Casey Greer and Spencer Wixom share their recent conversation on what they would like to see in the final games of the Utah Jazz season.
Spencer: With 15 games left in the season, all of our questions we had coming in to the season should be answered. But are they? The first thing I want to see is Favors and Kanter starting side by side. With Williams having a reported back strain, this may be very likely. The common narrative from media is that they need to learn to play together. They did not work out together at the beginning of the year, but I blame that largely on Kanter’s awful play at the first of the season. Post All-Star game Kanter is shooting 52.6% and has gone back to rebounding with 10.2 rebounds per 36 minutes. The more impressive thing with Kanter’s post all-star game play though is his passing. Kanter is currently averaging 1.2 assists in the last 13 games, compared to his career average of 0.5. If they want to play together they need to learn to pass. Without a decent passer as a big, I strongly believe you cannot succeed. This is why they have failed playing together in the past. I want to see these two hit each in the post for the rest of the year.
Casey: Amen! Bigs making interior passes to one another is a thing of beauty. And it surely is nice to see Enes Kanter’s progression in his passing game, though it would be nice if it came a little quicker. Seeing Favors and Kanter on the floor together is fun to watch, and hopefully we’ll see it more as the season comes to a close. I wonder though if Corbin’s hesitance to play them together has less to do with the offense, and more to do with the fact that they just haven’t been able to defend together this year. When Kanter and Favors are on the court together (per NBAWOWY), the team scores at 98.8 points per 100 possession. This is just two points worse than our team average for the year. But together defensively, they have been just down right awful. They allow 115.4 points per 100 possessions, which is seven points worse than our team average for the year. To give perspective on how bad that is, no NBA team in the 3 pt era has given up more than 114.7 points per 100 possessions (90-91 Nuggets). For Favors and Kanter to be able to stay on the court together in the future, they’ll have to figure out how to play defense with one another. On that note, is there anything else defensively you’d like to see from our young guys down the home stretch?
Spencer: One thing I have constantly been baffled by is that night after night RJ or Hayward are the ones guarding the other team’s best scorer. I would like to see Alec get the chance to take that guy every once in a while. Per synergy his opponent averages just 0.88 points per possession (PPP) when he guards them. Yes, Synergy’s defensive numbers have some huge flaws. However, a category that Synergy tracks that I believe is much more accurate is a players defensive on isolation plays. In those instances, Burks limits opponents to 0.56 PPP. Compare that to 1.0 from Gordon and 0.9 from RJ, that 0.56 looks great. I also would like to see more smashing of the pick and roll. We got in to the habit of always dropping the big. This was to keep Favors at the rim for defense. I feel that this needs to be something dictated by the match up. Depending on who is running it, there are times we should be smashing the pick and roll. My last question for today is do you think any of our players have the chance to win any awards at the end of the season? If so what do they need to do to solidify it?
Casey: Burks potential on defense is intriguing to me. You can tell he has all the tools to be a good defender, and does well when his assignment is simple (like you mentioned with isolation plays). Where he has struggled in the past is with team defense, though that’s something that has been a concern with our team as a whole. It’s seemed that the more complicated the defensive scheme, the more our guys struggle. I agree with you that we need to have more diversity with our defensive schemes and hedge on the pick and roll when necessary, but I feel conflicted about it because we’ve been so bad at it in the past. It requires our guys to rotate around the perimeter, and we were generally unable to do that beyond 2 or 3 rotations when we were playing this way in the beginning of the year. I’m hoping this will change under a new coach next year, because it’s quite necessary when you play the Stephen Curry’s/stretch 4’s of the world.
As far as our guys winning any awards, I’m not too hopeful. Trey Burke is in the race for ROY award, but I think Michael Carter Williams has the edge. The 76ers have been bad, but it’s not like Trey Burke has any edge for being on a winning team either. Had Trey not had that recent two month slump where he couldn’t make anything, he probably would have won considering MCW has been struggling as well (as a side note, I’m now completely convinced the rookie wall exists. Trey was SLAMMED by it this year). Alec might be a top 5 vote getter for 6th man award, but that award generally goes to a 6th man on a winning team. I would guess Taj Gibson, Markieff Morris, Jamal Crawford, and Marco Belinelli all have better shots at winning than Burks. Aside from those two, I think Richard Jefferson has the best shot at winning the “very mostest vetzzzz” award, so that’s something right? RIGHT?!
Spencer: I agree. I thought Trey was our best shot at an award. During January and February he shot 35.1%. His recent games in March have been terrific averaging 13.5 points, 5.0 assists, 2.6 rebounds and only 1.8 turnovers while shooting 42.1% and 38.9% from three. If he had maintained those numbers for the two prior months he would be the ROY. Instead, we get to see a point guard who is shooting 26% from 3 win it. Tough draft class.
As far as 6th man goes, Burks should get more credit than he does. The real reason he wont win the award is his minutes per game. If you look at Burks per 36 minute numbers, he is awesome. However, he only gets 27.7 minutes per game. If Burks were getting 33+ minutes, I think he would be a top 2 candidate.
Beidrins could win ‘Most Latvian Player’ again this year, as he is the only one in the NBA. Could be a close call though.