Utah Jazz Stock Watch: Risers and Fallers Heading into NBA All-Star Break
Despite the greater Salt Lake City area being several thousands of miles away from Wall Street, there are still plenty of good stocks in the Beehive State to snap up as quickly as possible and a few that you may want to consider dumping.
As the 2012-13 NBA season pauses for the 2013 All Star Weekend in Houston, a relatively clear picture of every NBA team and their respective floors and ceilings is materializing. Any trades before the February 21 deadline could drastically shake things up, but as of now, we have a pretty good idea of where and what every NBA team should be.
The Utah Jazz's rather unique situation of having the vast majority of their team becoming free agents in the summer have made this year an audition of sorts. Despite the suspected predisposition of some to play to earn a bigger contract and display their talent to 29 other NBA teams, everyone has seemingly stuck to head coach Tyrone Corbin's blueprint of sticking together and playing unselfishly.
As key injuries to Gordon Hayward and Mo Williams attempted to stymie Utah's winning ways, new key cogs have stepped up and have led the Jazz to a 30-24 record, including a decisive win over the juggernaut Oklahoma City Thunder.
Among the reasons for success and concern are the following six Utah Jazz players, whose respective stock has either hit a proverbial bull or proverbial bear market.
Stock Up: Alec Burks
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Jazz fans across the Internet and Twitter have been clamoring for more playing time for Burks all season. The injury to Mo Williams indirectly gave Jazz fans their wish and necessitated Alec Burks getting more minutes and even getting some run at the point guard position.
After battling through inconsistent playing time and play, Burks seems to have settled in to his role over the last six games, averaging 12.2 points and 3.5 assists as one of the first players off the bench and at the point guard spot, which is not his natural position.
However, Burks' confidence and always-increasing court vision have turned him into quite an able distributor.
Aside from honing his point guard skills, Burks has also appeared to have fixed his unreliable jump shot, something his 50 percent field goal percentage over the last five games will attest to.
Burks' future is bright in Utah, thanks to his ability to get to the rim nearly at will and his newly acquired point guard skills, his stock is on the rise.
Stock Up: DeMarre Carroll
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Affectionately known as the "Junkyard Dog," Carroll has hustled, harassed and bullied his way in to the hearts of Jazz fans.
Carroll started with the Jazz last season as a waiver wire pick, but quickly solidified his value to the team by providing desperately needed perimeter defense and energy.
Carroll has gone from pleasant surprise to very important cog in the Utah Jazz machine this year. Carroll has excelled in backing up starting small forward Marvin Williams as well as starting in place of him.
Carroll's most notable improvement has come on the offensive end, where Carroll is taking and making many more outside jumpers/three-point shots than he did last year.
Carroll's reinvention as a two-way player rather than a defensive and energy specialist has caused his stock to rise dramatically.
Stock Down: Marvin Williams
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Marvin Williams was acquired in the offseason via trade with the Atlanta Hawks for point guard Devin Harris. The hope was that Williams would be a better fit in the Utah offense than he was in the Atlanta offense and he would blossom for the Jazz.
That has yet to happen.
Williams is still a very good defender, but is averaging career lows in points per game (8.0) and field goal percentage (42 percent). More often than not, Williams is simply an afterthought in the Utah offense, occasionally getting an open look at a three or having to launch a long two at the tail end of the shot clock.
As time goes on, I'm beginning to think the Jazz will stand pat at the trade deadline unless they're blown away with an offer. However, if anyone currently in the Jazz rotation is dealt, I think it will be Williams.
Stock Up: Al Jefferson
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Once upon a time, when the ball was passed to Al Jefferson on the block, there was a 99.9 percent chance it would stay there until he got a shot off or the ball was stolen. Jefferson was the quintessential ball-stopper, a veritable basketball black hole.
Perhaps it's a byproduct of it being a contract year for Jefferson, and perhaps it was just made a strong point of emphasis by Utah coaches, but Jefferson's passing out of the post has improved by leaps and bounds.
Also a cause for Jefferson's sharp stock spike is his clutch shooting.
At times, Utah's biggest issue is simply finding someone to get a bucket. When Jefferson is on the floor, he's the go-to guy nearly every time, especially in crunch time. More often than not, Jefferson will sink a jumper, show the ball and/or use a lethal pump fake and drive or hit his patented push shot dubbed "the Weezie."
Whether called upon in the first quarter or in the closing seconds of a game, Jefferson has scored the basketball at a very high rate when called upon.
Stock Up: Enes Kanter
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Once upon a time, Enes Kanter was as raw as a player could possibly be.
Having only played basketball at any level since the age of 14, Kanter's flashes of brilliance were bookended with frustrating offensive decisions and missed defensive rotations.
Even since the offseason when Kanter utilized a rigorous workout and diet regimen to get himself looking like a cover model for Muscle & Fitness, he has shown he's learning quickly and becoming more consistent.
His passing, at times, has been an absolute thing of beauty. He's developed an impressive two-man game with teammate Derrick Favors, and, like Jefferson, his passing out of the post has improved.
Kanter obviously still has plenty of growing to do, but will only prove to be more and more valuable to the Utah Jazz as grows. His effervescent personality and wrecking-ball style of play, not to mention his penchant for gobbling up rebounds, has his stock arrow pointed skyward.
Stock Down: Earl Watson
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To be honest, it hurts me to criticize Earl Watson.
He's been an outstanding teammate and leader in his time with the Jazz. However, since returning from injury, he's appeared to be a step slower and not quite the tenacious defender he's been in years past.
Watson's declining play saw him lose the primary backup point guard position to Jamaal Tinsley. While Watson can still run the offense and throw one of the prettiest alley-oops in the league, it's clear he's on the downside of his career.
Part of Utah's biggest issue since losing starting point guard Mo Williams to injury is the lack of offense coming from the point guard position. Tinsley is not exactly going to fill it up on any given night, as he gets most of his points from a few threes and the occasional nutmeg-layup combination.
Watson makes Tinsley look like "Pistol" Pete Maravich by comparison.
Watson is shooting his worst percentage ever (33 percent), and doesn't have the quickness to get to the rim for high-percentage point-blank shots anymore. This gives Utah opponents the advantage of virtually ignoring Watson on the defensive end and often using Watson's defender to double team one of the more offensively potent post players.