The 1st quarter of the season is essentially in the books. The Jazz have played 20 games and are sporting a 4-16 record. Yes I agree that’s not very good but it’s been the tale of 2 different teams for this young Jazz squad. Nobody likes to lose, especially the players and coaches but there are some things to be excited about when watching these games despite the outcome. Here are a few of them:
1. Trey Burke - I tweeted out (follow me @Lucassimo) during the 1st quarter of the Pacers game that I officially have a Trey Burke man crush. This will most likely continue as long as he plays for the Utah Jazz. Say what you will about his lack of size or lack of “athleticism” (these guys are more athletic than we’ll ever dream of being) this guy is a pure stud. His biggest contribution to the team has been his Leadership. Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors are great lead by example guys but every team needs a guy that’s willing to be vocal as well. As a rookie he’s not scared to tell his teammates where they should be on the floor or to say whatever it is they need to hear. Another sign of a good leader is their willingness to listen. How many times have you heard coaches or players mention on TV/Radio how coachable Trey Burke is? He wants to be great. He was the floor general the Jazz were lacking and it’s amazing how much better they play as a whole with Trey Burke on the court. In just the 8 games he’s been back, he’s already risen to #6 on Kevin Pelton’s top 50 rookies. He will be MCW’s biggest threat to the ROY crown.
2. Gordon Hayward - Gordon Hayward is going to be this team’s eventual version of Scottie Pippen. The Jazz will draft their franchise player with a Top 5 pick in this year’s draft and GH will complement that player wonderfully as the 2nd option on offense. Gordon has been doing his best to shoulder the scoring load. He had a stretch where he was doing a masterful job and then he hit a funk that’s he’s been in for a while. Trey Burke’s play has helped him out as it has everyone on the team, but this team still needs that dominating scorer (Jabari Parker/Julius Randle anyone?) to play next to him so he can relax. When he is able to play more loose and free he is a big threat because of all the things he is able to do. He is a playmaker that hasn’t been allowed to do that as much without a true point guard. With Burke back, we will see Gordon make more plays. I’m excited for his future with the team.
3. Derrick Favors - Workhorse. This guy just goes out and gets the quietest double-doubles of any Jazz player I can remember. He’s the anchor of the team on defense and a beast on the boards. He’s the type of player that every team wants and needs and I’m glad we have him locked up for 4 more years after this one. The only thing I’d like see improvement on still is his foul trouble. I do think this is a product of making up for teammate’s defensive deficiencies. His continuing offensive developement has me very excited for the type of player he can become when he is entering his prime. If he can become 20 and 12 guy, watch out NBA.
4. Jeremy Evans, Alec Burks and Diante Garrett - I’ve always enjoyed watching Jeremy on the court. His athleticism is fun to watch and love the dunks and blocks he gets every time he steps on the floor. I’ve been very impressed by his jump shot though and this improvement will help him to stay in the league. He is another guy that benefits greatly from solid point guard play. Alec Burks has been a great compliment to Trey Burke. He’s another guy that when he is able to play free and make plays instead of running an offense he is able to flourish. If he can continue to play the way he has lately, I wonder if it will be enough to push him into the starting lineup? That might hinge more on Brandon Rush’s health than Alec’s on the court performance though. Diante Garrett was a breath of fresh air. He came straight from the D-League and outperformed 2 NBA veterans right from the get go. He won’t do anything that wows you but he runs the offense and makes point guard plays.
The Jazz are right on track to finish with a very high pick in the 2014 NBA draft and this is a good thing. It’s what has needed to happen in order for the Jazz to become a playoff contender in this day and age. I am truly happy with the player development that has taken place. I think Enes will eventually return to the starting lineup instead of Marvin. Enes is still learning this game and I think he was just physically, mentally and emotionally overwhelmed and I think this move to the bench has allowed him to readjust. It was great to see him get 20 and 10 against the Pacers. Let’s continue to enjoy this young team play their hearts out, take their lumps and then take the next step next year.