Editor’s note: This is part two of a two-part version of the Utah Jazz ATI. You can check out part one by clicking here.
Disclaimer: These questions were written prior to the Boston game on March 28 but due to technical issues, we weren’t able to post until today. If some of the questions seem behind the times (i.e. question #2) that is the reason and are entirely my fault and not the fault of the respondents.
This is our second collaboration with Dog and Deuce from the Dog & Deuce Podcast. You can catch them by going to their website or subscribing to them on iTunes. If you don’t already, I highly recommend it.
Currently, a game and a half separate the 4th through the 8th playoff spots. Of the teams currently projected to make the playoffs, against which teams do the Jazz match up best?
Matt – I’ll keep this one short. I believe the Jazz have the best match ups against the Lakers with their recent success against them and the Clippers. Sure, they match up well against any of the teams in the bottom half but that is so far from likely that I won’t address it. OKC is tough, San Antonio has the Jazz on a short leash, and Dallas has OWNED the Jazz this season.
Steven – For the first time in a long time, I actually believe the Jazz if they played their best, could beat the Lakers in a series. The Jazz now not only have the big men to match up well with the Lakers, but they have developed a fairly high paced tempo to begin to wear down an older team. The Lakers are, however, not who I think the Jazz matchup best against. Slated at 7 right now, if the playoffs were to begin right now, the Jazz would face the aging Spurs. The Spurs always seem to be a top tier team, but as of recently, they’ve been a top team during the regular season, only to tire and get run down in the playoffs. The Jazz have enough size to bully out the Spurs, the Spurs currently rank 14th in the league in rebounds per game, pulling down about 42.5 boards a game. By comparison, the Jazz rank 4th with 43.6. While the discrepancy isn’t huge, both teams have only been grabbing more rebounds over the last 5 games with the Jazz ranking 2nd with 47.80 and the Spurs at 46.60and when a rebound can be the difference in a loss or victory, every one matters, especially in the playoffs. The Jazz also have the speed and weapons to put up big numbers. In the last ten games Utah ranks second in the league in points per game with 108.80, while San Antonio ranks 4th at 107.50. Tony Parker still poses a matchup nightmare averaging 19.5 points per game, but if the Jazz can manage to maintain him, I believe they can get the one up and stand a good chance to make the second round. I’m not saying the Jazz will definitely win the series, but if the playoffs were to begin today, with the way the Jazz are playing, they at least stand a good shot against an aging team.
Dog – Unfortunately, I don’t like facing any of Utah’s potential first round opponents. Oklahoma City is tough, matches up extremely well with the Jazz and seems to have our number in recent years. I am tempted to hope for first round match up with San Antonio considering their age and what Memphis did to them last year. But the Spurs remind me a lot of the late Stockton/Malone era Jazz. Everyone said they were too old and couldn’t compete with a team like the young & talented Lakers. But then Utah swept L.A. and moved onto the Finals. It showed that with great coaching and dedicated hardworking players you can go far. The Spurs certainly have both. Realistically, I think the Jazz would be lucky to win one game in a series with San Antonio. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but of all the potential first round opponents, I would prefer to face the Lakers. Unfortunately the Jazz have struggled terribly with them in the playoffs in recent years but I think we would have a much better shot at beating them this year. The Lakers sorely miss Lamar Odom and desperately miss Phil Jackson (let’s just face it…Mike Brown sucks). Plus we finally have the size and toughness to guard their big men (especially with the absence of Odom). I still think the Lakers would eventually win the series – after all, they have Kobe Bryant and we have no superstar to take over the game when we need it – but there is no doubt in my mind the Jazz would put up a much better fight this time around.
Deuce – This is a good question. Although the Jazz recently beat the Thunder at ESA, I don’t like the matchup problems they present over a seven game series. I think these matchups would play out in OKC’s favor over a seven game series, if it were to go that long. The three teams I wouldn’t mind the Jazz facing in the first round are as follow:
1) San Antonio- I know they are getting old and you can never really count them out because of Duncan, Parker, Ginobolli (when healthy) and Poppovich, but I like the matchups and think there are some that actually favor the Jazz and their depth.
2) LA Clippers- I know they were all the rage early in the season but as NBA season has progressed we have been able to see some real flaws with the makeup and character of this team. Can Chris Paul continue to be a scoring threat as well as dish out so many assists? I think he might be out a little out of his comfort zone with having to score so often and being the go to guy. We can run three point guards at him night in and night out plus Burks, Heyward and Bell showing him a myriad of looks that might minimize his effectiveness.
3) LA Lakers- Not since the Stockton/Malone era in Jazz history can fans actually and realistically believe that should we play the Lakers in the playoffs. We have a legitimate chance to win the series or at least make it interesting. Mike Brown hasn’t established the coach/player relationship that needs to exist with the Lakers. He benches Kobe, benches Bynum and they essentially laugh in his face. Then Bynum makes it worse by saying he’s going to take more 3pt shots in transition. To put it mildly there is some trouble in Tinsel Town. But they still have Kobe and although he’s getting older he can still dominate a game single-handedly. The question becomes can he do it over a tough, physical seven game series against a team like the Jazz?
If I had to pick one of these three teams, I would go with San Antonio. I think matchup-wise it gives the Jazz the best possibility to advance to the 2nd round. So they need to get to number 7 at least to have a reasonable chance in the 1st round of the playoffs. But were they to get to the 6 or 5 seed, I think those series would also be favorable matchups for the Jazz.
Steven suggests point guard is the most important need for the Jazz this off-season. Of the point guards, expected to enter the draft, who is the best fit for the Jazz and where would they have to draft in order to get him?
Matt – Of the guards coming in, I only see two that interest me and I only feel one can be impactful in the Jazz system; Kendall Marshall of North Carolina and Damian Lillard of Weber State. Lillard is a scoring threat and while he could develop into a passing guard, history stands against him. Marshall is a high assist guy who can score and could be molded and brought up in the Jazz model to be a John Stockton type of point guard, which is perfect for what the Jazz need right now. I would be okay with him being groomed behind Harris for a season and learning from Earl Watson and/or Jamaal Tinsley on the bench.
Steven – Right now, none of the point guards seem to be the best fit because right now the Jazz don’t receive a first round pick. Furthermore, Devin Harris is not a bad point guard. All that being said, Devin Harris is not the point guard for the next ten years; nor is he the assist monster that Jazz fans have become acquainted with and the team needs. In one of the more recent ESPN mock drafts, they had Utah taking Kendall Marshall from North Carolina at 15. The Jazz may not be able to achieve that this year with draft hopes dwindling, but if anyone is able to figure a trade or move to put the Jazz in position it’s Kevin O’Connor. Personally, I would love to see Kendall Marshall in a Jazz uniform to be groomed as the next point guard. Marshall averaged just over 10 assist per game this last season, which is quite good for a college point guard, it placed him top 5 in the nation. I do believe the Jazz need to address point guard in the offseason, but more and more it’s looking like this may not be the year to accomplish it, and it may not be as pressing an issue as I initially thought.
Dog – I definitely agree that a point guard is the priority, but I don’t think the Jazz can wait around to develop a draft pick. I think they need to make a trade or look for a free agent and get someone who is already proven. In my eyes, the Jazz are much farther along in the rebuilding process than I could have imagined was possible at this point. They have a solid core and have proven they can win. To wait around for a young guy to reach his potential could really hurt the team’s progress and confidence. And if he ends up being a bust (*cough* Raul Lopez *cough*) then a lot of time would have been wasted and the Jazz may have missed the opportunity. This team really isn’t that far away from being a consistent contender. That’s why they should make a move for someone who can help them NOW. Unless they miss the playoffs and get extremely lucky in the lottery, any guy they are in a position to draft won’t be able to do that.
Deuce – Another good question! I agree with Steve, the PG position is the most important and necessary position the jazz need to sure up during this off season. Whether or not they do or are capable of doing that through the draft remains to be seen. I also think that close behind the PG position, the Jazz need to address the shooting guard (SG) position. CJ Miles is walking a tight rope and I think they would get rid of him if they could.
There are four players I think could begin to solidify the PG position for the Jazz in this year’s draft class. Kendall Marshall out of UNC, BJ Young out of Arkansas, Tyshawn Taylor out of Kansas and Damian Lillard out of Weber State. I think with the exception of Marshall, it would be reasonable to assume that you might be able to get the three other players I mentioned in the 2nd round. But if Marshall is there at 9 and the Jazz have the pick they should take him. Everything I’ve heard and read about this kid is positive and he would seem to be a good fit here in Utah. He could learn from some consummate professionals such as Earl Watson while pushing Devin Harris if he is still a part of the team. The Jazz often have to consider more than just the talent level of a player when the draft him. They also must consider whether or not he will become a part of the community as many players both past and present have done. After all they can’t risk another high draft pick that turns into a high profile player fiasco like the Deron Williams situation, especially given the fact that Tyrone Corbin is a young head coach.
And as far as the SG position goes, I see two possibilities in the 2nd round. One BYU fans will be familiar with – Darius Johnson-Odom out of Marquette and Marcus Denmon out of Missouri. I think either would be an asset and both come from programs that run similar styles of offense and stress the importance of defense much like the Jazz. If the Jazz can’t find a PG in the draft and have to go to free agency to fill that particular need I believe either of these players would be a good pick and could contribute significantly off the bench in their first year with the team.