Scouting the Opposition: Utah Jazz
For every home game this season, we’ll be gathering some intel on the opposing team from someone who knows them best — a team employee, a rival blogger, beat writer or broadcaster.
His answers are below:
Hawks.com: The Jazz dealt Devin Harris to the Hawks in the offseason in exchange for Marvin Williams. Hawks fans want to know — how is Marvin doing in his first season in Utah?
David Locke: As everyone in Atlanta is aware, Marvin is one of the true class acts in the NBA. He has been a perfect teammate and a wonderful man to be around. He is also very excited about his Seahawks [ed. note: ouch!]. On the floor, he has shown some wonderful flashes and does so many things the box score never notices. As of late, he has been limited by knee issues and unfortunately will not be able to play Friday night.
Hawks.com: How does the Jazz’s performance so far this season compare to the expectations coming into the year?
DL: The Jazz are taking a unique approach of staying competitive while reloading for the future. They are competing for a playoff spot and maintaining the winning culture that is Utah Jazz basketball. As of Saturday, the Jazz will have played the most road games of anyone in the NBA and most of the games have been against the stronger Western Conference. The goal of this portion of the season has been to keep their head above water while improving and it looks as though both will be accomplished.
Hawks.com: The Jazz have several young players who were high draft picks and are still very early in their NBA careers. How do you rate the growth of guys like Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors, and Gordon Hayward?
DL: Steady progress from all of the young guys. Hayward had a great month of December and has really dialed-in his shooting over the last month. He is much more aggressive going to the basket. Atlanta-native Derrick Favors is incredibly gifted. His defensive instincts give him the possibility of winning Defensive Player of the Year at some point in his career. Offensively, Favors is still learning how to play off of contact and finish in the paint not at the rim. Kanter is the most interesting of the three because of his limited basketball background – he started playing at 14 and lost a year at Kentucky. He had the best game of his career against the Clippers last week, and has made the biggest stride of the three this year. Also, Alec Burks is beginning to play very well, playing both the point guard and the shooting guard.
Hawks.com: There have been rumors about the availability of some of the Jazz big men via trade. Do you see the team being particularly active around the trade deadline?
DL: Those rumors are funny because they never have any specifics. It is all an outside assumption that the Jazz must do something because the Jazz have too many bigs, which is like saying the Braves had too much pitching with Glavine, Maddux, Smoltz and Avery. Too many bigs is an oxymoronic comment.
The Jazz have structured themselves in a manner where they have numerous options, they have eight pending free agents so, like Atlanta, they will have huge cap space. They have four young, developing players under contract and they have the Warriors’ draft pick as well as their own.
I am sure the Jazz name will be continued to be mentioned in all the rumors and the franchise has been very clear with some very bold moves over the last few years they are active and willing to improve the franchise. How that plays out is anyone’s guess with the amount of different options they have built for themselves.
Hawks.com: Right now the Jazz are two games out of the 8 spot in the Western Conference. What is one area the team needs to improve upon the most to wind up in the playoffs?
DL: The team has begun to improve defensively and the offense has started to drift. More than anything this team needs to figure out how it is going to win and everyone needs to realize what that means for their role. Then everyone has to stay in their lane. This team is so balanced that it has not clearly defined how they are going to win games. Are they a pace team, are they a low block team or are they a wing pick and roll team?