Archives

All posts by Deej

The opening of NBA preseason means one thing ­– several long weeks of waiting before we get the party started. Face it Jazz fan, you can only re-watch Jazz v. Lakers in Hawaii so many times before the mind starts to go south. But no worries! Lower the Rim happily provides you the salve for your rank, festering, decades-old belly rash, or as it is known in some circles: the NBA preseason.  So without further fluff, we present to you — drum roll — the All-Time Jazz Player Top-Ten by Position List!  POW!

Resistance to the ranked list is futile… And I can sense your bored brains already working to construct your own (incorrect) lists. So here’s the approach before you get too far: To be considered, a player must have played at least two years with the Utah Jazz (not the NO Jazz – nobody cares about them). All attributes of a candidate’s game are considered including whether they won or not, league accolades reflecting greatness, overall impact on the franchise, etc., etc.

Now you stultified Jazz followers will likely be able to guess quickly and correctly the top 2 or 3 players at each position. The question is who comes in 9th or 10th – so we’ll start there and give you 2 or so more each day until we tip off.

 

The Greatest Jazz Small Forwards

#10 Tyrone Corbin (1991-1994)

corbinThe Jazz were just one of the 36 teams Corbin played for during his 72-year NBA playing career – at least it seemed that way. The Milk Man was the solid but dull wing for the Jazz in the run-up years to the NBA Finals seasons. A good midrange shooter (I don’t think he took a three in the first 40 years of his career), he did the dirty work the Jazz needed with the picks and the pops. More famous for his milk-laden pencil mustache from a local “Got Milk” commercial than any aspect of his basketball game (he was a 12 and 6 guy in his best year with the Jazz), he barely beats out the Junk Yard Dog and Kelly Tripucka for 10th.

 

#9 David Benoit (1991-1996, 2000-2001)

benoit

Benoit for three! David Benoit was a high-flying skinny small forward – think Jeremy Evans before Jeremy Evans. Benoit was not a great 3-point shooter, however, and most older Jazz fans will remember him principally for missing those wide open baseline 3’s in the final game of the NBA semi-finals as the Jazz went down to the eventual champion Houston Rockets. His numbers were extremely average – a 10 and 5 guy at best – but Benoit was the starting small forward for two good Jazz teams from 94-96 and could electrify on the break and at the rim.

 

 

#8 – Blue Edwards (1989-1992, 1994-95)

edwards_200Blue Edwards was one of the more athletic wings the Jazz have had – great leaper, great dunker. Hot Rod used to describe his decent from the rim after a slam as “parachuting down.”  – but he was quite average beyond the high flying. He had a good final year with the Jazz in 94-95 starting 81 games that season and posting good supporting numbers to Malone and Stockton’s monster stats. Great name to chant after a highlight finish at the rim gets him extra points.

 

 

 

 

#7 – Allan Bristow (1979-1981)

Allan who? Allan Bristow you idiot… what kind of NBA fan are you? You remember Allan “Disco” Bristow out bristowof Virginia Tech ­– come on! OK, go ahead and scoff if you like, but Bristow was a solid guy who could score a bit, rebound more than a bit, and pass like a guard. Playing all 82 for the Jazz off the bench during their inaugural season in Utah, Bristow posted 14 points, 8 rebounds, and over 5 assists per game with starter minutes – he would have made all of your-all’s fantasy teams… if you’d been alive back then and if they’d had fantasy leagues of course. He went for almost 7 assists per game the next season. Sure the Jazz lost almost every game they played those two years, but is wasn’t all Bristow’s fault.

 

 

 

#6 – Bryon Russell (1993-2002)

Byron… errr… I mean Bryon Russell was a mainstay at the wing for the Jazz in the glory years of the mid to bryon-russell-e1328735902782late 90’s. During that time Russell oscillated between starter and first man off the bench, but he always got starter minutes. His stats were not grand – he was playing with the likes of Malone, Stockton, and Horny remember – but he was solid on both ends of the court. The film loop of Jordon pushing Russell away for the jumper to finish the Jazz up in 1998 is forever burned into Jazz Fan psyche. He was never a match for Air Jordon – but good enough to be in the middle of this list.

 

#5 – John Drew (1982-1985)

John-Drew-Utah-Jazz-Small-Forwards-Top-5-All-timeThe Human Highlight Film – Dominique Wilkins – was a Jazz Man… at least for a bit. The story of John Drew with the Jazz starts there. The Jazz selected Wilkins third in the 1982 draft and promptly traded him to Atlanta for Drew, Freeman Williams and a cold million in cash. So Gordon Hayward makes that much in a couple of weeks these days, but back then the Jazz were in such dire financial straights that they needed the money to make payroll. At least that’s the reason spun at the time for the Jazz getting fleeced by then permed-haired Mike Fratello and the Hawks. John Drew, or the Gun Slinger as labeled by Hot Rod, was still a player when he came to Utah. But he was a player with a habit that eventually cost him his career. And yet, although battling addiction, Drew made a difference in his three years with the Jazz. His once impressive rebounding powers had dwindled but he could still score averaging over 21 points per game in 82-83. He scored over 30 seven times that year with one 40-point game against Cleveland that included 19 trips to the free-through line. Drew could score in bunches and had games where he seemed unstoppable. We hear that Drew is driving taxi down in Houston – clean, we hope – but NBA All-Star to cabbie in Texas is a harsh reminder to all to let that cocaine be.

10 – Tom Chambers (1993-1995)

Chambers was a hollow vessel of himself by the time he signed with the Jazz in 93. The Jazz had thought they had a chance at Chambers in 88 when he moved as a free agent from Seattle to the Suns – Ah, what might have been. Five years later was too late. And yet Tom did muster one good season with the Jazz before deflating entirely. Flashes of the Chambers of old teased Jazz fans throughout that season as Tom had some big nights. His placing here, in the end, may have more to do with nostalgia than performance I suppose. Then again, like the center position, there is not much to choose from as we get started here.

 

#9 Marvin Williams (2012-2014)

Toronto Raptors guard Mickael Pietrus, left, of France, defends against Utah Jazz forward Marvin Williams (2) in the first quarter during an NBA basketball game, Friday, Dec. 7, 2012, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

We’d say, as with Tom Chambers, that Marvin Williams was a hollow vessel of himself when he arrived with the Jazz, but he never was all that much of a vessel to begin with. The number 2 pick overall to the Hawks in 2005 never played like the know-it-alls in the NBA war rooms thought he would. He was decent enough for the Hawks, and found a sub-niche with the team becoming a reliable 3-point shooter the year before the Jazz picked him up as a free agent in 2012 – but all of his numbers dropped off with the Jazz. Still, William became a near 10-5 type guy for the Jazz in 2013-14 (playing the 4 and the 5) and was a starter, and that’s enough to get you on the tail end of this list it seems. And his full name is Marvin Gaye Williams… what’s goin’ on? we had to put Marvin Gaye on our list.

 

#8 – Adam Keefe (1994-2000)

position that is filled throughout with great players – exhibit A: Adam Keefe, not a great player. He presents, however,
our only chance to get a ginger into one of these lists – his hair color pushes him past Mark Iavaroni, Marvin Williams, and all the rest of the slugs that filled the Jazz’ PF position, when Malone wasn’t on the court, and into the #8 slot. Besides his ruddiness, Keefe rates top ten because of the 1998-97 season. Keefe played 6 seasons for the Jazz, but in 97-98 he started 72 games for the 62-win Jazz. I suppose that Keefe was starting, technically, as the team’s center. Malone was actually bigger than Keefe so he was center in title only – it was the Mailman posting down low. Keefe’s points and rebounds were never eye popping, but in that 62-win season, he shot 54% from the field and 80-plus from the line. Keefe was tough and unselfish – a very Sloan-type player.

 

#7 Antoine Carr (1994-1998)

ANTOINE CARR 2The Big Dog played during a big time for the Jazz that included the glorious NBA finals seasons in 96-7 and 97-8. Carr came to the Jazz from the Spurs in 94 and back then the rolls were reversed – the Jazz were on top in the west and the Spurs wanted to be just like the Jazz. So the Big Dog Carr came to the Big Dog Jazz and provided some veteran magic off the bench behind and along side Malone. His numbers with the Jazz were not eye-popping, but his toughness and savvy – and the cool glasses – were the secret ingredient the Jazz needed to reach the top layer of the NBA. Still a huge fan favorite – it was tempting to put him above the next guy. Woof-woof.

#5 and #6 tomorrow – Thanks everybody.

 

 

#6 – Derrick Favors (2010-2015)

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - MAY 7: Derrick Favors #15 of the Utah Jazz waits to resume action against the San Antonio Spurs in Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Energy Solutions Arena on May 7, 2012 in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2012 NBAE (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

Now we get into the real deals at this position and the ranking gets tough. Derrick Favors is young and upwardly mobile on this list – time will tell how far up he moves. But for now he comes in at a solid #6. Solid is a good adjective to use with Favors. He’s has been good inside defender who can slide over and guard centers if needed. And he has slowly become just as good on the offensive end. But Favors has yet to move from solid to outstanding in any aspect – and he has yet to win. He continues, however, to improve. He was at 16 points and 8-plus rebounds in 2014-15 and his PER peeked over the 20-mark last season (that’s really good player territory – and by far the highest score of anybody on the list so far) for the first time.You can’t really go to Favors yet and have him carry you for any length of time. And that’s why he’s #6 instead of #3… but give him a few years.

 

#5 – Thurl Bailey (1983-1992)

thurl_bailey

Bailey would swoop in “like a big bird” off the break, as Hot Rod used to say, and finger-role the ball in off the glass on the finish – he really did look like he was gliding some times. Long and lanky, he played as much 3 as he did 4 with the Jazz but we’re calling the 6’11” NC-Stater a power forward today. Slight, with an odd array of shots, Bailey did most of his work coming off the bench and was one of the leagues premier 6th men. T’s offensive game was better than Favors’ (#7 on our list) and his length allowed him as many blocks as D-Fav . Although he played his best years with Malone and Stockton, he could carry the Jazz offensively if called on. I remember a game at Denver in 88 – Big T was going basket for basket with the prolific scorer Alex English. Back and forth they went –neither could be stopped it seemed. Bailey prevailed, scoring 41, as did the Jazz. Bailey won that night and he won a lot with the Jazz. He was a major part of the Jazz as they rose to and through the playoffs in the late 80’s and early 90’s. And he gets extra points for the singing voice – the man has pipes.

 

#4 Paul Millsap (2006-2013)

Paul_Millsap
Millsap led the NCAA in rebounding before being drafted in 2006, second round, by the Jazz. The rebound-champ tag was repeated ad nauseam during Millsap’s first several years with Utah – it was almost as bad as learning, over and over and over again, that Matt Harping played football in high school. But it was clear from the beginning that Millsap was more than a rebounder. The departure of Carlos Boozer in 2010 gave Millsap the starter’s spot and he flourished. In his final three years with the Jazz he averaged nearly 17 points and 8 rebounds per game. Such numbers these days make you an All Star if you play in the Eastern Conference – Millsap has made the last two All Star teams as an Atlanta Hawk but he never sniffed it with the Jazz despite similar stats. We here at LTR always found Millsap to be a bit of a grumpy elf. And, as far as we know, the man can’t sing a lick. Notwithstanding, the undersized but talented forward fits nicely here at #4.

 

# 3 Carlos Boozer (2004-2010)

We know… we know. Jazz Fan can’t stand this guy. And we agree with part of the argument – Boozer’s game always seemed somewhat disingenuous. And yet, the and-one-screaming power forward could play – at least on one side of the court. Boozer had his best years while playing for the Jazz, and from 2005-11 was considered one of the top power forwards in the lCarlos+Boozer+Kyle+Korver+Utah+Jazz+v+Denver+8gDiUrMMsvCleague. Averaging nearly 22 points and 11 rebounds per game during that that time, Boozer made two All-Star teams and the 2008 USA Olympic Team. Boozer’s PER of 24 – in 2006-2007comes in as the highest of any of the players on the list so far. The Jazz won 51 games that season and it looked, with a young Deron Williams feeding Booze, that the Jazz might make a run once again. Things seemed to slowly go south, however, after that acme. The concept of “there is no I in team” was a foreign idea to Booze it seemed. He was not motivated much to defend and was labeled soft for his frequent debilitating mystery injuries – remember the hammy? Still, he was a great offensive forward, with stats, on that end of the court, eclipsed in Jazz history by only one man.

 

P-Mac

#10 – Jeff Wilkins (1980-86)

Coming in at number 10 is Jeff “The Franchise” Wilkins. Hot Rod Huntley gave Wilkins the “Franchise” moniker as a joke after a string of performances that were well beyond his mediocre ability. Wilkins was, indeed, an incredibly average center. The fact that he’s even on the list indicates the lack of talent the Jazz have garnered (with a few exceptions) at the 5 position – there may not be another team in the league (excluding recent expansion) with a weaker field of players at center than the Jazz. But somebody has to be at the end of this list and Wilkins did havwilkins2e two average-to-good years with the Jazz from 82-84, and that is enough to send him into Lower The Rim immortality. Wilkins was a 10-7 guy for two pretty bad Jazz teams.  He could pass a bit and play some D but he moved onto San Antonio (one of the teams that he had displayed his “Franchise” like skills against), when Mark Eaton took over the starting job, and was never really heard from again. Jeff Wilkins: the worst center ever to appear on a top-10 list. But find me somebody better to put in here… I dare you.  

 

 

#9 – Felton Spencer (1993-96)

The lumbering 7-footer was not a bad player until he blew the Achilles. A second team all-rookie guy for the T-2118-671632Bk.jpg (350×252)Wolves, he came to the Jazz as successor to Big Mark Eaton, and gave the the team a good year plus a tiny fraction. He was an 8-and-8 guy for two very good Jazz teams (the Spazz won 60 the season Spencer popped the ankle) but could not get back to that level after the injury. Felton Spencer: the second worst center on any top-10 list.  Heyooo!

 

 

# 8 – Rich Kelley (1983-85)

At #8 we add Rich Kelley to the collection of miss-fit toys that is the history of Jazz Center-ship. I mean look at this guy – he looks more like an English Lit. professor at a liberal arts college than a baller in the rough and tumble years of the NBA. But don’t judge by the cover fella’s, Kelly could play a bit. Drafted 7th, first round, by the New Orleans Jazz out of Stanford (of course, could have been Duke, or Harvard, etc. for this guy), Kelly would show much higher on this list if we included the New Orleans years in the contest. As it is, Kelly returned to the Jazz, after stints with several teams, in 83 and was significant in helping the team become 83-84 Midwest Division champs. Kelly was a very good offensive rebounder and a better than average passer from the 5 spot. Although not in his prime in his second time around with the Jazz, he makes the list because of presence on the milestone 83-84 Division Championship team and because… well, there just isn’t any body else to add in these bottom three or four slots (quiet down you Greg Foster fans – he’s not making the list). Kelley went back to Stanford for an MBA after the NBA – naturally – Snyder would have liked this guy.

#7 – Enes Kanter (2011-15)

Oh boy. What to do with Enes Kanter? Kanter is the highest drafted Center in Jazz history. He likely has the third best offensive game of any Jazz big. The defense was bad, however, very bad. And the attitude left a sour taste on the way out. But this is science baby, and we can’t let our feelings get in the way of mathematics and all of the linear regression models that have gone into building this list. So I’m putting the Kanter Man at #7 defense benes-kantere damned.

Kanter’s stats per 36-minutes are very shinny (about 17 and 11). Ok, he couldn’t stay on the court for 36 because he didn’t play defense. But hey, the big-headed Al Jefferson couldn’t play D for the Jazz either and he’s going to show up a lot higher on this list and any list you slackers would make. And Kanter is the only guy on this list so far who’s got a PER greater than 15. Kanter will get booed every time he visits the ESA, but his niftiness around the rim and toughness on the offensive boards for a couple of years gets him into this mix.

#6 – “Gentle Ben” Poquette (1979-83)

poquetteUt.jpg (189×250)

The mild-mannered one lent his well-rounded game to some pretty cruddy Jazz teams in the early Utah years. And I admit — that the team could not win more than 30 games in any year with Poquette on the court does not support his cause at #6. But I’ve seen all these guys play (via time travel of course… I’m not that old, really) and it just seems to me that he should be here. Poquette did not have the talent and athletic ability of, say, Enes Kanter, who’s below him on the list. But Gentle Ben could play at both ends — he still ranks 5th in blocked shots per game for the Jazz. And he had two solid years, including his final season with the team, when he was statistically better and more productive than anybody below him on the list. Yet like the rest of the big men below him (except Kanter), Poquette did little after leaving the Jazz — he moved out, and the Jazz moved up… with Big Mark.  So once again, not the most supportive of his cause on our list, but it is true that Lower The Rim is a lover of the more gentle giants, like Tim Duncan, Arvydas Sabonis, and the Tom Arnold version of Roseanne Barr, post engagement pre marriage.

#5 – Gerg Ostertag

 I think that most observers — even Ostertag to himself — would say that the big guy’s career was, overall, 2802665.jpg (182×260)disappointing… less than what it should have been. But the same could be said for most of us, I presume. And to his credit, Ostertag was the starting center — on most nights — for the 64-win 96-97 team that could only be stopped by Michael Jordan. He played for the Jazz through many winning seasons, and many of them as the starting 5. And so he must be here on the list… at number 5 — right in the middle — not great and not awful (well, not awful most nights), just big old Fred Flinltsone-on-the-calf Ostertag. There was nothing extraordinary about Tag’s game except his uncanny ability to frequently descend into, albeit ever-reemerge from, the Iron Maiden that was Sloan’s dog house. At worst he couldn’t catch a bounce pass to save his own mother, and at best, well… he could rebound a little, and he does show up in the top five of many Jazz defensive-per-game categories including blocked shots. Yet his lasting impact remains, however, that which gives most middle-aged Jazz fans reason to sweat on draft day when they see a big, white, lumbering center sliding their way.

 

#4 – Rudy Gobert

Gobert has had about three months of spectacular play in his short 2 years with the Jazz – hardly enough, one might rudy-gobert-andrew-wiggins.jpg (400×225)think, to land in the top 5 of an NBA team’s best-at-position list. However, let us reflect on those three months and note, after sufficient scrutiny, that they were better than anything the guys below him had to offer in their entire careers. Thus, I place the thin Frenchman at #4 without apology – heck, if I were doing this list in 2017, he might be #2 and you guys are thinking that same thing. Jazz Fan knows the glorious story of Gobert blowing up after Kanter-to-OKC mid-season, and while part of the reason the Jazz surged could certainly have been the general improvement in team chemistry, the greater credit goes directly to Gobert and his marvelous length and quickness at the rim. Statistically, the turnaround from one of the league’s poorest defensive teams to its best in a matter of weeks is unprecedented (ok, I have no idea whether it’s unprecedented or not – you guys search it out and get back to me) and the bulk of the change is because of RG(whats his uniform number?).

In any case, here comes the Stifle Tower.

#3 – Al Jefferson

The best offensive center to play for the Jazz, hands down. But possibly the worst defensive center the al-jefferson.jpg (256×275)Jazz have ever had – or maybe second worst, or maybe it’s a tie. Ok, some of that hoooorrrrible defense against the
pick and roll may have been Corbin and his coaching staff’s fault – Jefferson looks better defensively now that he’s with Charlotte. But still, as far as Utah is concerned, Al Jefferson cared much more about one side of the court than the other. The Jazz won just over 50% of their games during Jefferson’s 3-year stint, but they were never real contenders for anything, and were never trending upward with Big Al in the post. Jefferson hasn’t taken any of the teams he’s played very far but his superior offensive ability and numbers can’t be denied. We reluctantly stick him and his ridiculously large head at #3.

 

#2 – Mehmot Okur
Okur started 7 years for the Jazz at center – four of those seasons were standouts with one All-Star Game team appearance.  Okur shows top-10 in many all-time Jazz offensive categories including 3 point field goals, 3-point field goal %, blocked shots, points, rebounds per game and free-throws made. From 2005 to 2009 Okur
averaged over 17 points per game and nearly 8 rebounds a game
– with D-Will and AK-like PER numbers.
Okur was tougher than the talking heads gave him credit for – he wasn’t just a stand-outside Euro Center, he could bang and board when called upon. But the long-range shot was what made him a wonderful fit for the, at that time, Boozer-post-up and drive-and-dish Jazz. He would repeat in his post-game interviews, in his cool Turkish accent, that his teammates just told him to “shoot de ball… so I shoot de ball”. Maybe they told him that or maybe that is just what he heard – but he could shoot de ball. Memo is # 2.
#1 – Mark Eaton
 
This slow giant white guy spent half of the games he played for the Jazz standing at the 3-point line so that other more-skilled players could do their things and yet he is the greatest Center to ever play for the team – and
it’s not even close. The Jazz have only had one center other than this man make an All Star Team. That said, Eaton would probably be on every team’s top-3 list because of the impact he had on the defensive end of the game. Eaton changed the way teams played offense. Eaton averaged over 4 blocks per game four years straight from 83 and 87. For reference, DeAndre Jordon hasn’t averaged over 2 blocks per game during his career – Dwight Howard hasn’t made it over 3 blocks per game in any year. Eaton averaged 6.7 blocks per game during the first series of the 84-85 playoffs. He was a key figure in the Jazz ascension to respectability before Stockton and Malone arrived. Eaton was voted to the NBA All Defensive Team 5 consecutive years  (first team three of those years) – he’s one of only 4 Utah Jazz players to be named to the All Defense Team. As noted, nobody’s really close to him here at the top of this mediocre heap.

Thanks everybody.

P-Mac

 

Dante Exum was not a good NBA point guard last season. So why are Jazz fans rushing to their Zoloft bottles at the news of his snapped ACL? Did they not witness the sad display of offense from the boy: the misplaced lob passes from the key in place of taking the open push shot himself, the inability to get to the line… ever, the clunks off the back of the rim any time he took a jump shot off the move? Unless they were busy curtailing the horror of POSSIBLY being featured on the KissCam, they should have.

Yet they’d also have noticed that Exum causes problems for other teams on the defensive end. He was quick enough to stay in front of the smaller point guards on D and long enough to alter their jump shots when they stepped back. I grant that starting and giving starter minutes to Gobert was the main reason for the Jazz’ late insurrection against small-ball run-and-gun for to defensive uberness, but Exum’s presence was not an insignificant factor. Whatever Exum’s deficiencies, the mix with him getting near starter minutes was working for the Jazz, and on good nights, Jazz fan would be hoping they left him in longer. The promise this year was that Exum would be better, and in turn the Jazz. In fact the entire fun-factor for Jazz fans entering this season was wondering how much better Exum could be in his second year.

One very impressive quarter of July summer league against same year draftee Marcus Smart wetted Jazz fan’s whistle. And then came Slovenia.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME!

So now what, Jazz fan? Now what?

The hope, and the opinion of many a scribe, is the Jazz will prevail anyhow. That Burke, although a near wash in place of Ex (trade defense for offense), is good enough and guess what?– They can just give the ball to Hayward anyway. There’s little the Jazz can do at this point regardless, with free agency settling in like well-mixed epoxy and any trade requiring too much of their well-balanced core.

Although options or few, Lower the Rim (as usual) offers a few suggestions. 

The Jazz’s first best option is to sign President Barack Obama to a one year, rookie minimum contract. Wait P-mac, why Barry?he didn’t even play big-time college ball, he’s 54, and what about his current day job? Good points all. True that Obama has no college experience, but neither did Kobe. Barry is old at 54 I agree, but there’s very little wear and tear on those knees – he should be fresher than his age. Obama was a slashing, drive and dish guy at Punahou High School, sort of what Jazz fan would have hoped Exum would be this season. Barry is left handed also and we all know how crafty left handers can throw off a defense. And defense is the biggest reason the Jazz should go after Obama – not his defense but the other teams. I mean, who is going to defend the President of the United States with middle linebacker Secret Service folks sitting front row with Churros? And we all know that bad defense is contagious, once the player guarding the President slacks off, the whole scheme will fall apart – and hello 50-win season. The respect factor makes up for Obama’s famous lack of jumping ability and inconsistency from the 3-point line. And as far as going dual league (NBA/Executive Branch) – Barry Sanders did it with success and so did Bo. So let us carry on this great tradition of B’s, OR

We’ve got Lower The Rim Plan B:

Raul Neto.

Give Neto the ball and swallow the 6 turnovers a game, because Neto is a giant compared to the other Lilliputian Jazz point guards (he’s got at least an inch on Burke). And though it’s true, he can’t shoot a lick form the 3-point line, the boy has juice and he’s not a bad shooter from inside the arc. Neto is a pass first point and a better distributor right now than Burke or Cotton or Exum or an all-powers-combined fictional rendition of the three whose fabled name is… Bucottonex? Ex Bucottina? PLUS, Neto’s got a Ricky Rubio feel for the court. And if nothing else, the Jazz are probably going to continue to run most of the offense through their skilled wings (Hayward and Hood), so they might as well put someone different at the point to keep us all interested. Like the way Ingles didn’t do much last year? But we got to make up great nick names concerning his lethargy? That was fun.  

It won’t be enough for the Jazz just to win a few more games this year. With the intrigue of Exum gone, the Jazz need to put another fresh-faced competitor into the Vitamix.

Spice up the run to the playoffs. 

— P-MAC

The same western conference teams have made the playoffs the last two years with the exception of the Pelicans taking the Thunder’s spot last year by a game – and the lists would have been identical if not for significant injuries to Oklahoma’s two all stars. These top teams have formed up like the roller derby blocker line of the Rat City Rollergirls – impenetrable almost. Whereas a major physical catastrophe was required to move one of the eight out and let a new boy in last year, the 2015-2016 season offers a glimmer of hope to the rest that they might move into the spotlight even if just for a second. Let’s get the obvious out of the way though; the Blazers, having lost most of their starting line up in free agency, are resigned to a re-build and will not return to the playoffs this year. Equally obvious is the replacement of the Blazers by the Thunder who, unless Durant does not return to health, are back in the hunt. So where is the break for one of the lower 7 teams to slingshot through the wall? – Dallas that’s where.

The 50-32 Mavs finished 7th in the west last year but will be a different team at the start of the new season. They still have Dirk, but Dirk is not the Dirk of old… he’s just old. At 37, Nowitzki is starting to drift. He played less than 30 minutes a game last year for the first time since his rookie season and his shooting percentage took a significant drop in 2014-15. Snaring DeAndre Jordon would have gone a long way toward propping Dirk and the Mavs up and keeping them in the etched-in-stone 8, but the big boy was drawn back to LA by Doc River’s Jedi mind powers and a barrage of emojis it seems. Cuban has settled now for a much dicier line up. In fact, looking at it makes your head sort of tilt like a perplexed German Shepard. When Jordan was swept back with the rip tide to LA, Cuban jumped at Wesley Mathews – a good free agency but wait, he had his severed Achilles tendon screwed back on recently. You know, that large cord that keeps your foot attached to the rest of your body – sort of important. Then Cuban added once-great but recently incredibly-average Deron Williams. The Mavs now have more point guards than a county-rec under-six-foot league team. Gone are Monte Ellis (G), Tyson Chandler (C), A-F Aminu (F) with Chandler being the greatest loss and not adequately replaced by the likes of ZaZa Gabor and DaLambert. We think the Mavs are ripe for the picking.

But who will take their spot? Not the Kings, they can’t seem to get off of the DeMarcus Cousins coke train. The Nuggets have thrown in the towel for the next few years. The Wolves will be greatly improved but not close to the 45 wins it will take to break in. And everybody but Bill Plachke knows that the Lakers are lottery bound again. Plachke, long time sports writer for the Los Angeles Times and member of ESPN’sAround the Horn, recently bet the host of a Utah sports radio program that the Lakers would have a better record than the Jazz in the 15-16 season. Bill must be focusing too much on baseball or not getting out of LA much any more. He either is forgetting or, worse, just doesn’t know that the Jazz won 38 games last year and 19 out of the last 30 to end the season. Sure Kobe will return to the court on opening night but who knows how long he’ll stay there. Kobe’s a warn-out wreck physically and although the hodgepodge of players that Kupchak has given Bryant to bully around this year should get them more wins than last year, they’re still way out of the playoff race. That leaves the Jazz and the Suns.

We think the 2015-2016 Mavs are 5 games worse than their predecessors. Now, are the Jazz or the Suns 7 games better than last years’ teams? The Suns lost Goran Dragic last year in a mid-season trade with Miami for draft picks and traded Marcus Morris this summer to clear cap room for better stuff. They whiffed on Aldridge but free agent Tyson Chandler was a big get. So the Suns now have Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight and P.J Tucker at the guard spots (only heaven knows who’s going to play what), T.J Warren and Markief Morris at big forward (Thorton just signed with Houston), and Eric Len backing up Chandler at center. If it weren’t for Chandler we say give it to Utah easy. But lets take a look. The Jazz lose nobody of importance – the mid-season trade of Kanter was an addition by subtraction it seems for the upstart Jazz. They retain Dante Exum and Trey Burke at point, Alec Burks (back from missing most of last season with a shoulder injury) and surprisingly-good-for-his-rookie-year Rodney Hood at off guard, Derrick Favors at power Forward (and a bit of center), and the Frenchman Rudy Gobert at the rim. Exum will likely continue to start and although he could make a big jump from his listless rookie season the edge still goes solidly to the Suns at the quarterback position. But the Jazz have three very good 20-plus PER players in Hayward, Favors, and Gobert, and talented youth and depth at the other with Burks and Hood at off guard. Chandler and Bledsoe are as good as anybody the Jazz have, but we give the edge here to the best defensive team in the league in the last third of the season – Utah. A year of experience together in their new coach’s system will be just enough to get them from last year’s 38 wins to 45 in 2016 and that will be enough to get by the Mavs and the Suns. Rejoice Jazz fans – a four game sweep and quick exit from the playoffs await you come May – but at least you’ll be there.

-P-Mac

 

We all know that exceptional play in summer league means next to nothing, but for some reason here at LowerTheRim, we care a great deal about it. Every goaltending call, backcourt violation, and terribly thrown alley oop pass draws us nearer D-List celebs and the onset of oblivion (Julio, get the stretch!). Yet it’s true, Summer League is no more legit than Woody Harrelson punking Wesley Snipes while his girlfriend crams for Jeopardy.  In fact, the last time some of these guys scored this many points was back in their 6th grade Jr. Jazz preseason scrimmage. But to our credit, we’ve sifted through some of the ridiculous numbers in the Las Vegas League and identified a few players whose play might actually be indicative of their forthcoming rookie season.

Here’s our top 3:

Emmanuel Mudiay

This guy looks phenomenal. If he can continue to improve on his shooting and if the Nuggets follow Chauncey’s advice to get Lawson out, Mudiay will be an all-star in no time. He’s also my pick for steal of the draft and ROY.

Jahlil Okafor

Those hands. That footwork. Highlights say it all.

Kelly Oubre Jr.

A little shakier than the 2 rooks above, Oubre offered a high ceiling coming out of the draft. We’re catching a glimpse of just how high that ceiling might be with his strong summer league play. And the Jazz picked Lyles over this guy?  (&%&*^)*&%&^$!!!!

There you have it. These guys might be three of the most productive rookies to come out of the 2015 draft. Or maybe not. Remember, it’s summer league… And we’re not actually qualified to do this anyhow.

Signing off from Mexico’s newest Premier Super-Max Cell Block:

— Dr. A

 

 

168167276-koufos-630.jpg (630×354)

Although we’re verrrry certain that the Jazz will be serious contenders to lure King James in a sign/trade deal that includes Trey Burke and the Jazz signing and then trading Andre Kirilenko, Keith Van Horn, Scott Roth, David Benoit, and finally coaxing Adam Keefe out of retirement only to buy him out and send him BACK into retirement with his red hair — didn’t Adam Keefe have red hair? — we’re letting you know (despite the certainty) who the Jazz should be looking at as plan B just in case. 

Money rained down on players in this first day of free agency — ridiculous money. Remember back just a year ago when Jazz fans’ heads almost exploded at the news of the Miller’s signing Gordon Hayward to a “max” deal? Remember the honk-if-you-don’t-want-Hawyard signs? Remember honking? Well, just about everybody and their brother is making more than Gordo now and we’re only about 3 days in. Good grief, DeMarre Carroll is now making as much cash as Hayward. Yes, the Junk Yard Dog will sign with the Raptors (idiots) for four years and $60 million (just a few bills short of Hayward’s $63 million deal). Tristan Thompson is set to re-up with the Cavs in an 80 million dollar deal – 80 million… Tristan Thompson… $80 million for 8 points and 8 rebounds. Has everybody gone mad? Yes they have, but they claim not and that they’re just working the arithmetic of the ever growing NBA salary cap in the out years. The “what’s a bad deal this year will look pretty good in two” concept is being taken a bit too far.

No matter for the Jazz; they weren’t going to get any of the guys that signed in these first few days anyway. GM Lindsey says they’re talking about, and to, everyone – but there’s really only a couple of players left of any caliber that the Jazz have a real shot at.  Actually as I’m re-reviewing my thoughts and feelings and opinions, there’s really only one player — and he’s a very familiar name.

Kosta Koufos, C, Memphis – Yes, our old friend and current captain of the NBA All-Bad-Hair Team. Since waving goodbye to Koufos a few years ago, the guy has turned into a halfway decent backup center. He’s just 26 but has 7 years in. The Jazz could us an experienced 7-footer to back up Gobert without screwing with the starting lineup and the nice chemistry of the core. Just make him shave his head as part of the contract.

That’s it, that’s all she wrote. A very short list (list of one).  The rest will be small-timers. Trade talk is different of course but that’s another article.

— P-Mac

586921_crop_650x440.jpg (650×440)

 

Are any Jazz fans excited about the selection of Trey Lyles out of Kentucky at #12? If they exist, none were in attendance at the Jazz’ ESA draft party Thursday evening, where apathy (perhaps atrophy?) ruled the day. No cheering and no booing after the pick was announced, just a bunch of shoulder shrugs before the crowd descended to take their shot at minor league baseball tickets (hey, this is Utah and we’re talking about free stuff – these guys would dunk their grandma if it meant a freebee). In fact, few moments were cause for any rise from the crowd on draft night. First was the selection of Frank (The Tank) Kamisnky by the Hornets at 9, which elicited cries of relief as we realized Jazz brass could no longer be tempted by yet another tall white guy (way to take one for the team Charlotte). And second (opposite reaction) was after ESPN’s Jalen Rose compared the new Jazz man Lyles to Carlos Boozer – half of the Jazz fans in attendance simultaneously choked on their snow cones.
But what do Jazz fans really know? Heck, they booed John Stockton back in 84 and more recently almost killed one Jazz season ticket holder in 2010 after he’d won the opportunity to announce the selection of Gordon Hayward – the poor guy barely got out the first syllable before he was booed off the podium, never to be heard from again.

So maybe Jazz fan has this one right – there really isn’t a lot to stand up and shout about in Lyles. He didn’t play starter minutes at Kentucky making his stat line look quite pedestrian – 8.7 p/g, 5.2 r/g, and just 1.1 a/g in the 23.0 minutes he averaged on the floor. His 49% field goal percentage is not bad but not great either for a guy who stayed close to the basket most of the game and he showed limited range with the jumper. The best that Kentucky coach Calipari could do on Thursday was to label Lyles his team’s “X-Factor” – hmmm, the X-Factor is not as good as being his teams best player or best big or best rebounder. I can’t expend a lot of energy on an X-factor. No, it would have been much more fun if the Tank had been on the board and the Jazz had taken him – bedlam, or if there had been a trade up to snag the sliding Justise Winslow, or if the Jazz had picked up sharp shooter Devin Booker who seemed to be the crowd favorite.

My take: the rising Jazz made the right pick with Lyles. I know, it’s even more boring of me to agree with a boring pick. And it’s true that Lyles is not a jump-out-of-the-building athlete and does not appear to really excel yet in any aspect of the game but he does have size and a skill set that the Jazz like and need. But what Lyles does appear to possess is that good feel for the game and an NBA power forward body still growing. The comparison to Boozer is not a bad one as Lyles is very nifty around the basket and has excellent footwork for a 19 year old. Already a better natural passer than Boozer ever was with a better handle facing the basket, and the jumper looks good going up, giving hope that his range could be extended with time. With Kanter gone, Lyles fills the need for a big who can fit into the Jazz’ motion offense and play off the pick and role – a skill he reportedly showed in spades during his Utah workout. Jazz fans may have wanted the shooter in Booker at 12 but Lyles is the more versatile pick being able to play the 3 or the 4 – the Jazz will just have to find shooters some where else.

Lyles is dull, but he’ll work.

— P-Mac

1312811.jpg (600×399)

 

This blurb is really the long way of addressing a recent surge in local optimism, and saying Get off Trey Burke’s back, he’s actually been serviceable, as in — wouldn’t you like a Jarrett Jack or Jamal Crawford (bit of a reach) of your own, Jazz fans?  But seriously, Zygimantas Sabonis is ALSO serviceable for such squads as practice and church ball and the Mad Ants &tc.  So let the second son of Arvydas rain down liquid skyhook bricks in a far away land or right up north in an Idaho barn-like structure, just so long as the Jazz stear clear of Wright.

Didn’t Trey Burke snag a handful of scoring leads last year?  And didn’t he hit a few buzzer beaters?  AKA, didn’t he technically win a few games by himself, or by “ flick of the wrist,” as one deadpan announcer might say?  Careful what you wish for.  Delon Wright will not solve your backup point guard problems, if in fact you have any.  Plus, how many Utes have panned-out in the league anyhow?

Cue thundering double high five — high ten? — with Andrew Bogut for becoming the all-time most actively counter-productive contribute to a championship team ever.

Over-zealous Ute-loving Burke-nay-saying Jazz fans: if you’d leave the likes of Keith Van Horn on the table, I’d leave Wright there too.

— Deej

usa-today-8308571.0.jpg (730×487)

 

The names of the basketball could’ve-been’s and want-to-be’s are stacked high like so many mammoth bones held fast in the Holocene tarpit that is the tail-end of the NBA draft lottery. Hilton Armstrong, Acie Law, Jason Thompson, Tyler Hansbrough, Earl Clark… and so on and so on. Sure, you can find a few names that can be considered something better than role and bench players in the 12-14 pick range, but they are sparse among the debris in the center of most drafts. So what to do if you’re the Jazz? – a team with a very young but promising core, an inexperienced (for the most part) bench, and looking hard at breaking into the playoffs with the surprise emergence of the long/tall Frenchman Gobert.

What to do?

Check your mock drafts Jazz fans, there are 19- and 20-year-old players there that can do some good things. But many can’t dribble, others can’t shoot, and the few that can shoot can’t seem to move their feet fast enough to guard opposing players. Right now the Jazz brain trust hates them all. They’ve watched film and staged workouts ad nauseam and have noted every flaw in their subjects’ immature games. And what they’re thinking right now is exactly what they should do: draft none of them. That’s right. With the 12th pick in the 2015 NBA draft the Jazz should pick none of the players that everybody thinks they should pick – not Oubre, not Frank, not Turner, not Lyles. Instead, the Jazz should pick Delon Wright out of the University of Utah.

Wait… what?

But P-Mac, the Jazz would never pick a local kid. Too much pressure to play him right away. The old Jeff Judkins Fred Roberts dilemma. And the Jazz shouldn’t waste a #12 on a player who is not “projected” to go until somewhere in the 20’s. Look Jazz fans, I didn’t say the Jazz should pick Wright at 12, although they might as well, and I’m not saying you should bet your neighbor at the Jazz draft party your free hotdog that they will pick the Ute point guard at some slot during Thursday’s draft (get lower) – but I’m telling you it’s what they should do, and here’s why: We know that no Jazz brass in their right mind would draft another really tall white guy so Frank is out. And the Jazz don’t need another wait-three-years, one-and-done project on their bench and books either. Wright is 23, a four-year guy. A smart, versatile fella who can handle the ball, defend, get to the basket and the foul line (he’s both a stellar and clutch free throw shooter), and could actually give you a little something in 2015-16.

But P-Mac, what about spacing the floor with a stretch four?  Oh brother – you guys just like saying “stretch four.” Really, who at number 12 is going to help the Jazz with floor spacing in these playoff push years? Also, picking Wright gives the Jazz more flexibility at the point guard position (back up or third point guard) if you decide to move Trey Burke and he can play alongside other point guards if needed.

I know it’s shocking to think about – but that’s why we’re here. And I can feel you coming around to the idea. D Lindsey should too.

 

— P-Mac