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Thursday, January 31, 2013

SDH Presents the NBA's Worst to First for December: 19. Utah Jazz

Overall Win/Loss Record (as of December 31st):  15-17,  fifth place Northwest Division

This Month:

Team Statistics and League Rank (as of December 31st ):
  • Points Scored: 98.5 (10th)
  • Points Allowed: 99.6 (22nd)
  • Team FG%: .443 (15th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .457 (22nd)
  • Rebounds per game: 42.8 (13th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 41.7 (13th)
  • Turnovers per game: 15.2 (17th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 14.6 (16th)

Individual Statistical Leaders (as of December 31st):

Worst Player of the Month: Marvin Williams

This was supposed to be a year of redemption for Marvin Williams:  after seven wasted years in Atlanta, this was supposed to be his chance to prove to everyone that he was not the draft day blunder that he has been portrayed to be.  He could start off fresh in new surroundings and finally would have a chance to revitalize his once stagnant and slumping career.  Unfortunately, that has not happened as Williams has once again continued to disappoint as he has become even less of factor Utah than he ever was in Atlanta. His performance in December was less than stellar to say the least averaging just 7.7 points and 3.3 boards per game dropping down from his numbers in November of 9.7 points 3.8 boards.  At least he will just be on the last year on his contractafter this season so the Jazz can either buy him out or use him as part of a trade.   
First Player of the Month: Enes Kanter

After a rather solid rookie season for a player that had limited basketball experience, Enes Kanter has picked up where he has left off proving how much of a steal he was with the third pick of the 2011 NBA Draft.  Along with a much more cut and muscular physique, Kanter has also become an efficient and reliable contributor coming off the bench.  In less than 15 minutes of playing time, he has averaged around 6 points and four rebounds per game while shooting at an efficient .550 clip.  Although it is quite too early to determine whether he will be a star or not, Kanter has certainly shown that he certainly belongs in this league and will have a bright future if he continues to progress the way he had had.  What the Jazz will do in the off season will determine whether or not the franchise has enough faith that he will live up to his status as the third overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.

In one month, the Utah Jazz went from a team that picked up where the left off from last season's shocking playoff appearance and one of the top teams in the Western Conference to falling to last place in its division and finding themselves on the outside looking in on the playoff race.  November was a rather up and down month for the Utah Jazz, but the Jazz still manged to come out of it with a 9-8 record.  December, however, was somewhat rougher as the Jazz would struggle a bit going 6-9 for the month and go into new year two games under .500.  Utah started December well enough winning four of its first six games including an upset win over the Western Conference leading San Antonio Spurs (12/12/2012).  Unfortunately that momentum did not last as the Jazz would finish 2012 on a sour note losing seven of their last nine games and those loses were not pretty either.

All seven losses were rather convincing as the Jazz lost five of them by double figures with an average margin of 12.2 points.  They certainly did not look like the team that clawed their way through November fighting tooth and nail, but more as if the team had simply run out of gas.  Granted Utah did face some rather stiff competition during that nine game stretch which included Western Conference powerhouses such as the Memphis Grizzlies (12/15/2012), Golden State Warriors (12/26/2012) and the Los Angeles Clippers twice--once at home (12/28/2012) followed by other on the road two days later (12/30/2012).  Utah also had the misfortune to face two of the Eastern Conferences top teams on the road as well facing the Central Division leading Indiana Pacers (12/19/2012) and the reigning NBA Champion Miami Heat (12/22/2012) which were both by rather sizable margin--by a total of 36 points.  Nonetheless, despite facing the cream of the crop in the NBA, there was still no excuse for Utah to allow themselves to be steamrolled over like that.

It was as if the Jazz simply fell asleep at the wheel as there was just simply a supreme lack of focus and energy on the their part allowing their opponents to have their way with them on the offensive end.  In that final nine game stretch in December, the Jazz allowed their opponents to outscore them 100.7 to 91.7 and scorch them from the field out-shooting them .474 to .418.  Their poor effort on the defensive end was bad enough, but to allow such a feeble offering on the offensive end while supposedly boasting on of the deepest and dangerous front courts in the league is simply inexcusable.  They allowed the worst team in the Western Conference, the Phoenix Suns, to have their way with them allowing the Suns to simply abuse them on the floor stomping them by 15 points.  Most noticeably, the Jazz allowed one of the league's lowest scoring and poorest shooting teams in the Indiana Pacers to just simply torch them scoring a monthly high of 107 points while allowing a team that ranks 23rd in the league in field goal percentage to shoot probably the best that they have ever had on the field.  With such a poor performance, Utah had better wake up or else this will turn out to be a very long season.

This certainly has to be frustrating for head coach Tyrone Corbin because he has witnessed his team perform far better under much worse circumstances.  After all, not many gave the Jazz much of a chance last season when they came in without their former franchise player Deron Williams and long time coach Jerry Sloan.  Many expected the Jazz to simply tank the season as many anticipated last season to be the start of a long and arduous rebuilding period; however, Utah proved all their naysayers wrong as they outperformed and overachieved resulting them in surprisingly catching the last opening in the Western Conference playoffs.  With the addition perimeter firepower that was added in the forms of both Mo and Marvin Williams along with Randy Foye, the Jazz looked to have an even stronger team from last season as the roster is much more balanced in terms of inside and outside scoring production.  As the season continues on and if the Jazz continues this slide, there will certainly be plenty of questions and speculation on what moves the team's front office will do to respond to this disturbing trend.

In lieu of recent events, the Jazz's General Manger, Kevin O'Connor has two options: either allow the team to simply tank the season waiting for the 40$ million in cap space to arrive once the season ends or use the wealth of expiring contract along with the two front round picks the Jazz possess to attain immediate help in the hopes of making another playoff run. In regard to Utah's current situation, the Jazz still remains quite respectable despite dropping nine of fifteen games to end 2012.  The season is still young so the Jazz can still regain some ground and still make a push for a second straight playoff appearance.  However, in a rather competitive Western Conference, does Utah really want to risk busting their hump only to narrowly miss the playoffs and be left with a rather low first round pick to show for it.  It will really be interesting to see what will happen in the next couple of months with the All Star break trade deadline looming as the Jazz seem to be stuck in limbo while teetering on the edge as well.