5 Things We Learned About the Utah Jazz During First Week of Training Camp
If the Utah Jazz's projected starting five (pictured above) had decided to take a trip together before training camp, not one of them would have been old enough to rent a car after their flight touched down.
And yet, these are the men tasked with leading the Utah Jazz—an organization that Forbes estimated to be worth over $400 million, with a rabid fan base that's seen the team make 25 out of the last 30 NBA postseasons.
That's a lot of pressure to put on a handful of 20-somethings, but maybe they're too young to care about that weight. And maybe that's a good thing.
Through photo shoots, two-a-day practice sessions packed with conditioning and an open scrimmage in EnergySolutions Arena, evidence of nerves brought on by the pressure is nonexistent. What has been on display is a young core brimming with talent, having fun and playing hard.
That's the general vibe Utah's training camp has produced. As for specifics, the things we've learned so far will likely be ongoing stories throughout the season.
All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference unless otherwise noted.
Enes Kanter Can Dominate
Before training camp, most of the talk about new leaders stepping up revolved around Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors. Enes Kanter's name was usually attached to funny interviews, terrible dancing or crazy hats.
That's shifting a bit now, as the No. 3 pick in the 2011 draft may be emerging as the team's best shot for dominating inside—at least offensively.
In a limited role, Kanter was a force on that end last year—finishing fourth on the team with an average of 16.9 points per 36 minutes behind Al Jefferson, Hayward and Paul Millsap.
The deft footwork, quickness and touch that seem contradictory to Kanter's 6'11", 260-pound frame now seem to be backed up by a confidence brought on by his new role.
He was without question the best player on the floor during the team's open scrimmage on Saturday, finishing with a third of the winning team's points. If he continues to be that aggressive—and there's no reason to think he won't—Kanter could end up with a scoring average close to 20 this season.
Trey Burke May Continue to Struggle
Trey Burke may provide some balance to the encouragement of Kanter's development.
His summer-league struggles brought every scout's concerns into focus—lack of size and athleticism chief among them.
Against bigger, faster NBA competition, the 2013 NCAA Player of the Year has looked overmatched. During summer league, he couldn't get separation from defenders and often ended up taking terrible shots instead of passing.
He looked marginally better during the open scrimmage at the end of camp but was still the second- or third-best point guard playing. John Lucas III and Scott Machado both looked more comfortable.
Whether that means Burke won't start is still a mystery (Corbin has yet to announce an official starting lineup), but it's safe to say the draft-night excitement this pick aroused in Jazz fans has been tempered.
The Offense Will Run Through Gordon Hayward
One of the most common themes surrounding training camp has been the use of Gordon Hayward as a facilitator and playmaker.
It started on media day, when Coach Corbin talked about Hayward's new role:
Corbin says the ball will be in Gordon Hayward's hands more than ever before and he wants to see growth on both ends of the floor from him.— KYLE F GUNTHER (@GuntherKFAN) September 30, 2013
Now we've actually been able to see it in practice.
During Saturday's scrimmage, Hayward initiated the offense on numerous possessions. A few times he brought the ball up the floor like a traditional point guard. Other sets started by having Hayward rotate from a wing to the top of the key, where he'd receive the ball from a 1.
Personally, I'm excited to see Hayward as a point forward. It could take some of the pressure off Burke and would also allow for some versatile lineup combinations.
Rudy Gobert Should Be the Backup Center
Yes, Rudy Gobert is extremely raw. But my goodness, the potential.
He has the longest wingspan in the NBA at 7'9", and on defense he actually appears to know how to use it.
During the summer league, Gobert blocked three shots in three different games and didn't play more than 25 minutes in any of those contests.
On top of that, he looks like he'll be more active than his primary competition, Andris Biedrins, for the role of backup center.
Gobert plays hard whenever he's on the floor and will grab a lot of rebounds and alter a lot of shots because of that. The 21-year-old Frenchman will make plenty of mistakes as he adjusts to the NBA, but I say let him learn by experience.
Brandon Rush and Marvin Williams Still Need More Time
Some feel there could be a competition between Brandon Rush and Alec Burks for the role of starting shooting guard. And Marvin Williams actually started over Gordon Hayward last year despite being far less effective.
But injuries have made those potential position battles irrelevant for the time being. Williams and Rush haven't been full participants in camp to this point as they're both taking their time coming back from surgery—right heel and Achilles tendon for Williams, ACL for Rush.
Hayward and Burks were always the better options to start in my mind, and I hope the wings will stay that way after Williams and Rush get healthy. But the latter two could be valuable contributors off the bench—Williams as a stretch 4 backing up Derrick Favors and Rush as a 3-and-D wing.