E-Mailing with the Enemy: Utah Jazz

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Dennis Velasco asks one of his favorite NBA blogosphere stars, Amar (@AllThatAmar) from SLC Dunk, some questions, which he beasted on.

1) Has enough time passed for Utah Jazz fans to forgive Deron Williams? Jerry Sloan is back working with the franchise, D-Will hasn't really been D-Will, at least consistently, and the Jazz should get one of the prized top picks (and there are several) in the upcoming NBA Draft. Everything is A-OK now, right? No booing when D-Will has the rock?

Sadly (or gladly depending on which end of the Utah Jazz fan spectrum you fall), the answer is yes and no. Deron Williams was an All-NBA point guard who could be argued as being the best in the league at times with the Jazz. He dominated the second round of the playoffs in his first trip there, and led Utah to 9 wins, which is amazingly 56.3% of the way to a title. And he did it as a 22 year old. The next three seasons didn’t go so well for the team, but D-Will was flat out awesome.

Most fans love what he did on the court, but will forever brand him as a coach killer and disparage his character because of his increasingly ‘pouty’ ways. Many fans still remember the time he threw a ball at Gordon Hayward (who had broken a play by mistake) intending to take his head off, back when Hayward was a rookie.

Those are memories that hopefully will fade over time. Some people are already over it, some aren’t. For me, I’m fine. Deron was a great Jazz player and it’s a shame he hasn’t dominated games for the Nets like he used to for the Jazz. For the others, having Sloan back and Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, and one of the picks we used to get Trey Burke with should help them get over something that happened back in 2010.

Of course, he will always be boo’d by the casual fans and the lemmings. Maybe if the Nets win the title this year all the Deron fans will magically get louder next season. Sometimes fans just be like that.

2) My kid loves playing Trey Burke in NBA 2K14, but how are Jazz fans liking the rookie point guard? He's a horrible shooter (don't worry, he's the same in the video game), but he's shown some flashes of being a keeper.

Trey Burke’s release point in 2K is very slow, which allows him to a) either get the shot off too early and it’s a miss, or b) lets the defender contest and block his shot. It’s a problem. For the most part the Jazz fans are very happy with Trey Burke. Part of it is because he’s not some of the point guards the Jazz used in the past. The other part is that he’s actually kinda good. You don’t usually get that at the #9 pick in the draft – but the Jazz have two NCAA Championship game losers at #9 in Gordon Hayward and Trey Burke.

This season Trey has been Rookie of the month twice for the Western Conference, had a number of big games, and even had a game winner – all after a late preseason injury to his shooting hand that required surgery. I think he’s a keeper. Of course, he doesn’t look like he’s going to be a Top 10 player in the NBA. Sure, I get that. But the Burke as a rookie isn’t the Burke that we’re going to see in 2-3 years. He’ll improve. The Jazz brass seem to feel that way too as he and Derrick Favors are the only guys the team isn’t taking offers on right now.

3) Is Gordon Hayward "el hombre" for the franchise? His shooting has fallen off in the month of February and he's shooting a lot less, but Hayward is doing well in other categories such as  dimes (6.0), boards (5.8) and steals (2.2). How important is Hayward to the future of the Jazz?

Gordon is in a no win situation here. Long ago the Jazz snagged an unprotected New York Knicks (Isiah Thomas years) first rounder. Because of situations, when they first got the pick there were protections on it, but each year that passed the Knicks lost protections for it – and the Knicks continued to be a really bad team for like a decade. Eventually we had the pick, and because of the lotto, had it bumped down to a #9 spot – where the Jazz took Hayward (one spot over Paul George, but c’mon, a few spots after guys took Xavier Henry, Evan Turner, and Al-Farooq Aminu). The Jazz fans long held that this unprotected Knicks pick would be an awesome player. And those expectations were a bit too high, it was viewed as a letdown when we did draft this clean cut, white kid – instead of some big, LeBron James or Roy Hibbert type.

As a bench guy or complimentary player he was quite efficient, but at the expense of his true talents. He wasn’t some Kyle Korver type who could only shoot – he could drive, pass, rebound, play defense, and make his own shot. We only got to see that when Hayward was on the floor when Al Jefferson (All-NBA ball stopper on offense 1st team member) was not.

This season there’s no Big Al, so we’re getting to see that Butler version of Hayward more. It was his job to be ‘el hombre’ and we’ve seen every shade of Hayward. There’s the normal Gordon where he fills up the stat sheet but struggles with his shot. There’s the bad Gordon who is awful and can’t get his game together. And then there’s the amazing Gordon who takes it on himself to go one on five against the Oklahoma City Thunder – and win the game.

Perhaps Hayward is overstretched in this role, and would be an amazing second banana? He would be a really good Pippen to whatever Jordan the Jazz would draft if they got a Top 5 pick this year. Sadly, it appears like the Jazz are going to get another #9 pick this year. That makes Gordon more important because he’s already pretty good. If the Jazz did manage to draft an amazing wing player he would be less vital to the team going forward.

It’s a complicated situation as his demographic background makes him one of the best fits in Utah, and is promoted heavily in that small market. Ideally, this would have been HIS team by now with no questions asked. It would have been had he been able to reach the high expectations the Jazz had for him years before we ever got him, back when he was known simply as the unprotected Knicks pick from the Isiah Thomas years.

For me it’s a no-brainer to keep him. His importance will be determined by several factors, like how well can Trey Burke develop, what’s the deal with our front court, and could what he does be replaced by the fabled 2014 first round pick + Alec Burks – and for cheaper?

The silver lining on his poor shooting this month is that if he was shooting near his career averages he would be near that 20/5/5/1 stat output that would make him almost too expensive for the Jazz to keep, as he’s a restricted free agent this year.

And that’s the bottom line. In Utah it’s not just about how important someone is, or how much of a no brainer something is, it’s about not paying a lot of money. And if Gordon is cheap enough, he’ll be in our future plans.

4) No more Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap, so what's the general feeling of Derrick Favors' progress this season? Disappointing, satisfactory or happy?

It’s a mixed bag really. With no Big Al or Sap it appeared like Favors would have no competition for minutes. In his three seasons with those guys he went from 20.2 mpg (in Utah), to 21.2, and then 23.2 mpg. So in three seasons he still wasn’t playing half a game. By comparison DeMarcus Cousins and other bigs from the same draft got much more experience early on – and comparatively, he’s behind developmentally in his game as a result. So now that there’s no Big Al or Paul Millsap how much is Favors playing? Tyrone Corbin has him playing 30.4 mpg. So I’m kind of disappointed there for reals.

He’s not getting the chance to play enough, as a result, he’s not averaging a double double, his defensive stats appear down compared to his Per 36 values, and he’s further being retarded from the normative growth he should get from the experience he should be having on the floor. Karl Malone (#13 pick) played more mpg (30.6) as a rookie than Derrick Favors (#3 pick) is playing in his fourth season. I’m not saying anything, I’m just sayin’.

I think minutes matter more, and it’s not just about accumulating stats. It’s about getting that experience to get better, to progress. To be challenged by more situations that you have to overcome.

Offensively he’s still a mess at times, but learning to finish better around the rim – something that he did with ease in New Jersey at times. Defensively he’s become more cautious. He’s at a career low in personal fouls per 36 minutes. That’s important because he’s the backbone of the defense. If he is in foul trouble the team is not that talented behind him with Rudy Gobert and Andris Biedrins being the only real centers on the squad. (Enes Kanter really is a throwback PF from those Buck Williams days.)

So he fouls less, and takes fewer chances on defense. So he has a less chance to make a play on defense, but a greater chance to stay in the game. But for a guy who isn’t ever in foul trouble now (only 3.1 fouls per game), he is still treated like he’ll foul out if he goes beyond 4 fouls in a game. It’s a joke amongst Jazz fans that Tyrone Corbin will pull him because he fouls out with 5 fouls. How else do you explain this guy, in his fourth season, only playing 30.4 mpg? With no Millsap (All-Star this year) or Big Al (All-Star snub) he’s playing only 7 more mpg?

I think his progress is and always has been hampered by his low minutes. Minutes mean experience. And experience means you can ‘level up’ to borrow that game mechanic. I’m disappointed with his progress this season. His metrics back up this feeling. The general feeling is that he’s gotten better. The big question is if he could have gotten better sooner, why hasn’t he?

5) What are three to five other things that Nets fans should know about the Jazz? And give us a final score!

Derrick Favors and Richard Jefferson are questionable for tonight’s game, so uh, watch out for Marvin Williams hoisting up a bunch of threes with time on the clock. Trey Burke smashed into the rookie wall a few weeks ago and was reported to say he was exhausted with the All-Star Weekend duties that he had. So, maybe Deron Williams will finally have that big "eff you" game in Utah tonight? Last thing? Andris Biedrins is making $9,000,000 USD this year. Uninjured for the majority of the season, he has played in 6 total games and is 1/1 from the floor. He’s 1 for 6 from the free throw line. I’d love to see him play tonight. Final score: 101-89 Nets.

DV's Prediction: Utah Jazz 92, Brooklyn Nets 110.

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