The 2013-2014 season will not be judged by wins or losses. However, the hype for a Jazz season has not been this high since the 2007 Western Conference Finals team. This is due to the interest in player improvement this year. Jazz fans believe they have a core of solid young players that could grow into a championship caliber team. For this to happen, every player on the team must improve multiple facets of their game. Let’s take a look at an area that each player of the young core must improve for the Jazz to become great.
Besides having a broken hand? As Burke has not played a minute in the NBA yet, it is unfair to talk needed improvements until he players. This is merely something I hope he can develop. 6’0” point guards are typically known as a liability on defense. There are few exceptions such as Chris Paul and Kyle Lowry, but those are the exceptions to the rule.
While we all know that Trey will never be a top defensive point guard, we can hope that he becomes a good team defender. Dennis Lindsey stated on multiple occasions that he wants the Jazz to become a defensive-minded teams. For the Jazz to become a top 5 defensive team, Trey will have to really apply himself and grow as a defender. We don’t need him to be elite with Favors and Hayward behind him, we just need him to become decent on the defensive end.
We all love Alec for one ability that he possess. Slashing! As we look at his shoot chart, it is what we may expect. Alec shot 40.98% of his shots in the restricted area. He converted these attempts at 50.94%, which is around the league average.
His shot chart gets ugly 8-16 feet from the rim, where we only shot 10.04% of his attempts. Defenders know Alec doesn’t want to take that shot. If Alec can develop a floater, it will keep his defenders guessing. This will open the paint up substantially for him. I would dare say if Alec can develop a floater, we will see him drastically increase his efficiency. Let’s hope Alec is spending some time watching film of Rose, Paul, and Parker over and over again this year.
What Jazz fan has not compared Hayward’s stats to Paul George’s? Hayward is offensively a much more efficient player. He is a better shooter, who shoots from efficient locations. National media quickly defends George with a retort of “According to synergy Paul George is an elite defender, and Hayward is not”. Synergy is a great tool, but has many flaws. Defensively, Synergy does not tell a complete story. Say a big rotates incorrectly (*cough* Al Jefferson *cough*) and Hayward collapses to cover such error. The big then kicks out to the opposing team’s small forward for a 3. Hayward would get blamed for the error. While George is more athletic, I believe a big factor between the two defensively is that George played with an elite defensive big, and Hayward played with one of the worst.
Where Hayward needs to improve is rebounding. Coach Sloan believed that championship teams need a good rebounding guard. Last year our back court was historically dreadful at rebounding. This falls primarily on the fact that we played Mo Williams, Randy Foye, and Jamaal Tinsley huge minutes. Hayward averaged 3.8 rebounds per 36 minutes. Going back to the Paul George reference, Hayward rebounded 3.5 rebounds less per 36 minutes.
Hayward has dramatically increased his rebounding efforts in the preseason to 5.7 rebound per 36 minutes. If Hayward can keep that rate up, we could see him close to some triple doubles at the beginning of the season with Trey out.
Hayward’s preseason per 36 minutes are as follows; 19.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.8 steals, .31 blocks; 3.2 turn overs. If Hayward does this during the regular season, we will see a large increase in national hype around Hayward this year. I do not think the hype will be as large as what Paul George received because the Jazz aren’t competing like Indiana was last year, but Hayward will finally get the credit he deserves. I predict Hayward will be in the running for Most Improved Player of the Year award if he keeps this pace up.
Favors oozes potential, and Jazz fans know it. From emphatic blocks, to monstrous put back dunks, he is a walking highlight reel. Favors rotates better than most players his age, and has the athletic abilities to protect the hoop. No one denies Favors has Defensive Player of the Year ability.
Everyone believes Favors’ development needs to come on the offensive side of the ball. I however do not believe the needed development is a “go to move”. Favors will throughout his career score off of put backs and dunks. Where Favors needs to develop is passing.
Dennis Lindsey said he wants Derrick to be our version of Joakim Noah. Where the Noah comparison is difficult to follow is the passing. Derrick had 2.0 assists per 48 minutes last year, which is low enough to be ranked 54 amongst power forwards. To be an elite big, you need to pass. With a great offensive big in Kanter, a slasher in Alec, and a shooter in Hayward, the options are there for Favors to up that assists number. If Favors develops the willingness to pass, this will make our offense exponentially better.
Favors averaged 2.5 assists per 48 minutes this preseason. This is an improvement, but he needs to improve to the level of 4.0 assists per 48. There is a true correlation between elite bigs and the assists per 48 minutes stats. Some names included within the top 20 bigs in assists per 48 minutes are; Marc Gasol, Joakim Noah, Nene, Greg Monroe, David Lee, Demarcus Cousins, Andrew Bogut, LaMarcus Aldridge, Paul Gasol, Blake Griffin, Anderson Varejao, Tim Duncan, David West, and Al Horford. Every single one of those bigs averaged above 4.0 assists per 48 Minutes rating, many of them were above 5.
While many people are going to watch to see if Favors has a “go to move” this year, I believe we should pay more attention to his passing.
When I am asked who on the Jazz has all-star potential, my instinct tells me Kanter. I believe he has the tools to be a star, especially offensively. His jumper is solid, and he has a plethora of post moves. It is remarkable that he has all these skills at the young age of 21!
When Kanter entered the NBA he was known as a rebounder. As the seasons have gone on we have seen him develop into more of a scorer. He has maintained his rebounding efforts on the offensive ends and actually led the team with an offensive rebound percent of 14.5% (rebounding rates taken from basketball-reference.com). Defensively we have not seen the same efforts. Kanter collected only 18.6% of available defensive rebounds. In comparison Favors grabbed 24.0% and Jefferson 25.9% last year. This places Kanter 20th in offensive rebounding and only 119th defensively in the NBA. This lack in defensive rebounding has nothing to do with his abilities. Kanter has the tools to rebound. My theory is he rebounds offensively simply because he wants his points.
If Kanter will reinstate his efforts rebounding defensively, the Jazz could have the best rebounding pair of big men in the near future.
No matter what happens this year, I sure am excited to see the development in our young core. I do not remember the last time I was this excited for a season! Let the season begin!