Editor’s Note: This is the second submission from Steven Merrill in what is becoming a great Jazz fan segment for the blog. In fact, it has inspired the creation of a new fan page, where you can submit your own posts to be placed on the front page of the blog.
Fresh off a huge win in Los Angeles the Utah Jazz are back in contention for the 8th and final playoff spot in the West. The Jazz stand only a half game back and are riding high on a three game winning streak. It is no secret the Jazz have struggled in LA, and in a season where they are barely riding at .500 at times, it was as unexpected as any victory they’ve had. Maybe, more notable, however, was their recent win against the Minnesota Timberwolves who are also competing for that 8th spot.
With this streak ought to come some well-earned confidence, but as much as anyone should be feeling confident, the young and upcoming core should be receiving the credit. In the past two wins future keystone players Alec Burks, Enes Kanter, and Derrick Favors have put up career numbers. In the Minnesota game, Favors put up season high rebound numbers in the first half. Alec Burks continues to demand the ball and is becoming a dominant offensive threat able and willing to score. Enes Kanter has proven the Turk has game that transcends continents.
What is more encouraging is the decision by Coach Corbin to finally play his young core for the amount of minutes they deserve and need to develop. Over the previous two games Burks, Kanter, and Favors have all received careers highs in playing time, averaging over 20 minutes a piece. In addition to these three, the other, of what many consider the “Future Four”, Gordon Hayward, has also received more than 20 minutes play time off the bench. While Hayward’s performance against the Lakers was lack-luster at best, it is still the sort of situations our young guys ought to experience to be better prepared for high-stress situations in the future.
Unfortunately, Coach Corbin still seems intent on playing the up and down CJ Miles. Miles, who received over 30 minutes against LA, and shot well under 40% from the field, was rumored to be shopped before the trade deadline. A common thought was that he was receiving more minutes to showcase his skills for potential buyers, but that proved not to be true as the deadline came and went while Miles’ minutes remained the same. Miles is in all likelihood out of Utah at the end of the season, and providing him minutes that could be allocated to players definitively returning next year, and ultimately more productive, only proves a detriment to the Jazz development.
As the season wears on, the Jazz look to continue their playoff pursuit, but finally seem to be doing it while taking on the responsibility of developing a core of young and talented players for the future. The Jazz ought to continue being competitive and successful as their young front court develops and is aided by talented and tried veterans. In addition to a front court looking to become a power house, wing scoring may finally be developing into a reliable source of points for the Jazz from Burks and Hayward. A lot remains to be seen from this team, but an off-season to obtain a high quality point guard, and continued playing minutes to develop young players, looks to be a promising remedy for the Jazz’s future.