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Tanking for the Future: Utah Jazz Season Preview

The future is now in Utah… it just isn’t very good yet


 
Starting five: PG Trey Burke, SG Alec Burks, SF Gordon Hayward, PF Enes Kanter, C Derick Favors
 
Key bench players: SG Brandon Rush, SF Marvin Williams, SF Jeremy Evans, C Andris Biedrins, PG John Lucas III
 
Offseason additions: PG Trey Burke (#4 overall pick), SF Richard Jefferson, C Andris Biedrins, SG Brandon Rush, PG John Lucas III, C Rudy Gobert (#18 overall pick), PG Jerel McNeal, PG Ian Clark
 
Offseason subtractions: PF Paul Millsap, C Al Jefferson, PG Mo Williams, SG Randy Foye, PG Jamaal Tinsley, SG Kevin Murphy, PG Earl Watson, SF DeMarre Carroll
 
FACT OR FICTION: The Utah Jazz should be lauded for completely tanking 2013-2014.
 
FACT. In general, I think the presiding sentiment of tank or compete is overrated in the NBA. The 76ers are currently receiving accolades for sending out All-Star Jrue Holiday for another chance at Wiggins, but – if you look at the teams in the playoffs last year – only one contender (The Thunder) really tanked to get where they are today. Most of the other up and coming teams, like Houston, Memphis, and the Clippers either accumulated mid-level assets to swing trades, signed pivotal free agents, or  got lucky like the Bulls.
 
That said, the Jazz made the right call to mail in this season. They have quality, young players to develop across the board. Burke, Burks, Hayward, Kanter, and Favors are all going to get plenty of minutes this year, but in a situation without pressure to make the playoffs. The future in Utah starts now – and they have a promising core that will see more first round additions next summer. If all goes right, this team could be a real force in the West in a few seasons.… Read more...

(Not So Instant) Trade Analysis: Andre Iguodala to the Golden State Warriors and the Jazz dumping salary

Golden State Warriors get: SF Andre Iguodala (four years, $48 million)
 
Utah Jazz get: SF Richard Jefferson, C Andris Biedrins , G/F Brandon Rush, 2014 and 2017 unprotected first round pick (from GS), 2018 second round pick (from Denver), cash
 
Denver Nuggets get: G Randy Foye (three years, $9 million)
 
Atlanta Hawks get: PF Paul Millsap (two years, $19 million, via free agency)
 
Charlotte Bobcats get: PF/C Al Jefferson (three years, $41 million, via free agency)
 
If the two unprotected first rounders didn’t suggest it, the Warriors are in “win-now” mode. Duh.
 
The Warriors are going all-in with their current team after just their second winning season in almost twenty years. In a three team deal, the Warriors sent Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins and Brandon Rush (almost $24 million in salary for next season!) to the Utah Jazz, with Andre Iguodala coming to the Warriors and Randy Foye going to the Jazz, along with two unprotected first round picks. In two separate transactions, former Utah Jazz big men Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson will leave unencumbered from Salt Lake City, heading to the Atlanta Hawks and Charlotte Bobcats, respectively.
 
The Dubs will pay $39 million to just Stephen Curry, David Lee and Iguodala next year, without figuring in $9 million to Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green, as well as $14 million to center Andrew Bogut. The roster is capped out for the foreseeable future, especially when taking into considering at Thompson will most likely sign a eight figure extension in the next year or so, and Barnes doing the same the year afterwards. … Read more...

What’s at stake during Lakers/Rockets tonight in game no. 82

(My latest over at Silver Screen & Roll)
 

In Major League Baseball, it’s not uncommon for the season to come down to the last game of the season. After a 162 game marathon, divisions somehow have a way of allowing for two teams to tie going into the last days of September. Now, with the recent advent of a one-game Wild Card showdown with the postseason on the line, there’s a guaranteed “win and in” situation every single year. Thanks to a truckload of injuries, an early season coach axing, chemistry issues and zero breaks, the Los Angeles Lakers face a similar situation: one day with everything on the line.

 

With so many moving parts, let’s break it down piece by piece:

 

If the Lakers win: They’ll qualify for the postseason as the 7th seed and a first round matchup with the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs are locked in as the 2-seed no matter if they win or lose tonight against Minnesota. Houston has clinched a playoff spot already, so if the Lakers beat them, they’ll finish as the 8th seed and face the 1-seed Oklahoma City Thunder. Even if the Utah Jazz win tonight, a LA victory sends them fishing.

 

If the Lakers lose AND the Utah Jazz win: The Lakers do not qualify for the postseason, while the Jazz will be the 8th seed. Houston will finish with the 7th seed. Everyone cries in Southern California.

 

If the Lakers lose AND the Utah Jazz lose: The Lakers finish as the 8th seed will travel to Oklahoma City this weekend. The Rockets will be the 7th seed. No matter who else wins or loses, a Jazz loss would put LA in the playoffs.

 

If the Rockets win AND the Golden State Warriors lose: The Rockets finish as the 6th seed and avoid both the Spurs and Thunder. The Denver Nuggets are no treat, but certainly a more appetizing match up than facing the first two seeds. The Warriors would be the 7th seed and IF the Utah Jazz were to lose on top of this, the Lakers would be the 8th seed.

 
(Read on at Silver Screen & Roll)… Read more...

Make or Break Month: What Are the Lakers Up Against in February?

(My newest from Silver Screen & Roll)

 

Thirty-six games is all that stands between the Los Angeles Lakers and either a merely disappointing season or one of the worst seasons in franchise history.

 

As our own Drew Garrison wrote yesterday, this Lakers team simply can’t be trusted with your emotions; like a mercurial adolescent, there’s little indication of which squad will show its face night to night, quarter to quarter, minute to minute. It’s been a season of teases for the Lakers and their fans, vacillating wildly between the gutty, persistent crew that defeated the best team in the West, the one that, just days later, lost to the worst team in the West in a ridiculous 540 second meltdown.

 

Regardless of which way you sway with this Lakers team–having written them off or blindly hoping for a miracle stretch run–there’s little doubt that by the middle of February we should all know there this team is headed in April.

 

The next 28 days are pivotal for not just the Lakers, but of course for their main competitors for the bottom two spots on the Western Conference playoffs bracket. The Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz, Portland Trailblazers, Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks remain in a five-team scrum for the “honor” of facing destruction via superhuman Oklahoma City Avengers Thunder squad or a methodical, Batman-esque deconstruction by the San Antonio Spurs.

 

Just to be clear about what exactly the Lakers are facing this month, let’s break down team-by-team the four weeks of February:

 

Peep the rest after the jump!Read more...

Keep Building – Utah Jazz Season Preview

(As per usual, The King is in transit today. I’m posting on his behalf)

Starting Five: PG Mo Williams, SG Gordon Hayward, SF Marvin Williams, PF Paul Millsap, C Al Jefferson

Key Bench Players: PG Earl Watson, SG Raja Bell, SG Randy Foye, SG Alec Burks, SF Jeremy Evans, PF Derrick Favors, C Enes Kanter

Notable offseason additions: PG Devin Harris, G Mo Williams

Notable offseason subtractions: SG Randy Foye, SF Josh Howard
Kevin O’Connor received an awful lot of Executive of the Year Support for someone who failed at their job. 

Back in February, 2011, O’Connor made the decision to start the rebuilding process when he traded Deron Williams to the Nets for Derrick Favors, Devin Harris and two first round picks. It was a great move by O’Connor – the Jazz had no chance of competing before Williams became a free agent and inevitably left utah. By trading him with a year and a half left on his contract, he was able to maximize his value and avoid the fiasco the Nuggets experienced in trading Carmelo Anthony. 
O’Connor, like everybody else, figured the Jazz would have to endure a losing year but be rewarded with the lottery pick in a loaded 2012 draft that would help the team in their rebuilding process. The Jazz roster didn’t buy into the plan however, finishing a surprising 36-30 and earning the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoffs.  As result, they lost their lottery protected pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves (in a trade involving Darius Songaila and Antonio Daniels from 2009, of all things).
Missing out on a lottery pick because the Jazz overachieved likely didn’t upset most fans. What is likely upsetting them however, or at least should be, is that management is convinced the Jazz are ready to contend, as evidenced by the trades for Mo and Marvin Williams. 
As one of the top five-units in the league, the Jazz frontcourt is certainly championship caliber. Al Jefferson is a prolific scorer down low and only his subpar defense is keeping him from being an elite player. At 27 years old, he’s likely to match or exceed last year’s production. Starting power forward Paul Millsap has really blossomed into quite the player as well, averaging a career best 8.8 rebounds per game last year.
The real gem in the front court though is Derrick Favors. Only 21 years of age, he still has a lot to learn but did show significant improvement last year. At 6’ 10’’, he’s a little shorter than the ideal center. However, he has the athletic ability to develop into a dominating defensive anchor and has shown enough offensive promise that dreams of him becoming a perennial all-star don’t seem too far-fetched.
Enes Kanter, last year’s number three overall pick, appears to be another promising frontcourt player for the Jazz
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Instant Trade Analysis: Odom Comes Home

Utah Jazz get: Mo Williams, draft rights to Shan Foster

YOUR Los Angeles Clippers get: Lamar Odom

Houston Rockets get: draft rights to Furkan Aldemir

Dallas Mavericks get: draft rights to Tadija Dragicevic, cash from Houston, and a relief from the pain and suffering brought by The Kardashian Curse

Odom’s 2.4 million dollar salary would have become a hefty 8.2 by tomorrow if Dallas couldn’t pull off a miracle. Enter the Utah Jazz and their Mormon kindness, willing to take disgruntled backup combo guard Mo Williams from the Clippers, to facilitate a four-way deal.

By unleashing the much-maligned but uber-talented Odom, Dallas puts the finishing touches on what has to go down as one of the most abysmal title defenses in recent history. Mark Cuban, in only one calendar year, did the following:

  • Lowballed Tyson Chandler, the man who allowed Dirk Nowitzki to hide on defense, which allowed Chandler to leave for New York
  • Signed Half-Man, Half-Woman Vince Carter
  • Traded Corey Brewer and Rudy Fernandez to Denver for a future second-round pick (!)
  • Traded a first-round pick and an 8.9 million dollar trade exception for to the Lakers for Lamar Odom and a second-round pick
Now, of the four, the Odom deal was universally described as brilliant. Odom was fresh off becoming an unsuspecting victim of David Stern’s “basketball reasons” veto, and couldn’t muster the testicles to play for a franchise that didn’t want him. (Of course, “didn’t want him” = “we were on the verge of getting Chris bleeping Paul, you idiot.”) We laughed at Los Angeles, as Dallas seemed to luckily pounce on Showtime’s misfortune.
But Odom endured the worst year of his personal and professional life. While basketball Twitter was focused on the rumblings of the lockout, Odom spent his summer in pain over two deaths. One was the murder of his cousin, the other was a teenage pedestrian killed when a car, in which Odom was a passenger, collided with a motorcycle. As a result, the former University of Rhode Island standout arrived in Big D looking as doughy as ever, his conditioning probably suffering from having to eat Khloe’s leftovers whenever the behemoth felt pressured by her breathtakingly beautiful sisters (meaning, everyday). Okay, his conditioning actually suffered from not playing any basketball at all during the offseason, as opposed to the previous year, where he made a valuable contribution to the Kevin Durant-led Team USA that won the World Championships in Turkey.
But everything was supposed to be water on the bridge once the first jumpball was thrown up. After all, this was the reigning Sixth Man of the Year (although I guess the award has lost some luster in the past few weeks. You know who you are.). This was the guy who was versatile enough to play all three frontcourt positions, handle the ball, create, pass, and shoot. This was the guy who was traded to a team that was coming off a Larry O’Brien trophy, dismantling the team that made the trade, via sweep.
Not so fast, my friends. Odom sauntered through the 2011-2012 NBA season, producing career per game lows in minutes played (20.5), points (6.6), rebounds (4.1), and shot a frightening 35% from the floor. He spent some time away from the team to figure his ish out, and even had a short stint in the D-League (although he did not play an actual game there).
__________
Even yours truly was guilty of poking fun at Lamar Odom. But with today’s news, Odom has an opportunity to reclaim his place as a contributing member o
Read more...

MAMBINO’s Western Conference Round 1 Playoff Predictions

Unlike the electric first round of the NHL playoffs, the NBA’s first round probably won’t go into 16 overtime games, nor will there be the type of seismic upsets like the 8th seeded Kings beating the best team in the NHL, the Vancouver Canucks. However, amidst the much more predictable nature of the National Basketball Association are some pretty dynamic first round matchups. Other than being entertained by the extra ton of passion that the sometimes lethargic basketball professionals lack from their game, we’ll get 4 series from the Western Conference that could go 6 games or more. This compacted 66-game season created a slightly skewed final finish, with teams seeded lower than you’d think, and every series more about the matchup rather than the seeds designated to the teams. The setting for the ever-enticing upset is ripe. Welcome to the most wonderful time of the year.

Check our Western Conference 1st round predictions, MAMBINO-style:

1) San Antonio Spurs vs. 8) Utah Jazz – San Antonio in 6 games

BockerKnocker: There isn’t a team with more basketball IQ than the San Antonio Spurs. Coach of the Century candidate Gregg Popovich is sure to impose his will over any team, but Tim Duncan is one of the greatest big men in NBA history. He ran roughshod through the league on his superb talent, and has extended his career by understanding his body’s limitations and outsmarting his opponents season after season. The Jazz present a boatload of problems with their bruising frontline, but before people call Memphis on this shindig, Manu Ginobili will (knock on wood) be available to take advantage of Utah’s biggest weakness: their perimeter defense. San Antonio will NOT be embarrassed 2 years in a row. This series is for the NBA nerds: Popovich will attempt a blitzkrieg checkmate, the Utah frontline will try to counter by getting rough, but Utah’s coaching staff will be overmatched.

How Utah can morph into the 2011 Memphis Grizzlies and win this series: It’s a bit of a broken record at this point, but you know how the Grizz beat the Spurs in last year’s playoffs; sheer size. Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Darrell Arthur blitzed the Spurs inside for a convincing 8 seed vs. 1 seed matchup. However, what everyone forgets is how dynamic their guard play was. Tony Allen locked up Tony Parker and brought him down from 51% shooting during the regular season to 46% in those 6 games. Mike Conley almost outperformed Parker, averging 14/5/6. OJ Mayo shot 40% from the 3 point line!

To win, not only do Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors, Paul Millsap and Enes Kanter have to outmuslce San Antonio, but Gordon Hayward, Devin Harris and CJ Miles have to create havoc on the perimeter both defensively and offensively. Essentially, the Jazz have to play up to their capabilities, as they have the past few weeks. It’s possible.

2) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. 7) Dallas Mavericks – Oklahoma City in 7 games

BockerKnocker: OKC is going to have a game or two in this series where you’ll doubt their status as a championship contender, and rightfully so. Their offense is incredibly basic, especially in the fourth quarter, when head coach Scotty Brooks’ version of thinking outside of the box means setting an off-ball screen for Durant or Westbrook, instead of an on-ball screen. Dallas is full of cagey veterans and Vince Carter (not a compliment). Dirk will need a herculean performance for the Mavs to win, and with a younger, stronger Serge Ibaka shadowing him all series, it is … Read more...

MAMBINO’s NBA 2nd Half Preview

If it feels like the season just started, you’re not that far off — amazingly, opening day tip-off was little more than 2 months ago. However, even with only 33 games under our belts, this season has developed similar to every season we’ve seen before; teams have dissapointed, and teams have surprised, with the caveat of a insane schedule where guys are playing 5 games in 6 nights and back to back to backs.
We’ve each picked teams that will, in the second half of the season, wilt like LeBron in the 4th quarter, rise up like Dirk or are badly in need of a trade. Read on MAMBINites.
Falling like LeBron in the 4th
Eastern Conference: Atlanta Hawks, Orlando Magic

KOBEsh: My disdain for the Atlanta Hawks is well documented on this blog, to the point where I thought over 2,000 words was tragic understatement. Though they were missing leading scorer Joe Johnson this past week, their epic no-show against the Knicks on Tuesday was both completely exemplary of why I have no respect for this pitiful Atlanta franchise and how the second half of the season isn’t getting any easier for them.

Horford isn’t coming back from surgery anytime soon, and the team really won’t have any other reinforcements coming via trade; they are up against the cap, and with the exception of All-Star snub Josh Smith, have no tradeable assets. They have no leadership in the immature Smith and “Silent” Joe Johnson, nor do they have discipline to reach whatever ceiling they have. Their 20-14 record is not at all indicative of how pathetic they really are. I expect a steep fall in the second half, maybe even out of the playoffs.

BockerKnocker: I’ll put my hate for Dwight Howard aside. Whether or not general manager Otis Smith decides to deal the big man at the trade deadline, the rumor mill will churn with more garbage than you or I can handle. And if the resulting impact is too much for simpletons like us to deal with, I can’t imagine what it will do to an already fractured Magic locker room. Obviously, if Howard does leave Orlando soon, then head coach Stan Van Gundy will have to work some magic of his own to sustain the team’s playoff run. Think Denver post-Melo, but with far less talented players and a more panicky coach. If Howard stays in Orlando, they’ll clearly do better than without him, but again, those rumors will gnaw at them every single day. The rumors won’t stop; they will just turn into “where will Dwight sign after the season.” Place your put options on the Orlando Magic right now.

Western Conference: Utah Jazz, San Antonio Spurs

K: Don’t get me wrong; I really like this Utah team. They’re really playing hard for coach Ty Corbin both on the defensive and offensive ends of the floor. Utah is a young team with a lot of rookie and sophmore players that seem to be relatively undaunted by the ultra-competitive Western Conference in front of them. That all being said, they’re 28th in the league with only 14 road games. Without the altitude and voracious home crowd behind them, I can’t see them keeping up their modest 31 win pace. Specifically, I expect Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors and Alec Burks to slow down a bit in the second half.

BK: Just to set the record straight: the Spurs are a bonafide playoff team and will enter the playoffs with home court advantage in the first round. But to come in as the #2 seed, where the team currently sits, will be especially tough. It would be hard for any Western team to keep their standing, with the conference once again lRead more...

WWE for a NBA Fan – Northwest Division (Part 5)

OHHHHH we’re back baby. The NBA season is in full swing, and coincidentally or not, the road to Wrestlemania starts this Sunday with the Royal Rumble in St. Louis, Missouri. For those of you that are just catching on, I started writing the WWE for a NBA Fan at the very bottom of my lockout doldrums. With no basketball to keep my mind sane, I started drawing parallels between various NBA fan bases and the WWE stars I thought they would most identify with. Even as a deal was struck and real ball was played again, the WWE for a NBA Fan series has soldiered on. Presented here is part 5 of 6, the Northwest Division.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Cody Rhodes

For the Wolves and the great (and long-suffering) fans of Minnesota, I had to think of a guy who would carry the requisite features of the greatest sports stars of the state. I was trying to think of a salt of the earth type guy, someone who looks like he could grow up next door to you. Someone who would succeed with a blue-collar work ethic. Someone like a Joe Mauer, Jack Morris, Kirby Puckett, Kevin Love or Kevin Garnett. So I came up with John Cena.

But that’s obviously not who we’re going with. He’s too much of a larger than life person, too much of a transcendent pop-culture figure. I need a guy a little understated, a little more demure.

But then I realized that for Minnesota, that hasn’t touched gold since 1991 with the Twins and hasn’t seen a championship round in any sport since then, they needed a guy to follow with a certain amount of swagger contrary to what they’ve always worshiped. They need a guy who’s got a little bit of an edge to him, with a little more confidence than smarts. They need all this, but also for him to look like he could have been your buddy in high school.

Enter Cody Rhodes. Son of the legendary Dusty Rhodes, Cody looks like a normal guy (albeit, a extremely jakked normal guy…and maybe a little douchey). He’s come up through the ranks of the WWE with various tag teams and playing different characters, paying his dues at the bottom of the card. He’s had to earn his way to his spot, even though he emerged through the door his father undoubtedly opened for him. He’s improved as a wrestler every year since his introduction to the company. But even more impressive than his physical work ethic, is how he’s worked on the extracurricular features of his game. When he first came into the company, Cody was lifeless and uncharismatic. He was the skinny son of the larger than life personality (and human) Dusty Rhodes. Cody couldn’t speak, and even when he did, he had a noticeable speech impediment. However, several years later, you have to struggle to hear hints of it when he cuts weekly killer promos running down his latest opponent.

He’s moved his way up the corporate ladder the right way, the way a Timberwolves fan could identify with. But he’s also got that championship swagger that they long to feel.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Dolph Ziggler

Dolph Ziggler is the stupidest name in the WWE. The Thunder have the logo and colors of an amateur basketball squad. This comparison is already bearing fruit.

Beyond the simple facade of names and colors, these two entities have far more in common. Ziggler is one of the WWE’s shining young stars. He has limitless talent and a comparable amount of potential. In his current gimmick, Ziggler brags about being a so-called “show-off”. He claims that every single night, his match will be the one you remember most. He thinks he has the most dynamic move set, co… Read more...

MAMBINO’s NBA Preview Launch – Burning Questions for the UPCOMING 2011-2012 Season

Any text you get at 3:18 am at any point, any day, is most likely bad news. It means one of several things:

1) You’ve got an ex-girlfriend or boyfriend who either wants to pick a fight with you, or wants you to come over for an inter-coital incident that will leave you battered and broken the next morning, both physically and emotionally

2) You’ve got a current girlfriend or boyfriend that got too drunk and your car is now approximately 20 minutes away from being a $20,000 college trashcan

3) Something bad happened to someone you care about. Just got real there. Sorry MAMBINO readers.

4) Your friend needs a place to crash, and now your apartment becomes a $1,000 a month college trash can.

Friday night, nearly fast asleep at 3:18 am, Eastern Standard Time, I get a text message from my boy, OKC Thunder Fan #1 and the only owner of a Thunder Royal Ivey jersey in North America, Stolte, which read:

“DEAL DONE. TEARS OF JOY”

I put down my phone, not quite understanding what my almost assuredly shwasted friend was digitally blabbering about. About to fall back deep into my second tryptophan-induced slumber in the same number of days, I sat back up and clumsily jumped onto my Twitter app. Ken Berger, my new messiah and best friend, let me know that indeed, a handshake deal was agreed upon between the lawyers representing the players and owners and a 66-game 2011-2012 season was merely days away from becoming a reality.

Let’s set aside my abject and utter joy here. I will ignore the fact that I stayed up until 3:45am researching a news story that had zero actual information available other than the paragraph I just typed, all while knowing full well I had to be awake at 8am. I have sent out approximately 20 text messages to 20 different hoopheads throughout the day, with a dozen e-mails following suit expressing my disbelief. I just had a 20 minute conversation with a fellow member of Laker Nation that was actually about basketball. We don’t have enough time. Free agency will open in a week, with the season following a little more than two weeks after that. I was nearly resigned to a winter without NBA basketball (see my first post in a series of 6 detailing suitable WWE replacements for YOUR particular NBA squad) and having to follow a frustrating Jets teams, a Los Angeles Kings squad with no television out here in the East and a Boston College basketball team that’s already lost to Holy Cross by 11, barely edged out UC Riverside by 3 points and lost to UMass by 36 points…at home. Truthfully, and perhaps this was largely due to me wanting to preserve my sanity and not set myself up for disappointment, I haven’t even begun to think about the 2011-2012 NBA season yet.

So now, like a your lame friend who got to the party 4 hours late and decides to chug a handle of vodka to catch up to the surprise of no one and the embarrassment of everyone, we here at MAMBINO HQ will be playing vodka handle catch up with the nubile 2011-2012 NBA season.

In our darkest days of the lockout, BockerKnocker and I devised a sneaky way to discuss the NBA without having actual basketball being played by coming up with a series of posts titled “20 Things We’ll Miss About the Cancelled 2011-2012 NBA Season”. Despite the self-loathing, pathetic nature of such an endeavor, we’ve found that even with the season revived from the brink of an almost certain death, “20 Things” is still relevant.

Thus, over the next month or so, BockerKnocker and I will begin our “20 Burning Questions for the 2011-2012 NBA Season&… Read more...