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Thursday, January 3, 2013

SDH Presents the NBA's Worst to First for November: 12. Utah Jazz

Overall Win/Loss Record (as of November 30th):  9-8,  second place Northwest Division




17
This Month:
12
Team Statistics and League Rank (as of November 30th)
  • Points Scored: 98.4 (14th)
  • Points Allowed: 98.1 (15th)
  • Team FG%: .431 (21st)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .437 (8th)
  • Rebounds per game: 45.9 (4th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 42.4 (15th)
  • Turnovers per game: 15.2 (16th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 13.9 (27th)
Individual Statistical Leaders  (as of November 30th)

Worst Player of the Month:  Alec Burks


Once considered the Jazz’s shooting guard of the future, Alec Burks have now been relegated to the bench after following up a successful rookie season to complete sham of a sophomore season.  Burks went from averaging 7.2 points per game last season to just 1.7 and has thus far shot a rather meager .176 from the field, compared to the .423 that he shot last season.  He certainly must a disappointment to Jazz fans who expected him to possibly become the starting shooting guard and give the Jazz the offensive punch from the perimeter that the team severely lacked last season.  Now he sits at the end of the Jazz’s bench buried under the roster with little or no chance of coming back up.  In the span of a couple of months Alec Burks went from exciting rookie with a promising future in the NBA to becoming another tragic failure whose future has been cut short.    

First Player of the Month: Earl Watson


Pretty strange pick considering that he is a backup point guard and has only played just four games this month, but they were a rather efficient four games, however. In just 14 minutes per game Earl Watson shot .556 from the field and dished out an average of four assists per game.   It is also important to note that the Jazz won three of the four games he had played which included an eight assist performance against the New Orleans Hornets on the road. Unfortunately with his age, he is heading towards the twilight of his career and this will probably be the peak of his production for the entire season; however, at least for this short time, he can hold the honor of being the hero for this short time before slipping away back into obscurity. 


Analysis:

Coming into the season, not very much was expected from the Utah Jazz--sure they reached the playoffs last season, but that was more of a fluke that anything else.  Now the Jazz would be entering the season with not one, but two teams to compete for second and third place giving Utah Jazz fans very little optimism for their home-team's chances to return to the playoffs.  They would have to face the same Denver Nuggets who narrowly swiped second place in the division; however this time they returned with one of the league's premier defenders in Andre Igoudala.  Utah would also have to take on the Minnesota Timberwolves, who were not only returning with their dynamic duo of Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love, but also with a newly revamped roster which included former Jazz player and defensive stalwart Andrei Kirilenko, and former NBA All Star Brandon Roy to name a few.  With the odds stacked up against them, the prospects of the Jazz seemed rather bleak at best in their much stronger Northwest Division.

Fortunately for the Jazz, the team had started the season with plenty of good fortune as a result of their competitors misfortunes.  The Denver Nuggets started the season stumbling out of the gate losing their first three games and finished the month of November with a woeful 8-9 record.  The Timberwolves suffered even worse misfortune as they lost Kevin Love to injury in the preseason along with re-retiring of Brandon Roy, and a host of injuries that would decimate whatever depth their roster had.  Minnesota, due to their severely depleted roster, would also struggle finishing the the month of November losing six of their last eight games right after starting the season 5-2.   It was due to the misfortunes of its two biggest rivals that gave the Utah Jazz enough momentum to silently slip into the Northwest Division's number two spot right behind their omnipotent division leading Oklahoma City Thunder.

Similar to what happened last season, Utah's success has primary been the result of not so much of their good play, but rather the poor play of other.  Their earning the final spot in the Western Conference Playoffs last season had to do more with the collapses of their chief rivals, who at the time were the Phoenix Suns and Houston Rockets, collapsed allowing them to simply slip into the post season.  The same thing has happened again as the Jazz have managed to slip under the radar yet again to nab second place in the Northwest division swerving past the rubble left behind from a underwhelming Denver Nuggets team and a decimated Minnesota Timberwolves.  As it stood on November's end, all three teams--the Jazz, Wolves and Nuggets--were locked up in a three way battle for second place in the Northwest Division with only a game and a half separating the three teams.  Right now, nothing much really separates four of the five teams in the Northwest as the Portland Trailblazers have also kept with an earshot from the Jazz, Nuggets, and Wolves making second place up for grabs as the season progresses.

As a team, the Jazz's start has not been spectacular as they came into the season losing four of their first six games; however, Utah bounced back and followed up their slow start by finishing the month of November winning seven of their next eleven games.  Although that may seem impressive, upon closer inspection, one would see that the Jazz's November schedule was rather light and all of their wins came from sub .500 clubs.  Three of those wins went down to the wire against teams that the Jazz had no business losing to such as the overtime game in which the Jazz allowed the Toronto Raptors, one of the league's worst offensive teams, to score 133 points (11/12/2012).  They only managed to beat the league's worst team, the Washington Wizards, by just seven points as they were only able to score just 83 points (11/17/2012) and just scrapped by perennial Western Conference bottom feeder, the Sacramento Kings, by just 2 points (11/23/2012) only to lose to them the following day (11/24/2012).  This certainly does not resemble the Utah Jazz of old that averaged 50 win seasons and were always among the upper echelon of their Conference and the league.

In fact, one can go as far to say that the Jazz are on the verge of collapse; however, unlike most teams that simply just sink like stones in the water, the Jazz have managed to keep themselves afloat thanks the teams sinking around them.  Even if Utah does manage the make the post season again, it will not be because of the Jazz's performance, but more so of the collapses of the teams around them.  As a result, the Jazz will remain in a sort of limbo where they will neither be bad enough to be a lottery team, yet not good enough to go past the first round of the playoffs.  And although it may suit coach Tyrone Corbin just fine as his team is performing well enough for him to keep his job, it does not suit Utah Jazz fans who have been accustomed to their team who always set a standard for excellence.  Until the front office decides to take the necessary action  to break the team up and start from scratch, the Utah Jazz will just continue going nowhere and give their fans the run around.