What to Expect out of Enes Kanter, Paul Millsap and the Utah Jazz This Season
Remember as a kid when you waited impatiently for Christmas morning thinking it would never get here in the days leading up to that most wonderful time to be young?
Hearing the news that the NBA will go back to work December 9th and start playing games this month had to feel like Christmas morning as a kid all over again, and the wait leading up to it seemed longer than the restless hours of Christmas Eve, didn't it?
Well, it's just around the corner, so what's in store for the kids who play for the Utah Jazz this season?
The Jazz Will Be Very Good in the Paint
Enes Kanter may not cause Jazz fans to forget the defensive and shot-blocking prowess of Mark Eaton, but this kid at 6'11" and 260 pounds is a redwood in a forest of dwarf pines. He is going to rebound and take up real estate.
How much we see him depends on how quickly he adapts to the pro game, but I like his chances to get on the floor and show his potential. Even more so, I like his ability to score with his long frame and soft touch.
Derrick Favors was a Second Team All NBA Rookie last season and he is another guy who I think can bring a big punch to the paint. He hauled in nearly six boards a game in only 19 minutes of playing time and was regularly active around the hoop. Favors is a guy who will dunk it every chance he gets, but is pretty decent 10 feet in anywhere around the basket on offense.
Paul Millsap has already proven what he can do and I expect he will continue to be a solid presence on both ends of the court for the Jazz. Millsap is probably the best shooter of the Jazz big men, with enough range and touch to draw opponents' big men away from the paint.
Throw in the return of Okur pulling big men away from the paint with the threat of the three and Al Jefferson's consistency, especially on offense, and the rotation of these big men gives one cause to get excited about the great potential to do very well in the paint on both ends of the court.
The Jazz Will Be More Athletic Than Any Jazz Team in Recent Memory
I know, I know. Devin Harris is not Deron Williams, but I like this kid's agility and quickness, and I think he will be a more disciplined point guard than Williams was, and that will help tremendously.
Derrick Favors is simply a beast at his size the way he can run the floor and simply outmuscle any opponent. The Jazz haven't had a guy with his power and muscle since the Mailman dominated the paint. No, he will not be the scoring machine that Malone was, but he could have a very dominating physical presence around the basket as he develops and improves his game.
Al Jefferson is by far the most athletic center the Jazz have ever had. Arguably, there have been better defensive centers put on the uniform, but his touch around the basket and jump hook are very smooth.
CJ Miles' size and speed give the Jazz a lot of flexibility rotating him between the 2 and 3 spots. He has a pretty well balanced inside-to-outside game and runs the floor well; he just needs to be more consistent night to night.
The same goes for Gordon Hayward in terms of position flexibility, and he demonstrated the kind of consistency the Jazz need down the stretch last season with stellar play as a rookie. I look for a huge jump for this kid this season.
Though he lacks the bulk you'd like to see down low, I love Jeremy Evans' ability to sky to the rim. He's an exciting player who just needs more meat and more experience, but talk about athletic.
Alec Burks will make Jazz fans 'ooh!' and 'ahh!' when he attacks the basket because he can get there at will; my gut tells me he will get some playing time.
The Jazz Will Make Their Fair Share of Mental Mistakes
Devin Harris is the old man on this roster, excluding Okur and Kirilenko at 28. Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap will turn 27 in the next few months. Alec Burks and Derrick Favors check in at 20. Jeremy Evans and CJ Miles are 24. Gordon Hayward is 21. Enes Kanter is still a teenager at 19.
The average age of these players, excluding Okur and Kirilenko, is 23.
The average years of experience of those guys is just over three years.
Inexperienced teams make mistakes, more so than veteran teams; it's a fact of sports. We will see mental errors, particularly on offense, but in rotating on defense as well. We might lead the league in turnovers before it's all through.
Coach Corbin will stress discipline and emphasize taking care of the basketball, but these guys have some growing pains to suffer before we see them gel and mesh together as a finely tuned machine. That only comes with playing together and getting games under their belts. Fortunately, it will happen sooner than later.
The Jazz Will Bring Energy
Though their inexperience and youth will hurt them at times, expect this team to bring a truckload of energy on the court each night. In fact, this is where the Jazz youth may actually give them the edge in a shortened season.
We saw glimpses of the hustle the Jazz will get from guys like Evans and Hayward and Favors last season.
Look for these players to ratchet up the intensity a notch with a year under their belt and the rookies to follow suit. This team will play really hard and feed off that youth, which will give them the stamina and endurance to cope with the urgency and intensity a shortened season will bring to each team.
The Jazz Will Be More Competitive
Ty Corbin went 8-20 during the last 28 games of the season after taking over for Jerry Sloan around the All-Star break last year.
Word is the players respect him and he isn't trying to be anyone's buddy or best pal.
In an article by AP sports writer Lynn DeBruin, Corbin said that the experience of going through a coaching change during his playing days at DePaul after watching legendary Ray Meyer step down taught him a lot about coaching.
“I wasn’t concerned as much about it being my team,” Corbin said of taking over after Sloan’s unexpected departure. “It was the Jazz and you couldn’t change everything in the middle. I didn’t feel I needed to show the guys I was in charge. You have to be an authority figure, but you have to show them it’s not an ego trip.”
I think Corbin will get this team to come to play regardless of the standings. The end of last season was an adjustment period for the Jazz and in many ways a transition that shook the franchise after 23 successful seasons under Sloan.
The dust has settled and Corbin can begin to make his own mark on this team and it will be a positive one.