After a nice two day vacation from basketball, the Los Angeles Lakers will be back in action tonight against the Utah Jazz in what should be a tough away game. AllThatAmar from SLC Dunk took the time and answered a handful of questions with me in regards to the Jazz. Keep your enemies close, people! Also, if you head over to SLC Dunk, I answered five questions for them about the Lakers, so make sure to check that out as well before the game! We'll have a direct link to the Lakers questions once we have it, so keep an eye out for it.
(UPDATE: Here's our Lakers section over at SLC Dunk! Amar asked some great questions! )
The Jazz front-court is one of the most interesting in the league with two veterans in Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson tagged with Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. There are only so many minutes to go around, and Kanter appears to be the one taking the hit. Do you see Kanter being able to earn more minutes as the season goes on, or is he still in heavy development?
Quality depth is hard to find, but also hard to find time for. Ideally a balanced roster has their best players playing different positions; this is not the case with the Jazz. In a perfect world having four of your top 8 players be power forwards shouldn’t be a bad thing. In reality someone isn’t going to get to play, unless they play out of position. Enes Kanter seems to be the guy losing out here; however, he’s actually playing more than he did last year. So is Favors. Both of them are playing career highs so far this early season. Right now the guys losing out on the minutes are the veterans who are in contract years. That’s not what anyone expected to happen in vet-friendly Utah. That said, right now the minutes are distributed almost evenly – 30.8 mpg for Millsap, 30.3 mpg for Jefferson, 22.5 mpg for Favors, and 14.3 for Kanter. As the season goes on I only expect the vets to get more playing time. Logically it would mean Kanter gets the short end of the stick. But he’s only 20. He will have a long career ahead of him.
Looking over the roster, it’s hard to tell what the direction is with the Utah Jazz. You have Mo Williams, 30 years old, and leading the team in scoring, assists, and field goal attempts. Paul Millsap seems to be considered trade bait every year and is an expiring contract. The Western Conference is going to be challenging every night with the amount of talented teams who will be fighting tooth and nail even for the 8th seed. What’s the long term plan appear to be?
The actual long term plan is unknown; but the short term plan always appears to be "win as many games as possible, and make the playoffs – even if we aren’t actual contenders." Four of our top six most used players (in terms of minutes played) are in contract years; five if Marvin Williams decides to use his early termination option. There is a lot of uncertainty in Jazzland because this season may make little sense in the long run because next years’ team could be so different. Not going fully with a youth movement, and honestly, not fully going for the title by moving promise for legit stars, puts the Jazz solidly in no-man’s land. We’re not a threat now, and we don’t look to be a threat in the future. But I guess if we make the playoffs and get two home games, the ownership can make a little profit on this small market team – without having to take many risks. I guess we’re run like a mutual fund.
Alec Burks was considered a solid prospect when drafted yet so far this season has been getting extremely limited minutes (4.5 mpg in this small sample we have to look at). Is he that far behind in development, or are there simply better options who are outplaying what he can do on a nightly basis?
Burks is one of the bigger stories right now. As far as the media, team PR, and players are concerned – he’s not injured at all, and he’s not suspended. He may quietly be both, but I find that farfetched. In the summer league and preseason he looked like he was making progress to be a legit NBA player. According to the preseason data he absolutely destroyed his competition for bench shooting guard minutes, Randy Foye; yet, it’s Foye who plays ahead of him. Foye did not play well in preseason, so for him to be given the first crack at bench SG minutes means that a) either he won the spot in practice; or b) our Coach unreasonably favors veterans. Tyrone Corbin did start Raja Bell and Josh Howard last season – well past their expiration dates, so one could draw an easy conclusion there. Compounding this is the fact that so far the mercurial Foye is currently on a hot shooting streak, while Burks has only taken two shots all season long. I am a Burks supporter and he has shown an ability to make good things happen on the floor. Buuuut, right now playing Foye seems like an okay option. Corbin is still moving pieces around though, and I think this situation will clear itself up over the next few months. Burks is good enough to be a rotation player in the NBA – Utah just runs their franchise differently and by different rules.
What’s the biggest misconception of the Jazz this season?
There are a lot of ideas of what the Jazz are, and while some of them are hurtful, many are based in reality. The Jazz aren’t a tough club. They don’t defend well. They don’t have any stars. This is all true. Most hardcore NBA fans know a number of things about every team in the league. Yet, some fans still think the Jazz are boring. I’m not saying we have stars, or are contenders. I am saying that the Jazz are slept on in terms of how fun they are to watch. Derrick Favors is a beast on both ends of the court, Mo Williams has gotten super hot and torched defenders, Gordon Hayward is consistently overlooked, and Alec Burks throws down halfcourt alley oops. Utah has a chance to be an exciting club, but we people would know it.
Dwight Howard is having an insane year, if he gets a few more minutes and his rebounding naturalizes a bit, you gotta think "career year". The Jazz will have no answer for him. All that said, traditionally he hasn’t killed the Jazz (ONLY averages 19 and 13). No one player currently playing has killed the Jazz as many times, and as viciously, as Kobe has. He has one 50 point game; six 40 point games; and twenty three 30 point games against Utah. As a point of reference, regular season and playoffs combined, Michael Jordan only has fifteen 30 point games against the Jazz, and nine 40 point games. He has never dropped 50 on us. Kobe has.
And as far as I am concerned, Kobe can be 40 years old and averaging 12 PPG, but he’ll still be the guy Jazz fans fear the most. He earned that fear.
- Again, many thanks to Amar from SLC Dunk for taking the time to answer these for us. Be sure to give him a follow on Twitter @AllThatAmar.