Monday, June 7, 2010

Thoughts on the last Jazz season

I just wanted to take a little time to talk about my reaction to the 2009-2010 season for the Utah Jazz. Overall, I was very pleased with the results. I think the Jazz took a couple of important steps forward. The series against the Lakers was disappointing, but that was more than balanced by other events, in my mind.

Before the season started, I had predicted the Jazz would win 54 games. They actually had 53 wins, so I was satisfied with that. More importantly was that a few of the wins showed they made real progress as a team. They beat San Antonio in San Antonio, for the first time in about a decade, and then did it a second time, sweeping the season series. They tied Denver for the division lead. They took a couple of close games on national TV, and came back from 25 points down in one game. All of this points to a team that is maturing, especially the three best players of Williams, Kirilenko, and Boozer (I think pretty much in that order).

The Jazz front office made some good moves as well. Keeping Millsap helped insure they had one of the better benches in the league. Okur was signed for another couple of years. I think ideally Okur would be a great sixth man, able to come off the bench and play inside or out to give the bench different look. However, he has certainly played better than any other center on the team, and I’d rather know he will be here than relay on Koufos, Fesenko, or undrafted Rookie X to start games. They turned a couple in mid-level draft picks of marginal value (Maynor and Brewer) into significant tax relief. They found and signed the best undrafted player (Matthews). While neither of the D-league signees showed great talent, they were integrated into the Jazz system and made minor contributions. Since I usually put the draft and free-agent signings as the beginning of the season, who they draft in 2010 and whether they can keep Boozer doesn’t factor into this analysis.

In the playoffs, the Jazz beat a full-strength Denver in Denver for the first time in a few years, and without two of their best four players. Not only was that another important milestone, but it also highlighted just how good Sloan is. Probably over the past four of five years, the importance I gave to NBA coaches was gradually diminishing. While I still think that talent tends to win out in the end, the Denver series showed that a well-coached squad can override superior talent on a poorly-coached squad.

Then came the Lakers, and it was disheartening. The Lakers are considerably more talented than the Jazz, especially with the Lakers at full strength and with the Jazz still missing two of their best four, and Jackson will never be outcoached to the degree Dantley was. Still, not only were the jazz swept, but in three games it seemed like the Lakers were doing whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. I will get real pleasure out of beating the Lakers in some future playoff series, but I don’t see that happening for a couple of years.

So, overall I thought the Jazz were a great team to root for this past year, and I’m looking forward to the 2010-2011 season.


aintnuthin said...

Leave us face the stone-cold facts, eh, Eric?

The Jazz, they ROCK!

Sloan too, of course!

One Brow said...

Damn straight.