Early Report Card Grades for Every Utah Jazz Player

Denim MillwardContributor IIINovember 15, 2012

Early Report Card Grades for Every Utah Jazz Player

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    Though the vast majority of the NBA season remains, it's not too early to dole out grades for every Utah Jazz player.

    The eight games Utah has played give a glimpse at exciting new skills, such as a vastly improved three-point threat, and issues of concern.

    When making the grades, I decided it best to weight it about half for the player's raw production and half for how they're performing against reasonable expectations. 

    For those struggling, there's still plenty of time to right the ship.  For those excelling, time will tell if the great play is a mirage or a sustainable trend. 

    Here are the grades for every Utah Jazz player.

Paul Millsap: B+

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    Paul Millsap, the longest-tenured Jazz player, has been a consistent contributor. His effort and hustle are unparalled.

    Millsap has been scorching the nets from beyond the arc, going 8-for-12, including huge three-pointers in Monday's triple-overtime triumph over Toronto.

    Millsap may be the most likely player out of a crowded Utah frontcourt to be dealt due to his favorable contract number and his reputation as one of the more underrated players in the NBA.  It would break many a Jazz fan's heart if Millsap were traded, as his work ethic is only matched by his sense of loyalty. 

Al Jefferson: B

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    "Big Al" long ago established the player he is going to be for the duration of his NBA career. He's a dominant low-post scorer with limited passing ability and holes in his defensive game.  While his slow rotations and lack of challenged shots can be maddening, such a reliable low-post scorer is a valuable commodity to have.

    As this season began, Jefferson saw his points dip while newcomers Mo Williams, Randy Foye and Marvin Williams became accustomed to how the Jazz played.  More recently, Jefferson has become the Jefferson of old.

    Most recently, Jefferson hit clutch shots down the stretch in Monday's triple-overtime victory over Toronto, including making just the second three of his career to send the game to overtime. 

    Jefferson's defense has marginally improved, as has his passing, but neither are strong suits and probably never will be.  Still, Jefferson dropping weight in the offseason has been noticeable.

Gordon Hayward: B-

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    The pride of Brownsburg, Indiana, might not be thrilled with his B- grade, and in all fairness to Gordy, it might be a product of my lofty expectations for him.

    Hayward is developing offensively, there's no question about it.  He's becoming more aggressive and, at times, more confident in taking the ball to the rack and frequenting the charity stripe.  The main concern with Hayward is his shooting percentage.

    He is at career lows in field goal percentage (44) and three-point percentage (28).  If Hayward can regain his confidence and turn his shooting numbers around, he's all but guaranteed to have a career year.

Marvin Williams: B

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    It took a few preseason games for me to reverse my stance on Utah's decision to trade for Marvin Williams.  His ability to utilize his length to cause defensive problems for the opposition and his proficiency at hitting timely threes have made me a fan.

    Williams' only real issue, other than the time it's taking for him to get acclimated to his new team, was a shooting slump that he's already put behind him.

    If Williams can be a dynamic offensive player capable of dropping 20 points in any given game and a defensive specialist, he will continue to make former Jazz GM and current Jazz executive Kevin O'Connor look like a genius.

Mo Williams: B+

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    Mo's return to the Jazz nine years after being drafted has been a resounding success. 

    The Jackson, Miss., native is averaging 17 points per game, only one point-per-game below his career high, as well as a career-high 7.4 assists per game. 

    In addition to good production, Williams has brought vocal leadership and a swagger that were previously missing. 

    He could stand to improve defensively and adjust his game slightly to better fit the Utah offense, which only truly runs on all cylinders with a pass-first point guard. 

Derrick Favors: B+

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    I wanted to give Derrick Favors an A, especially after he held Andrea Bargnani to 0-for-10 shooting Monday night against Toronto. 

    Favors is an absolute terror on the defensive end.  No shot within 10 feet of him is safe.  He has the size and athletic ability to block anyone's shot, yet the quickness to stay with smaller post players. 

    If only his offensive game had progressed more than it has, Favors would be getting an A from me. 

    Alas, Favors continues to search for a go-to move in the post. He gets out of control driving to the hoop and relies too much on his freakish athleticism to cover up the holes in his offensive technique. 

    The second Favors gets an effective and reliable post move and/or shooting touch, you may as well anoint him an All-Star, because that's how close he is. 

Randy Foye: A-

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    Foye has surpassed what was reasonably expected of him coming into the season and earns the team's sole A grade. 

    While Foye's averages may not bear it out, he's come up huge in several games.  He has gone above and beyond his duties as a sharpshooter/bench scorer, and has also shown good effort on defense.

    That certainly isn't to say Foye is a lock-down defender, but the effort to stay with his man is evident. 

    Foye is yet another great find by the Jazz front office. 

Enes Kanter: C-

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    It's been a tough season for "Hollywood Turkey" Enes Kanter.

    The success Kanter had in the preseason, causing excitement over his development, has not carried over to the regular season.

    Kanter essentially looks just like he did last year.  He's been too reliant on the "up-and-under Kanter" when getting the ball in the post. And when the defender doesn't bite, or when a guard jumps in to double-team Kanter, the ball seems to be turned over as often as not. 

    Kanter's only 20 years old, and his basketball age is even younger since he's only been playing organized basketball for six years.  Utah fanatics hoped to see more development from Kanter on offense, but it hasn't shown itself yet.

    Despite Kanter's struggles, it's still far too early to label him a bust.  He has been hitting outside shots with more regularity, and his drastic offseason weight loss has caused a noticeable improvement in his athletic ability. 

Jamaal Tinsley: B-

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    NBA veteran and elder statesman Jamaal Tinsley is who we thought he was, to borrow a phrase from Herm Edwards.

    He is a sensational floor general and distributor, a subpar defender and a non-entity as a scorer.

    Tinsley has filled in well for the ailing Earl Watson, who was the backup point guard until an injury last season put him on the shelf for an extended period of time. 

    If Watson comes back healthy and is close to the defensive player and floor general he was prior to the injury, look for Tinsley to resume his role as third-string point guard.

Alec Burks: C-

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    Burks' body of work is almost too small to grade, but I decided to give him a grade anyway, with the caveat that the conclusions drawn are from a minute sample size.

    Debates raged among Jazz fans and analysts about whether Burks or Randy Foye should get more playing time at the backup shooting guard position.  While Foye's play has ended the debate for now, there was and still is a significant contingent of Jazz fans who wants to see Burks get more of an opportunity.

    Burks has been given only 15 minutes of playing time in five games. He's done absolutely nothing with the time he's been given.  Instead of utilizing his best skill by getting to the rim, he's settled for jump shots far too often.  As shooting is still a work in progress for Burks, the results have been predictably bad.

    Burks is still a talented guard with a lot of potential.  Yes, he needs minutes to develop, but he also has to ensure he's at the top of his game, makes good decisions and plays within the offense in the sparse minutes he gets. 

    Playing hard and playing smart is the best shot Burks has at getting more playing time.

DeMarre Carroll: B

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    In the interest of full disclosure, I must disclose my love for DeMarre Carroll.  He hustles more and works harder than just about anyone I've seen.  He may lack the natural talent of some of his teammates, but he makes up for it in work ethic and sheer desire.

    Like Burks, Carroll's sample size is small and it's unlikely to increase any time soon, as a recent shortening of the rotation left Carroll as one of the odd men out. 

    In true Carroll fashion, he took the demotion in stride. 

    Carroll is a great player for Utah to have in its back pocket. He provides instant energy and is a tenacious defender.  His offensive game is still under construction, but he has significant value to the Jazz, especially for a non-rotation player.

Jeremy Evans: Incomplete

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    The reigning NBA Slam Dunk champion's odds to crack the Utah rotation, barring injury, are looking increasingly slim.

    The uber-athletic Evans has shown little on the court to distinguish himself or justify more playing time.  Other than the insane jumping ability that earned him the moniker "the Human Pogo Stick," Evans is just another player at the end of the bench.

Earl Watson: Incomplete

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    Earl Watson has yet to play, but he was medically cleared to resume practicing with the team Wednesday.

    It will take time for Watson to get back into game shape. But once he does, he has a great shot at retaking the backup point guard role held by Jamaal Tinsley.

Kevin Murphy: Incomplete

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    Though it will be an invaluable learning experience, it could be a long season for Kevin Murphy.

    In addition to being the only rookie, Murphy will most likely watch every meaningful minute of Utah Jazz basketball from the end of the bench, his breakaway pants still unbroken.

    For what it's worth, I think Murphy has a real future in the NBA, despite his likely lack of playing time this year.  During Utah's summer league and in the preseason, Murphy impressed me with how quickly he transitioned from being a dominant scorer at Tennessee Tech to being a complementary player who played within the offense and took what he was given.

    Murphy may have been a big fish in a small pond in college, but I think he's smart enough to find a way to translate his finely tuned scoring ability to the NBA.