Once again, the Jazz are a young team with lots of potential. What are the goals for this year's Jazz team?
The goals are the same ones that went virtually untouched last year: defense, discipline, and development. Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey was very public with what he was looking for last season. Instead what he got was one of the worst defenses in the league, where players consistently made the same mistakes all season long, and the younger lotto picks did not all improve at an expected rate of return. One coaching change later the team may actually make some headway on those three Ds.
Quin Snyder has made it known that the offense is going to be a work in progress, but the Jazz did manage to average 101.9 ppg in the preseason. (But that was just "preseason...") The larger focus for the team is going to be on the defensive end, where effort will be rewarded with playing time. Snyder is going to keep it simple, like a college team, partly because the average age of the 15 man roster is only 24.31. Ultimately, though, the goals are all long term ones - crawl before you can walk, and walk before you can run. And for a team that won only 25 games last year, there's a lot of crawling to do.
Utah has a new coach in Quin Snyder. What do you like about him so far? Any concerns?
I am impressed with Snyder's intensity, intelligence, and understanding of what needs to get done. And his creepy facial expression gifs. Snyder studied under some coaching legends in Mike Krzyzewski, Larry Brown, Gregg Popovich, Doug Collins, Ettore Messina; but he is also educated off the court with a JD / MBA behind his name. He's smart and knows how to communicate. Moreso, being a product of big NCAA programs, he knows that it's all about recruiting your players to buy into a system. Since day one on the job that's been what he's done more than anything. And he needed to as some of the higher profile lotto picks (like someone whose name rhymes with Hordon Gayward) had tuned out the last coach and were almost collectively looking beyond the Jazz franchise for their next NBA home. Lots of phone calls and face to face meetings later, the team is starting to feel like one.
Beyond the mental aspect of managing, he knows the game. The defensive sets look much better and on offense he tries to take advantage of his own experience with NBA offenses, and the talents of his own players. He's not going to run Enes Kanter through plays that were designed to work with Al Jefferson, for example.
He's in the honeymoon period with the Jazz fans right now. But all husbands know that period ends. Thus, there is some concern over the fact that this slick Duke grad with a silver tongue doesn't stay in one place for very long. It was a question he addressed back in his introductory press conference months ago, and one he charmed his way out of really giving a solid answer to. I don't think anyone worries about the talent and ability of Snyder when in comparison to the guy he is replacing. The worry is waiting for the other shoe to drop, if there is one. (I hope there isn't.)
Derrick Favors seems to have been around forever, but is only 23 years old. What does he need to do to improve?
Outside of upgrading his feet to avoid being a constant plantar fasciitis risk, the only thing Favors really needs to improve on is his mentality. He occasionally beasts just enough for Jazz fans to overlook all the times he does not. I have never covered a bigman with his natural talents and abilities before, and what comes just so easy to him makes my jaw drop. That said, Favors is known more and more as a defensive presence, which he is. But his flashes of dominance on offense are such a tease. At times he looks like a young Chris Webber on defense, on the break, or even finishing athletic layups with his off-hand while facing the wrong direction. But most of the time he looks like a very young, raw player who does not consistently remember that he's the most talented player on the floor.
Is Rudy Gobert going to fight for minutes? I love him.
I have him penciled in for 22 mpg, which is great. There's only one problem: I'm not the head coach. He is a game changer on defense, and doesn't take any shots he can't reasonably make. His size makes him an obvious defensive headache for other teams; but he finishes lobs, doesn't miss all of his free throws, and is surprisingly good at finding cutters. He's closer to being a two-way player than many of us realize. As a result, it's not out of the question to even see him start a few games this year (Favors and Gobert up front = length), but that's putting the cart before the horse a bit.
In a crowded frontcourt with Favors, Enes Kanter, Trevor Booker, and two specialists in Steve Novak and Jeremy Evans there's only so many minutes to go around. Gobert has two things going for him though. The Jazz really want to be a better defensive club this year, and invariably that means playing Gobert more this season. (Last year he played only 400 minutes. Correlation doesn't lead to causation, but yeah, our defense was trash last season. I wonder if it could have been better . . . by not sitting a section of the French Alps on the bench all year.) The second, and probably more important part, is that Gobert has got some dog in him. Kanter and Booker are beefier, and they're only going to help bring more of that dog out of him in practice all season long. Yes, Rudy is going to play this year. And he's going to help the team close down the paint.
I secretly pine for Alec Burks. What's his deal this year?
Alec Burks is a boss. He's overlooked by the team's own media wing, and it's no surprise that only the people who really know the game see his value to a team. The Jazz have until Friday to figure out if they are going to extend his rookie deal or not, otherwise he will become a restricted free agent. Burks' camp just saw what Gordon Hayward can get on the open market though. It would be a hard sell to tell Burks to go for less than he's worth. Not after he spent the first three years of his career basically being asked to do that by the head coach so guys like Josh Howard, Randy Foye, and Richard Jefferson could start over him.
He's a big time scorer who can get to the line, finish in traffic, and is better than he looks spotting up from deep. Any team would be happy with him. Snyder, specifically, has reached out to Burks to assail his fears about playing time or role. He's going to have a big season.
What does Dallas need to do to beat the Jazz Thursday?
Hmmm, talented vet-laden former Championship team with the best non-Pop head coach in the league? Show up? No one on the Jazz can defend Dirk Nowitzki. And Monta Ellis has made a living being unguardable by our wings. Defensively our two youngest players are our top two point guards on the roster. That inexperience would seem like the likely point of focus. Take out our guards and then it becomes the Gordon Hayward taking 20 footers club, as the shot clock dwindles.
The Mavs will be too good, and just have to wait around for the Jazz to beat themselves. I'd expand on this, but I already wrote too much . . . : (
Thanks Amar. You can find more Mavs-Jazz coverage over at SLC Dunk.