Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Jazz Defeat the Heat and the Magic. Wait, What!?

You read it right. The Utah Jazz have gone East for the first time this season and knocked off two juggernaut teams in two days. This was the. same Jazz team many left for dead this summer after new of the prolonged absence of Mehmet Okur and the forever absence of Carlos Boozer and Wes Matthews.

So why this resurgence? Well, let me refer you to my theory, that of the dual big man. It is my contention that successful teams are built around two starting level post players. By my definition, a post player is not a center or  even a power forward. A post player is someone who plays in the post. In a day where the stretch four is all the rage, I contend that having two post players is better than having someone that can spread the floor.

Don't get me wrong, spreading the floor is important. And guys like Channing Frye and Rashard Lewis have value. But I think it's more important to have a defensive stretch 4 than an offensive one like Lewis, for the simple reason that offensive stretch 4s are easy to stop if you have the right defender. You can put a small forward on Lewis, have him stay at home and not cheat, and be fine. The reason is that not many of these stretch guys can beat you any other way. Rashard is not going to drive you to the rim. Neither is Frye, Okur, Jeff Green, Antawn Jamison, or any number of stretch guys.

But an offensive post? That is something dangerous. And having two? That is a formula for playoff success. Here is my reasoning. With one offensive post, defenses can squeeze in and cause all sorts of problems. Of course, if that post is great at passing and re-posting, it doesn't matter, but let's be honest, how many guys are good at that? Bogut? Horford? Certainly not Dwight. However, when you throw in another strong presence on the weak side, everything changes. Defenses have to stay honest, and honest defenses can't hide inefficiencies.

Take these Jazz for instance. Why is Milsap getting so many open looks of the pick and roll? Have you watched the rest of the defense? There is no help, because once that help happens, Paul will swing the ball and it will get entered into Al Jefferson. Having that threat is huge. Last year, Okur was not viable down low, and there was no threat. Also, if you take away Milsap's elbow jumper, he will crash in and take the ball for a dunk on the roll. This is what happens when you have two offensive posts. Orlando can't do this because Lewis is not viable rolling to the rim. When Dwight is the screener, the defense collapses and there is no other post threat to enter the ball into. Add in the fact that it is almost impossible to defend Deron Williams on the pick (Stockton, anyone?) with one player, and you come up with a scary offense.

Look at teams with two posts. The Lakers have them: Gasol and Odom. I know that Odom is going to get confused as a stretch because of his handle and his three-point skills, but seriously, do you think Odom can actually shoot the three? No, he is a post because he is a legitimate threat to take it inside, in traffic. Boston is another two-post team. Dallas has one and a half posts, because Dirk is getting better and better at scoring close to the rim. Portland has two posts if they can just get healthy. Houston, ditto (though I don't know if Yao will ever look the same). And funnily, Carlos Boozer is going to get into a great situation with a two-post team in Chicago. That's one of the reasons I'm looking for a huge year for Carlos: can you imagine playing him straight up near the elbow, knowing you can't hide because he's a superior passer and Noah will dunk it all over you? That's a huge difference from playing with Okur.

Which then leaves us with the two teams that the Jazz beat. The Heat are a one post team: 33% Chris Bosh, 66% LeBron. Bosh has been a colossal disappointment. Sure, he posted great numbers last year, but he looks totally lost playing with Wade and James. If the Heat played a 7-game series against LA/Boston, Garnett and Gasol/Odom would destroy Bosh. He needs to get his act together if Miami wants to be considered an elite team (they are not). The Magic are also a one post team: they have Dwight, and no one else that is going to spend time in the post. Lewis showed a total inability to defend Milsap.

Can the Jazz contend with a title with a two-post team? I certainly believe so. I think it's great that Okur is going to be out for a while. This way, Jefferson can get into a groove. He still looks hesitant in Utah's complex offense, but I have confidence he'll get better, because when it gets simple and the game is on the line, you can throw him an iso and he will still dominate. Looking to pad a late lead against the Magic, Al took Dwight in and shot a pretty hook over him. Overall, Al is looking good physically and I see him getting into the flow. As long as Deron can be a facilitator and let these two posts do the heavy lifting, I see big things for the Jazz. But that's just my opinion; as always, you make the calls.

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