Jazz fans were ecstatic following Enes Kanter’s performance against the Bobcats on Friday, March 1st. Kanter recorded a career-high in both points and rebounds, with 23 and 22. Not to be outdone, Derrick Favors turned around a couple days later and blew up against the Bucks with 23 points and 15 rebounds in a tough loss in Milwaukee.
After the trade deadline came and went with no moves, Utah’s future is as uncertain as ever. Heading into an off-season where both Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are free agents, next year is going to be the time for Favors and Kanter to step up to the plate and take over. But are they ready? If you ask Jazz fans you would get a resounding “yes.”
It is great that fans are so excited about the future of this team; so excited in fact that they want the future to be now. How could you blame them? With games like the last two from these big men, it sure seems like they are ready. Plus, it seems when they get the opportunity to get big minutes, or start, they play well.
I hopped onto hoopsstats.com to see how what Favors and Kanter have done when they receive a decent amount of minutes. Each chart shows the ten games during this season that Favors and Kanter have received the most minutes, Favors is first and Kanter’s chart is second. They are sorted by the most minutes at the top, down to the game in which they received the tenth most minutes this season. I wanted to see if they really did produce at a high rate over the period of a game in which they played significant minutes or if it just seemed like it.
These charts would seem to suggest that most of the time, when given the opportunity for significant minutes they play well but not always. That is the price you pay with playing youngsters. With less experience, comes inconsistency and usually when a team is inconsistent it is hard for them to make serious noise in the playoffs. As these two grow in experience and start having fewer games where they lay a dud, watch out because it is going to be fun to watch.
Favors has often been compared to a young Dwight Howard, an athletic player with elite defensive skills and a sub-par offensive game. He has a long way to go before he gets to the status of a Dwight Howard (hopefully he never gets Howard’s diva side), especially on the offensive side of the ball.
Defensively he is already a beast. He shuts down the entire lane when he is in, but he has a hard time staying out of foul trouble. When he starts picking up fouls, he either gets benched or is less effective in defending the paint. His offensive game has progressed nicely, probably slower than a lot of fans want but it is coming along. If you remember when he first got here the only time he would score was on dunks and put-backs. He is starting to develop some decent post moves and a nice little mid-range jumper, his free-throw percentage has also steadily increased.
Kanter has seen a huge jump in his production from his rookie year to this season. There were times last year when it looked like he didn’t belong in an NBA uniform; he couldn’t catch the ball, the rim stuffed him on multiple dunk attempts and on defense people blew right past him. After an off-season where he transformed his body, Kanter has come to play this season. Showing a variety of post moves and much-improved jumper. He is also showing more quickness on the defensive side of the ball and while he may never be elite athletically, he already rebounds the ball at an elite level.
It will be interesting to see what these guys will be capable of in the next five years. If they continue to progress at this high rate, they both have the potential to be all-star players; something you would expect from number three draft picks.
Jazz fans are frustrated with the lack of minutes they are getting, which is understandable, but they don’t understand how good they have it. The Jazz have been in the playoffs every year since 1984, except four seasons and three of those came following the departure of Stockton and Malone and the fourth was the season Deron Williams was traded. They cheer for an organization that is all about winning every single game no matter what; the reason Coach Corbin sticks with his veterans to get most of the minutes.
These guys have been built up as pillars and the future of the franchise so fans want to see the dividends pay off now. Coach Corbin has a problem most coaches would die for, too much depth. Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are both very solid players playing in front of these young guns. It is hard to know exactly what you would get from Favors and Kanter if they were to be in the starting lineup 82 nights a year, but with the vets you know exactly what you are getting. Millsap and Jefferson are proven commodities in this league that produce night in and night out.
So the key here is patience, Jazz fans. Trust has to be placed in the organization and they haven’t given you any reason not to trust them in the past. Think about what a potential starting lineup could feature in the next few years with Burks at the two, Hawyard the three and Favors and Kanter being used inter-changeably at the four and five.
The future of the Utah Jazz is a bright one. Add in a point guard in the draft or via free agency and this starting lineup can make some noise. Sure, they will have their lumps, but it will be learning experience that will only help them, as they potentially become a contender in the loaded west.