Utah Jazz

Grading Every Key Utah Jazz Player Heading into NBA All-Star Break

Andy BaileyFeatured ColumnistFebruary 11, 2014

Grading Every Key Utah Jazz Player Heading into NBA All-Star Break

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    Melissa Majchrzak/Getty Images

    Assigning grades to the players on a rebuilding team is something that has to be done on a curve.

    Such is the case for the Utah Jazz and the crop of young talent that took over when Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap were allowed to walk in free agency.

    Five of Utah's top seven players in average minutes played are under the age of 24. And of those five, only Gordon Hayward had been a regular starter prior to this season.

    For that reason, the 17-33 record hasn't come as much of a surprise, unless of course you expected them to be even worse.

    So without the curve, a team with such a bad record would receive lots of C's, D's and F's. With the curve, we can look at some of the bright spots within the context of a rebuilding season.

     

    Unless otherwise noted, all stats are courtesy of Sports-Reference.com and NBA.com and are current as of Feb. 10, 2014.

Rudy Gobert

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    Key Stats: 4.3 rebounds, 2.5 points, 1 block

     

    There is one player in the NBA who's played in at least 25 games, averaged 11 minutes, put up a rebounding percentage of at least 20 and a block percentage of at least six.

    In case the picture on this slide didn't give it away, that player is Rudy Gobert. 

    Yes, he struggles to catch the ball, finish when he does catch it and make free throws, but his abilities as a rebounder and shot-blocker are very encouraging.

    If he becomes even moderately effective offensively (and since he's only 21, he has plenty of time), Gobert will be a huge asset.

     

    Grade: B

Diante Garrett

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    Melissa Majchrzak/Getty Images

    Key Stats: 3.1 points and 2 assists

     

    Coming into this season, 25-year-old Diante Garrett had appeared in 19 games, averaging 2.1 points and 1.6 assists while shooting 32.7 percent from the field and 20 percent from three-point range.

    He was signed in November and has exceeded the low expectations that were a result of those numbers.

    He has the best plus/minus average of any of Utah's rotation players at minus-0.3, the second-best assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.9 and the third-best three-point percentage at 38.5.

    Considering his role and previous NBA experience, Garrett's production has been a pleasant surprise.

     

    Grade: B

Jeremy Evans

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    Key Stats: 7 points, 5.2 rebounds and 53 percent shooting

     

    This is Jeremy Evans' fourth season with the Utah Jazz, and it's the first in which he's played more than 10 minutes a game.

    He's taken advantage of the extra time in his role as Utah's clichéd energy guy off the bench, crashing the offensive glass better than anyone on the team not named Rudy.

    His offensive-rebounding percentage of 12.6 is second to Gobert's 14.2, and his total-rebounding percentage 15.9 trails only Gobert and Derrick Favors.

    His great leaping ability helps him to get to the rebounds, but the biggest factor in Evans' production is pure effort and energy.

     

    Grade: B

Richard Jefferson

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Key Stats: 10.1 points, 3 rebounds, 42.9 percent three-point shooting

     

    When the Jazz acquired Richard Jefferson this summer, his expiring contract was supposed to be little more than a salary dump.

    But the 13-year veteran is proving that he still has something to offer—he's one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA this season. His percentage from out there ranks him eighth in the league.

    The problem with Jefferson is two-fold: He does little outside of hitting those threes, and his presence keeps the young wings from playing together. Obviously, one of those problems isn't his fault.

    Tyrone Corbin is understandably playing the veterans because he feels they give Utah the best chance to win, and he has to be able to explain this season in future job interviews. He can justify starting Jefferson all 50 games because of his shooting and experience.

    As for the other issue, that's on Jefferson. He needs to bring more to the table than the outside shooting. Defensively, he struggles to stay in front of quicker, younger wings.

    And perhaps most troubling is the lack of help he provides on the glass. Trey Burke and Garrett are the only two rotation players whose rebounding percentages are lower than Jefferson's 6.2.

     

    Grade: C

Marvin Williams

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    Melissa Majchrzak/Getty Images

    Key Stats: 10.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 40.1 percent three-point shooting

     

    The other veteran who's been starting, perhaps unexpectedly, is Marvin Williams. Like Jefferson, he's on an expiring contract. And like Jefferson, he's showing he can still contribute.

    Williams' three-point percentage of 40.1 is second on the team, and Utah has been much better when he plays. The overall winning percentage of the Jazz is .340. When Williams plays, it's .436.

    In February alone, Williams is averaging 19 points and 6.5 rebounds while shooting 50.9 percent from the field and 45.8 percent from three-point range.

     

    Grade: B+

Enes Kanter

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    Melissa Majchrzak/Getty Images

    Key Stats: 11.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 50.2 percent shooting

     

    When a team is losing, scapegoats emerge, and a number of bloggers and fans on Twitter have directed their ire at Enes Kanter.

    In a team sport when there are five guys on the floor together at all times, there's absolutely no way to logically single someone out as deserving of all the blame.

    But, that doesn't mean Kanter should be immune from criticism. His defense has been suspect all season, and it's contributed to his team-worst plus/minus rating of minus-6.6.

    He also hasn't been as effective as a rebounder against starting and second-team big men. In his first two seasons, he dominated the bigs he faced in his limited role as a fourth, and sometimes fifth, big man:

     

    SeasonORB%DRB%TRB%
    2011-1213.922.718.3
    2012-1314.518.616.5
    2013-1410.217.613.8
    Career12.719.316.0
    Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
    Generated 2/10/2014

     

    In his first two seasons, Kanter was able to bully his way to rebounds and points with brute strength against lesser opponents. He needs to focus more now on technique and fundamentals.

    Finding a man on every shot attempt and boxing out is essential. Kevin Love is probably the best example of this in the league.

     

    Grade: C

Trey Burke

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Key Stats: 12.7 points, 5.5 assists, 37.3 percent shooting and 33.9 percent three-point shooting

     

    Credit the 2013 draft class being so disastrous for Trey Burke being in the rookie of the year discussion. Only five winners have shot under 40 percent from the field, and four of them won the award in the 1950s.

    Poor shooting aside, there have been a number of positives for Burke. He's second among rookies in assists per game, third in assist-to-turnover ratio at 2.8 and third in scoring.

    As a playmaker, Burke is excellent, and he needs to focus on being that more often. He should aim to play more like John Stockton, who averaged more assists than field-goal attempts over the course of his career.

    Right now, Burke's posting over twice as many shots than assists. Frankly, three or four a game aren't good looks, especially since he hasn't developed a consistent jump shot.

    If he made a more conscious effort to find his teammates, defenders would respect his ability to pass, and he'd find himself open more often. A perfect example of that playing style is Kendall Marshall, whose head is always on a swivel and who leads the NBA in three-point percentage at 49.4.

     

    Grade: C+

Alec Burks

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Key Stats: 12.9 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists

     

    Alec Burks is likely the best scorer the Utah Jazz have, and he is undoubtedly so among the team's guards.

    His ability to get from the perimeter to the rim is up there with the very best in the league, and it's the main reason he leads the Jazz in points per 36 minutes at 17 and is second to Gobert in free-throw attempts per 36 at 5.5.

    Controlled explosiveness is the phrase I like to use when describing Burks' driving ability. It's like the demolition of an old stadium—it looks chaotic, but it gets the job done.

    One example of this is his eurostep, which is one of the quickest in the NBA. And once he gets to the rim, his athleticism helps him finish in ways other players can only dream of.

    The next step for Burks is something over which he has no control. He can make a bigger impact for the Jazz once he gets more playing time, and that's something fans have wanted for months.

     

    Grade: B+

Derrick Favors

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    Melissa Majchrzak/Getty Images

    Key Stats: 13.2 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 50.8 percent shooting

     

    The Jazz have had plenty of ups and downs during this rebuilding season, but one constant has been the play of Derrick Favors.

    His numbers aren't likely to blow anyone away, but they've come up steadily, while his teammates struggle to find consistency.

    That doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement, though.

    As has been the case with Kanter, some of Favors' advanced numbers have dipped a bit as he's faced starting centers instead of backups this season.

     

    SeasonFTrORB%DRB%TRB%BLK%
    2010-11.41612.919.116.03.5
    2011-12.43613.022.517.73.8
    2012-13.45811.924.017.95.7
    2013-14.37910.023.816.73.4
    Career.42412.022.417.14.2
    Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
    Generated 2/11/2014

     

    On the bright side, Favors is only 22 years old and just signed a four-year extension this past summer. He has plenty of time to improve, and Jazz fans have the opportunity to watch him grow.

     

    Grade: B+

Gordon Hayward

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    Key Stats: 16.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5 assists, 40.8 percent shooting and 30.6 percent three-point shooting

     

    This season has been one of discovery for the Utah Jazz, and one thing we may have learned already is that Gordon Hayward isn't a No. 1 scoring option.

    Don't get me wrong, Hayward can score, but he is better served doing so as a complimentary source of points.

    Against opposing team's top wings and with few other elite scorers to alleviate pressure, Hayward's shooting has suffered immensely. He's posting career lows in both field-goal and three-point percentage.

    Like Burke, Hayward would be better served creating for others a bit more often. The Jazz are 3-1 when he gets to double figures in assists, and one of those wins came against the defending champion Miami Heat.

    Scoring for Hayward should be as a function of the offense, rather than trying to force the issue. Last season, he excelled playing off great post players like Jefferson and Millsap. This season, he's struggled to consistently beat people off the dribble and often settles for long two-point shots.

    But Hayward's shooting woes shouldn't cause too much concern because the key to his game in the future lies in the other things he does.

    The guy is a good old-fashioned stat-stuffer. Kevin Durant is the only other player in the NBA who averages as many points, rebounds, assists and blocks as Hayward.

    And his shooting percentages should go up if Utah lands a top scorer this offseason (most likely through the draft).

     

    Grade: B-

     

    Andy Bailey covers the NBA for Bleacher Report.


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