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Posts Tagged ‘Derrick Favors’

Jazz at Magic 12-18-13Final Score: Jazz 86, Magic 82

Player of the Game: Trey Burke scored a career-high 30 points go along with 8 assists and 7 rebounds in 40 minutes of play. He shot an impressive 12-20 from the field, 2-2 from the FT line and 4-8 from behind the arc while only turning the basketball over twice. The Jazz were +21 in Burke’s 40:28 minutes and -17 in the 7:32 he was on the bench.

Trey Burke 12 Field Goals:
6:46 1st-Qtr – Left-wing catch&shoot transition three.
5:09 1st-Qtr – Pull-up 18-foot banker from off high screen-roll with Favors.
0:03 1st-Qtr – Pull-up 17-footer on high screen-roll with Kanter.
3:58 2nd-Qtr – Left-corner catch&shoot three off ball rotation.
3:29 2nd-Qtr – Uncontested run-out layup (from Hayward).
2:19 2nd-Qtr – Transition catch&shoot right-wing three (from Hayward).
10:07 3rd-Qtr – Top-of-the-circle catch&shoot three (from Hayward).
8:16 3rd-Qtr – 20-footer off side pick&roll with Favors.
1:53 3rd-Qtr –  14-foot floater off glass on high screen-roll with Favors.
0:01 3rd-Qtr – 2-on-1 fastbreak that Burke kept himself by faking a behind-the-back pass then converting a hanging up&under reverse layup maneuvering around E-Twaun Moore. The proper play was to pass the ball to Burks on the left-wing for a layup but Burke finished with spectacular ball-fake/layup so I could only stay mad at him for about 5-tenths of a second.
6:34 4th-Qtr – Side pick&roll with Favors (screening baseline) for 15-foot floater.
3:45 4th-Qtr – Pump-fake dribble-in 16-footer from Hayward running a side pick&roll.

As you can see of Burke’s 12 baskets – 5 came via pick&roll, 4 came in transition and 3 came playing off-the-ball. The Magic defend screen-roll as I’ve diagrammed in great detail here, by going over on the screen and dropping the big back into the lane – where you’re funneling the ball-handler and/or screener into taking the mid-range jumper.

Trey Burke assists:
11:47 1st-Qtr – Hayward 22-foot pindown jumper.
10:48 1st-Qtr – Ball-rotation and swing pass to Jefferson for right-corner 3.
6:18 1st-Qtr – Transition pass ahead to Hayward for catch&shoot 18-footer.
0:53 1st-Qtr – Side pick&pop to Jeremy Evans for 18-foot baseline jumper.
5:26 3rd-Qtr – One-hand off-the-bounce bullet pass to Marvin for layup.
1:23 3rd-Qtr – Fastbreak pass to Hayward for layup.
7:45 4th-Qtr – Hayward 16-foot baseline jumper.
1:14 4th-Qtr – Hayward right-wing 19-footer off curl/pindown.

Of Burke’s 8 assists, 3 came in transition (in a low-scoring game the Jazz finished with 17 fastbreak points) and 5 of the 8 went to Gordon Hayward. Also only one of Burke’s assists came via the pick&roll although 5 of his baskets did – which again reflects what an Indiana/Portland-style screen-roll (which Corbin has finally begun consistently using) tries to do – which is take away the screener rolling to the basket and take away deep penetration that leads to direct layups or drive&kick threes. Favors had a couple pick&pop jumpers he missed and Evans made the one, but the Magic wanted to force Trey Burke to beat them with his mid-range game and last night Burke made them pay.

See A Different Game

The Jazz were able to create open looks thanks to Gordon Hayward’s hard and smart utilization of off-ball screens.

1. Here the Jazz run a little stagger-screen action for Hayward. Hayward’s man (#5 Victor Oladipo) trails, giving Hayward the green-light to curl the entire way around.

Jazz at Magic 12-18-13 #10

2. Hayward curls hard off the screens with Oladipo still trailing from behind – which forces Orlando to sag down to cut off his driving lane. The result is a simple kickout back to Burke at the top of the key for a three which he made (or a swingpass to the weakside if RJ’s man rotates). If they don’t drop down from the top but the big still shows out (like #9 Nikola Vucevic does) then Hayward can look for the big diving to the rim.

Smart basketball is about reading and reacting and when the Magic tried to defend this set differently – Hayward still made them pay.

1. Here Hayward’s man (#22 Tobias Harris) tries to shoot the gap.

Jazz at Magic 12-18-13 #11

2. Hayward reads this and rather continue his curl – the on-sight adjustment is to fade. Harris is caught going under and Hayward drains the 18-foot jumper to put Utah up 4 ultimately seal the win. These are the types of mid-range shots you don’t mind because they’re wide-open, in rhythm, and give the offense a positional advantage while putting pressure on the defense.

Film Room

Here are the sorted plays I mentioned above – beginning with:
1. Trey Burke’s pick&roll mid-range scores (watch how Orlando’s bigs dare him to shoot).
2. Hayward’s hard/smart movement utilizing off-ball screens (watch how the curl sets up scenarios where a simple kickout pass leads to a three/ball-rotation).
3. Burke/Hayward Transition Opportunities

___________________________________________

Odds and Ends

  • Trey Burke recorded the first 30-point game by a Jazz point guard since Deron Williams scored 39 points against the Spurs on January 26, 2011.
  • Utah’s 86 points are the fewest they’ve scored in a win since February 1, 2013 in an 86-77 victory over Portland.
  • Utah’s lineup of Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter played 4:30 together and were +5 over Orlando during that time.

Alec Burks – Forever Young

During last night’s game Peter Novak began tweeting out classic lovesong lyrics with Trey Burke’s name in them. (Sidenote: Peter’s is one of my favorite twitter follows, follow him for a nice dose of Jazz-related intelligent humor, snark, sarcasm, common-sense, and salary cap expertise).

In the spirit of Jazz lyrics, I thought I’d share my own – set to Forever Young by Rod Stewart.

Alec Burks – Forever Young
May Ty Corbin be your coach every day you wake
May your substitute check in after every drive you make
And may you grow to be a starter, vet-er-an and old
Who’s kept in the lineup no matter if he’s hot or cold
But if you score and play the same
In Ty’s heart you will remain
Forever young, forever young, forever young, forever young

May poor fortune be with you, may Ty’s job security be strong
May you always be blamed no matter if it’s right or wrong
And may you never start a game
And in Ty’s mind you will remain
Forever young, forever young, forever young, forever young
For-ever young

For-ever young

And when you finally leave the Jazz we’ll be doubting that we served you well
Why you never started here no one can even tell
But whatever team you choose
Dennis Lindsey wants Ty to help him lose
Forever young, forever young, forever young, forever young
For-ever young

The official music video is a bit dull, but in the Jazz re-make I see Jeff Hornacek singing this to Alec as they both ride in the back of the pickup immediately after he accepted the Phoenix Suns’ head coaching position, with Boler, Harpring, and Sidney Lowe making cameos in the motorcycle gang.

(And yes I know Ty has played Burks a lot more in the past few games while giving Jefferson fewer minutes and the lyrics I wrote are only like 10% serious. Well, maybe 25%.)

The Final Word

In his first 15 games Trey Burke had alot of great plays and multiple very good games – but last night it all came together as he turned in one of the best performances not only for the Jazz but in all of the NBA. Coming into the game he was shooting just 39% on two-point FG’s but he made 8-12 last night, to go along with 4-8 from behind the arc. He showcased his complete offensive repertoire, his passing ability, a beyond-his-years understanding of the pick&roll and he again took care of the basketball (only 2 turnovers and averaging just 1.4 for the season).

Burke is receiving major playing time as a rookie and he has made the most of it, continuing to develop and improve right before our eyes. I don’t think anyone is still recommending that Burke shouldn’t start simply because John Stockton didn’t start immediately nearly 30 years ago.

It’s also important to understand that the Jazz are still a team with a 7-21 record. If you claim the Jazz’s 1-14 start is irrelevant because of their early-season injuries, then you also have to say 4 of Utah’s 7 wins that came against opponents missing key players – Chicago (without Derrick Rose), Houston (without Chandler Parsons), Sacramento (without Rudy Gay) and now Orlando (without Aaron Affalo) – also deserve an asterisk.

With Burke back the Jazz are clearly playing better offensively (although even with Burke’s brilliance they struggled with a 37-point 2nd-half), played well defensively last night – and have started to resemble the fun, exciting and competitive team most hoped they would be entering the season. That doesn’t erase the trainwreck start Utah had to the season, but that reprieve seems to be a growing sentiment from those inside the organization that is reflective of the past several Jazz seasons. The problem is once you start making excuses – you lower the surrounding expectations, accountability and standards.

I feel fortunate the Jazz have a high-profile rookie like Trey Burke who not only has the talent and confidence in his ability – but most importantly is someone who’s been a winner on every level and is used to being on the right side of the scoreboard. I don’t expect the Jazz to win 3 out of 5 for the remainder of the season, but with Burke leading the way I do feel confident losing won’t be something the players will come to accept or excuse. Jazz fans have big goals in mind for this team down the road, but most importantly – so does Trey Burke.

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Jazz at Nuggets 12-13-2013Final Score: Jazz 103, Nuggets 93

Derrick Favors – Unleashed

Derrick Favors scored 19 points, grabbed 6 rebounds, blocked 4 shots and affected numerous others as he anchored the paint for the Utah Jazz. He’s now shooting 58% in his last 16 games, and 65% in his last 7. Even though Ty Lawson definitely appeared rusty and hampered in his return from a hamstring injury – Utah’s defense was arguably the most impressive aspect of last night’s win as they held the league’s 9th-best offense nearly 10 points below their season average.

Play of the Game: 8:02 4th-Qtr – With Denver leading 81-77, Nate Robinson drove to the basket where Derrick Favors smothered his layup at the rim – starting a 2-on-1 Utah fastbreak resulting in a Hayward-to-Burke layup. The play sparked a 10-2 Jazz run as Utah would go on to outscore the Nuggets 26-12 to close.

Favors’ 4 blocks were a season-high, giving him 7 in the last two games. The primary reason is the Jazz are finally putting him in a position to succeed – by allowing him to consistently play defense in the paint. I mention this constantly but last night provided the most crystal clear examples illustrating why Ty Corbin and Sydney Lowe have been stifling Utah’s potential with their pick&roll defensive strategy.

Watch and take note of Favors’ positioning (proximity to the basket) while also observing how little/much strain is being placed on Utah’s help defense:

Prior to Favors’ back injury, the Jazz asked their centers to show out hard on the ball-handler – and then recover to their man. The Heat often do this with their tremendous speed rotations utilizing the abilities of Wade, LeBron, Battier, Haslem, Bosh, Birdman, ect. That’s not Utah’s personnel.

Now, the Jazz are allowing their 5 to sit back in the lane – a la Roy Hibbert. By having their guard go over the screen – Utah’s defense is essentially funneling the ball-handler into the mid-range area while staying at home with shooters on the perimeter. Best of all, they’re keeping their primary shotblocker in the lane where they can utilize their size to their advantage rather than their lack of footspeed (not that Favors is slow, but he’s not faster than crisp passing).

Jazz at Nuggets Screen-Roll Defense Comparison

It doesn’t take a genius to determine you would rather have an athletic 6-11 shotblocker within 15-feet of the rim instead of 24′. Among the many teams who defend in this manner – it’s what Frank Vogel has been doing with Roy Hibbert, what the Spurs have often switched to while relying on Tim Duncan’s presence, the style  Blazers are now adopting to limit opponents’ open 3pt-attempts, and what the Charlotte Bobcats are now doing to cover for Al Jefferson. Fool Ty Corbin once, shame on you. Fool him 200 times and he’ll make an adjustment.

Some media members are obsessed over Favors’ lack of a go-to move, but he is plenty good right now. He’s an incredibly efficient player scoring on pick&rolls, offensive-rebounds and dives to the rim – and defensively he can do things that maybe 10 big guys can do in the entire NBA. If he adds a bigtime consistent low-post move fine – but right now the Jazz are just letting him go out and play (at both ends) and it’s fun to see. 4 years/$47 million is looking better each night.

Offensive Stat Mining

After shooting 13-23 (57%) from behind the arc in Sacramento, you knew that mark was something the Jazz couldn’t sustain. It didn’t appear to be the case early on last night, as Utah shot 6-7 (86%) in the 1st-Qtr. In the 2nd-half they finally came back down to earth – shooting 1-7 in the 2nd-Qtr and 1-7 in the 2nd-Half to finish the game 8-21 (38%) from deep.

As I wrote during the preseason – Richard Jefferson had quietly become a good spot-up three-point shooter over the last several seasons. After shooting 19% from deep in the first 8 games, he’s now up to a respectable 39% for the season that helps offset his subpar defensive play. His 5-6 mid-range and 6-7 3pt-shooting in the past 2 games assuredly will not continue – but it’s still likely he will continue to hover around 40% on threes for the season.

Marvin Williams’ 3pt-shooting is something more interesting to keep an eye on. At 42% in 2013-14, Williams entered the season as a career 33% shooter from behind the arc, never shooting above 39% and shooting above 36% in a season just once. Perhaps it’s from receiving more open looks playing PF, perhaps he’s having one of those hot 3pt seasons (like Matt Harpring in 2002-03), perhaps he is indeed a much-improved shooter or perhaps he’s due for some regression in the final 57 games of the season.

It also raises the interesting question, why are the Jazz so willing to play a veteran stretch-4 next to Favors this season that stifles Kanter’s development while ignoring the tremendous potential of a Paul Millsap/Favors pairing? While the Marvin/Favors frontcourt duo entered last night’s game with a +3.5 Net-Rating, last season Millsap/Favors produced a +4.6 Net-Rating that was up to a whopping +10.3 in 2011-12.

Regardless, with Marvin in the lineup the Jazz offense has kicked into high-gear – averaging nearly 9 more FG attempts per game, 1.2 more FT attempts, 2.6 fewer turnovers and 3.5 more 3pt-attempts in his 7 starts. Conversely, their offensive rebound rate is down 2.4% – or about 2 offensive rebounds per game.

At the same time, it’s still premature to automatically assume those numbers dictate that simply replacing Kanter with Marvin results in a better Jazz team. While the offensive boost does reflect favorably for Marvin – it also coincides with the return of Trey Burke, who since replacing John Lucas at PG has made a world of difference for Utah on the offensive end. Marvin definitely gives the Jazz spacing for more 4-out-1-in sets, but does figure to cause Utah matchup problems against bigger teams.

In the games Trey Burke starts – the Jazz shoot better from virtually everywhere. They average 2.2 more FG attempts per game (shooting 3% higher), shoot 1.3 fewer FT’s, actually attempt 1.9 fewer threes (but shoot 10% better) and most importantly turn the ball over 4.2 fewer times. The discrepancy between Burke and Marvin’s offensive boost lies in the 4 more games Marvin missed last week. Although Kanter played very well individually – as a team Utah’s offensive output and efficiency declined although much of that could also be attributed to playing the league’s top-2 teams in 3 of the 4 games, as well as a weaker supporting cast that included big minutes for a less impressive RJ, Mike Harris and of course Andris Biedrins.

If you look at how Kanter played against Indiana and Portland – it’s clear he still has the same potential and ability to be a good player in this league that he did to start the season. How that’s able to happen with Marvin starting is unclear – but in order to meet Dennis Lindsey’s 3-D’s – this is something that must be sorted out.

The Final Word

The Jazz have played good basketball in a large portion of their last 8 games – showing some encouraging improvement at both ends of the court. Offensively much of that improvement is due to the return of Trey Burke – who now gives Utah a playmaker at point guard that makes the game easier for all of his teammates.

Defensively, the adjustment in defending the pick&roll is a welcomed change but before we go give Ty Corbin a medal – let’s remember coaching isn’t simply figuring out one defensive tactic and then calling it a day. It’s about constant adjustments.

Look at how Greg Popovich has altered the Spurs’ identity from a post-up/kick-out to 3pt-shooters team in his 1998-99 championship team that had virtually no perimeter playmakers – to a more versatile inside-outside team in the mid-2000’s to today’s masterpiece that is a hallmark for the modern-day perimeter-oriented motion/screen-roll/floor-spacing/3pt-shooting ensemble many teams are trying to perfect.

Furthermore, look at Utah’s franchise where Jerry Sloan altered his system from the Stockton&Malone offense to fit the talents of the 2003-04 talent-devoid team and then back to more of the Stockton&Malone system with many tweaks to better suit the Deron/Boozer teams.

Each year coaches have a different team with players possessing different strengths and weaknesses. Taking 20 games (which is generous given you could argue it’s closer to 1-2 seasons) too long to adjust something obvious like pick&roll defense (that also includes flawed initial thinking) is certainly less than ideal for a professional basketball coach. Where 1 game can determine homecourt advantage, 5 games playoff potential and 10 games between meaningful basketball in March/April – perhaps the only thing saving Corbin now is Utah’s horrid start put them in such an embarrassing hole that low expectations have since plummeted to absurd levels where a single win regardless of opponent is now being hailed as a phenomenal coaching achievement.

To his credit, Corbin has adjusted Utah’s offense from the predominant low-post (Al-fense) centered around Al Jefferson to more of a versatile screen-roll system (which also magnifies the lack of diversity in last year’s strategy and foresight). He’s doing a better job utilizing timeouts to stop the flow and break offensive/defensive lulls and is being a little more creative with is lineups and rotations. Last night I thought he was smart to leave Jeremy Evans in until about the 4-min mark of the 4th-Qtr which gave Utah a nice lift on the boards.

If you thought Ty was a good coach from the beginning then you’re probably overjoyed (or stumbling around blindly – just kidding but not really) after the past couple games. If you thought he’s been a poor coach for much of his first 2 1/2 seasons then the start to this season probably has cemented that belief. If you were on the fence, it’s unlikely a 2-game win streak or the recent 4-game slide set amidst the backdrop of a 6-19 season is enough to sway you either way. As of today, Ty Corbin is still a lame duck coach without a contract extending past this season – and I think that fact speaks loudest of all.

Looking Ahead

With the 18-4 San Antonio Spurs coming to town, the Jazz have a great opportunity to show they can repeat their recent hot-streak against a high-caliber opponent. With San Antonio playing on the second night of a back-to-back (after Duncan played 36 and Parker 35 minutes), the Jazz have a good chance to jump on the Spurs early  – similar to their last meeting where strong performances by Favors and Burks allowed them to play from ahead much of the night before a 4th-Qtr meltdown gave San Antonio a 91-82 victory.

This time around, the Jazz have Trey Burke back playing terrific basketball in getting his teammates quality looks, they have Gordon Hayward (who probably had the best game of his career last night and I should have mentioned more), Alec Burks and Derrick Favors all rolling to go along with the hot-shooting of veteran journeyman Jefferson and Williams.

Pop is still the best – and it will be interesting to see how he defends Burke in the pick&roll tonight, how he attacks Marvin at PF, and if he tries to go big with Duncan&Splitter. The Jazz are still only 6-19, but their recent play provides not only more hope for the future but also plenty of intrigue in a game that on paper looks like a mismatch.

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Jazz at Warriors 11-16-13

Final Score: Warriors 102, Jazz 88

Run It Back

Player Of The Game: Derrick Favors – 17 points, 7 rebounds, 8-12 shooting.
Favors continued to showcase more of his offensive confidence and skillset despite inexplicably spending the first 9-minutes of the 2nd-quarter on the bench despite no foul trouble and an 8-point on 4-5 shooting 1st-qtr.

Favors’ 8 field goals:
1. Face-up on David Lee from right-wing, dribble to baseline then step-back jumper.
2. Pick&pop 17-foot jumper off nice feed from Burks.
3. Right-block running jumper going middle, contact on way up but still banked in.
4. 1-on-1 vs Lee at FT line, one dribble right then spin back left and kissed fadeaway off-glass.
5. Offensive rebound putback.
6. Cross-screen action freed him up for layup while also drawing foul on Bogut.
7. Pick&roll with Jefferson rolling to basket for another 3pt-play opportunity.
8. 12-foot jumper over Bogut facing-up on left-block.

On Utah’s roadtrip Favors appeared to lose a lot of confidence in his offensive game. Gradually over the past four games he’s regained that and now he’s taking and making shots that have surprised us as well as his defenders.

On Favors first three jumpshots to start the game, the most encouraging part was they looked so much better. When Favors misses, he usually shoots a flat-footed jumper where he aims it at the rim. These were jumpshots where he didn’t hesitate, got good elevation and went straight up into a smooth release.

Inside vs Outside?

The Jazz probably should have gone to Favors more inside. When getting the ball on the block, Favors shot 4-6 for 8 points. He got on additional post-touch resulting in a pass out. Kanter in the post shot 2-5 for 4 points but also had another post-up resulting in a kick-out to Jefferson for a three.

Insead of post-ups, Utah ran a majority of screen-rolls and dribble-hand-offs (to go along with their usual assortment of 1-on-1 drives when everything breaks down) throughout the game with middling success. After the game Ty Corbin said, “We’ve got to put together 48 minutes, especially on the road. We have to do it.” The Jazz were outscored in every quarter but one. They got hot in the 3rd-quarter by relying on the three-pointer – a formula which simply isn’t sustainable success over a 48-minute ballgame for this team.

Utah Jazz shot-breakdown: 3rd-Qtr vs 1st, 2nd & 4th-Qtrs

2-pointers 3-pointers     Paint
Qtr FG Att FG% FG Att 3pt% FT Att Pts
3 6 11 54.5% 5 6 83.3% 2 2 6
1, 2, 4 21 49 42.9% 3 11 27.3% 8 14 26

So the Jazz shot 27.3% behind the arc in three quarters and 83% in the only quarter they “won.” Coincidentally, Utah is shooting 27.6% on threes for the entire season. They had only shot over 40% on threes just once entering last night – which came in their only win. It’s not hard to see what percentages are legitimate and which are a fluke.

The Jazz are clearly a poor three-point shooting team, although they’re taking a lot (nearly 17 per game which is just a shade under their franchise record set last season) and both their scoring and offensive efficiency is dreadful. For the season the Jazz are -86 on points-in-the-paint and are scoring just 39.6 per game after averaging 42.9 last season and 48.4 in Jerry Sloan’s final full season as coach.

I fully understand the numbers which support shooting threes, but if you shoot 27.6% (twenty-seven percent!) and have a ton of turnover problems, maybe try and get the ball inside a bit more? Just a little? Worst thing that can happen is you miss, which is something we’re all used to by now.

Odds and Ends

  • The Jazz opened the game with Favors guarding C Andrew Bogut and Kanter guarding PF David Lee, presumably to keep Favors closer to the basket to protect the rim. It didn’t work out so well as the quicker Lee drew foul a Kanter on a drive then hit uncontested jumper over him early. To start the 2nd-half, Favors was matched up on Lee and Kanter on Bogut.
  • In the 2nd-qtr Mike Harris made a great steal on Speights went the whole way but missed the layup, Kanter missed the follow, Marvin got the rebound and was stuffed and GS got a free runout capped by a Draymond Green dunk. Not easy to turn a fast-break opportunity into an 0-3 possession and 2-on-0 the other way but the Jazz did.
  • The Jazz lost their 4th game this season where they failed to hold the lead at any point.

Screen-roll defense

Against the Warriors, Utah’s pick&roll defense was slightly tweaked but had more of the same results. They chose to have the guard go over on the screen (because you can’t go under on a Steph Curry or a Klay Thompson) and have their big show out and then recover.

Once again, this created a 4-on-3 disadvantage that sent Utah’s defense into a scramble-drill that gave Golden State any shot they wanted. Even when the Jazz defended well within their guidlines, they still got burned.

Example #1:
7:11 2nd-Qtr – Warriors’ lineup of Curry, Thompson, Iggy, Barnes, Bogut versus a Jazz line-up of Lucas, Burks, Harris, Marvin, Kanter.

Warriors run high screen-roll between Curry (guarded by Lucas) and Bogut (guarded by Kanter) roll. Curry came off the screen with Kanter showing out until Lucas could catch up. As result, Curry hit Bogut rolling down the lane where Mike Harris rotated up and met him outside dotted circle to stop Bogut’s dive cold.
Considering Utah’s strategy, Harris’ rotation was as good as you can hope for. The problem is, with the rotation Kanter now has to guard Harris’ man – which was Andre Iguodala. The Warriors recognized this, gave Iggy the ball iso’d on Kanter where he easily breaks him down off the bounce. This sets up a sequence of draw and kicks that sucked Utah’s defense in and ultimately resulted in a wide-open three for Iggy that he knocked down to put Golden State up 35-21.

Example #2:
5:18 2nd-qtr – Curry/Bogut side screen-roll with Lucas/Kanter again sticking on Curry. Bogut rolled to the rim which dragged Burks down to the lane leaving Thompson wide open on the wing for a three to put GS up 46-29. Rotation and pass was no different than the Deron/Boozer screen-roll which Utah ran throughout, most notably in Game 2 vs Denver in the 2010 Playoffs that resulted in the game-wining three by Kyle Korver.

The Final Word

Screen-roll defense can be complex but one concept is simple: If you don’t pressure the ball yet consistently end up with two defenders helping on the ball-handler, you will consistently get beat trying to defend the entire court with 3-against-4.
This is why great defensive teams re-direct the ball-handler (normally away from the screen) where they can then calibrate their help-defense to one side of the court. That way your numbers disadvantage is always on the weakside where you only have to cover half the court (25′ x 25′), as opposed to letting the ball-handler use the screen at their discretion – spreading your help-defense across the entire court (25′ x 50′).

Obviously the reason so many teams run screen-roll so often and so well is that a perfect pick&roll is impossible to defend. However, you can employ strategies to increase your chances of stopping it and that’s something the Jazz continue to struggle with.

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Spurs at Jazz 11-15-13

Final Score: Spurs 91, Jazz 82

Run It Back

Play of the Game: 10:06 4th-Qtr – Off a Jazz turnover, Tony Parker pushed the ball to the basket where he then veered along the baseline and found Danny Green running to the corner for a three that gave San Antonio their first lead at 72-69 since 6:08 1st-Qtr. The Spurs would never trail again.

Player of the Game: Derrick Favors – 20pts/18reb/3blk/3stl. Favors was the best bigman on the floor last night, owning the boards, defending the paint and showing a lot more offense.

Here’s a rundown of Favors’ 10 FG’s:
1. 12-foot jumper in lane off high screen-roll.
2. Two-hand dunk on offensive rebound.
3. Layup off baseline seal vs Jeff Ayres’ ¾ front post-position.
4. Baseline drive and push-shot over Duncan.
5. Right-block up&under vs Duncan.
6. Right-block pivot, spin and left-hand jumphook over Duncan (off re-post).
7. Driving layup off high screen-roll with Richard Jefferson.
8. 15-foot Duncan-like angle banker off a Hayward penetration and kick.
9. Driving layup off Hayward side-screen roll.
10. Two-hand dunk off Jefferson penetration and kick.

Favors in the post was a mixed bag – as he shot 2-6 but also netted a defensive 3-seconds and an open Kanter jumper (missed) drawing a double-team. (By comparison Duncan shot 3-7 in the post). Favors’ repertoire is improving but he’s not yet a go-to low-post scorer and should probably get between 3-5 post touches per game depending on matchups. He’s still at his best as a screen-roll player, where he not only gets opportunities but creates ones for his teammates through their ball-handling and his own improved ability to pass on the move.

Best Shot: 3:25 1st-Qtr – The Spurs started the game going under on screen-roll, so Alec Burks pulled-up and shot a three from the left-wing to put the Jazz ahead 19-10 early.

Best Move: 1:40 2nd-Qtr – On the right-block Favors backed down Duncan, pump-faked middle then made a gorgeous step-through up&under finishing around Duncan with his long extension.

Best Play: 11:48 4th-Qtr – The Spurs opened the 4th-qtr with a double down-screen for Boris Diaw (guarded by Marvin). Ginobili and Duncan picked off Marvin and neither Kanter or Burks switched, resulting in a wide-open top-of-the key three for Diaw to bring the Spurs within 4 and spark a 16-4 run.

Best Block: 10:07 3rd-Qtr – Driving middle from the left-block Duncan attempted to send it in strong but was emphatically rejected by Favors. Favors rejected Duncan twice and in his last two games has recorded 5 blocks and 8 steals.

Best Drive: 10:57 2nd-Qtr – Alec Burks came off a Kanter screen (Parker actually went over) and drove right up Tiago Splitter’s chest, drew contact to neutralize Splitter, hung in the air and kissed it off the glass.

Run of the Game: Not only did the Spurs outscore the Jazz 31-15 in the 4th-qtr, they started the final period on a 12-2 run to go from down 7 to up 3 in less than 2-minutes.

Let’s review the sequence:
Spurs #1: Opened with the well-executed Diaw three described above. 3-0.
Utah #1: Utah responded with a side-screen roll but Burks went away from the screen and shot an air-ball taking a contested jumper.
Spurs #2: Jazz defended a Manu 1-on-1 drive very well to force miss.
Utah #2: Off Ginobili’s miss, Kanter threw a wild outlet that Burks tipped to himself and then went all the way for a layup over Parker and Green. 3-2.
Spurs #3: San Antonio came back with a weakside down-screen for Green, where Burks shot gap and Green faded resulting in a switch with Marvin. Marvin (a natural SF) stuck with Green who backed up and drilled a corner-three. 6-2.
Utah #3: Side screen-roll where Burks hit Kanter diving to the rim but shot blocked by Diaw.
Spurs #4: In transition Parker drove hard on Garrett and hit a ridiculous reverse layup and RJ fouled him too. 9-2.
Utah #4: Another Burks/Kaner side screen-roll Burks/Kanter but Kanter dove to deep and didn’t give Burks an angle to pass, resulting in another turnover.
Spurs #5: Off the TO, Parker pushed and hit Green in the corner for the go-ahead three. 12-2.

Utah’s halfcourt defense was pretty solid all night, what burned them were turnovers and ill-advised shots where Parker pushed it ahead in transition.

In-Game Adjustments

Jazz Screen-Roll Defense
In Utah’s road loss to Boston, I explained how Ty Corbin adjusting the Jazz’s pick&roll defense was the catalyst in allowing them to slice a 25-point deficit to 8.
Against the Celtics, Utah was getting burned having their bigs show out and then recover – which was giving Boston a 4-on-3 advantage that they were fully exploiting. It was effective when the screener wasn’t an offensive threat but with 4 other players who can pass and score – it was a defensive sieve.

Here’s what I wrote 11/7/13 on the adjustment:

Ty’s adjustment was to stop the drive and go over. Here, the big defending the screener sags off and defends the paint while the guard/wing goes over the screen and trails the ball-handler from behind. In this situation, the big is back in the lane and still in position to play the drive as well as pick up the screener rolling to the rim. Instead of 4-on-3, it became more of a 2-on-2 game with Utah daring the ball-handler to take a quick mid-range shot off the bounce. A John Stockton, Chris Paul or even a James Harden can counter this and it isn’t effective against side screen-roll.

In the 1st-half, that was exactly how the Jazz played the Spurs and it worked to phenomenally. Prime example:
-0:00.3 2nd-Qtr – Spurs ended the half with a Parker/Duncan high-screen roll with Favors guarding Duncan. If Favors showed out hard then tried to recover to Duncan, Parker would’ve either been uncontested at the rim or drawing and kicking to open shooter in the corner. Instead the Jazz went over the screen and Favors sat back in the lane and was able to use his freak athletic ability to stuff Parker at the basket.

In the 2nd-half, Utah’s bigs showed out more which gave the Spurs weakside advantages against Utah’s rotations.
-3:35 3rd-Qtr – Favors guarding Splitter, showed out hard on the ball setting off Jazz rotations that gave Diaw an open-three and also allowed Splitter to establish position beneath basket before Favors could recover. Splitter got the offensive rebound and then drew Favors’ 4th foul on the putback – sending him to the bench.
-8:41 4th-Qtr – Spurs side-screen roll, Favors showed out allowing Duncan to set up beneath basket. Spurs swung ball from the wing to the top-of-the-key and then fired it inside to Duncan who had angle to seal Favors on his back for an easy left-hand layup.

I’m not really sure why the Jazz altered their defense – unless they were in fact trying to tank. (Only explanation I can imagine is they were trying to protect Favors/Kanter from fouling in vulnerable side screen-roll – 1:25 1st-Qtr Spurs ran side screen roll and Ayers was fouled by Favors on a dunk attempt.)

Spurs’ Screen-Roll Defense
The ironic thing about Utah’s bizarre strategy is Gregg Popovich made virtually the exact opposite adjustment on San Antonio’s pick&roll defense.

The Spurs began the game going under on screens and daring the Jazz to beat them from long range. In the 1st-qtr, that hurt them as both Jefferson and Burks hit threes where the Spurs went under. It paid off as over the next three-quarters Utah’s long-range shooting went cold (2-12), such as at 1:05 3rd-Qtr where Hayward missed a wide-open top-of-key three off screen-roll.

Mid-way through the 4th-quarter, Popovich again changed his screen-roll defense – to how Utah opened the game: Going over and stopping the drive. This worked brilliantly.
Remember I wrote “it isn’t effective against side screen-roll” – because with the spacing/angles the big playing the driver going middle leaves the screener wide-open rolling to the basket.

After the adjustment:
-6:07 4th-Qtr – Utah came out of a timeout with a Hayward/Favors side pick&roll with Favors rolling free for the layup. After that Utah ran high screen-roll with Hayward which played right into the Spurs’ hands. Hayward’s defender (Danny Green) would go over the screen and chase from behind, and the screener’s man (Duncan) would sit back in the lane taking away the drive.
-5:26 4th-Qtr – High screen-roll and Hayward pulled up and missed a 20-footer.
-4:58 4th-Qtr – High screen-roll and Hayward tried to drive the whole way but Duncan easily blocked his layup attempt.
-4:24 4th-Qtr –  Side pick&roll and Kanter was open going to the rim but he fumbled the pass resulting in a jumpball.
-3:39 4th-Qtr – High screen-roll where Favors tried to dribble-weave around Duncan but again missed a pull-up 14-footer.

Perhaps on a different night more of Hayward’s mid-range shots fall, but late in the game the Spurs altered their defense to take away Hayward’s 3pt-threat as well as his drive-game. They forced him to take mid-range jumpers or shoot into the teeth of Tim Duncan’s interior defense – and it worked.

If the mid-range game isn’t working (Hayward shot 0-9 on two-point shots outside the paint), the Jazz need to adjust by running more side screen-roll which is the anecdote.

Spurs’ Low-Post Defense
Enes Kanter had two left-block post-ups in the first 13 minutes. Like they did against Al Jefferson, the Spurs over-played Kanter’s left-shoulder forcing him to spin baseline (something Al couldn’t do effectively). Both times Kanter did, taking 8-foot baseline turnarounds where he made the first (5:00 1st-Qtr) while the second one just rimmed-out (10:45 2nd-Qtr). After seeing more offensive diversity than they perhaps anticipated, the Spurs began fronting Kanter in the post (including Duncan who normally plays behind). Once in the 4th-qtr the Jazz tried to flash Favors to the FT line looking for the quick high-low but Kanter was unable to keep Diaw sealed on his back. When the Jazz play the Spurs again, (12/14) they need to clean up their high-low execution because that should be an automatic layup every time.

Odds and Ends

  • Marvin Williams injured his nose on a inadvertent blow from Favors where Diaw back-screened Favors – resulting in Duncan springing free for a layup while Marvin was doubled-over.
  • The Jazz bigs had 3 offensive fouls on moving screens. The first two weren’t their fault.
    #1.) 3:46 2nd-Qtr – At the top-of-key Kanter tried to swing ball weakside and run a dribble-handoff, but RJ was too late coming up from the corner. As a result, Kahwi Leonard was able to stay on RJ’s hip and force an extremely tight dribble-handoff where Kanter had to pivot to protect the ball, resulting in movement/contact.
    #2.) 4:22 3rd-Qtr – Favors picked up his 3rd foul setting a screen where Garrett didn’t wait for him to setup. Shooting 1-7 with 3 turnovers, Garrett came back down to earth but hopefully a lot of that was from unfamiliarity with the offense and his teammates.
    #3.) 3:18 3rd-Qtr – Gobert called for a moving screen where he was set and then moved – totally on him.
  • In the 2nd-half Kanter struggled in side screen-roll. The Spurs pushed baseline and rotated, forcing Kanter to dive to the rim, three times he had his shot blocked and two other times Utah turned it over on the pass.

The Final Word

Overall it was a loss you can be satisfied with if you’re a Jazz fan. The Jazz held the lead on the Western Conference’s best team for three quarters. Favors had a monster game. Burks played well considering he was making his first career start – at point guard no less. Hayward had an off-night and the Jazz were still in prime position entering the 4th-quarter.

In the 4th, the Spurs’ brilliance shown through where they reminded us they still have that extra gear that Utah simply can’t match. The difference in on-court experience as well as coaching acumen was quite evident.

It’s also clear that the Jazz were woefully underachieving during the awful basketball they played – particularly in the 5-game stretch from Nov 5-11. All along many felt the Jazz were better than their listless double-digit defeats, and the effort and intensity the past two games is indicative of that.

There were good things but also a lot of lessons the Jazz can learn from a defeat to a team representing the class of the NBA, by both the players and coaches.

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Derrick Favors vs Clippers 10-23-2013

Run It Back

Final Score: Clippers 108, Jazz 94.
Player of the Game: Derrick Favors. A lot of different players played well, but Favors was an absolute monster and produced in every quarter.

Derrick Favors – Quarter-by-Quarter Statistics
Qtr Pts Reb FG Att FT Att Ast TO PF Min
1st 8 4 4 7 0 0 1 0 2 12
2nd 2 5 1 2 0 1 1 0 0 6
3rd 8 5 2 3 4 5 0 1 1 12
4th 6 3 3 5 0 0 1 2 2 7
Total 24 17 10 17 4 6 3 3 5 37
FG% 59% FT% 67%

Favors set the tone from the outset with a deep post-up on Blake Griffin where he sealed, got a nice entry-pass from Richard Jefferson and went up for a bigtime finish that DeAndre Jordan wanted no part of. By the time the quarter was over he had added a power layup on a mismatch with Jared Dudley, and two jump hooks over Griffin – a left-block baseline spin right-shoulder hook and then right-block left-shoulder jump hook.

Over the final 3-quarters Favors continued to finish strong at the rim while also stepping out on the floor and hitting mid-range jumpers and showing more of his left-hand jump hook. Easily Favors best game of the preseason and the first time he scored 20-points or more in a Jazz uniform since 3/4/13 when he posted 23&15 through 3-quarters before inexplicably riding the bench in the 4th-qtr and overtime.

Best Play: 11:10 1st-Qtr – Favors got Utah on the board with the seal and dunk against Griffin. What made it so effective was Favors started the play on the weakside while Utah ran side-screen roll with Hayward&Kanter. Because that forced Griffin to be the pick&roll rotating big, it allowed Favs to establish deep post-position on him. Utah did a nice job swinging the ball across the court where Favors could make the quick duck-in & seal the lane. That’s the type of play that can manufacture a quality look and get someone like Favors going early.

Best Execution: 2:22 4th-Qtr – High screen-roll with Hayward and Favors. Favors rolled down the middle and Antawn Jamison rotated up to cut off Favors’ drive. Favors made an excellent dump-down pass to Kanter who scored at the rim while also being fouled. Favors was an an effective stationary passer last season but this pass on the move was a primary source of turnovers for him. Malone and Boozer were outstanding at it and when executed properly is another example how a well-executed pick&roll can produce beautiful basketball.

Best Move: 10:57 1st-Qtr – Favors got the ball on the left-block, reverse-pivoted, took a hard dribble right then spun baseline and delivered a left-hand jump hook over Blake Griffin.

Worst Move: 6:20 1st-Qtr Blake Griffin tried to take Favors off-the-dribble from the top of the key, making an ugly crossover in which he turned his right ankle and fell down. Naturally, the refs whistled Favors for a foul and gave Griffin 2 FT’s even though replays showed there was no contact.

Best Dunk: 4:02 3rd-Qtr – Chris Paul and Griffin ran the side pick&roll to perfection, with Blake exploding to the rim over Rudy Gobert (who wisely pulled back to avoid ending up in a poster).

Best Follow-Dunk: 10:36 – 4th-Qtr – With one hand, Gobert emphatically slammed in a missed Mike Harris jumper. There have been a lot of wingspan giants over the years who lacked the athleticism and coordination to be an above-the-rim player at the offensive end. Even a point-blank range, Gobert still showed he has the potential to be more than just a shot-blocker.

Best Pass: 10:10 4th-Qtr – Running in transition Alec Burks shoveled a no-look dish to Scott Machado filling the lane for a layup to put the Jazz up 81-76 and force a Doc Rivers’ timeout.

Runner-Up: 7:16 4th-Qtr – Rudy Gobert got he ball on the left-block and made a gorgeous drop pass to a baseline cutting John Lucas III who promptly air-balled the layup.

Best Block: 11:18 1st-Qtr – Blake Griffin drove right on Favors only to have his 5-foot runner sent back by the long arm of Rudy Gobert. On the very next possession, it was Byron Mullens turn to be rejected by Gobert at the rim. Following his 2nd block, Gobert ran the floor hard and had what appeared to be an open dunk attempt but lost the ball on the way up. He was noticeably winded after that sequence but he played hard and made a tremendous impact (5 blocks, 12 rebounds in just 20-min).

Best Jazzbasketball Play: 9:06 2nd-Qtr – Utah quickly got setup and into their flex offense, with Mike Harris passing from the high-post (right elbow) to a back-cutting Alec Burks for a layup.

Run of the Game: A 2-hand Gobert dunk put Utah ahead 83-78 with 8:58 to play before the Clippers answered with an 8-0 run over the next 2-minutes that proved to be the difference in the game. During LA’s run Alec Burks played out of control with two wild layup attempts that were blocked preceeding Lucas’ airball off the pass from Gobert.

Sneaky Good Player of the Game: Gobert’s impact was obvious. Richard Jefferson put together another efficient game with 11 points and 5 assists on 3-5 shooting, 4-4 from the FT line and 1-1 from behind the arc. In the 3rd-qtr he scored 7 consecutive Jazz points including a nice step-back jumper on the right wing. If he stays within himself and takes care of the ball, he could definitely be a solid starter.

Quote of the Game: I watched the game on an internet feed instead of on TV. This feed played live audio instead of commercials. During halftime, Boler and Harpring had a hilarious “off-camera” exchange about Floyd Mayweather (who was apparently at the game and pointed out by one of the producers). After asking the producer if they could get him for an in-game interview, Harpring then remarked “He’s probably got $5-grand on this game.” My computer probably now a bunch of spyware on it but watching Jazz games on strange internet-feeds does have it’s perks.

Stat of the Game: It was a tale of two-halves for Gordon Hayward, who shot 5-9 in the 1st-half but just 1-9 in the 2nd-half.
After a brilliant start that likely only caused Doc Rivers’ man-crush on Gordon to grow, Hayward struggled to score in the 2nd-half. In my opinion – the struggles were partly due to the Clippers wearing him down, and party due to Utah’s lack of a quality point guard play that put too much pressure on Hayward and forced him too far out on the floor. Even in the first-half, he took a lot of off-the-dribble threes and long-2’s that are great when they’re going in overall the odds will likely catch up to you.

Gordon Hayward – Quarter-by-Quarter Statistics
Qtr Pts Reb FG Att FT Att 3pt Att Ast Min
1st 5 1 2 5 0 0 1 3 0 12
2nd 7 0 3 4 0 0 1 1 2 5
3rd 2 2 1 5 0 0 0 0 2 8
4th 5 3 1 4 3 4 0 0 2 7
Total 19 6 7 18 3 4 2 4 6 32
FG% 39% FT% 75% 3pt% 50%

Again it’s hard to criticize a 19/6/6 performance in just 32-minutes of play, but the 1-9 second-half shooting is definitely worthy of discussion following a close loss. This is Hayward’s first time in a leading role, so it’s natural for him to go through some growing pains closing out games as well.

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Final Word

Overall this was Utah’s best preseason performance to date, in my opinion more impressive than their lone victory over Golden State when factoring in opponent, competitiveness of the game and the manner in which they competed. Even though Utah tried hard to win and came up short, if they can combine the levels of intensity and execution they showed tonight 60-70 times during in the regular season – there won’t be many complaints about the 2013-14 Jazz season regardless of their win-loss record.

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He’s Back

Following the game, Hoopsworld’s Alex Kennedy reported that the Jazz and Jamaal Tinsley had come to terms on a contract and that Tinsley would join the Jazz prior to Friday night’s preseason finale against the Lakers in Anaheim.

There are two reasons I think this is a terrific move by the Jazz:
1. Tinsley can be an excellent mentor for rookie PG Trey Burke. Unlike John Lucas III, Tinsley has extrodinary court-vision and a 6th-sense that all visionary point guards possess. He can help Burke understand passing angles in the NBA, when to look to push the tempo (Tinsley is still very good at knowing when to throw ahead in transition), and how to slow down in transition to create passing lanes.

Also Tinsley was once in Burke’s shoes. He was the potential franchise point guard for the Indiana Pacers before his career took a sharp swerve that knocked him out of the league completely. While Trey Burke is a outstanding young man coming from a great family, having someone like Jamaal to provide that “Don’t do what I did” example as well as show him that “I’ve learned what it means to be a professional and this is how you do it” approach.

2. There’s a very good chance Tinsley can help the Jazz on the court while Trey Burke is out. John Lucas III has been hot-and-cold offensively and hasn’t been particularly strong orchestrating the offense. Tinsley is the quintessential veteran pass-first point guard who can at the very least come off the bench and stabilize a 2nd-unit that often struggles to score. If he starts, he may struggle defensively but he’ll take some of the pressure off Hayward to make a play every time the shotclock is winding down.
Bottom line: Jamaal Tinsley makes the Jazz a better team.

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Derrick Favors

1. Fair Market-Value

Two other bigs from the 2010 NBA Draft Class have signed extensions. #5-overall pick DeMarcus Cousins signed a maximum 4-year $62 million extension while the 15th-overall selection Larry Sanders signed a 4-year $44 million deal.

Favors’ deal falls between both. He doesn’t possess the pure offensive ability of Cousins, but he’s a much better defensive player (Cousins has been a horrible defender and their offensive efficiency is comparable). Although he doesn’t quite put up the gaudy shot-blocking numbers Sanders does, I consider Favors’ a slightly better defender in terms of being able to show&recover on screen-roll, having the size to guard power players in the post and being able to rebound the ball at both ends. Offensively Favors scores at a slightly better rate and gets to the FT line more.

Other bigmen who have come to terms on long-term contracts in the 2013 NBA offseason (ranked by annual salary in descending order):

-Dwight Howard: 4-years/$88 million
-DeMarcus Cousins: 4/years/$62 million
-Al Jefferson: 3-years/$41 million
-Josh Smith: 4-years/$54 million
-Derrick Favors: 4-years/$49 million
-Nikola Pekovic: 5-years/$60 million
-Larry Sanders: 4-years/$44 million
-Tiago Splitter: 4-years/$36 million
-Carl Landry: 4-years/$26million

You could say Favors’ deal is a few million too high or that before it’s all said and done should actually be a few million higher and you’ll get some arguments both ways but you wouldn’t get crazy looks. As of today it seems pretty fair.

2. Give-and-Take

I really didn’t expect an extension for Favors to get done. I figured Favors’ camp would hold out for a near max-contract (with the belief he could get one next year if not now) and that the Jazz brass would balk at paying more than the $11-million Larry Sanders received in his deal (two players with similar production even though Sanders received more minutes than Favors).

In the end both sides met in the middle, with Favors taking less than the max and the Jazz offering more than Sanders’ deal.

3. 2014 And Beyond

How does this affect Utah’s salary cap situation in 2014?

Let’s hypothesize and say Favors’ extension starts at an even $12 million, and go further and assume Hayward re-ups starting at $11 million flat (unlikely that’s the case but just play along with these reasonable salary figures). Disregarding cap holds as well as 2014 rookie salaries, the Jazz presently have 7 guaranteed contracts on the books for 2014-15 likely totaling in the $30-million range.

Comparing that with the 2013-14 salary requirements – Utah could quite realistically have  around to $15-18 million in cap room (dependent on renouncing cap holds/2014 draft picks).

2014 Utah Jazz Player Salaries

Pos Player Exp Age 2014-15 2015-16
PG Trey Burke 1 22 $2,548,560 $2,658,240
SG Alec Burks 3 23 $2,202,000 TO-$3,034,356
SF Gordon Hayward 4 24 $11,000,000 $11,000,000
PF Derrick Favors 3 23 $12,000,000 $12,000,000
C Enes Kanter 2 22 $5,694,674 TO-$7,471,412
PG Jeremy Evans 3 26 $1,794,872
SG Rudy Gobert 1 22 $1,127,400 $1,175,880
Total       $36,367,506 $37,339,888
13-14 Min: $52.811mm ~Min: $16,443,494 $15,471,112
13-14 Cap: $58.679mm ~Cap: $22,311,494 $21,339,112
13-14 Tax: $71.748mm ~Tax: $35,380,494 $34,408,112

Next offseason both Enes Kanter and Alec Burks will be due contract extensions. As I’ve written before, re-signing Favors, Hayward, Kanter and Burks is unrealistic because while you’re likely to slightly overpay on that first extension following the rookie contract (when potential often still outweighs production) – multiplying that excess by 4 is simply not wise business considering it’s unlikely all four ever reach a game-changing or superstar status (for whom you’re willing to overpay). So while it’s possible one large-money extension will kick in for the 2015-16 season, you still afford yourself the luxury of signing a high-end 2014 free agent – not quite a max-guy, but someone in the $8-10 million range (Granger? Deng?) who can solidify a position.

Additionally, Utah holds 6 first-round picks over the next 4 drafts including two #1’s in the loaded 2014 draft. They have assets, young talent and even with Favors’ extension they still have cap room. That trifecta is what you dream for when you’re rebuilding.

4. $49 million worth of pressure is better than RFA pressure

While Favors’ now faces the burden challenge of living up to his $49 million contract extension, he also no longer carries the pressure of playing this season for a new contract. Finally being given a fair opportunity, it will ultimately come down to how driven he is and if he can stay healthy. While we’re not 100% sure on either, I feel a lot better with those unknowns than with a 22-year old who is not only suddenly playing a major role on a team with a talent-depleted supporting cast – but also with the weight of being a leader who is facing the uncertainty of restricted free agency.

5. It Makes Ty’s Job Easier

Favors’ long-term contract will make head coach Ty Corbin’s job so much easier this season. We’ve been told repeatedly how much of a challenge it was for Corbin in 2012-13 to deal with 8-9 players who were pending free agents. This year’s Jazz figured to have 7 potential free agents and Favors’ extension reduces that number by 1 which lessens the incredibly unfair and extreme circumstance Ty faced last season. And that’s a wonderful thing.

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Durability wasn’t an issue for a 23-year old Andrei Kirilenko – who played in 240 out of 246 regular season games before signing a 6-year/$86 million extension in 2004. Once Tony Parker fell into his knee on November 27, 2004, AK would miss an average of 18 games over the next 8 seasons.

Nobody knows if Favors’ extension will turn out to be a steal like Paul Millsap in 2009 (when many said matching a 4-year/$32 million offer-sheet was too much for a backup PF) or four more years where production never meets promise. That’s the risk you take when you relegate lottery picks to bench roles for the first three seasons of their career. Nobody freaked out when Deron Williams signed a 4-year/$70 million extension in 2008 because we knew by then he was worth it. While we don’t know if Favors will live up to expectations, we do know Al Jefferson is a talented low-post player who can’t lead a team to a playoff victory so you can’t say we’ve learned nothing from the past two seasons. (Not trying to knock Big Al, just showing how Utah’s misguided and short-sighted 2012-13 strategy is still biting them in the rear).

What the Jazz did was gamble that Favors will meet his potential in a manner that saves them a few million bucks down the road – money that can be spent on extensions for his fellow teammates or on potential free agents. I like Derrick Favors and I think in two years (remember his extension doesn’t kick-in until 2014-15) nobody will be worrying if Utah overpaid him.

Favors and Kanter were the crown jewels in “the Deron Williams trade.” Deron re-upped with Brooklyn for 5 more years last offseason, it seems only fitting that Favors’ re-signed with the Jazz to extend the final verdict of that trade. A lot can happen in those 4 years, just ask Deron Williams.

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Utah Jazz Toughness

You know, most of the teams that we’ve had here have been pretty nasty — and they will get after you from daylight until dark. We’re just learning how to get after it a little bit more as we go along with younger guys.”
– Jerry Sloan, 2009.

These comments were made amidst the Utah Jazz’s 5-game first-round defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers, but they still ring true today. While most players enter the league as strong competitors – developing NBA championship-caliber toughness is something that must be acquired through the experience of playing against the best talent at the highest level.

During a Utah Jazz home loss to the Dallas Mavericks on January 19, 2012 – there was a dead-ball incident where 33-year old Dirk Nowitzki slapped the ball out of 20-year old Derrick Favors’ hands. While Favors merely walked to the other end of the court, Earl Watson stepped in for his teammate and sent Nowitzki a message that the Jazz weren’t going to lay down and allow themselves to be disrespected.


(Courtesy of TheRealMLC)

Favors’ passive response resulted in no penalty against Dirk, and only Earl Watson received a technical foul for his actions. It was a stark contrast in player reaction compared to a similar scenario involving former hard-nosed Jazz player Matt Harpring in 2003. During Game 4 of the Jazz’s first-round matchup with the Kings, Sacramento’s Doug Christie slapped the ball out of Harpring’s hands reminiscent to Nowitzki’s actions – but Harpring clearly wasn’t prepared to sit back and take it.

Matt Harpring’s aggressive response elicited a technical foul call against Doug Christie from referee Dick Bavetta. Clearly as a player, if you passively allow an opponent push the boundaries – their chances of getting away with it increase. Even moreso than technical fouls, simply earning respect and showing you won’t allow an opponent to walk all over you is the principal matter.

Now fast forward to this past season. During a home game against the Warriors on December 26, 2012, a late elbow thrown by Jazz center Enes Kanter on Warriors forward Carl Landry resulted in guard Jarrett Jack (GS’s veteran leader) getting in the face of the 20-year old Kanter. This time, the first person to step in was Derrick Favors – who then went nose-to-nose with Jack.


(Courtesy of jazzfanatical)

For all the talk about the inexperience of the Core-4, they’ve shown they not only are developing their all-around games and skill sets – but also their intangibles which include toughness and grit. This can only bode well for the future.
As I believe Utah’s long-term identity should be as a defensive-oriented team in the mold of an Indiana or Memphis, collective toughness is imperative from your core players. It takes an incredible amount of toughness, camaraderie, and desire to treat every defensive possession with the utmost importance. Not only must you be physically willing to sacrifice your body by drawing charges and contesting every shot, mentally you must have the mindset to always have your teammate’s back by playing attentive help-defense.

That’s what makes this type of maturation – where Favors instantaneously steps in to back up a teammate – exciting to see. It’s not something that can be quantified with statistical analysis and it’s not something that can be learned from sitting on the bench. Growth and development is about more than just developing a jump hook, it’s also about taking action and doing things that quality veteran leaders do – and I think Derrick Favors is progressing well in those areas.

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Derrick Favors Enes Kanter Alec Burks

There appears to be growing anticipation that the Utah Jazz will finally enter theh 2013-14 season with their “Core-4” all featured in prominent roles. Perhaps this will be the year the Jazz are finally willing to look to the future which features two #3 picks, a #9 pick and a #12 pick – all of whom were drafted within a year of each other.

Should that be the case, the next question then becomes: “What will be the production of the Core-4 while playing increased minutes on a consistent basis?”

In my opinion Gordon Hayward – who despite being relegated to starting just 27 games last season – has come the closest to displaying what he can do as a regular. With limited opportunities in an offense that often relied upon Al Jefferson and Mo Williams to dominate the basketball – Hayward still produced 14.1 pts/3.1 reb/3.0 ast averages in 30 mpg that is quite comparable to Paul George’s offensive numbers when extrapolated out on a per-36 minute basis. With more offensive opportunities while playing a few more minutes, it’s not unrealistic to expect Hayward to plateau in the 16-18-point range while hopefully maintaining 45/40/80 shooting percentages.

Many more question marks lie with the future production of Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, and Alec Burks. While it’s impossible to predict – some quality information can be gathered by examining their past performances when playing significant minutes.

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We’ll begin with Derrick Favors. Favors has played 168 career games with the Jazz (including 4 postseason games) and has exceeded the 30-minute mark in 16 (9.5%) of those. Here are his averages in those games:

Favors’ Averages When Playing 30+ Min
Pts Reb FG% FT% FTA Blk Stl TO MPG
14.2 10.6 52.6% 68.1% 4.3 2.8 1.3 1.4 34

W/L: 10-6
Team +/-: +16
Favors +/-: +43

Obviously averaging 14&11 on 53% shooting with 3 blocks and over a steal per game is huge – but for a big who at times was plagued by turnovers – the 1.4 TO’s in 34 mpg was equally impressive.

As is the case with Favors – quite often he makes his defensive impact felt beyond the boxscore (like he did March 22nd in San Antonio where the Jazz were +15 with him on the court but -22 with him on the bench).

Utah posted a 10-6 record in games where Favors played 30 minutes or more (with two of the losses coming in the 2012 postseason against a vastly superior Spurs team). More impressively, the Jazz’s overall net point-differential was +16 in those 16 games but when Favors was on the floor he posted an individual plus/minus of +43.

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Unfortunately, the sample-size of 30-minute games for Enes Kanter is much smaller.

Kanter has eclipsed the 30-minute plateau just 4 times in 2 seasons. Not only did he record a double-double in each game – he posted averages of 17.8 pts and 12.5 rebs on 57% shooting from the floor with the Jazz going 3-1. Although two of those games were 30-point Jazz routs – Kanter started both of them and his double-double production played a large role in determining the final outcome (including a 23-point/22-rebound performance vs Charlotte).

However in order to enlarge the sample size – here are Kanter’s averages in his 19 career games in which he surpassed the 20-minute mark.

Kanter’s Averages When Playing 20+ Min
Pts Reb FG% FT% FTA Blk MPG
12.1 8.2 54.7% 78.6% 3.5 0.9 25

W/L: 8-11
Team +/-: +19
Kanter +/-: +73

The Jazz posted an 8-11 record in those 19 games – but upon further review W/L isn’t indicative of Kanter’s performance. When closely reviewing the circumstances of each game – 6 of the 11 losses were 20-point defeats where Kanter received much of his playing time due to the Jazz starters were getting throttled. A 7th loss was a game in Dallas in which the Jazz trailed by 21 in the 4th-qtr only to have their bench (including Kanter) lead them back to within 3-points late before eventually falling 113-108. Conversely, only 3 of the 8 wins could be labeled “blowouts” in which it could be assumed the outcome was long decided before Kanter reached the 20-minute benchmark.

A better inclination of Kanter’s effectiveness is the fact the Jazz were +73 with him on the court and only +19 with him on the bench in those 19 games. Combined with an impressive 12&8 with Boozer-like shooting efficiency in little over half of a game – and it’s obvious that given the opportunity Kanter can produce and do it very effectively.

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As was the case with Kanter, playing time has been hard to come by for guard Alec Burks as well.

Burks broke the 30-minute mark 7 times in his 2 seasons, posting averages in those games of 14.0 pts, 4.0 reb, 2.7 ast and 1.3 stl on 55% shooting from the floor, 79% from the foul line and 50% (5/10) from behind the arc.

Similar to Kanter – the sample size was enlarged to include all games in which Burks played 20 minutes or more.

Burks’ Averages When Playing 20+ Min
Pts FG% FT% FTA 3pt% Reb Ast TO Min
10.2 43.9% 75.2% 3.2 36.8% 3.4 2.1 1.8 25

W/L: 28-18
Team +/-: +118
Burks +/-: +197

Again – the 28-18 W/L record should be taken with a grain of salt. The Jazz went 11-6 in 2011-12 when Burks’ exceeded the 20-minute mark but several of those games were blowout wins with Burks receiving playing time to close. With that said, the 17-12 record Utah posted in 2012-13 with Burks playing 20+ minutes carries more weight- with very few of the 17 wins coming with Burks’ playing mostly garbage time. Unlike his rookie year, Burks was relied upon in most of those games to play not only 2-guard but a good deal of point due to injuries and ineffectiveness of Utah’s veteran PG’s.

As was the case with Favors and Kanter, the Jazz had a significantly higher point-differential with Burks on the floor (+197) than with him on the bench (+118). (Similar to Favors, in the March 22nd overtime loss in San Antonio the Jazz were +14 with Burks on the court and -21 with him on the bench.)

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These numbers could mean Favors, Kanter and Burks are due for breakout seasons – or they could mean the exact opposite. The obvious counter is “Well their averages are inflated because they played those minutes in games they were playing well. As bench players – if they weren’t playing well Tyrone Corbin could sit them and those poorer performances aren’t included in their averages.

Desspite the fact there were also countless times in which Favors, Burks or Kanter played extremely well yet still never received increased playing time – there is a good bit of logic behind that counter and it illustrates one of the biggest challenges the Core-4 will face should they be placed in leading roles. Going from super sub to fulltime starter is an adjustment and a learning process that not everyone is ready for. Jerry Sloan gave 21-year olds Andrei Kirilenko and DeShawn Stevenson the opportunity to start in 2002-03 and neither was ready. Kirilenko gave way to Matt Harpring – where both flourished with Harpring having a career season and AK finishing 3rd in Sixth-Man of the Year voting. The following year Andrei was more than ready to start and he made his only all-star appearance as a 22-year old.

There will be games where Favors/Kanter/Burks get off to tough starts and they must develop the mental toughness and focus to work themselves though those rough patches. Gordon Hayward showed that ability last season, with games such as April 5th against New Orleans where he shot 1-8 in the first-half but responded with a 20-points on 8/10 shooting 2nd-half.

Eventually, the Core-4 will need to reach a level of professionalism and experience where they are able to provide consistent performances on a nightly basis, and there will likely be many hiccups during the learning process.

With that said – it cannot be debated that when given the opportunity in the first 2-3 years of their careers, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks have all produced and have all shown they can be a valuable presence for the Jazz. The rest is up to them, but they need to have that responsibility placed upon them in order to take the next step.
More so than even from a Jazz-perspective, for the sake of their promising professional careers – I sincerely hope the Core-4 gets the chance to shine this-coming season. And whether they succeed or not – it’s still a chance that will be long overdue.

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Favors vs Grizzlies 3-16-13

Derrick Favors scored 10 points, grabbed 6 rebounds and blocked 2 shots in 27 minutes of play as the Utah Jazz defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 90-84.

While the the play which generated the most buzz afterward was Marc Gasol fouling Favors with his shoe – the most impressive play of the game (and arguably of Favors’ 2012-13 season) was a 1-on-1 spin-move against the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year in which Favors started from behind the 3pt-line and ended directly at the rim (1:28-mark).

This play exemplifies the fun things that can happen when “athletic 6-10 bigman” meets “offensive polish and fundamentals.”

Favors vs Gasol 3-16-13 #1 #1. Favors begins his dribble-drive move behind the 3pt-line, 24-feet from the basket.

Favors vs Gasol 3-16-13 #2

#2. Driving left, Favors recognizes his initial driving lane is clogged and picks up his dribble.

Favors vs Gasol 3-16-13 #3

#3. Favors spins middle – with 15-feet and a 7-1 center still seperating him from the basket.Favors vs Gasol 3-16-13 #4

#4. This is where it’s clear Favors has been working on his footwork. He isn’t making the spin simply because he couldn’t go the other direction. Like great players – he makes the spin to get to where he wants to go on the court. He executes a fundamentally flawless drop-step with his left foot (moving from his initial spin at point-A to point-B) – gaining the positional advantage on Gasol when his drop-step (left) foot lands outside of Gasol’s shoulder-width.Favors vs Gasol 3-16-13 #5

#5. Once Favors’ left foot lands outside of Gasol’s position – it serves as a spring board for Favors to gather himself with a big one-two and extend toward the basket. Being 6-10 with a 7-4 wingspan – Favors is able to use a fundamentally sound spin-move as means to navigate 15-feet against a 7-1 center who was named the league’s defensive player of the year.

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These tantalizing plays that are the reasons Jazz fans carry such high hopes for Derrick Favors. Obviously there’s a big difference between doing it once and doing it consistently – but it’s clear Favors didn’t just “luck into” this basket. He has the athletic ability, he’s shown development in his fundamentals – now what he needs is a meaningful opportunity to supplement his self-improvement in order to fully realize the potential that made him the #3 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft..

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Favors at Nets 2012-13 Filmstrip

Against the Nets, Derrick Favors recorded 13 points, 2 assists and 3 blocks in a close 92-90 Jazz road victory.

To me, the most impressive play wasn’t Favors’ 180-degree reverse dunk – it was the the second assist he recorded (0:22-second mark). The most underrated aspect of Favors’ game is his passing, and I honestly believe he was Utah’s best low-post passer last season. Here against Brooklyn he showed he can also pass out of the high-post.

Jazz Horns #1

In Utah’s standard Horns set, Gerald Wallace reads Mo Williams’ eyes the whole time and gambles by going for what he thinks will be a blindside steal. However, Favors sees him coming (most bigs would’ve kept their backs to Wallace in that situation) and picked up Marvin Williams on the auto-cut to the basket. Another impressive aspect of this play is Favors hands and fundamentals. He made a  clean catch and immediately kept the ball high – had he brought it down to his waist Wallace has a steal and fastbreak the other way.

Jazz Horns #2

Those are the little things that make the difference between an easy layup or a turnover and fastbreak dunk for the opponent – which is a 4-point swing and the type of thing that can lose you games on the road.

Jazz Horns #3

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