Utah Jazz v Dallas Mavericks

When the lockout ends, the Jazz need to…

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This is the next installment of PBT’s series of “What your team should do when the lockout ends.” Today it’s the Utah Jazz. You can also read up on the LakersTimberwolves and Mavericks as we start to work our way through all 30 NBA teams.


Last Season: Okay, imagine the shiniest, fastest train you can. All new. Shiny, polished black metal. Sterling silver ornaments. Leather cushions for the passengers and a fondue bar. Now imagine that train speeding off the rails, slamming into the side of a cliff, then plummeting thousands of feet to a fiery explosion. Now imagine out of that wreckage a train that looks like the charred remains only with some nice pieces that don’t really fit stuck on. You now have the story of the 2010-2011 Utah Jazz season.

The Jazz finished 39-43 last year, after starting 22-11. They beat the Heat. Sure, there were cracks in the windshield. But the car was on the road. Then the calendar hit January 1st and all hell broke loose. The wheels came off, the team started blaming each other, tthen all of a sudden, Jerry Sloan, coach for a quarter century just up and retires. Williams is traded a few weeks later for a huge package of assets and the team went into rebuilding mode.

So yeah, a busy, if not awesome, year for Jazz fans.

Changes since we last saw the Jazz: They added a combo big. I’m not kidding. The team with Mehmet Okur, Derrick Favors, Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson drafted Enes Kanter. The jokes write themselves, really. They’re going to need to make more room in the locker room at this pace. And they didn’t move anyone on draft night. It’s perplexing. They managed to sneak in Alec Burks, which was a steal. But Kanter showed a lot of question marks in Euro play over the summer. It’s hard to tell how that one’s going to work out, if at all, in the short-term, and they still have the logjam.

When the lockout ends, the Jazz need to: Make some sort of sense out of their roster? Devin Harris is more valuable as a trade chip than as a starting point guard, but he’s more than serviceable at point. Burks covers for the liability Raja Bell was last year, even if Bell will need to return to prior years’ defensive strength while Burks covered his offense. But then everything gets nuts. Andrei Kirilenko’s contract expired and it’s been widely suggested that Kirilenko will return for a lesser deal. But his value is questionable on a consistent basis. So then you get into the umpteen combo forwards the Jazz have. They need to figure out some roles and discern who goes and who stays. They all have value on the market, but they need to figure out which ones they want long-term.

From there a longterm plan to establish or acquire a true superstar is probably key. Gordon Hayward could be it. Favors might be one. Burks might be one. Kanter might be one… eventually. Jefferson could potentially be one in the right situation. But right now the Jazz are kind of like an omellette that has been broken and isn’t cooked evenly. There are a lot of ingredients but there’s no sense of an actual dish there.

The good news is that they pulled in enough assets in the trade to make the move they want… once they figure out what that is.


James Harden: “I am the best player in the league. I believe that.”

James Harden, Stephen Curry
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James Harden was the MVP last season — if you ask his fellow NBA players.

The traditional award (based on a media vote) went to Stephen Curry (in the closest vote in four years), and that was the right call (in my mind). But from the time it happened Harden did not buy it. And he still doesn’t buy it. In the least — and he’s using that as fuel for this season. That’s what he told Fran Blinebury over at NBA.com.

“I am the best player in the league. I believe that,” he said. “I thought I was last year, too.”

Well, it’s a more realistic claim than Paul George’s.

“But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs.

“There’s so many factors. I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”

That’s very Kobe Bryant of you to turn that into fuel. Defining the MVP Award is an annual discussion that nobody agrees on.

I could get into how Harden was the old-school, traditional stats MVP, how that ignores how Steve Kerr used Curry, and how that opened up the Warriors’ offense to championship levels. Curry put up numbers, but he was also the distraction, the bright star that Kerr used to open up looks for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Curry’s strength was not just what he did with the ball in his hands, but his gravity to draw defenders even when he didn’t. Did the Warriors stay healthier than the Rockets? No doubt. Should Curry be penalized for that?

It’s simple for Harden — if he can put up those numbers again, if he can be the fulcrum of a top offense, he will be in the discussion for MVP again. And, if he can lead the Rockets beyond the conference finals, nobody will talk about that MVP snub anyway.