"Little" being something of a dubious term when speaking of the over-sized world of the NBA. What I'm driving at though are the players invited to Boise, Id. for training camp for the Utah Jazz.
Who will crack the roster and help them get over the hump to the NBA Finals?
Oh this is too easy! Put Morris Almond, the Impact Player of the Year for the D-League Utah Flash, on there and off we go!
Stop right there. Defense wins championships. Just ask the Lakers how the Celtics did it.
The Salt Lake City based franchise had the highest rated offense in the league last year, at more than 106 points-per-game, as opposed to the opposition’s 99-plus points-per. You can almost flip the home and away scoring stats, as they practically mirror each other. On the road, against the dreaded San Antonio Spurs where the Jazz just can't seem to get a win, they gave up well over 100 points. In the playoffs, at the Staples Center in L.A., the Jazz gave up about 115 points-per-game.
First need: road toughness infused with a lot more defense—a thing seemingly foreign to the high scoring "Mo" Almond.
Utah took care of the Houston Rockets with a regular first round beating, but Yao Ming is back and healthy for the upcoming season. Also, back this season and big is Andrew Bynum in L.A. Then there is Greg Oden in Portland, Tim Duncan for the Spurs, and the Big Cactus trailing Amare Stoudamire for the Phoenix Suns. See the trend? The Jazz counter with career bench warmer Jarron Collins, who has a miserable 60-something percent free throw average.
Second stop: the roster—very heavy on guards.
The depth chart consists of:
PG: Deron Williams, Ronnie Price, and Brevin Knight (traded for Jason Hart in the off-season)
SG: Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver,
SF: Andrei Kirilenko, Matt Harpring, and CJ Miles (who can slide back to the two spot, as well)
PF: Carlos Boozer and Paul Millsap
C: Mehmet Okur and Jarron Collins
The Jazz are soft at the four and five spots—especially the five. Count them up and that roster is ready to rumble. There's no room left.
One of three other young players, "bigs", just may be able to bump the stump that's been warming the Utah bench longer and longer with each successive season.
Kevin Lyde, Kyrylo Fesenko, or the Jazz’s first round draft pick—19 year-old Kosta Koufos.
Long time assistant Phil Johnson, said the Jazz had a "tremendous training camp.”
“Our guys came in, in very good shape. We're trying to give a lot of guys a chance to play.” Johnson continued.”So it's limited playing time for some of our guys that have played during the summer."
"In very good shape" applies to everyone—almost. Kyrylo "Big Fes" Fesenko, something akin to the class clown, got chewed on for coming in soft. He's still very young, but is quickly burning his bridges with Coach Sloan by showing up slow and soft, not to mention the rep he has for only playing hard when he knows Sloan is looking. He had one great preseason game, with a double- double, but just can't bring it every game.
Back to the minors for you Fes.
Concerning Kosta Koufos, head coach Jerry Sloan said he was "Pleased" calling him "a hard worker who is receptive to our coaches." Utah announcer Craig Bolerjack says "He's in that gym...24/7 you'll find him there." Word is he came in beefed up and very mature for his 19 years.
He really hustled at the Pepsi Center over in Colorado and hit some nice shots, including a bomb from behind the arc at the buzzer in overtime to bring the Jazz to within one point of sending it to a second OT. He's a shooter!
Not the need. Okur, Korver, and Williams have that three-point line well covered. But Koufos has a shot at getting on the roster. However, if it was me, I'd send him to finishing school. He'd be better than what warms the bench right now though—in my opinion.
"K Lyde", as CJ Miles, with six stitches in the corner of his eye courtesy of Kevin, calls him, came into camp in shape. A real big shape! But that doesn't keep him from making the most of his limited minutes.
He hit the top 10 list in the D-League last year at ninth in defensive rebounds and tenth in total rebounds, adding nearly two blocks-per-game—in limited minutes. The 6' 10'' center out of Temple University had two of the most emphatic dunks, to go with a couple "and one’s", while playing some decent defense by clogging the middle and using his soft hands to get shots to drop. He has that "shooters touch" that a handful of those big men have.
Either Koufos or “K Lyde” are going to contribute more to that playoff run than Collins will. Both can shoot better, can play the four or five spot—something that would make me cringe if the clean-cut Collins twin tried, and both are motivated to get that shot at the "Big Boys" club.
The Utah Jazz are a loyal franchise, something lacking at many clubs these days, so I don't expect any of the TCer’s to crack the pine in Energy Solutions Arena. But if Utah wants to reach the Promised Land, they may consider planting a young big on the sideline.
I mean, if you're going to give a big body only 10-15 minutes-per-game, then at least put in one that adds some excitement and useful stats as he picks up three fouls,and valuable experience.
You never know. The Jazz might just find a new stopper in the paint.
It beats the alternative.