If Karl Malone and John Stockton Had a Bench Like These Jazz, Who Knows?
Alright, the current collection of Jazz players coming off the bench might not have been able to help stop Jordan and the Bulls either. Then again who wouldn't want AK 47, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap, Ronnie Price and Matt Harping over Bryon Russell, Howard Eisley, Shandon Anderson, Greg Foster, and Antione Carr.
Might Jordan's shot been challenged just a little more if it had been taken over an aggressive shot blocking Andrei Kirilenko than a falling Bryon Russell? Who knows. But one thing is for sure: The 08-09 version of the Jazz bench is perhaps the best yet and one of their biggest strengths.
The main change on the bench this year is Jerry Sloan deciding former All-Star Andrei Kirilenko would come off the bench while CJ Miles gets a shot at starting. Sloan has defended this decision by reffering to AK's ability to come in and be a game changer offensively and defensively.
Look for Andrei to handle the ball more as a point-forward while Deron Williams takes his rests, as he is an underrated passer and ball handler. Defensively AK will again be among the league leaders in blocked shots.
Also providing a spark of the bench will be Paul Millsap. Although his listed height has been questioned from day one, his ability and pure hustle never has been. How this guy dropped to the Jazz in the middle of the second round I'll never know.
From his rookie season he has shown the hustle and desire that allowed him to lead the NCAA in rebounds three seasons in a row for Louisiana Tech. Look for the offense to run more through him this year when he's on the floor as he displayed the ability to score during the last half of the season.
Who was that masked man that just swished four three-pointers in a row? None other than the midseason sensation, Kyle Korver. This Ashton Kutcher look-a-like can flat out shoot the ball. Look for him to change some games with his outside shooting and put the final nail in the coffin on other games with his precision free throw shooting.
The Jazz haven't had a shooter like this guy since they traded for another Philadelphia guard in Jeff Hornacek. Although a slight defensive liability, Korver will give Coach Sloan his best effort.
Another lighting rod off the Jazz bench is Matt Harpring. A Coach Sloan favorite for the last six years, look for Harpring to bring more of his patented football toughness and hard-nosed style of play.
Offensively, watch for him to come off a screen and drop that jumper from the free throw line nearly every time. Defensively, he'll hound and frustrate Jazz opponents into cheap shot elbows and pushes that will result in offensive fouls.
The rest of the bench will consist of incumbent backup point Ronnie Price and veteran challenger Brevin Knight. Both are capable points and could fill in for a short stint as a starter if Deron Williams starts the season injured with his ankle sprain.
Jarron Collins will fill in again as back-up center, with Kyrylo Fesenko and rookie Kosta Koufos behind him when they are not playing down in Orem with the NBDL Flash. Finally, second year man Morris Almond, another Kyle Korver type shooter and defensive liability, will pick up some minutes at SG.
If the Jazz happen to make a deep playoff run into the Finals this year the undeniable praise will be heaped upon...Deron Williams, of course. But after him they need these bench players to produce, to do it big time, and to show up on the road.
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