@Clintonite33 was gracious enough to answer a few questions pertaining to the Utah Jazz.
1. How would you grade the Utah Jazz off-season?
An all-around “A.”
Last preseason I noted how the loss of Mehmet Okur would have far-reaching consequences for the Jazz, since the three-pointer is now a valid and viable part of the today’s NBA game. And it played out virtually exactly as predicted. In the playoffs against the San Antonio Spurs last spring, the Jazz hit a lowly 20% — that’s right, 20% — of their threes, Gordon Hayward in particular, who wasn’t shy with his long-gun, struggling mightily, connecting on only .083 of his 3.0 per-game attempts after being a top three-shooter in the entire league the last third of last regular season.
The effect was Gregg Popovich simply let Utah fire away without fear that the Jazz would make their defense pay — much like LA Lakers teams in recent memory had versus Utah as well.
So before handing over the reins to former Spurs front office guru Dennis Lindsey, then Jazz GM Kevin O’Connor opened up the paint for Utah’s #FearsomeFoursome front-court by adding Mo Williams, Marvin Williams, Randy Foye, and drafting yet another sharpshooter in rookie Kevin Murphy. KOC addressed the team’s most glaring weakness on offense by giving head coach Ty Corbin the right tools to improve upon the NBA’s tenth-best offense last season, while improving it’s wing defense with over-sized-at-the-position acquisition Marvin Williams at the same time.
2. Do you feel the Jazz are being overlooked by analysts? Expound.
Until a couple of weeks ago, I’d have said yes, the Jazz were being overlooked. But after trouncing a couple of teams in the preseason they began to get notice by experts, now making a large leap forward in rankings, such as ESPN’s Marc Stein’s Power Rankings, up to tenth overall. So, Utah won’t be surprising nearly as many folks in the media, let alone among scouts and brass, as they may have previously. This is a sleeper waiting to wake and pounce at this point.
3. Expectations for the Utah Jazz this season?
I’ve had them at 6th to 5th seed in the Western Conference, but some local analysts have raised the bar as high as “4th or 5th,” (Thurl Bailey), or even “3rd or 4th” (I forget who, exactly, said as much, but that depends entirely on the health of Utah as well as their opponents).
I do expect Tyrone Corbin, who got a full training camp and preseason for the first time, to excel with his new tools and get an extension on his contract, which is up this year.Gun to my head, Utah knocks on the door for 50 wins, even if they start a little slow with 12 of their first 17 games on the road.
4. There has been a fair amount of speculation that Utah should move Millsap and Jefferson, what are your thoughts?
“Many will be disappointed at the trade deadline when incoming GM Dennis Lindsey, absconded with by former Jazz GM Kevin O’Connor from the San Antonio Spurs over the summer, doesn’t move either of Jazz big starters Jefferson or Millsap.”
It’s all here. Check it out!
5. Expectations for Kanter and Burks this season are ______.
…to continue to improve on both ends of the ball.
While Enes Kanter has finally reached above the rim, he still has some work to do on the other end. Corbin, raised under the tutelage of Jerry Sloan, isn’t afraid to bench a guy for a stretch who is not doing his job properly, and while you won’t likely see Kanter for long stretches, you will see him more often this upcoming season than last, giving the starting-unit front-men in the paint respites that could pay off in the postseason.
Burks has continued to work on his range and has a stroke that looks much better this year than last, as noted by Alan “Jedi” Zaugg in a preview right here, a short time ago. Burks has a deep-set of wings to get in front of, but Corbin has experimented with him quite a bit in preseason next to Randy Foye, to nice success. Burks gets to the line almost at will, is extremely athletic, and can be quite reminiscent of a young Dwyane Wade at times. If he’s making his perimter shots and playing defense, Corbin will have a hard time keeping him off the court.
6. A Non-Utah Jazz question: Thoughts on the James Harden trade?
I was surprised that Sam Presti pulled the trigger so readily. It feels like to me that he could have gotten more — or at least better (not a Mini-Mart fan. Sue me.) — and several more wins before dumping him off. There may be more to this story than we’ve yet heard, maybe The Beard spouting off, or some such silliness. We’ll have to wait and see how Harden acts as The Man in Houston.