In recent years, the Utah Jazz have lacked athleticism in their frontcourt, have struggled on the road, and have been unable to avoid waves of injuries to key players.
After losing in Denver to the Nuggets 114-105, early returns on this year’s Jazz are that not much have changed.
Utah’s offense was okay—their defense was another story.
Ronnie Brewer are okay defenders, but neither is a true stopper. Brewer had no defensive first step and was lit up by Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, and Ty Lawson one-on-one, while Kirilenko was routinely outmuscled by Anthony on drives to the hoop.and
In fact, despite Anthony registering 30 points, the Jazz were saved by the fact that he missed three shots in the shadow of the basket.
Worse, Utah simply doesn’t have the athletic frontcourt to challenge penetrators attacking the basket. Mehmet Okur drew a pair of charges, but he’s not mobile enough to come over from the weak side and challenge an assault on the rim. isn’t a shot-blocker, and the landlocked Carlos Boozer may be the worst interior help defender in basketball.
For all the talk of Utah’s toughness, they allowed 14 offensive rebounds, many coming as a result of not boxing out.
As a result of Utah’s lack of shot blocking, they often have to sell out on their help, leaving perimeter shooters with open jump shots.
The only Jazz player who played quality defense was Ronnie Price who showed quick feet, quick hands, and terrific toughness. Of his highlights, he pick pocketed a Ty Lawson dribble, showed strong hands digging in and tying up Kenyon Martin, and drew a charge when tried to run him over.
Utah’s offense on some nights will be good enough to compensate for their defensive deficiencies, but not with the performances they received from some of their stars.
Aside from his non-existent defense, Carlos Boozer played as if his mind were on another team. He refused to play in the pivot, instead fading away and bricking all seven of the jumpers he took. Of his shots at the rim, he only converted three of seven looks, and he tallied seven his 12 points in garbage time.
If Boozer isn’t going to dominate down low, he should be shipped out for some much needed shot-blocking. If Miami and Chicago are rumored destinations, perhaps packages involving and Jermaine O’Neal could be had. Sure, the Jazz would need a lot more than Noah, and O’Neal’s brittle play would give Sloan indigestion, but the Jazz are going to be stuck as a good, but not great team with their current frontcourt.
Kirilenko made some plays—6-12 FG, 5 REB, 4 AST, 2 TO—but was a non-factor in the fourth quarter, Brewer still can’t shoot straight—2-5 on jumpers, and after a hot start, Okur cooled off—5-11 FG, 13 PTS.
Millsap played hard, working down low, driving to the hoop, posting up, and even knocking down an 18-footer, but he didn’t play smart. He committed three turnovers, and had a tendency to drive into situations he couldn’t get out of. Plus, an awful high-looping outlet pass was intercepted by Anthony. Carmelo paid back the gift by including Millsap in a poster dunk.
Kyrylo Fesenko should a good combination of fluidity and force, finishing strong on the receiving end on several Deron Williams screen/rolls.
Ronnie Price tended to overpenetrate, but he hit a nifty running layup over Chris Andersen.
With Utah’s role players running hot and cold, and Boozer nowhere to be found,had to try and save the Jazz, and he didn’t disappoint—9-15 FG, 2-3 3FG, 8-8 FT, 3 REB, 13 AST, 5 TO, 28 PTS.
In fact, of Williams’ five turnovers, one was a drop by Boozer, one was a rare five-second violation when he looked to pass to cutters in the post that never opened up, and a third came after catching an outlet pass and being shocked by Ty Lawson impeding his path, leading to a travel. Throw in a palming call, and only one of Williams’ passes misfired.
However, while Williams is a star, unlike LeBron James, , or Dwyane Wade, he isn’t a transcendent player who can reel off basket after basket after basket against good defenses.
And while the Jazz are a good team, unlike the Lakers, Orlando, Boston,, and San Antonio, they don’t have the kind of smart, tough, athletic interior frontline that can take games over on the defensive end. Expect the notes to come out flat for the Jazz come playoff time.
Erick Blasco is a contributing writer for BallerBlogger.com. Erick is attending Brooklyn College on a full scholarship. He is majoring in Television/Radio and minoring in English with the hopes of someday becoming a professional basketball analyst. Questions and comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.