Friday, August 15, 2008

Flashback Friday: Greg Ostertag

Some knew him as someone to boo viciously. Other's knew him as a kind giant who gave his own kidney to his sister. Still, other people lauded him as champion or hero for his general, non-specific goofy ways. What we do know is that he played great in one of the final games of a contract year -- arguably outplaying a Hall of Fame center to be -- and cashing that performance to the bank for $39 million dollars. This only caused other people to boo him even more. Also, he got scored on a lot.

Happy-go-lucky freshman at Kansas Getting abused while fouling, but not preventing the player from scoring in the NBA Finals Showing some emotion On loan to the Kings for a season Throwing it down on Yao Ming Moving onto more serious work in front of the camera in a new career

Greg Ostertag did not really pan out to reach his potential. What he did do in heaps was frustrate his coaches, his team mates, and mostly, his fans. He would alternate between being an integral defensive force and being a dispassionate bystander as other players shot the ball over his un-outstretched hands. His, truly, was a career defined by moments. Some highlights include: outplaying Tim Duncan during Duncan's rookie year in the Rocky Mountain Review; drop kicking the ball into the stands during a game; losing his dentures during a game; losing his contact lens during a shoot around scuffle with Shaquille O' Neal; being universally recognized for being poor on offense; being universally scored on by all manner of player; being a big goofy white guy. (you know, like dancing around in a purple Speedo)

What's lost in all of the spectacle that is Greg Ostertag happens to be the fact that he was a pretty good basketball player. While his love will always be outdoors activities, he grew up playing baseball -- but he continued to grow and grow. Ultimately when you get as tall as he gets you just 'ought' to be playing basketball. He was not going to replace Mark Eaton in the history books. Did Ostertag love the game? Probably not. Did Ostertag play the game? Certainly.

Blocking Ewing

If you look over his career, you see that he carved out a little niche doing a few things well. First of all, dude blocked himself nearly 13k shots. He probably changed twice as many by just being in the area and getting his hand near the ball. For his career he almost blocked 2.0 shots a game. If you extrapolate his playing time to 36 mpg (his career average is only 19.5 with a season high of 27.9 in 1998-1999) that gets him a 3.2 career bpg average.

Making life hard for Amare

Sticking with blocks, how does he fare compared to blocking shots vs. fouling guys. He has a career 1293 blocked shots. He has a career 1873 fouls. That's not that great, it's *only* 0.69; for a point of reference, Eaton gets a value of 1.04 blocks / one foul. So compared to a guy who's won Defensive Player of the Year twice, he's about 0.3 off. (note, this is for his career, at Ostertag's peak his metric was 0.94) How does this compare with anyone currently on the Jazz roster?

Andrei Kirilenko 1.04 Kyrylo Fesenko 0.47 (0.51 NBA-DL) Paul Millsap 0.29
Mehmet Okur 0.24 Morris Almond 0.20 (0.22 NBA-DL) Ronnie Brewer 0.16
Carlos Boozer 0.16 Kyle Korver 0.12 Jarron Collins 0.08
C.J. Miles 0.08 Deron Williams 0.08 Matt Harpring 0.06
Brevin Knight 0.05 Ronnie Price 0.04 Kosta Koufos Rookie -- no stats

Yeah, that 0.69 career blocks/fouls average doesn't look so shabby now, eh?

The good, the bad, the Ostertag

As good/bad/ugly as Greg Ostertag was, he was a certain kind of good/bad/ugly that I've previously alluded towards being one of the final hurdles towards our current Jazz team from being a serious contender. What kind of good/bad/ugly does Ostertag bring to a team -- and what did he bring to our team? First of all, he is 7'2 with long arms; and he blocks shots and rebounds well enough. He was never a threat to grab 10+ rpg, as his playing time fluctuated ridiculously according to the whims of Jerry Sloan.

Most good teams have a big guy just like that who stands tall in the paint and discourages people from going in there with the intention to score on his basket. Tyson Chandler is exactly this guy, and the Hornets are lucky to have him. As of today, the Utah Jazz have no such player on their roster -- and the lack of a true defensive center who blocks shots continues to be a major tactical disadvantage.

Utah has used 3 of their last 5 NBA Draft picks on 21+ feet of center. Kyrylo Fesenko (7'1), Kosta Koufos (7'0) and Ante Tomic (7'1) satisfy the height requirement. Other guys on the team are long for their heights (Kirilenko, Brewer and Millsap), but all of those guys are under 6'10. So unless some sort of trade happens, the only way that the Jazz will have a tall, interior defender who blocks shots and rebounds will fall to the tall shoulders of one of those three Europeans. If I had to put my money on someone to be the 'next'-Ostertag I'd say it would be Fesenko. He's big and funny, and white of course; and he seems to be the only one who has a clue how to play defense without fouling.

It's funny, that the Jazz are so close to being a contender in the ever dangerous West -- but are apparently one Ostertag short. I guess it proves the old adage correct -- sometimes you just don't appreciate what you have until you no longer have it.