive principals and concepts that Lindsey appears to have in mind.  He is also a key figure in what appears to be a 2 big system.

  With those things in mind, lets take a look at the "Raw Materials" the Jazz have to work with in building this foundation for a successful franchise for years to come.  I wanted to look at some of the numbers for the Jazz young core coming in to the league.  I was able to pull players NBA Draft Combine numbers from Draft Express  It is likely that some of these numbers have actually increased for some of the players with all the work they do at P3 in the off season.  This should give us a decent baseline for some of the physical characteristics as well as some of their athleticism numbers.  These numbers should give us an idea of potential for the young core, if they are put in a system that takes advantage of these attributes and allows them to be successful.

  Trey Burke-

Wingspan 6'5"
Agility 11.20
Sprint 3.16

  I was surprised to find that Trey's wingspan was actually an inch longer than thought going in to the combine.  He shows good lateral quickness with the agility drill and his sprint time is good.  For comparison, Mike Conley Jr is often the comparison for Trey.  Conley agility time was 11.63 and his wingspan is equal at 6'5.75".  With the tools Trey has to work with he should be a better defender than he was this season.  Granted he was a rookie and is learning the pro game and the physicality of it, but Trey has all the tools to be an above average defender.  He has considerable length and could learn to play the passing lanes similar to Conley.

Alec Burks-

Wingspan 6'10"
Agility 10.96
Sprint 3.17

  To say I was surprised by Trey's wingspan, I was shocked by Alec's.  Here is a player with the tools to be an elite defender in my opinion.  He has incredible length for his size, has decent lateral quickness and has a burst that not many have at his size.  Alec's weakest point may be that lateral quickness.  It shows in game, as he struggles to get over screens.  Alec is good straight up, but when that screen comes it throws him off his game.  This is where he should be taking advantage of the great length he has and over playing to push away from the screen.  Alec has some of the best numbers but may lack some understanding to the concepts that were taught.  Given the right concept Alec should be able to wreak havoc in the passing lanes, as well as a help side shot blocker.  Not to mention his ability to stay in front of his man straight up.

Gordon Hayward-

Wingspan 6'7.75"
Agility 11.73
Sprint 3.22

  What Gordon lacks in mind-blowing numbers he makes up for with surprisingly high athletic numbers and smarts.  Gordon's no step vertical jump actually comes out at 30.5".  That is an inch less than Gerald Green of the Phoenix Suns, and we all know what type of athlete he is.  Gordon's max vertical jump is 34.5"  For comparison sake, Gordon's lateral quickness is actually better than Jimmy Butler of Chicago, who is widely consider to be a good defender.  Gordon is a good team defender and does a great job fighting over the tops of screens.  I think what really helps Gordon defensively, is he does his "homework" early.  He knows where his opponent wants to get to and fights them early and tries to push them off their spots.

Derrick Favors-

Wingspan 7'4"
Agility 11.74
Sprint 3.25

  We all know that Derrick has incredible length and athleticism.  Little needs to be discussed as far as his "tools" go.  What may be lacking from Derrick is that knowledge of defense, concepts and positioning.  I guess it could be simplified down to basketball IQ.  I believe that time on the court and in the film room will be the keys to his development.  He needs to do that "homework" that was discussed with Gordon.  He needs to understand personnel and put in the work early to push them off their spots.

Enes Kanter-

Wingspan 7'1.5"
Agility 11.30
Sprint 3.26

  This is where things get very interesting.  Enes has some unreal numbers for a guy his size and position.  The most surprising is the lateral quickness.  Enes has the foot speed that he should be able to defend a hard hedge on the pick and roll and still have the quicks to get back to his man.  As we all know all to well, that does not seem to be the case.  So why is that? The numbers say that he should be able to do that.  I think Enes has the same issue that Derrick does.  Lack of court and film time.  Defensive instincts are natural for some players like Rudy Gobert.  Others, like Enes need to be taught.  Defense is a concept that I feel can be taught to any player.  It is a concept of effort more often than the tools that a player has.  Enes has the "tools" but lacks the knowledge and understanding of the game.  The question is how long do you want to wait for those attributes to develop?

Rudy Gobert-

Wingspan 7'8.5"
Agility 12.85
Sprint 3.57

  Rudy's physical size is amazing!  He is so long and has huge hands.  Rudy does not have the lateral quickness which is a given, but that length is very effective in the pick and roll situation, forcing the guard to have to swing out wider than they would like.  It also makes the pass extremely difficult on the pick and pop.  While the lateral quickness and sprint seem a bit slow to me, I can safely say that I have seen improvement through out the season in Rudy's quickness.  As great as the physical numbers are for Rudy, you can't overstate his natural defensive instincts and his will to be a GREAT defender.  He understands where is his bread is buttered.

  These players are the "raw materials" the Jazz have to work with.  They have other pieces that are currently on the roster that will help build this team.  Guys like Jeremy Evans and Diante Garrett both have great length for their size.  Jeremy has other-worldly athleticism and Diante does a good job laterally and playing the passing lanes.  I look at these players and the numbers therein and find myself optimistic.  Given the right concepts, development and coaching I feel these players could be the core of a top 10 defensive team.

  Going  forward, I will discuss some concepts both offensively and defensively that could be used to make these players successful and continue to build upon the foundation. I will also try to touch on possible coaching candidates and how they might fit with this young group.  Again Jazz fans, there is a lot to be excited about!


Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Foundation: Utah Jazz

The 2013-2014 NBA season is now over for the Utah Jazz, and if you are completely honest with yourself, its exactly what was expected.  The Jazz went 25-57.  If I remember right that is exactly where Vegas had them.  There were ups and downs, Missing Trey for the first 14 games of the season really put the team in a hole and stunted the growth as a team and for players individually.  But its basketball and those are the breaks.  The Jazz had other significant injuries to the likes of Derrick Favors, Marvin Williams, Gordon Hayward and Jeremy Evans.  Missing any of those players on a team that has very little depth can be costly. The Jazz battled all season and we were able to see some tremendous growth.  I was quite pleased with the offensive strides of both Derrick and Jeremy.  Alec Burks was unbelievable all season and became one of the leagues more valuable 6th men.  Lastly, Trey Burkes progression as team leader and point guard.  The Development was slow and methodical, but it was clear the last 15 games of the season that the game was slowing down for him.  His vision was better, and he saw more opportunities not only for himself but also for his teammates.  Most importantly, he learned how to push the basketball and to be agressive.  This dynamic makes this young team so much better, as they are long and very athletic, giving them a chance to use those talents and make early, easy buckets.

Now on to the offseason....

With so many questions on the horizon, its clear the Jazz need to develop a "foundation"  It was pretty clear when Dennis Lindsay took over the majority of the duties last summer what that foundation would be, Defense.  The words came from the horses mouth. he wants an upper echelon defensive team.  He does not want a middle of the pack, adequate, defensive team.  He sees this as a key to building a contender and let his actions speak that by locking up arugably the Jazz best defender and defensive "corner stone", Derrick Favors, to a 4yr contract extention.
  But no stucture is complete with just a corner stone.  As is the Story with the Utah Jazz.  This summer the Jazz will be tasked with finding and developing those additional materials need to complete the structure that Dennis Lindsay has laid out before them.  I believe that starts with defensive schemes or concepts.  Now whether dennis is going to leave that up to the coaching staff or if he is going to use his powers of persuasion to assert a system is yet to be seen.  I believe that is of the utmost importantance this summer for the Jazz to find that concept.  In doing so, I believe there is a great deal of research that needs to be done to determine what concepts or schemes would be best suited for the players that are currently on this roster and are likely to be here for some time.  I believe the Jazz will go this route as opposed to finding the concept and then bringing in players to fit that concept, simply because at this point the Jazz do not have an identity as a defense and it is much easier to work with the pieces that you have as opposed to trying to secure new pieces for your scheme or concept. 

  Over the next couple of weeks I am going to try to "walk Through it" as a front office might.  The next segment in this small series will consist of some of that research in to the pieces that the Jazz currently have, some of their strengths, and unfortunately, their glaring weaknesses. 

  So stay tuned Jazz fans. this is going to be one of the most entertaining offseasons in Jazz History!

(P.S. The top 3 sounds really nice!)

Need good Karma, GO Jazz!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Just some thoughts....

As a Jazz Fan....

  Over the last couple of weeks I have been asking myself a number of questions as a Jazz fan.  Somethings that left me a bit perplexed and others that down right frustrated me.  It left me wondering if I am the only one seeing and feeling these things.  So I am going to put it out there, what are your thoughts?

  Offensive concepts....the Jazz run the FLEX as much if not more than the pick and roll.  They seem to run the FLEX to exhaustion.  They don't seem to take advantage of the first good shot available.  We know how the Jazz suffer with pace of play and this could help alleviate some of that.  Versus the Warriors, there were a number of opportunities for Kanter, Favors and Evans to shoot that 17 footer, the Warriors just packed it in.  The Jazz never eve looked at the shot as an option.  You have to take it to make it and even if you don't make it the team has to honor that shot as an option and will then open up the floor.

  I think the casual fan could tell that Alec Burks is ELITE with the ball in his hands attacking the basket. Really has been since he has come in to the league. Granted there has been some development in that process, but why has it taken 2 1/2 years for this staff to put him in position to succeed or be a force?

  I think the same can be said with all of our bigs. Favors and Kanter demand double teams simply because of their size, but the Jazz are content to let guys CHUCK JUMPERS! It is the staffs responsibility to teach these young players and make the game easier for them. If you want to chuck jumpers fine, but at least make it easier for those shooting the jumpers. That starts inside out. Make teams double the bigs, teach the bigs to kick it out for the OPEN jumper.  While all of this sounds nice, I am not so sure the Jazz have the shot makers to make this happen?

  I have been watching Trey really closely in the P & R not sure why his first instinct isn't to attack the basket! WHY? If Trey attacks it puts pressure on the D, rotations need to be made, players are caught out of position and our offense gets easier. I have been so obsessed with this that I have been trying to chase down Trey's college shot chart to see where the majority of his offense came from in college. I was surprised to find out that Trey's 2pt attempts to 3 pt attempts was better than 2/1. I also found that on average Trey went to the free-throw line 4.3 times a game. If you look at these #'s (and they are an inexact science) Trey has regressed in this offense. He shoots primarily 3's (what the offense seems to give him) and he never, and I mean NEVER goes to the line! This is disconcerting.

If the Jazz continue on this path for the next X amount of time, they will be the Atlanta hawks, "always the bridesmaid, never the bride" mired in mediocrity for years to come and playoff fodder.....

Monday, April 7, 2014

Coming to grips with change, Utah Jazz Edition....

  Wow, its been far too long!  The Utah Jazz have 5 games left in this "season of discovery" and to be honest I don't think those last 5 games can come soon enough!  As the season comes to a close, I am not going to look back at what is or what could have been but want to look forward to the future.  In doing so, Jazz fans (myself included) are going to have to accept change.

  Change is never easy and can be down right painful at times.  With that said, change is a necessity that must occur for this team fulfill its lofty expectations.  Change must occur for this franchise to reclaim its position as a model franchise in the NBA.  Change must happen and I am coming to grips with that.

  As the season has progressed I have watched every single game.  I have endured beat downs, like the one Golden State gave them yesterday.  I have enjoyed seeing this team pull off wins that they weren't supposed to get.  I have watched them pull out close games at the end that they tried to give away.  But at the end of the day, its just not good enough.  This team is not good enough.  This coaching staff is not good enough.

  Moving in to the off-season, there will be a number of "rip the band-aid off" moments.  Ty Corbin, a great guy, a good player development guy, may not be back with this ball club, and I am okay with that. There are a number of Jazz fans that feel Ty should be back and can be anchor or stabilizing force going forward.  If that is the decision that the front office makes, I am okay with that also.

 The hardest thing for me to swallow will be the loss of players that I feel will be good NBA player or valuable pieces to this squad, but will likely not be back.  This goes from top to bottom, vets like Richard Jefferson and Marvin Williams.  Two guys who's value to this team can not be overstated.  They have been the consummate professionals and have taught young players like Gordon and Alec what it takes to be successful.  Both players at seasons end are unrestricted free-agents and have every right to look for "greener pastures"  I wish them the best.

  This also includes players that were considered to be the "young core" or the core going forward.  Gordon Hayward will be a restricted free-agent and will likely see plenty of money thrown his way.  Alec Burks and Enes Kanter will both be up for extensions to their rookie deals.  Neither guaranteed to get an extension.  Guys like Ian Clark, Malcom Thomas, Diante Garrett, some of whom never seemed to get a shot to show what they could do, all with a team option that may not be picked up.

  All of these possible changes and really only one guarantee, Derrick Favors.  The lone center piece and building block that this team likely will not see changed.  I have been pleased with Favors progress on the offensive side of the ball.  He has put in a lot of work there and still has a considerable amount of room to grow.  I would like to have seen more intensity and better rebounding numbers from Derrick but I think those will increase with time and understanding of the game.

  Lastly,  I would also like to have seen Derrick and Enes develop more together as a pair.  I have been a strong believer that these two could play together and could be a force in the front court for years to come.  Now I am starting to wonder if that will ever happen.  I also am wondering if in fact, it should happen.  Maybe this team would be better with someone else paired along side Derrick.  Maybe this team would be better with Favors and Gobert as the young front court of the future, I don't know....

  What I do know is changes are sure to come this off-season.  Players and coaches will come and go.  This team may actually be worse next year than they have been this year.  All these possibilities will be hard to swallow, but they are all a necessary step in restoring one of the NBA's model franchises.