During Hurricane Sandy Tuesday, I had some time to talk with SLC Dunk head writer Amar about the Mavs next opponent, the Utah Jazz. The Jazz have many question marks associated with their promise. Amar frankly discusses his teams problems and potential. He also had some questions for me here if you're interested.
1.) Who is in the starting line up? Any injuries we should be aware of?
I presume it's going to be:
PG - Maurice Williams
SG - Gordon Hayward
SF - Marvin Williams
PF - Paul Millsap
C - Al Jefferson
Aside from nagging injuries, the only "real" one is to Earl Watson (off-season knee surgery, he's running now, but still not doing full contact). Raja Bell is also not with the team, but remains on the roster. So, that's about it. I wish I could get paid $3.5 million to stay at home.
Honestly? No. There's no time. Our doctrine is to favor veterans, and our two starting bigs are vets in contract years - Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. Their agents will want them to get as much time as possible. Our next two bigs are both lottery picks who would be so much more ahead of where they are today if they were picked on other teams that would have started them - Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. Our fifth big could actually be a 4th or 3rd big on another team (not a very good one), but can't get any playing time at all - Jeremy Evans. All five of those guys are in situations where they'd want, or probably deserve, at least 20 minutes. You can't just play guys their minimums though. I expect this to be a problem going forward all season long.
You know it's a logjam when you coach thinks the solution is to play Paul Millsap at small forward.
3.) What are the expectations for third year players Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors?
Hayward is the only one of the four Jazz recent lotto picks who is starting. And he's getting quite the education as a starter. He shows flashes of assertive play, but too frequently last season took a back seat to Devin Harris and Al Jefferson (and let's be honest, he should have). The flip side is that he's a lot more aggressive and plays more like his Butler self when he's on the floor with the other younger guys. I guess he respects his elders, but for him to make it in this league he has to play ‘his' game. In the preseason he has attempted to play more of his game with the starting unit - which is great. Why? Because the other team doesn't expect the 5th starter to get to the line 7 times a game or something dumb like that. Hayward has been exploiting his under-the-radar status more and more in the preseason. I hope it translates to the regular season as well. I wouldn't be surprised to see him end the season with a 14 / 4 / 4 / 1 / 1 line. He's no Shawn Marion, but he's a solid starter.
Favors is a beast. That said, he's a caged beast because he's not in a situation where the coach can play him 38 minutes a game. I have no clue what numbers to expect from him, but I do expect him to continue playing Temple of Doom style defense. (Late last season he ripped the still beating heart out of the chests of Marcin Gortat and Tiago Splitter) I'd like to see him approach 12 and 8 this year, while shooting a high field goal percentage.
4.) Will Alec Burks see any minutes? I saw him a number of times in college and can't help but think that he has serious potential given the opportunity.
I'm very high on Alec Burks. Out of the four lotto picks the Jazz have - he's my pick for highest ceiling. He has that internal motivation that successful guards have, which is a warning flag at the same time. The Jazz know he's good, but don't want him to get a big head - so they don't play him or praise him, which is stupid, because now more than ever small market teams need to bend over backwards to keep their lottery picks. Burks should be the 6th man for the Jazz, but instead I'm sure we're going to see Randy Foye getting playing time over him. It just makes me shake my head.
5.) Do you see the Jazz trading any of their young assets as the season moves along? If so, who might be the odd man out?
If the James Harden trade is going to be a turning point for small market teams that build through the draft, I would not put it out of the realm of possibility. That said, I think the Jazz play it cool this year and try to see what they are working with right now. They keep all four guys, and maybe make a move closer to the draft if they feel necessary. Gun to my head, I'd say the Jazz would be closest to trading Burks because their doctrine over-favors big men and white guys. (Hey, don't act like this isn't the case!)
6.) What are the goals this season for the Jazz?
Make the playoffs. Sell out most home games. Make a profit. Sell merchandise. Find out who to keep out of the 8 expiring deals. Hire a full-time stats guy to downplay the performance of our youth, it's just the vets that matter.
Be sure to note the exceptional sarcasm in his last sentence there. Thanks for your time Amar.