Thursday, May 21, 2015

The NBA's Most Valuable Position....The Swing-Man

  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 Houston Rockets have James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Corey Brewer.  The Rockets have the least amount of swing-men of all four teams in the Conference finals.  This may affect the rockets chances with their lack of depth at the swing positions.

  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.

  With the NBA Draft just around the corner and the Utah Jazz would be wise to look at players in this size with this type of athleticism.  This year's draft is full of players of this type.  Stanley Johnson, Kelly Oubre, Justin Anderson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Sam Dekker, DeAngelo Russell, Emmanuel Mudiay, Mario Hezonja, Justise Winslow, Devin Booker, RJ Hunter. 

  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 14, 2015

Eenie meenie miney mo....Utah Jazz Edition

  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...

  1. 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.
  2. 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.  
  3. 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.
  4. 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...

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?????