No one has ever accused the Utah Jazz of being too trendy. Just like John Stockton defiantly ignored the whole “wearing shorts that allow circulation to the rest of your leg” thing late in his career, Utah has completely avoided the recent trend of slimming down and going small. The Jazz will start four players over 6-foot-8 this season and have two 6-foot-10 players in heavy rotation, which makes them one of the biggest teams in the league.
But because bludgeoning teams with size isn’t exactly all the rage these days, the massive improvements the Jazz made this offseason have generally been overlooked. Mo Williams and his career 38.7 percent shooting from 3-point land represent a much better fit than Devin Harris and his career 31.5 percent 3-point shooting. Marvin Williams will replace nearly 1800 combined unproductive minutes of Raja Bell and Josh Howard out on the wing, which will undoubtedly make the Jazz less creaky on both ends. Add in the internal development of Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors, and Utah is the scariest team no one is talking about. Until now.
Previously, it was easy to write off Utah as a return playoff team when there were much sexier options like Minnesota, Dallas and Golden State available, but the Jazz are winning the war of attrition and it’s not even September yet. Already missing Ricky Rubio, Minnesota has lost Kevin Love for 6 weeks thanks to some failed Rocky-style training. Dallas will be without Dirk Nowitzki for a similar time frame as he undergoes knee surgery. And Golden State? Andrew Bogut is still a “maybe” for the start of the season, while poor Steph Curry just sprained his surgically repaired ankle yet again last night.
While other teams vying for the last seeds scurry around for replacement parts, the big questions facing the Jazz are based around having too much depth and not enough minutes to go around. Maybe the crowded frontcourt will create some serious chemistry issues, as trade rumors and expiring contracts have known to sink a team before. But even those fears are being assuaged a bit:
Jefferson’s willingness to help Kanter and young Derrick Favors, the third member of Utah’s three-headed monster at center, certainly hasn’t been lost on Jazz coach Ty Corbin.
“It’s been great the last two years,” Corbin said. “They like each other first of all. They’re good guys. Enes and Derrick both see how effective Al is on the post, so the stuff that he’s telling them and teaching them is stuff that he uses in the game and they see how effective it can be, so why not try and integrate it into their game?
“I think he’s done a great job,” Corbin said of Jefferson. “He has a really good approach with Enes and Derrick, and they’ve responded to him.”
Ty Corbin has some juggling to do in his second year as a full-time head coach, but there are worse things than having an embarrassment of frontcourt riches. And when you consider the fact that some of Utah’s most productive lineups last year featured Paul Millsap at small forward, maybe Utah is on to something. Maybe size still matters.
For the time being, just by staying upright (and having Jeremy Evans get downright nasty), it’s the unglamorous, trend-bucking, gigantic Jazz winning the preseason.