On Wednesday, Greg Miller and Karl Malone announced on live-radio that Karl Malone would be working as a “big man coach” for the Utah Jazz on a part-time basis. The long-awaited move, which fans (and Karl Malone) have been beseeching Jazz management to consider for months, brought a sense of relief to fans that finally the organization was committed to developing their two bigs drafted third overall – Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter.
Despite the fact that the catalyst for finally bringing in outside resources was actually Derrick Favors himself rather than the dormant Jazz front office, the end result is Karl Malone will be tutoring Favors and Enes Kanter which is definitely a positive sign.
At this point, the most pressing questions pertain to what Karl Malone will actually teach Favors and Kanter. Obviously, credentials including the #2 all-time leading scorer and 2-time league MVP speak for themselves, but for those who didn’t have the opportunity (or blessing) to watch Karl Malone play live - or perhaps have forgotten details of his game in the 10 years since he’s last worn a Jazz uniform – here’s a refresher course.
Let’s start with a quick review of Karl Malone’s offensive repertoire outside of running Utah’s vaunted pick&roll with fellow Hall-of-Famer John Stockton. (Note: Each move/shot contains one specifically-linked-to, single-play example in case any further clarifying is needed beyond the descriptions).
Left-block repertoire: Sweeping hook shot going middle (example), pseudo-left-shoulder jump hook in which he kept both hands on the ball until it was above his shoulders (example), could roll into lane for over-hand baby-hook (example), roll into lane for under-hand scoop shot (example), dribble-pound fade-away jumper off left-shoulder (example) and right-shoulder (example), no-dribble half-turn fade-away (example).
As teams began to assign 7-foot centers to guard Karl due to his superior strength – Malone developed a deadly face-up game stepping off the left block in which he would reverse pivot with his left foot and either pop a 15-foot baseline jumper (example) or drive hard baseline and finish with his left-hand (example).
Right-block repertoire: Pseudo-jump hook keeping both hands on ball and kissing it off the glass, right-shoulder fall-away off both left leg (example) and right leg (example), and a very reliable and oft-used Jack Sikma face-up fall-away jumper (example and example).
This isn’t taking into account Malone’s ability to seal his man for an easy layup (example), draw fouls off his pump-fake (example), use his body to shield a defender to finish (example), or simply taking the ball right into the defender’s chest with the sole intent of getting to the free throw line (example).
Perimeter: In addition to his baseline jumpers, Malone made himself one of the best mid-range jump-shooting bigs in the league – extending his range out to a reliable 20-feet. In Jazzbasketball – one of Malone’s favorite spots was the high-right elbow which he would get to out of Utah’s UCLA-set in which he would catch and swing the ball through for either an 18-foot jumper (example) or if played tight would drive hard right (example).
How Much Can Translate to Favors and Kanter?
With all of that said, in all practicality I don’t think specific “Karl Malone moves” will be the primary result from Malone’s tutelage of Favors and Kanter, nor should it be initially. Favors and Kanter have one advantage right now that Karl didn’t have – and that’s more height and standing reach to the point they can get their shot off cleanly without utilizing their body (leaning in, falling back) to always gain an advantage. Rather than overwhelm them now with too many items on the menu, ideally Karl could teach them 1 or 2 basics that they could then try to hone throughout the offseason. It took Karl 10-15 years in the league to master all of the moves listed above. For two 21-year olds - pick one move (it doesn’t have to be a Malone move) and like Karl Malone did – work on it, master it, then add another move next offseason and repeat the process.
Beyond that, I presume the biggest benefits Malone will have for them are in much broader areas.
Obviously Malone’s legendary work-ethic and physical fitness speaks for itself and hopefully will rub-off. On the court – so could some simple yet hard-to-master nuances - like teaching Kanter to establish deep-position, and to use his body to seal his man (the goal being to get more “paint catches” as well as protect the post-feeder which Kanter often times leaves hanging out to dry by not keeping his defender on his back). Malone could teach Favors to keep both hands on the ball to power through (instead of shooting through) a defender’s outstretched arms in the paint. He could teach them both the importance of conditioning and running the floor hard. Karl Malone didn’t run hard just to get fastbreak dunks from John Stockton – he also ran hard to tire out his man to make his job easier as the game wore on.
Kanter has shown he can get up and down the court in transition and although Favors has shown flashes, I often saw Derrick loafing a bit when the Jazz gain possession (in fairness to Favors, he’s usually the last line of defense and also knows the chances of him getting the ball on a delayed fastbreak are small).
Similar to how Stock helped Deron Williams learn the “spots” in the flex that he could get his shots in 2006, Malone could teach Favors and Kanter how to set their man up on cross-screen action and get point-blank looks at the basket (the cross-screen action that the Jazz under Corbin have partially scrapped because Al Jefferson can’t score while catching the ball on the move). With Favors’ and Kanter’s mobility and physical 3′s (in Marvin Williams and hopefully DeMarre Carroll) - Utah could get more easy paint points with smart and hard cross-screen action.
As you can see, there are a myriad of things Karl Malone could teach Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. Only time will tell the effectiveness of Karl’s instruction and the ability of Favors and Kanter to process and translate that onto the court. Until then, the biggest questions will pertain to what Karl is specifically working with Derrick and Enes on – but they are certainly ones Jazz fans can look forward to finding the answers on.