Utah Jazz: 5 Things We Learned from the Preseason
This preseason saw Enes Kanter take a mammoth leap forward in development of proficiency, as well as the continuation of Derrick Favors' meteoric rise to being one of the best defensive big men in the NBA. One has to remind themselves that, in many cases, Utah's young frontcourt forces were going against borderline or non-NBA talent.
Still, there are a number of reasons for extreme optimism. Also, there are a few points of concern that could determine how Utah's season goes.
Yes, results from the preseason need to be taken with a grain of salt, but that's far from saying they're completely useless.
Here are five points made clear by the preseason this year.
Enes Kanter Is for Real
2012 was most definitely the summer of Kanter.
After a visit home to Turkey and a healthy does of Mama Kanter's home cooking made him gain over 20 pounds, Kanter then embarked on what apparently was one of the most vigorous workout regimens in the NBA.
Two months after weighing a career-high 291, Kanter lost a jaw-dropping 50 pounds. Just to disprove any doubters, he also posted a number of pictures of his shirtless self looking like an Adonis.
Kanter's game has also appeared to improve as rapidly as his body. The once ground-bound center traded in his cinder block sneakers for a shiny new pair of Air Jordans and has made more above-the-rim plays in the preseason than he did all of last year.
How do you say "ridiculously giddy" in Turkish?
Minutes Distribution Will Be an Issue
Along with the huge benefits that come with having a tremendously deep roster comes the inevitable issue of divvying up the minutes in a manner that keeps everyone happy.
Even for the most gregarious NBA players, not getting your playing-time appetite satisfied and remaining happy about it is far easier said than done.
There is already a debate that could evolve into a controversy around whether Randy Foye or Alec Burks should get the bulk of the minutes as the backup shooting guard. Obviously Foye has more experience and a better outside shot, while Burks is more dependent on the minutes to build upon his brief but increasingly impressive resume.
Obviously, the best frontcourt depth in the league will inevitably leave someone with much fewer minutes than they'd normally get. Could that upset one of Utah's four main post players enough to demand a trade?
Utah's Frontcourt Is Loaded
If Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap weren't enough of a headache to deal with, now it can be argued Utah will see little to no drop-off when their backup post players come into the game.
Can anyone else in the league say that? If that indeed is the truth, what exactly are backup big men going to do? The reasonable assumption is "not much."
Al Jefferson can score nearly at will. Paul Millsap has an unceasing motor and a sweet mid-range stroke. Enes Kanter's bull-in-a-china-shop style is now complimented by a 15-footer and newly acquired athleticism. Derrick Favors' offensive game appears to be better than originally thought this preseason, and he's rapidly playing himself into Defensive Player of the Year talks.
Heck, even Jeremy Evans can do things like this, and he's the fifth big. The fifth!
The Jazz should have and continue to have internal discussions about moving one of their post pieces in an effort to better the roster. Either way, Utah will either give their opponents one throbbing headache down low or be a much more balanced team.
The 3-Point Shooting Issue Has Already Been Solved
Aside from an absurdly high foul rate, Utah's biggest black mark was on their three-point shooting, which ranked in the bottom five in the league.
Looking at last year's stats, Utah's best three-point shooter statistically, Devin Harris, was ranked 76th league wide. Through smart signings and acquisitions, they've gone from having no players in the top 75 to having three in the top 40.
In the preseason, this investment has already paid dividends, as the Jazz led the league in three-point shooting percentage.
Even if this trend doesn't directly translate to the same level of regular-season success, it will certainly be a huge improvement for them moving forward.
The Future Is Bright
This might seem a little inexact, but it has to be mentioned as one of the key takeaways from the preseason.
Prior to the preseason, there were a number of questions surrounding Utah's young players. Would Derrick Favors' offensive game improve? Could Gordon Hayward develop into more of an on-court leader and play with more confidence? Will Alec Burks improve his shooting and play more consistently within the offense? Can Enes Kanter effectively silence the few whispers of "bust" from people who passed judgement far too early?
The answer to all these questions ranged in answer from "it certainly looks that way" to "absolutey!"
The scouting reports for Utah's young guns have been so good, there's already talk of what the Jazz will do when they come to a crossroads similar to the one Oklahoma City recently came to when they decided to deal James Harden to the Houston Rockets.
That may be premature to think about, but multiple Utah Jazz players making their first All-Star team this year certainly isn't.