I don’t listen to Utah Jazz commentator David Locke (because why listen to his podcast when you can put a fork in a garbage disposal and receive the same amount of enjoyment and information in half the time) but apparently a considerable amount of Jazz fans do – which is a problem when he consistently projects flawed analysis merely to support his employer.
One of Locke’s gems has become known as “The Oreo Cookie Theory,” which he explains as:
“…the Oreo cookie in Milk theory of young players where you have to dip them just right for their development. An overdip and you get a soggy cookie that has lost its value. An under dip and you didn’t get the value of the milk and if you dip perfectly then you have the ultimate combination.”
From this, Locke claims the ridiculous playing time progression (or lack thereof) for Utah’s Core-4 (Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter & Alec Burks) is actually the best course of action for their long-term development.
Never mind that there are players (Paul George, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, Iman Shumpert, Kenneth Farried, ect) from the same draft classes who have received considerable more playing time and are also playing on teams that have won more than Utah to disprove his theory.
Derrick Favors has already demonstrated he’s not a liability on offense and can play above average-defense on a team that desperately needs it, yet his minutes have not significantly increased despite improving the rest of his game. Similarly, Hayward has become Utah’s best perimeter playmaker yet saw his mpg and starts actually decrease from 2011-12. Ditto for Burks – who has become Utah’s second-best screen-roll guard – yet it took an injury to Utah’s starting point guard for him to receive any type of meaningful minutes on a consistent basis in late December. Enes Kanter completely changed his body which in turn has vastly enhanced his athleticism and defense to go with his ever-expanding low-post game – yet there were games in February where he would play 5-6 quality minutes in the 1st-half and never return to the game.
How on earth could playing capable players (who possess the potential to get better) more than mediocre-to-average veterans (who have maxed-out their ability) be harmful when you’re ultimately a lottery team anyway?
Not only has the Core-4 shown they can produce when given the opportunity – the success of their counterparts around the league further demonstrates that their development is being mishandled. Consider this:
- Every bigman named to the first, second or third All-NBA teams, as well bigs selected either first or second team All-Defense (which is where I feel Favors has the most potential) for the past 3 seasons had exceeded Favors’ and Kanter’s mpg averages in their first 2-3 seasons.
- Every guard named to the first, second, or third All-NBA teams for the past 3 seasons (with the exception of Steve Nash who after being drafted in the late 1st-rnd was a small-school point guard playing behind two greats in Jason Kidd and Kevin Johnson) had significantly exceeded Hayward’s and Burks’ mpg averages in their first 2-3 seasons.
The NBA’s best received more minutes as young players and are all the better from it. Conversely, there isn’t one shred of proof that over-playing a young player early in their careers will be detrimental to their future (and considering the average experience of an NBA player is just 4.7 years – it’s highly questionable if a 3rd-year NBA player should automatically be considered a “young player”).
The majority of players on these All-NBA teams were – like the Core-4 – lottery picks. These aren’t longshot prospects who claw their way into being quality players over the years. Favors and Kanter were #3-overall picks. Hayward was selected #9, and Burks #12. You don’t draft players that highly to be nothing more than a 15-20 minute per game bench player. Talented lottery picks still on rookie-scaled contracts are far too valuable. Furthermore, the reduced physicality of the game has made it easier than ever for 19-23 year olds to both play and succeed early in their careers. In the 90’s – the NBA was a grown man’s league where physicality was necessary to play in the paint (see Knicks/Heat Donnybrook) and a weak link was exposed and pummeled in the post due to rule changes (primarily the illegal defense) that promoted iso’s in the post and eliminated the help-defense and zones presently utilized by the league’s best defensive teams. Kevin Garnett came into the league as a 6-11 220-pound 18-year old and had to play SF in the mid-90’s. Anthony Davis entered the league as a 6-11 220-pound 19-year old in 2012 and played 29 mpg at PF.
Jermaine O’Neal has become the poster-child for the “Oreo Cookie Theory” – but there are a several of oversights in that comparison. First, in that era NBA centers had to defend the likes of future Hall-of-Famers Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, and Alonzo Mourning among others. The Pacers employed the Davis boys (Dale and Antonio) who were a set of power forwards who served as body guards in the paint. Jermaine O’Neal simply lacked the strength and physical development to hold his own inside at 6-11 220. By the time he arrived in Indiana in 2001 he was up to 248 pounds, playing primarily power forward and in a conference with a dearth of quality bigmen (see East/West All-Star rosters in early 2000’s). Over the past 12 years the NBA has become league lacking physically dominant centers and more focused on skill and athleticism rather than physicality and power. Furthermore, Portland was competing for an NBA title in the late-90’s and not in a position to sacrifice wins for long-term growth – as their championship window was clearly open only for a short period. O’Neal’s ultimate trade to Indiana demonstrates how much the league has changed – as the Pacers got an eventual 6-time All-Star while Portland settled for the 31-year old Dale Davis (a 10&10 guy at best) primarily to provide more muscle to throw at Shaq.
Considering Jermaine O’Neal’s situation in Portland and the 1990’s style of basketball – comparing his playing time to Favors’ is ludicrous.
The only thing still up for debate is if Jazz head coach Ty Corbin believes in “The Oreo Cookie Theory.” Regardless, it does nothing to alleviate the notion that Corbin is in way over his head at this stage of his coaching career. If Ty’s rotations are because he doesn’t want “soggy Oreos” – then he’s as misguided as Locke. If he’s limiting the Core-4’s development not because of “sogginess” but because he thinks the other players simply give his team a better chance to accomplish the goal of making the playoffs – then he clearly isn’t a good judge of talent. Either way, he’s wrong.
It’s hard to believe over 1000-words can be written over a radio commentator who I do my best to avoid, but Locke’s Oreo cookie analogy has become a source of mockery amongst Jazz fans and for good reason. Like the Jazz franchise for the past 2 ½ years – it’s corny, impractical and ultimately flawed.
An extra 5-10 minutes per night for Favors, Kanter and Burks would not have hurt their development, nor would it have been the deciding factor that kept the Jazz out of the postseason – since they missed qualifying for the playoffs for the second time in three years anyway. The only thing increased playing time for the Core-4 would have done (aside from you know – accelerating their development) was show that the thing most capable of growing soggy is a commentator’s tiresome drivel.