For the first time since last April, the Utah Jazz were back in official NBA action Tuesday night, taking on the Golden State Warriors in preseason basketball. It’s only preseason and the Warriors were on the tail end of a back to back, but there were a few things that stood out t in Utah’s win that are worth mentioning.
Jazz head coach Ty Corbin started Trey Burke, Gordon Hayward, Richard Jefferson, Enes Kanter, and Derrick Favors against Golden State Tuesday night. One of the best purposes of the NBA preseason is the ability coaches have to work with lineups, and see how certain players interact with each other. While there was some surprise at Jefferson starting over Alec Burks, the starting lineup did prove to be effective.
While the starters were an effective group together, they did have their struggles offensively. Burke is a rookie and very new to Utah’s offense, and he had his ups and downs. At times, the starters looked frustrated on the offensive side of the ball; they knew what they wanted to run, they just seemed to have a hard time executing it. With all the new faces in Utah this season, offense is going to be a work in progress moving forward for this Jazz team.
The second unit for the Jazz had a lot of energy and hustle, spearheaded by Burks and Jeremy Evans. Evans saw a lot of time against the Warriors, compared to other games in his career, playing 24:43 of action. Burks showed that he could become a viable 6th man off the bench for the Jazz as he filled that role very well Tuesday night. John Lucas III was Corbin’s go-to second string point guard, and he did a solid job of running the offense. While at times the ball would stall and the plays would become broken, Lucas did a good job scoring 16 points in 18:29, leading the team in points. Overall, the second unit worked well together, but they have more kinks to iron out than the starters do. With most of the second unit being new to the Jazz, a bit of a learning curve in the first preseason game is to be expected.
This was an area of great interest to me before training camp and preseason got underway – with all the new personnel in Utah, what kind of offense was Corbin going to run this season? Well, Tuesday night saw quite a few remnants of the flex from last season, especially when Kanter and Favors were in the game. Hard cuts, screens, and interior passing were still present in Utah’s offense, and look as if they’re aspects that fit these players pretty well.
Again, this is just one game in preseason, but based purely on statistical information, Favors and Kanter had pretty insignificant nights (although they only played 24 &20 minutes). If these two players are to be the future front court anchors for Utah, one would like to see their stats jump sharply season after season. However, Kanter and Favors both scored 10 points tonight, up only .6 from Favors’ 9.4 average in 2012-13, and up only 2.8 from Kanter’s 7.2 average.
Favors did pull down 14 rebounds, nearly double his 7.1 average from a season ago.
If they Jazz have made any changes to their pick and roll defensive scheme, there weren’t a lot of opportunities to display that against the Warriors. Golden State didn’t run too many pick and roll plays, but even so, Utah did give a good defensive showing, only allowing 78 points. Golden State was on the bad end of a back-to-back, but the Jazz should still be lauded for their defensive effort. Only a few times during the game were defensive assignments completely blown, and most of the time Corbin had his players in a man-to-man defense. Utah’s new found athleticism paid off a lot in this category.
Highlight of the game
I couldn’t decide whether Evans or Burke deserved this honor. Evans does merit an honorable mention, because he put up 12 points and pulled down 13 rebounds during his time on the floor. He’s making the most of his opportunity to prove that he deserves minutes, and that he can become a dependable part of the offense. Not to mention Evans showed off an improved jump shot a few times Tuesday night as well.
Now, moving onto Burke – I thought he had a great game. 12 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds, and one turnover isn’t a bad line for a rookie’s NBA preseason debut. While a 3:1 assist to turnover ratio is a great number, I was more impressed with something that the stat sheet can’t measure – Burke’s court awareness. Burke has incredible court vision, and always knows where his teammates are on the court. Burke’s floor general abilities are a big reason why general manager Dennis Lindsey and coach Corbin put so much effort into drafting him at number 9.
One play in particular illustrates Burke’s court sense very well. With about 1:30 left in the first half, Burke rolled off a screen and rose up to shoot the ball. However, he realized that David Lee was probably going to block his shot. Without hesitating he kicked the ball to Favors, who was standing on the left elbow. Favors caught the ball in rhythm and knocked down the shot. The quick adjustment by Burke in midair to find his teammate really stood out to me as a good sign of Burke’s play making abilities.
Excited to see game two Friday night when the Jazz take on Portland in Boise.