Saturday, October 25, 2008

Utah Jazz Pre-Season 2008-2009: Breakout Player of the year

Few factors influence a player breaking out like the availability of playing time, youth turning into maturity and the potential for greater riches. It's hard to break out (statistically at least) if you don't have any time on the floor. It's hard to break out if you're an old fart -- usually the only break out players are players who are drafted young, spend a few seasons seasoning, and then eventually get it together. Lastly, nothing motivates (most) players to play harder than being in a contract year.

Let's tackle the last part first -- contract years. Who, on our team, is in a contract year? Carlos Boozer most likely is, as soon as he finalizes his player's opt out. Okur could also terminate his contract early this season -- and can be in a contract year, though I don't know if he will. Kyle Korver appears next on our depth chart who falls in this situation -- but he's not a true free agent either, as he'll have to terminate his contract early -- though I don't see our team, or other teams out there, who are going to spend more than what he's currently making on a guy who is a shooting specialist. (He's set to make over $5 million next season) Jarron Collins' contract expires this year (I'll email everyone the address of the party when I get it organized), so does Brevin Knight's contract. More to the point, Ronnie Price, Paul Millsap and possibly also Morris Almond may be free agents. (The Jazz have till Oct 31st to pick up the team option on Almond's contract)

Some of those guys are at their peak, like Boozer and Okur. I don't expect them having break out years, especially how both were All-Stars in previous seasons. So that eliminates them both. Collins and Knight aren't going to get better either, so they are both out. More over, Collins isn't going to get the minutes needed for him to break out -- and sadly (or, well, appropriately) neither will the young master Morris Almond. So count Mobe out -- unless there are a lot of injuries or he gets turned to the darkside if the Jazz don't pick up his team option, and he goes out and averages 40 ppg in the D-League.

Who does that leave? Ronnie Price, Paul Millsap and Kyle Korver.

The Case for Ronnie Price:

Price wants it

Especially with Deron currently on the shelf, he has all the time needed to impress. He's in a contract year, and all season long he's going to be looking over his shoulder because cagey veteran Brevin Knight is on the team -- so he's not going to slack off. Aside from all of that, Price knows our system, this is his second year here and he's a quick young player who has talent.

He was dropping three point bombs on the Houston Rockets last season in the playoffs, only to throw down dunks and block shots in round two, vs. the LA Lakers. He's probably not going to see a huge over-all playing time increase from the 10 mpg he got last year because Deron plays around 37 a game though -- so this could be a problem when it comes to really 'statistically' breaking out.

The Case for Kyle Korver:

Korver is shooting the lights out

Sure, he's closer to 30 than 20, but he's primed for a break out year -- even if he's not entirely motivated by getting a new contract. For one, this is his first Jazz training camp -- and if we learned anything from Hornacek's playing days, this makes a huge statistical difference. I already talked about how much better Hornacek got after 1 Jazz training camp, so I'm not going to explain it again. More than that, just look at Korver's stats from the preseason . . . he complained all off-season about how poorly he shot for us, and according to how he's shooting for the Jazz this season he seems to have really *really* been pissed about it. He's currently shooting 50.9 fg%, 100% at the FT line (and yes, he's taken more than just one shot from there), and 57.1 3pt%. Last season he shot 47.4 fg%, 91.7 ft% and 38.8 3pt% in a Jazz uniform. So he's upped his shot making ability across the board. He's not going to play 30 minutes per game, but will still probably finish games for us. More than just being primed for a big year he's already been showing that he's having a big year.

The Case of Paul Millsap:

The Antoine Carr / Horace Grant goggles are awesome, but did not stay on his face for long

Millsap is young, rugged, and plays interior defense. He is a rebounding beast and he knows that he controls his own destiny. If he wants to stay in Utah it's up to him to show the Jazz Brass that they should give him money, and say goodbye to Carlos Boozer after this season. His rookie deal is ending this year and there are plenty of teams out there that could use a Millsap type of player. He's in that group of players like he, Maxiel, Tyrus Thomas and Craig Smith who are young shotblockers who can jump all day long. It's very elite company when I can only think of three other guys his age who show his potential. Every season his MPG has gone up, and he seems to have added more offensive finesse to his game this year. If everything goes right I could see him average 16 and 6 this season -- the only thing in his way is his place on the depth chart. Sloan hinted that this season he's going to play people who play defense, if someone on the floor isn't -- that guy will sit on the bench and watch. This may be Millsap's chance to breakout.

What about Ronnie Brewer and CJ?

One of these guys has made it, the other one has not. Can you tell?

I think Brewer broke out last season -- if you don't, then go re-watch some games from last season. Brewer is going to continue to improve but I think that he should be eliminated from this discussion.

As for Ceejay, well his play so far is eliminating him from having a breakout season . . . but at least he's making $14 million dollars . . . so it's not all bad.


It's going to come down between Korver and Millsap in my mind -- Knight and Price will both do enough this season to deserve contracts next season. Millsap is the youngest of the three, has the most potential, and offers a financial respite from having to pay Carlos Boozer the moon. Korver is currently having the best season so far -- so he's the one who is actually breaking out. We'll see which of these guys actually does it when the games count . . .