Thankfully it’s that time of year again when we can can engage in full-on Utah Jazz discussion. Having grown up in Boston, going through an NBA strike wouldn’t have been such a burden since I’d still have the Boston Bruins and the New England Patriots to cheer for. Here in Utah, without the Jazz, the long winter would be even brutally longer.
The radio, blogs, and online message boards are buzzing with Jazz hype, projections, and expectations. I feel it my duty to the Utah Jazz fan readers to inject a dose of realism into your veins, to reduce the chances of a Utah-Jazz-NBA-Champions-campaign epidemic. I’ll dispel a few myths and at the same time try to make Utahns feel good about the product they’ll be seeing on the hardwood this year.
The ideal would be this: C.J. Miles consistently takes the ball to the rim and improves his 40 percent shooting, understands he’s going to have to play defense, and learns that consistency is what’s going to get him the money he wants.
However, the real is this: 37 percent of his shots are from three point range, and when you only shoot the three ball at a 32 percent clip, that’s not a good thing. Defensively, if Jerry Sloan couldn’t get Miles to play defense, Tyrone Corbin has no shot of turning that around. As for consistency, the reality is that in thirty-nine games out of seventy-eight Miles played last season, he scored twelve points or less – not exactly numbers you want from a starter.
Coach Tyrone Corbin
The ideal would be Coach Corbin wins Coach of the Year, implements his own game plan that targets the strengths of his talented young corp of players, and his team plays over their heads because they don’t know any better.
The real is that the Jazz management’s expectation that Corbin will somehow be the black version of Jerry Sloan is hopeful at best. Not to mention that Sloan never won a COY award. Corbin was anything but a face of calm last year, at times being visibly frustrated and reacting negatively to poor play. As for the game plan, the unfortunate truth is while Corbin might feel pressure to be his own coach and implement his own system, we’ve been raised from the womb hearing about Sloan and how his system won games. If the losses continue to pile up (mind you Corbin was 8-20 last year) Corbin might be waffling on his approach.
The ideal for Kanter is he comes in and starts for the Jazz out of the gate because he is oozing with athletic ability and he is insanely effective. He will be added in the same breath as Mark Eaton and Greg Ostertag, and he’ll pile up double doubles like Tim Duncan with a strong pair of knees.
The real is Kanter is as raw as they come, having played under 100 minutes in 2008-09, playing high school ball against weak competition in 2009-2010, and missing the entire collegiate season of 2010-2011 at Kentucky. Will he be mentioned along with Eaton and Ostertag, or Rafael Araújo, Curtis Borchardt, Greg Foster, and Ben Handlogten? I want to believe he will come in and contribute effectively, but the realist in me says this is the NBA, where the best of the best play and it will take a while for Kanter to adjust. Kentucky Coach John Calipari clearly thinks Kanter can make a name for himself, stating before the draft that “he can truly be a dominating player; he can be a Karl Malone-type big man.” If that doesn’t make every Jazz fan salivate, not much will. Of course, this Kanter project could take some time. I’m predicting six points and four rebounds a game in his rookie season.
The ideal for this Jazz power forward would be more minutes, more minutes, more minutes. Defensively, Favors is the best the Jazz have (registering 22 blocks in his last 14 games) and can be the game changer Utah needs if Kirilenko doesn’t resign. Since he is such a great defender and so long, he has a good chance of earning minutes from the smaller Paul Millsap.
The reality is this: the Jazz are log-jammed down low. This is definitely not a problem for the team, but it is a problem for the players who are trying to get minutes, improve their skills, and earn their next contract. Best case scenario for the Jazz and Favors in that Al Jefferson gets traded, Millsap realizes he is best suited for a role off the bench, and Enes Kanter/Mehmet Okur can be studs at the center position and free up some space for Favors. If all those pieces fall into place, Favors should average 12.0 points and 8.0 rebounds a game.
Talk about a roller coaster ride we’ve had with this youngster from Butler. Let’s recall that Kevin O’Connor was booed for this selection on draft night, and just months later many are hoping he can be a savior for the Jazz. The ideal would be fifteen points a game, solid defense, and O’Connor being able to replace Stockton with Hayward when he refers to “the pick the Jazz fans booed”.
The real is Hayward scored in double figures only fifteen times last year, and ended the season averaging 5.4 points per game. Did it feel like more than that? It did to me, but the number don’t lie. I expect Hayward to double that and average about 10.0 points per game, but consistently having to create his own shot if Corbin’s system can’t open things up for him could be problematic. Also, if Hayward has to match up defensively with top notch talent every night during the short season, will he hold up? One statistical ray of hope is the following, through the first ten games of last season Hayward averaged 12 minutes and 2.8 points , the last ten: 34.7 minutes and 14.6 ppg.
Jazz fans must be aware that when it comes to your teams performance in the upcoming season, perception is never reality. We are all fanatics I’m sure, but with the insane amount of fanaticism we also need to be realistic and understand what this team is. This is not a championship team. This might not even be a playoff team. What this team is, and has been for a few years, is a team that has raw talent and somehow, someway needs to morph the ideal into the wonderful reality that it could become.