Six Reasons Why Mehmet Okur Will Impact the Utah Jazz in 2011-2012
Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. These names have been the focus of frequent discussion the past month and have been the center of what is often referred to as a "logjam" of the four Utah Jazz players.
What doesn't seem to cross fans' minds is the once favorite but long forgotten Mehmet Okur.
While he may be playing fifth fiddle at the moment, don't assume his spot on the roster isn't of value.
Here are a few overlooked reasons why Memo may turn out to be the diamond in the rough for the Jazz in this upcoming season.
Mitigates the Risks of a Trade
Many commentators have spoken of the need the Jazz have to trade either Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap in order to open up minutes for their young talent. However, either option seems to have its downfalls.
Millsap is a known effort player, a fan favorite, and seems to be coming into his own each season, while showing flashes of brilliance that will be hard to replace for a price as good as his.
Meanwhile, moving Jefferson would force the rookie Kanter to play at an NBA starter level even though he hasn't played organized basketball in over a year. Removing your leading scorer is also always risky, since it leaves a large void on offense that other players are forced to fill.
This is where Okur comes in. Okur is capable of playing either the four or five position, which allows the flexibility of trading either Millsap or Jefferson without losing much depth.
He also will allow both Kanter and Favors to mature at their own pace without facing too much pressure since Okur could be placed on the starting lineup at either spot during the beginning of the season.
He also allows the Jazz to look more seriously into trade options for Jefferson, since the five is generally a harder spot to fill than the four. He even has the potential on offense to match the production of either Millsap or Jefferson if he is playing at 100 percent.
A known concern with trading either Millsap or Jefferson is the risk of playing a team's bigs three deep.
The Lakers have shown that a three-pronged punch like Gasol, Bynum and Odom can be successful but likewise have shown the consequence of such a system if one big misses games to injury.
Gasol and Odom had to pick up the slack and fatigued themselves early in the season, as well as their bench suffering because of it.
The Jazz have had a similar problem in the past when Fesenko has had to log heavy minutes because of Jazz injuries.
A healthy Okur can loosen up the Jazz's rotations and keep everyone rested even if (God forbid) a player goes down to injury. Many may be concerned because of Okur's injury problems the last two seasons, but I would wager that those are a thing of the past.
The surgery on Okur's Achilles is one that should not have lasting effects, but he was played too early into his recovery for it to have time to heal, resulting in his secondary injuries shortly afterward.
History would also show that Okur is the opposite of injury prone, having played in 70 games or more in eight straight seasons, including 233 consecutively.
I wouldn't be surprised to see Okur suit up for every game this season, once again becoming a stalwart on the Jazz frontcourt. And this season he shouldn't be overworked, minimizing risk of re-injury.
Still Has Gas in the Tank
Many people are writing off Okur as a declining, over 30 center. However, I do not see much reasoning that would back up this criticism.
Bigs generally have a longer expiration date than other players in the league as long as they stay relatively healthy. Okur (32) looks like a toddler when compared to the likes of Kevin Garnett, Ben Wallace, Big Z, Kurt Thomas, Antawn Jamison, and many others.
Okur also hasn't given reason to think his production is declining. In his last healthy season, 2009-2010, his point total may have dropped due to the continued emergence of Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams, but his efficiency didn't.
He was equally effective with the ball in his hands as any other year, and his rebounding and shooting percentage remained relatively the same despite receiving less minutes.
Okur still has more than enough ability to be the starting center on most of the teams in the league.
Spreads the Floor
The Jazz finished this season placed 24th in three-point makes per game. The ability to hit threes seems to be a major point for improvement for the Jazz this offseason.
Neither of their draft picks in Kanter or Burkes will increase that tally much, so Okur's return will be received with open arms. Memo averages about a 38% clip from long range, and does so very consistently.
His shooting ability will also help his fellow bigs in the paint by spreading opposing defenses and allowing their young players to get easier looks than they would while playing alongside each other or with Jefferson or Millsap.
Whenever Enes Kanter was asked about the prospect of playing with the Jazz, Okur's name always came up, and with frequent regularity. Kanter is obviously a fan of the other Turkish center, and is looking forward to working with the veteran countryman.
Kanter isn't the only one who can learn from Okur, either. Jefferson and Millsap may be considered veterans by some, but Okur is the one with the depth of knowledge that the new guys can really learn from.
If Favors keeps some open ears and if Kanter learns even a fraction of what he promised in interviews, Okur's presence could be worth its weight in gold, even if he doesn't play a single minute.
Mehmet "Money" Okur. It has been a long time since I heard that nickname said with regularity during Jazz games, but oh how I miss it. It has been awhile, but clutch isn't something that fades.
Hopefully the Jazz will re-appear in the playoffs next year, and when they do, who will be taking the big shots when it counts? Now that Williams and Korver are gone, who are we going to turn to?
The declining Raja Bell? An inconsistent Kirilenko? Jefferson? Do we expect Millsap to have another dozen miracle games like he did against the Heat? Do we bank on an unproven rookie or sophomore?
I suspect that "Money" could really make a comeback appearance on posters in the Energy Solutions Arena, and I would expect Okur to log quite a bit of late-game minutes.
If we can receive the late-game heroics from him we have in past seasons, that alone could be the impact the Jazz need.