I’m going to arbitrarily divide this Utah Jazz season into thirds. Why? Because 51 is divisible by 3. The All-Star break is almost here; the trade deadline is almost here. Based on what’s happened and where they want to go, should the Jazz make a trade or stand pat?
W-L First 17: 5-12
W-L Mid 17: 7-10
W-L Last 17: 6-11
W-L Overall: 18-33
Jazz PPP: 95.9
Opp PPP: 98.4
Sure, we had an 18-33 record at this point last year, but our offense was 23rd, our defense was 30th, and our Net rating had us at 28th, not 21st. The games are closer. And guys who are part of the future are getting the minutes, not the Warriors cast-offs.
Gordon Hayward is better. His shooting is up, he’s a better scorer, and he’s a more confident leader. Everything just runs more smoothly when he’s on the floor. He’s also having his best defensive year since he was a sophomore.
Derrick Favors is better. He’s having a career year for his offensive rating and PER. His passing is improved. He looks more comfortable on the floor.
Rudy Gobert is the steal of the 2013 draft. It’s ridiculous how much progress he’s made.
Enes Kanter has made up some of the ground he lost last year. Is it enough? His three-point shooting isn’t what they’d hoped it would be, and his defense is still poor. This is his worst year yet for blocks. But he’s a confident inside-scorer and offensive-rebounder.
Trey Burke is having almost an identical year to last year. His move to the bench has made him a little more aggressive and we’re seeing him get more steals and go to the free-throw line more. Not by much, but it’s something. His assists are down. He’s gone from 5.7 to 4.7 assists a game. Some of that is Quin’s pass-often system.
Alec Burks… what might have been.
Dante Exum is having a raw, rough rookie year. I expect we’ll see a jump between years one and two, but it looks like the process will take as long as we initially believed.
Of everyone else, I see Ian Clark and Jeremy Evans as most likely to be gone, and while he’s been good, I’m not sure Chris Johnson gets signed for the rest of the year. Maybe if no trades are made. I could also see the Jazz try to move Steve Novak. Joe Ingles could actually get re-signed, which I would not have believed a month ago.
It’s clear Enes Kanter is the most available for trades. He’s a young big man who could improve with a change of scenery. I think he will improve regardless, but I don’t think the Jazz want to match any overpaying offers when Kanter hits free agency, so they might as well see what they could get for him now. The second most likely trade bait contract is Trey Burke’s. He’s only in his second year, but if Dante’s the PG of the future, why not get a more veteran PG to help out right now? Trevor Booker also has a very friendly contract in trade scenarios.
Around the NBA:
– Sounds like Ty Corbin’s stint as head coach of the Sacramento Kings is coming to an end, as George Karl should be taking over that role during the All-Star break. The Kings could use a credible veteran coach to guide them out of the malaise they’ve been stuck in ever since Chris Webber was traded away.
– I know the Jazz will probably take a stab at bringing back Paul Millsap this summer, but that’ll be a hard sell. In Atlanta, they have the best record in the East, and it was in that system that he became an All-Star. Maybe it helps to have former Hawks assistant Quin Snyder and brother Elijah Millsap here to help with the sales pitch. (And if they do make a push for Millsap, wouldn’t that mean Favors or Gobert has to come off the bench?)
– Damian Lillard and DeMarcus Cousins are the West’s All-Star replacements for the injured Kobe Bryant and Blake Griffin. I was looking at the West to see how many more injuries would need to happen before Gordon Hayward would get the call. No one from Dallas is represented, but Monta Ellis is having the best season on that team, so he’s a possibility. The NBA might want to reward a second Grizzly, be it Mike Conley or Zach Randolph, before someone else from a lottery team. No one from the Suns is there, and Eric Bledsoe is having the best season. After that, then I think they’d consider Hayward or Ty Lawson.
The Top Five and Bottom Five in the NBA by NetRtg:
1. Golden State Warriors
2. Atlanta Hawks
3. Dallas Mavericks
4. L.A. Clippers
5. Portland TrailBlazers
((21. Utah Jazz))
26. Orlando Magic
27. L.A. Lakers
28. New York Knicks
29. Minnesota TimberWolves
30. Philadelphia 76ers