Its time for a mid-season check-in with your Utah Jazz and there isn’t any better way to do this than to get the voices your know best in the market to help analyze how they are doing. We’re grateful to have linked up with Amar, Clark, Diana, and Jon from SLC Dunk, Grant from Torn By Sports, Allen and James from The Dog and Deuce Show, and of course Mike and Matt weigh in as well. If you haven’t been reading SLC Dunk or TBS or listening to D&D, you really need to check them out.
2. When the season began, the Jazz claimed they were going to step up the tempo and avoid being such a predictable team with the low block passing to Al Jefferson. The team struggled out of the gate to find a rhythm and a consistency and consequently, lost games early on that they shouldn’t necessarily lose. They’ve reverted back to a more post-oriented offense and the team is settling into what it is. Should the team stay comfortable with Big Al being the first scoring option or should they continue to develop into something more?
Amar: Part of the reason why our offense only attack (no work done on defense) was taken apart by the Spurs so easily was because our offense was so simple. What works against the bad teams isn’t going to work against the good ones. I want our team to be able to BEAT the good ones, so I think we need to wean ourselves off of Big Al unless it’s the last three minutes of the game. Also, is Big Al even going to be on this team in two years? If we put all our eggs in the Unrestricted Free Agent basket, and they walk, we’re screwed. It’s not like Al is dropping 30 points a game, or shooting over 50 fg%. He’s not a foundational player for a real contender.
Clark: That is a really loaded question and to a degree the answer is in the question. The Jazz originally tried to get away from the low post game, I think, and it was certainly with mixed results. I was looking at some things that were written about the team in the preseason and after having a couple of games of success running up and down the court, Jazz fans were really optimistic that we could adopt different styles (transition, fast moving, and low post games.) Unfortunately, when the season started, the offensive ended up looking out of sync, like you said, instead of versatile. This team is probably best at running a low post offense, because, for better or worse, the Jazz are built around Al Jefferson offensively and it makes very little sense to abandon that offense as long as Jefferson is here. Now obviously, the Jazz should try to maximize the talent of every player as well, but that’s difficult, especially when you want to put guys with different styles offensively on the floor together. With all that said, Al Jefferson’s inability to be versatile offensively, is one of the biggest strikes against reasons for keeping him in a Jazz uniform in my opinion.
Deuce: The up-tempo offense only works when you have the right personnel at the right positions; namely a PG who doesn’t turn it over when you run and knows when to pull back and setup the half court offense, a wing player who doesn’t settle for perimeter jumpers and a power forward who can run the floor, get easy buckets but also get back and play some semblance of defense. To me, The Jazz has only one of these requirements filled; at PG with Mo Williams, and at times I feel he struggles to create for others on the break. When I say create for others, I mean create easy scoring opportunities at the rim. Although Gordon Hayward is progressing, he defaults to jump shots and sometimes doesn’t seem to value the possession of the ball or gets out of control. And between Big Al and Millsap their desire to run the floor and then play defense afterward seems to diminish as the game progresses or is non-existent from the start. At this time, the only way the Jazz can compete is to continue to run the traditional offense or trade our “Stars” for a younger more pass oriented PG.
Diana: No. I personally like the Jazz more when they are playing an uptempo game and sharing the ball. I find the game boring to watch when every play consists of Al on the left block. I think above average teams can easily stop the Jazz when Al is the only focus. I believe strongly that Al is a great #2. I don’t think we can get past the first round of the playoffs with Al being our leader.
Dog: It’s time to look for a new first option. Al Jefferson has been the first scoring option on every team he’s played on and it’s never worked. I would be willing to let him keep getting the ball if there was some visible improvement but the Jazz are essentially right where they were last year. It’s time to start putting more effort into developing the young talent.
Grant: The Jazz were a playoff team last year when all the team could do was score in the post. Now the Jazz have some outside shooters. So, by all means stick with Big Al. It works and is probably the best way to go since it isn’t like the Jazz are going to bench Jefferson anytime soon. Now if Jefferson were to be traded I would change my story altogether and say it is time to run and gun it.
Jon: I don’t think the Jazz are willing to go through struggles right now. It’s what happens when you are determined to make the playoffs, but the best you can do is a #7 spot. You can’t afford losing games to experiment … even if the experimentation may bring about greater long-term rewards. Every loss may be the loss that knocks them out of the playoffs.
And so when the team initially had a hard time getting the up-tempo style working well, that was that. They can’t afford to spend time working out the chinks; they had to go with what the main players were comfortable doing or risk too many losses as they worked everything out.
I happen to think it’s shortsighted. I believe this because I think Al will be gone next year; because despite his reputation as a post scorer, he’s not nearly as effective a scorer as the best guy on an elite team; because at some point the Jazz will have to find another scoring focus if they are going to be great.
But right now, this season, the Jazz are not willing to go through the struggles that come with finding another offensive game plan or main scorer(s).
Matt: It’s really hard to keep pushing a square block into a round hole. The Jazz have been and likely always will be a low-block, big-man oriented offense. Bringing in some players to change the pace occasionally, and to hit outside shots is vital, but it’s quite okay to be that team. The team just needs to embrace it and go with who they are.
Mike: To be great, the Jazz need to be well-rounded. Jefferson is as underrated as any NBA post player. Who’s going to be the next scoring option? Millsap is what he is. Hayward? Burks? Foye? Ideally, I’d like to see a mix of young players playing up-tempo mixed with good post play from Jefferson, Kanter and Millsap. The Jazz don’t have great perimeter players yet. If you have a young team, why not run and wear down some of the older teams?