This installment of the “Match Up” series, focuses on the Utah Jazz. Today’s preview was provided by Amar from All That Jazz.
Amar wishes he got off his lazy ass to blog more than he does. His ramblings can be found on Twitter @allthatamar and at All That Jazz
The Utah Jazz headed into the 2008-2009 season with high expectations, only to pathetically limp out of the playoffs early. Last season’s 48 wins continued a downward trend for a team that was playing in the Western Conference Finals in 2007. The past season was an utter train wreck, including everything from over 150 player games missed due to injury to the death of the team owner, Larry H. Miller. Basically, anything positive from the 2009-2010 season will be seen as a step in the right direction by comparison.
The Jazz, faced with the most off-season uncertainty in recent franchise history (Mehmet Okur, Carlos Boozer, Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver, Kyrylo Fesenko, Morris Almond, Ronnie Price, Brevin Knight and Jarron Collins were all effectively free agents) responded to the lack of forward progress and stagnancy in the playoffs (knocked out by the Lakers two years in a row) in traditional Jazz fashion – by making no big moves and hoping to succeed with essentially the same roster that failed the season before. While stability has been a hallmark for the franchise, correcting the problems of previous seasons remains a slow evolution for the Jazz.
Unfortunately, numerous problems persist – particularly on defense. Utah has enough depth inside to hamper slow big men and fight athletic bigs to a virtual standstill – but Utah’s interior defense breaks down when faced against skilled bigs. Inability to defend the likes of the Gasols or Boshes one on one precipitates Sloan calling for a soft double which leaves passing lanes available to teams with good floor spacing. The situation usually resolves with opponents getting wide open looks from outside – which contributes directly to Utah’s poor perimeter defense. Utah is quite vulnerable to teams that feature both skilled bigs who can pass and dead-eye outside shooters. Thankfully, defense is but one aspect of the game.
Williams is the driving force of the Utah attack. While his ball handling ability has been much celebrated he is more than a one-on-one player. Deron leads mistake-free fast breaks and is flanked by athletic wings who finish plays above the rim with such flair that League Pass audiences are left wondering just how ‘fly’ the Jazz really are. Furthermore, Utah remains among the league leaders in rebounding differential and features a number of strong offensive rebounders on the roster. These extra possessions and Sloan’s precision half-court offense frequently ensures that the Jazz benefit from a larger time of possession with the ball than their opponents.
Utah is particularly dominant at home, where the high elevation; curious NBA schedule; and raucous fans create a hostile atmosphere for the opposition. Lastly, the Jazz boast a young core that has been together for a combined six playoff rounds, and only one major contributor is in his thirties (Okur). This last point may be a large factor that influenced the front office to stay the course and bank on Utah’s unusual confluence of both youth and cumulative experience.
Last Season Record: 0-2
dropped both games last season but surprisingly the story wasn’t told on the boards. Utah badly out-rebounded them the first game but the Raptors
held the rebounding edge at home. In both games though, Utah had 5 or more players in double digit scoring, once again exposing Toronto’s inability to play any kind of defense. Though Bosh
managed to fare well against the Jazz defenders, the rest of the team was unable to help out much making it a pretty easy game plan for the Jazz to execute.
The Bigs: The Jazz probably match up the best with the Raptors
a this position. Okur can hang with Bargnani
on the outside while Bosh
and boozer work the mid-range and in. Similar to the Raptors, the Jazz run a lot of pick ‘n roll and pick ‘n pop plays for their big men. The X factor that gives the Jazz the edge is the presence of Paul Millsap, a beast on the boards, he has slowly developed a solid offensive game and the Raptors
will have to utilize players like Reggie Evans and Amir Johnson to battle down low with him.
The Wings: Hedo Turkoglu has one line of defense to get past and its a formidable one – Andrei Kirilenko. AK47 may not be much of a threat on the offensive end of the floor now but he is still a force on the other end. Aside from him, the Jazz are working with Kyle Korver, C.J Miles and Matt Harpring at the wing positions which makes me think the Raptors
should be able to handle them. The Jazz are not a very tall team but if they decide to go small ball the Raptors
should be able to match up on that level as well.
The Guards: Deron Williams is an all-star guard and Ronnie Brewer has come into his own to become a viable option on offense for the Jazz on offense. Eric Maynor drafted out of VCU should get some minutes on a team that doesnt have much depth at this position past the starting spots. All this said, Brewer and Williams may be a better 1-2 starting combo than whatever the Raptors
can put on the court. Calderon
would be working with either Demar (currently a ? mark as to what he can bring on a nightly basis), Anoine Wright (defensive minded) or Belinelli (streaky). As for depth, the Raptors
get the edge which should even it out.
Predicted Record: 1-1 (Expecting the teams to protect home court)