ATI – A Utah Jazz Roundtable

The Jazz acquired shooters in Mo Williams, Marvin Williams, and Randy Foye while ridding themselves of dead weight in the forms of CJ Miles, Devin Harris, and Josh Howard.  In just the short preseason and one game against Dallas, we saw a huge benefit to this with each of the Williams’ scoring 21 to lead the team.  Is there a fundamental difference to the offense this season that will make the Jazz better?

Dog: Definitely.  The strength of the Jazz offense has always been the pick and roll, but it can be rendered largely ineffective if the top defender knows he can go under the screen every time because the guard can’t hit the shot from outside.  You have to force the defender to go above the screen to let your big men be effective and the only way to do that is to have consistent shooters.

Also the Jazz have really struggled against the zone in recent years.  Having guys who can hit from outside is a zone breaker and it looks like the Jazz finally have those guys.

Deuce: Better players equal better results.  But it’s far too early in the year to proclaim this team better than last year’s.  No matter what the team looks like on paper they must win games.  They did it night one versus the Mavericks but have lost two straight, granted on the road, to New Orleans and San Antonio.  If outside shooting remains consistent, there are three aspects of Jazz offense that will be fundamentally different
than in years past:

  • Double teams on Jefferson, Millsap and the like won’t be as quick or frequent
  • This will allow perimeter players to get to basket because defenses are worried about closing out of the three
  • This should allow the Jazz to get to the free throw line more consistently; however, they need to improve from the charity line.  Last season they shot 73.7%.  I do expect that it will improve with the addition of Mo & Marvin Williams, who are both better than 80% free throw shooters in their careers.

AcademicallyIneligible: So this question is now four games old, but it still stands; you can’t make a prediction on what will happen over the full season.  Sure, the additions provided a new aspect to the game for the Jazz, and through four games, the perimiter shooting is consistent and a fun new wrinkle to our Jazz team, but I think the team needs to find some consistency in their offense to find an improvement.  Last season, for better or for worse, the ball was going to end up in Big Al’s hands most possessions.  The team knew it, and Jefferson shouldered that responsibility.  This season you’ve seen many guys already step up each night and try to be the guy.  I think there is something to be said for consistency.  If the team can find it, then the major offensive difference, namely, the three-point shooting, will provide enough of a change from last season and give the team more room to work with.

Mike Livingston: I felt last year the Jazz were one Clippers’ point guard away from being very good.  Where the Clippers had Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups and Mo Williams, the Jazz had Devin Harris, Earl Watson and Jamaal Tinsley. The Jazz acquisition of Mo Williams is as good for the Jazz as it is for Mo. Both get a new look and the move comes at a critical time for both. Marvin Williams went off in game one but it’s still too early to tell how he fits into the Jazz. I’m curious how Ty Corbin gets Randy Foye, Watson, and Tinsley minutes. With all the new youngsters, watch for the Jazz to hopefully wear out the older teams in the west.

By way of the addition and subtraction, the Jazz picked up some solid defensive players and each admits their addition provides toughness.  Do you buy the idea that the Jazz are tougher and can play better defense while reducing the number of fouls per game?

Dog: I’m not sure its possible to increase defensive toughness AND reduce the number of fouls.  The Jazz have definitely improved defensively with guys who aren’t afraid to mix it up (which is something they’ve desperately needed since the Boozer era), but I’m not sure if that style allows for fewer committed fouls.

Deuce: I’m not sure that it’s necessarily important to reduce the number of fouls per se, unless we are talking about careless and frivolous fouls.  I believe that being tougher in the paint is far more important than the number of fouls given by the Jazz.  My rationale for believing this is twofold:

  • The Jazz are deep in the front court with Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors, and Enes Kanter and in a case of true disaster, Demarre Carroll and Marvin Williams can fill in at the PF position
  • I think it’s important for this Jazz team because they are still young to establish an identity. Given whom their head coach, Tyrone Corbin, worked and played for before getting this job, I expect them to have a lunch bucket attitude that protects the hoop and doesn’t allow unchallenged layups or dunks.

AI: I disagree with my friend Deuce here.  I think it is important that the Jazz reduce the number of fouls given each game.  The Jazz have always been a tough team, but because of a lack of defensive prowess, they enforced their toughness by fouling, and often it resulted in bailing out the opponent and giving them a high-percentage gimmie shot.  The additions to the team provide tough, on the ball defending, as well as tough off the ball defense.  Plus, Big Al spent the off-season improving his pick and roll defense which teams used last season to abuse the Jazz (see the first round series with San Antonio for proof.)  It remains to be seen how it translates together on the floor this season, but if the enhancements are as good as advertised, this team should be able to defend better without fouling.

Also, the single biggest thing they could do would be to find a way to get Derrick Favors more consistent on offense as his defensive presence is enough to turn back all comers the approach the basket.

Mike: Playing defense is a mindset. Ty Corbin could have Manti Te’o but if he can’t build a defensive culture it won’t matter. I think the Jazz are close. A byproduct of having one of the NBA’s youngest teams, is struggling on defense.
Make your call now. Will the Jazz be better in 2012-2013 than they were last season? Where will they finish in the playoff pecking order of the super-talented West?  Can they win a first round series this year?

Dog:

Deuce: It’s a tough question with no easy answer.  Given the teams recent struggles on the road with losses to the Hornets and Spurs, simply being better might not necessarily translate into a better seed in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.  Having said that, I think they get to 47 wins, which should land them in the playoffs although I’m not sure which seed. With the Lakers becoming a team full of stars, the Mavericks getting better despite loss of Jason Kidd and Jason Terry, Oklahoma City has Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, early season indicators lead me to believe Spurs will be right in the thick of things, and teams such as Houston, Golden State, LA Clippers and Portland
all getting better, its tough to prognosticate this early in the season.  But since you asked I’m going with a 5 or 6 seed. Depending on the match up I would have to say they can absolutely win a first round match up.  But it also depends on opponent; if it were the
Lakers I have to say probably not but if it were the Mavericks, Clippers or some other team then they might actually be my pick for that particular series.

AI: Will the Jazz be better this year? Yes, they should be.  But it really may not be enough.  The West got significantly better and some of the teams that have been nibbling around the periphery the past few seasons (Houston and Golden State) could be very difficult to beat this season.  Wins will be at a premium and there won’t be room to lose to teams like New Orleans, Phoenix, or Sacramento this season and holding serve at home will be paramount.  I still think this team is talented enough to move into a 5 or 6 seed this season and if they can really put it together and stay focused this season, I think they have the ability to sneak into that 4th seed behind San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and the Lakers.

Mike: Optimistically, I can see the Jazz with the addition of Mo Williams swapping playoff spots with Dallas or perhaps Denver. I really believe having a quality PG will make a big difference this year. As a fan all I’m looking for is progression. If Jazz make it to a 6 seed there’s no reason they couldn’t knock off a Memphis or a Lakers team in the first round…yes I said Lakers.

Last year, one could argue that Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson was  the best/most valuable player on the team.  And at the season’s onset, it would seem that either guy would be the best bet to retain that “title”.  But who do you think will be the best player on the team when this season is over?

Dog:

Deuce: The question is what makes a guy the best player?  And as far as I’m concerned it all starts with the point guard position. If the Jazz have the season all the fans here in SLC are hoping for, then without a doubt Mo Williams will have been our MVP.  He starts the offense, rebounds well for a guard, plays intense defense, can get his own shot, can get to the free throw line and when he gets there shoots above 85%.  As important as the big guys will be, it won’t matter unless Mo Williams creates for himself and facilitates an offense that can average close to a 100 pts a game, up from 97.2 last season.

AI: I already made this call last week on a previous post, but I’ll reiterate that I firmly believe that it will be Marvin Williams.  Without the pressure of being a #2 pick or the fans (and organization) lamenting that they passed over Chris Paul and Deron Williams for this guy, he is going to flourish.  He provides such a wealth of talent at a position that the Jazz haven’t had any success with since Bryon Russell was the man who Jazz Nation will embrace him and of the three new additions, I predict he is the most likely to remain with Utah past this season.

Mike: I still think it’s Al Jefferson. I would love to see Derrick Favors take the “title,” but I still think he is still a year away. Unfortunately, I see another year of foul trouble and underachieving before he takes his training wheels off.

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