Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Utah Jazz Pre-Season 2008-2009: Position Battle

Conventional wisdom would suggest that the main battle is at the shooting guard spot. In this case conventional wisdom is wrong. There *is* no battle at shooting guard anymore, it's (1) Ronnie Brewer, (2) Kyle Korver, and (3) does it matter anymore as both of those guys average over 20 mpg? It kind of does, but only so far as we can understand that we have quality, depth and youth at the SG spot. That's no more the problem . . . the new problem is back up center. And it's a big problem. This has been the real position battle since draft night.

Why is it a big problem? Well, all of our other spots seem pretty good. In the absolute end of days situation, PG can be handled by D-Will, Ronnie Price, Brevin Knight, CJ Miles and Andrei Kirilenko. Also Brewer has okay handles. SG has a platoon of guys, and half of those guys can also play SF, which already has Andrei, Matt Harpring, and in some situations, Paul Millsap. We have the best PFs in the league.Center? After Memo (who is severely under-rated) we're looking at:

  • a guy who has gotten worse every year he's been in the league in Jarron Collins
  • someone who is applying for the job of 'the new Ostertag' in Fesenko
  • and a completely unproven 19 year old rookie who will be a player in this league, just not this season, in Kosta
Larry Curly and Moe
Got stronger, but still a girl compared to Shaq Owns Shaq Orlando Magic jersey from 5th grade Made a living flopping when defending Shaq

All three photos by Melissa Majchrzak for NBAE/Getty Images

Unless the Jazz go small a lot this season, and have Boozer play 10+ MPG at the 5 then one of these three guys is going to need to step up and manage to play up to par with the rest of our talented roster. Okur averages around 33 mpg, but essentially, it should be up to 35 at least -- you know, because he produced 18.7 and 11.2 when he played at least 35 mpg last season. This would (thankfully) leave us with only about a quarter of basketball action where one of these three ghastly ghouls would need to step out on the floor.

Making things even more sports movie cliche is the fact that all three of these guys (JC, KF and KK) all have something "to prove" this season. Jarron Collins is in a contract year (yeah, I know, sounds funny doesn't it?) and wants to prove to his coach, his teammates -- and to himself that he's not done yet. His contract expires and he wants to be getting another one.

Kyrylo Fesenko is the import that no one knew about and people fell in love with. The honeymoon was short with the media, and now all he does is get killed in print, on the Internet, and by his own coaches. He wants to prove that he wasn't a flash in the pan player who is going to never reach his potential. Especially with a younger, more scoring adept player breathing down his neck he wants to show everyone that he is the future at the 5 for the Jazz.

The last guy is Mr.Rookie, small town mom and apple pie (and souvlaki), Luke Skywalker on Tatooine boyscout who wants to prove that he belongs in the NBA 1 year out of having a designated homeroom, lunch period and recess.

It's insane that I think the Jazz are contenders this year when I look at our back up bigmen . . . not a bonafide player among them. Then I'm reminded that we used to roll with Greg Foster and an ancient Armond Gilliam in the paint in previous years.

Whomever wins this position battle is going to decide their fate with the Jazz -- yes, another incentive. If Collins wins he may finagle his way into another 2 year contract with the Jazz and eat up another roster spot. If Fesenko wins then he'll allow Koufos an entire year (if he needs it) to play in the NBA D-League while getting himself (Fes) the experience he needs playing 5 in the NBA to the point where he'll be a contributor when the playoffs come around for the 8-10 mpg that the Jazz will need out of him. If Kosta wins then he doesn't have to go to the NBA D league, which is kind of what you expect from your 1st round draft picks who play one of your most shallow positions.

Aside from what they expect, what do I expect from them? Well, you can check it out here (Jarron Collins, Kyrylo Fesenko, Kosta Koufos); but in short . . . I expect them to play to their strengths and in the case of the younger players -- I expect them to split time in SLC and Orem this season. Fes has done worse than I expected, but still hold out hope that he can win this position battle and contribute more than the other two guys could this season. Only time will tell if I'm right . . .