Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Jazz and Lakers

Perfect post. Nothing more needs to be said. Except my firm belief that Jerry Sloan is a very good 2nd-place coach. That's his ceiling. He always gets his guys' respect and attention, knows the X's and O's of basketball, gets his players to play smart. He does all those things right. But as far as the ability to build a playoff contender? I don't see it. The Jazz have never had the defensive toughness in the paint or pure scorer that you need to build a championship team. And I think it is because of Sloan's philosophy.

First, paint defense. They Jazz went to the Finals twice in the 90's when the second-best team in the West was a Seattle team that had Ray one else. It's easy to be big in the paint when the Sonics had no post presence. In The Book of Basketball, Bill Simmons writes that if Allen and Miller switched teams in the 90's, their career arcs could have been totally different (with Allen perhaps beating Jordan to get to the Finals...oh wait, Jordain is a winning maniac). The point is, had the Jazz played in the East, it is questionable with their approach if they could have gotten to the Conference Semifinals. They have never had good post defense because they don't have the players or don't teach the players they have. That responsibility has to come from the coach.

Second, pure scoring. First of all, let me make clear two points: Deron is a great scorer and Carlos is a great scorer. But I don't believe that they are scorers you need in the modern NBA. I think that you can win with these two as your top 2 players. But I think you need another good shooter at the wing position, probably at 2 since you have Andrei at 3. Case-in-point: the 1989 Detroit Pistons, with Isaiah as their best player. Their top scorer was Adrien Dantley, and their No. 3 scorer was Joe Dumars. Neither really shot particularly well, but I believe that to be a by-product of the early days of the 3-point line. Case-in-point No. 2: the 2005 Detroit Pistons, with instant offense from Rip Hamilton. Chauncey was the best player, but Rip was their sure-fire, we need these two points guy. Which brings me back to the Jazz, who have usually had a PG as their best player, from Stockton to Williams. I think you can win with those guys, but you have to have a good wing scorer to go with them (I know Hornacek was a great scorer, but I think you need both parts, post and scoring). How does this have to do with Sloan's philosophy? I don't think he likes good scorers. Sloan is a get-the-best-shot type of coach. He revels in open looks and layups, and eschews difficult shots. But with good to great scorers, you have to live with difficult shots. At some points, it is a volume thing: Rip Hamilton is never going to be good with 15 touches per game. But I strongly believe you need a guy that can create for himself or get open at any point on the floor, takes some difficult shots, and makes them.

I keep going back to the Pistons of 2005. They are so similar to the Jazz in my eyes. Prince/Kirilenko, Billups/Williams, 'Sheed/Boozer, McDyess/Millsap. I think the Jazz match up well, except they have no answer for Ben Wallace and Rip Hamilton, post defense and wing scoring.

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