The Jazz don't look good.
I am fully aware that the season is 6 games old. They will be better. I hope they will be better. Right now though, they look out of synch. Out of synch has been at times an understatement. The offense hasnt looked this bad .... well ... I cant think of time when it has looked this bad. Even the 04-05 Jazz ran the offense pretty well, its just hard to makes shots with Keith McLeod, Carlos Arroyo, and way too washed up Howard Eisley throwing up the rock.
There are many reasons for this. Some of whom I had high expectations for have disappointed, other from whom I expected little have impressed. Here is what I have seen:
The BSG (Big Sweaty Giant) has thus far produced fairly solid averages. 18.3 PPG, 9.5 RPG, and most importantly 1.5 BPG. However, closer examination presents a more depressing picture. While 9.5 RPG is pretty solid for the average NBA player, it is quite a bit lower than the 11 RPG he was pulling down as the main man in Minnesota. It is infact more on par with his season averages from last season when he was recovering from his ACL injury. Thats not good for those keeping track at home. This could be for a variety of reasons: less rebounds available to rebound because the Jazz shoot at a much higher clip than the T-Wolves, as well as being surrounded by better rebounders. This doesn't seem to be very accurate considering the Jazz are getting blasted on the boards almost every night, as well as the fact that as a team shooting percentages are down from their Jazzy norms. The two most likely answers are a) his legs are shot from his bigger injuries and hence limits his rebounding ability or b) the lack of offensive execution means everyone is out of position which means they are out of position for rebounds. Offensively he is not faring much better. While 18.3 is pretty good numbers in the NBA he is only shooting 44% from the field which is pretty low for an around-the-basket player. Watching him so far he seems like he is first of all struggling with the offense and second of all rushing everything. He seems nervous when he gets the ball and is throwing up rushed push shots. In the preseason when he was more comfortable he was going harder to the basketball mixed in with spin moves and the such (see below). He needs to relax and he will be fine.
Paul MillsapPaul has been awesome. He has always said that he thought he should be a starting power forwards in this league and he has proven that. He eviscerated the Thunder in all elements of the game. He has been the unchallenged MVP so far for the Jazz. Guaranteed 0-6 without him.
Raja BellPerhaps the biggest disappointment so far. The Jazz propoganda machine kept telling us that even though he is old, he wasn't old in NBA years because of his limited total minutes compared to other players his age. But old is old unfortunately unless you are either John Stockton or Steve Nash. Our supposed defensive stopper has gotten lit up by the likes of DeMar DeRozan, Jason Richardson, and Eric Gordon. He also has been up and down with his shot. Old guys also get worse as the season goes on. Wesley Mathews is looking pretty good right about now. Wait, they gave him 9 million dollars? In a single day? and they have to pay him 5 million more this season? Never mind.
Andrei KirilenkoAK has looked pretty solid. His jumper is as good as it has been since his All-Star year. He gave Durant a hard time as well. The only thing that is keeping him from being AK of old is his blocking ability. It's gone. He used to be a freak. He was the most exciting part of watching Jazz games because of his spectacular blocks. Those days are gone. AK has sustained too many leg injuries during the past 4 or 5 seasons and his legs don't have the springs that made him special. I will never forgive Beno Udrih from flopping into his legs in that cursed game in San Antonio. UUUDDRRRRRIIIIHHHHH!!!!!
Earl Watson/Ronnie PriceI actually haven't minded Earl's presence like I thought I might. He plays good defense and runs the offense okay. It's the other guys in the second unit who are having a hard time executing it.
Ronnie Price is as awesome to watch as ever. Sloan has also been freed to use Ronnie properly as the come off the bench in certain matchups to create havoc.
Gordon HaywardI have actually been pretty impressed with Gordie so far. He is being underutilized so far I think. They should be using him in the second unit in a similar way that they use AK, meaning letting Gordon act as a play maker/passer. He has shown pretty amazing playmaking ability and ball handling for a guy his size. I was genuinely pissed at Deron for lashing out at him during the Suns game. Gordon I thought was one of the few guys who was busting his butt and making plays including a great block on Hedo "I Miss Dwight Howard" Turkoglu.
FESENKOFess needs to play more. He is more confident than he has ever been. He has even shown some offensive game. The Jazz havent had Fess-friendly matchups so far, so his lack of playing time hasn't been that big a deal, but you never know with Sloan. He needs to get in the game.
Francisco ElsonElson has gotten a lot of credit for being a spark of the bench, but I disagree. He looks lost so far on both ends of the floor. I would much rather have Fesenko clogging the lane. However, if you watch Elson as the team heads to the bench for timeouts, he is a leader. He is always talking to guys. Reassuring them. He even spent some time telling Deron where he was struggling versus the Clippers. That sort of stuff will be useful later on.
CJ MilesCJ has been up and down. Against the Clippers he was awful. We are talking MULTIPLE airballs. Against the Thunder, he may have been our best player. Now that Boozer is gone, CJ has become the Jazz fan whipping boy, constantly bashed in every form. CJ though has struggled largely because of the offensive problems that have effected the team. He has also struggled because he feeds so much of...
Deron WilliamsAt the beginning of training camp, Coach Sloan went out of his way to say some of the players had shown up out of shape. The media immediately jumped on Jefferson (who has admittedly had a hard time getting up the court at times). I'm starting to think he may have been talking about Deron. I have watched every minute of every game thus far. What I have seen from Deron has been disturbing. He has been unable to break people down off the dribble like he normally does. He could not get to the rim against Monta Ellis. Yeah, that Monta Ellis. Earlier in the season he wasn't pushing the ball like he usually would. Looking at pictures of Deron from the off-season. Deron may have gone all Baron Davis on us, and started his cardio work too late this summer.
This will get fixed, but it is definitely not helping things to start the season. Let's hope he doesn't become rookie Deron Williams. Yikes. He has also struggled in developing chemistry with Al Jefferson who has been slow in picking up the offense. Deron may not have liked Carlos Boozer personally, but there is no denying that they had great chemistry on the court. They read each other like few tandems in the league. We as a fan base may have underrated Carlos Boozer as a basketball player.
Get well Jeremy. I love you.
Obviously things will improve. All is not lost, but its going to be an uphill battle to be sure. With a tough road trip lurking .... I'm nervous.