Well, the Jazz lost. Swept by the San Antonio Spurs in our quick, if not slightly pointless contests.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the Jazz had no business participating in the NBA Playoffs this season. Not with a group that was more or less thrown into a bowl at the last second, mixed and served severely undercooked. But alas, the Jazz brass thought it best to deliver such an entree to a very hungry San Antonio team.
Maybe I’m speaking too politely. After all, eating an undercooked dish takes some effort. In that regard, perhaps Utah was more like the water that comes free with every meal; brought to the table and disregarded.
OK, enough with food references.
The Jazz should’ve swallowed (sorry) their pride, collected some more draft picks and made their move at a more appropriate time. Now, Utah enters the off season as it did all those years under Coach Jerry Sloan’s rule: not quite bad enough to claim a higher draft pick, but not good enough to be considered a legit threat next season.
So what’s next?
There are several holes the Jazz must repair if they want to improve this summer. First and foremost: they need a new offense. Not just tweakage, but an entirely new system. The current offense does not work. It never has. Pounding the ball relentlessly in the paint can only get a team so far; as does running a system that has little, if any, regard for shots taken from beyond 5-feet of the basket. People keep saying “the Jazz need outside shooters!” The Jazz HAVE outside shooters – Gordy, Howard, Harris, Bell, Miles (sometimes), even Milsap and Burks. All can chuck the long ball, and would do so more frequently if an offense was designed to give them more looks. Instead, the only time Utah attempts to shoot from beyond the arc is when the shot clock expires and someone needs to heave a desperation shot. Or during a fast break when Harris will pull up for a quick “j” Stockton-like or dish a pass to Gordy in the corner.
Utah already carries the size. Utilizing the 3-ball more will allow our BIGs to get to the bucket easier.
For the love of all that is holy Corbin, stop taking advice from Jerry Sloan. Come up with your own system, or go steal G-Pop’s notebook. But stop running the pick and roll with Al Jefferson and Devin Harris – they will never transform into Stockton and Malone. Ever. Those days are long gone. Move the hell on!
Second: stop running the offense through Big Al.
Maybe it’s fortunate Utah made the playoffs. After all it gave the Jazz brass a nice opportunity to examine the team under a high powered microscope. The results? Big Al got eaten alive by the Spurs. Their entire offense ran itself around, through and between Al’s legs like a friggin’ crazed jack rabbit. Big Al plays hard and tries his best, but that’s just not good enough. He lacks speed, agility and the ability to offer anything on the defensive end. He’ll get his blocks, sure, but against teams that run a high tempo offense, Big Al looks almost comical as he slowly attempts to close out on shooters.
On offense he put up great numbers game after game, and played a large roll in helping Utah secure a playoff berth (he was fantastic against Phoenix). But the man has a tendency to hang his head; pout even. In Games 1 and 2 against the Spurs, he looked depleted and ready to go on a long cruise before either of those games reaches halftime. I love Al’s 8-foot jumper, but think he needs to take the ball to the hole a lot more; except he can’t. Despite his immense size, Big Al does not play physical basketball (which is why my fam dubbed him “Lazy Malone”). Against the Celtics this season, Kevin Garnett tore Jefferson to shreds, and received absolutely zero payback. At the time I thought Al was just acting like a good sport, which is fine, but in this league you have to get a little nasty to succeed.
Another thing the playoffs demonstrated was Favors’ ability as a player. This kid plays good, hard basketball. And while he still has a ways yet to go before becoming an elite baller, starting him next season doesn’t seem like such a bad move. With that said, who would you rather have on the floor at the beginning of the game? Big Al and Favors, or Milsap and Favors? An argument could be made for both, as Jefferson provides a solid outside counterpoint to Favors’ more up-close-and-personal inside game; while Milsap + Favors = double toughness under the rim. But realistically the best scenario for the Jazz, assuming they hang onto Devin Harris and opt for a faster tempo offense, is to ditch Big Al and bring in some more wing players to open up the lane for Milsap and Favors. If, however, the Jazz brass elect to stay with the current offense, IE half court ball, then Milsap needs to go along with Harris – both of whom excel in the open court but have a tendency to disappear in half court sets.
This looks like a promising starting five: Harris, Gordy, [enter name of potential new guy here], Milsap, Favors. Our bench remains slightly depleted, but O’Connor can solve that by trading Big Al for at least two solid players (I didn’t say GREAT, I said solid), plus there’s always Okur’s trade exemption; and considering Miles and Bell will most likely (100-percent in fact) hit the road at seasons end along with Howard, Utah’s finances are in pretty good shape (I still would’ve preferred the two draft picks).
For my money, the above starting four provides the best functional unit from which to construct a team around. Fill the bench with a nice supporting cast (more capable wing players please) and I think the Jazz are legit playoff threats next year. But said players will only function properly if given the right style of offense.
I know Corbin has it in him to become a great coach, but he needs to think outside the box. Sloan is considered a walking, talking, swearing god in most of Utah, and I’ll admit he produced when called upon; his no BS coaching style made the Stockton and Malone teams of the 90s a continual threat, but his refusal to update a one dimensional offense to better suite players such as D-Will, Boozer, Korver, Okur, and AK-47 hindered more than helped a Jazz squad that should’ve gone much further than it did.
If Corbin sheds the Jerry Sloan staple, Utah could go toe to toe with the big boys. If he follows the same age-old formula, well, I’m pretty sure we’ll have plenty of sweeps to lament in the years to come.