Thursday, May 31, 2007

All That Jazz

The Jazz' playoff run has come to an end with a shellacking in San Antonio. Even though it was a rather embarassing end to a fantastic playoff run, I've been very happy with the way everything turned out this year. At the same time, I can't help but think that there need to be some changes in the team before next year. While I think this might be my first sports post, it's not for the lack of interest in the Jazz or sports. I've gone to games even through the dark post-Stockton/Malone and pre-Boozer/Williams era and didn't just get excited when they suddenly showed up in the Western Conference Finals. Anyway, with that aside out of the way, a position-by-position analysis of the Jazz:

Point Guard: What can you say about Deron Williams? I was excited they chose him and not Chris Paul on draft day, and even when Paul had a stellar rookie year I was behind Williams. I think he's more of a learner and he fits the Jazz system better. Paul probably wouldn't have been ROY last year under Coach Sloan either, because with Sloan you have to earn your position. It's why Carlos Arroyo flamed out, it's why Ostertag was perpetually in his doghouse, and it's why Giricek is the second coming of Ostertag. How do you earn your position? Hard work. If you play tough D, you compete, and you are always aiming to improve, you'll never have a better advocate. If you squander your natural gifts and punch in for the paycheck, you might as well put your name on the pine, because that'll be your permanent seat. Paul would have done much the same as Deron did, but it would have taken time, just like it did with Deron. After Williams, the Jazz have some decisions to make. I would like to see Derek Fisher back him up, as the plan was from the get-go. Right now the rotation's a bit odd because you have D-Will come out and he's replaced by a 2 guard with Fisher sliding over to Point. Fisher's not as fresh as he otherwise would be as a result. The Jazz' greatest success came with Howard Eisley coming out and spelling Stockton for a time, and you have to have a fresh Point do that with Williams to make sure the team keeps it up when he's out. I like Dee Brown - he's got great hustle and heart, but I don't trust him to run the offense much. He's a good third guard, but that's about it.

Shooting Guard: Here's a big problem. Fisher's not a natural 2 and I would consider him a stopgap option at best. We don't have anyone better at the moment, so he got the call. Giricek is not the answer either. He's a good shooter when he's on, but he's far too spotty to use as an effective answer. Add to that that he's a shoot first player and he doesn't fit the system. I dread seeing the ball in his hands because you know he's not going to look for a cutter or for someone on the low block, he's just going to huck it from wherever he is. That's great if you're lights out, but if you're not and if it doesn't fit the system, you can't just toss things up there. Ronnie Brewer might be the best long-term solution. I like what I've seen of him - he's athletic, he seems pretty unselfish, and I think that he could go far. The question is whether or not he'll fit with Coach Sloan. Some young players do (Shandon Anderson, Williams) and a lot don't (Arroyo, Sasha Pavlovic, Kris Humphries, Kirk Snyder). I'd love to see Brewer fit in and be a long-term solution. CJ Miles has shown potential, but it doesn't look like he'll be around much longer. We need to get a good shooting guard, the question is who. Manu, would you like to come over to our side?

Small Forward: This is a bit of a conundrum. Andrei Kirelinko is an incredible athelete, a great person, and he fits well in Utah. When he's in the game (and I mean his head's in the game), he's a game changer. At the same time, throughout the year he's looked lost. He was the man there during the transition period, but with Boozer and Williams really stepping up as the leaders of the team, I think he's felt like there's no room for him. For some reason he gets back down to touches (i.e. shots). If AK could overcome that desire for the Jazz running the offense through him and instead focus on his strengths (deflections, blocks, steals, rebounds) and use those to get his touches and his scoring, it would help both him and the Jazz. You can see how effective he is when he buys into this philosophy (as evidenced by the latter part of the Rockets series and the Golden State series) and also how ineffective he is when he doesn't (the Spurs series). The question is if AK will do so, and if he does is he worth $12 m/year? Harpring's a solid backup and he plays Sloan-style ball. I don't see any reason to have him go anywhere as he's a solid 6th man.

Power Forward: This position is all sewn up. Boozer, while having all kinds of health problems initially, has been incredible. He's not the world's best defender, but that can be taught. He's shown that he has the desire and the heart. If that translates into a similar jump like he made last year, you can bet that he'll be in the same league as Duncan, Malone, and Barkley. Millsap is a beast who is too good to stay behind Boozer for long. Unfortunately that probably means that he'll be lost to free agency in a few years, but while we have him, we're in great shape.

Center: On the whole, this is a positive. Memo Okur had a great year and has shown that in general he's a good shooter, a competent defender, and the best center the Jazz have ever had. Of course, that's not hard to do. When you have a list that includes Mark Eaton, Felton Spencer, Olden "The Sheriff" Polynice, and Greg Ostertag, you don't have a lot of competition. Jarron Collins, while a nice person, is not my choice for backup center. I'm not a fan of his game, I think he's too close to the old center mold - slow, low scoring, and just a body. He's not strong enough to compete against the Shaqs of the world and he's too slow to compete against Amare Stoudamire or Tim Duncan. Then we have Rafael Araujo in the third position. I know that he's not a favorite of people in Toronto, but he's a hard worker and he's a bruiser. At BYU he had a nice scoring touch and given the right opportunity, he could find it again. He's strong enough to battle against the big centers, and while he's slow, he's got 6 fouls of punishment he can dish out. I'd love to see the Jazz re-sign him for less than what he's currently getting, trade Collins, and maybe draft a nice big man prospect in the second round and save some money in the process.
So I worked on some options using the ESPN Trade Machine and came up with some trades. While some are really pie in the sky, they'd make the Jazz better by addressing our biggest needs.
Andrei Kirelinko and Gordan Giricek for Kobe Bryant. Why this works - Kobe said he wants out. It helps the Jazz with a 2 who has a killer instinct. It helps AK by getting him on a team that would probably be a better fit. It gets rid of a problem for the Lakers in Kobe's trade demand and lowers their salary load. Why it doesn't - Kobe would never come to Utah. The Lakers may not be getting the best deal for it. It's in the same conference. Kobe wouldn't fit in Sloan's system. Kobe could stunt the growth of Boozer and Williams.
Andrei Kirelinko and Gordan Giricek for Cuttino Mobley and Corey Maggette. Why this works - salaries work, the Jazz tried to get Maggette several years ago, the Clippers have been going in a little different direction. Why it doesn't - The Clips may think they're giving up too much, Maggette's reconstructed knee.
Gordan Giricek, Jarron Collins, and a draft pick or so for Manu Ginobli. Why this works - salaries work, Manu would be a starter again, he fills the exact need the Jazz have, the Spurs get quite a bit in return, Manu would be a perfect fit in Sloan's system. Why it doesn't - Please, the Spurs get rid of Ginobli? I don't see that happening.

Propose something that would work and help both teams out, something realistic and logical that would help everyone out. Then maybe for some strange reason Kevin O'Connor will see it and do something. All we know is that both Boozer and Williams think there needs to be some change in order to get to the next level. Will it be in attitudes or will it be in personnel?

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