Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Utah Jazz Pre-Season 2008-2009: X Factor

The major X-Factor this season is not going to be guard play . . . or post defense . . . or bench production. All three of those things have normalized themselves, our guards are who they are, our post defense needs improvement and our bench is very productive. The whole issue of next off-season will not hang over the heads of this team all season long either -- as they will focus on the games at hand. If this does become a large factor it will actually serve as a positive motivation for the team to get it done this season, instead of just rely on the fact that they are all so young. (Eldest player on the team is Brevin Knight at 32)

The X-factor for this season is, bluntly, Andrei Kirilenko. I've written about him a lot ever since I started this blog (61 times as of this writing), and that is no doubt correlated to how complicated his situation is with our team.
More monkey dunks, less games of 8 points and 2 rebounds

I don't need to rehash everything here, we all know that he makes more money than he could ever justify on the court. We also know that he's pretty talented, and when given the minutes, he can do some amazing things -- things no one else on our team can do. Right now he's going to come off the bench for us (which may be good -- or bad).

The main reason why he's the X factor is because of escalation. Back in the 80s you were a contending team if you had two really good players (for example, the Jazz didn't start to win until they had Stockton and Malone). Then somewhere in the 90s you needed a third guy to be a good team -- and all these crops of "the big three" started to be talked about. Some teams still did well with two really good players (like Shaq and Kobe), while other teams needed that third guy to get them over the top. The last, best example of this would be the 2007-2008 Boston Celtics with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. Escalation now has changed things, and to be a good team you're going to need four good guys.

For example, a team like Orlando (three good guys in Dwight, Hedo and Rashard) can only advance so far in the playoffs because their three guys aren't the best three guys around. They would need a 4th guy to be as good. Moreover, the LA Lakers now sport line ups with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom. The Detroit Pistons have been playing forever with Chauncey, Rip, Tay and 'Sheed. Houston has reloaded and are now Tracy, Yao, Ron and Battier/Rafer (they equal one good player).

Brewer is a nice player, but right now he's not at the same level as most of the guys I've listed -- he's not at an All-Star level. Andrei, on the other hand, has all the credentials to be a player at that level. He is a go-to-guy for his national team, he compliments the other three guys (Deron, Carlos and Memo) well, and he's BEEN just as good as an All-Star at times during his career (Like last season's victory over the Lakers when Memo and Booz were out and he had a triple double and nearly a 5x5 in the same game).

Four is the new three; just as three was the new two. We need that 4th guy to step up. And as a result, Andrei Kirilenko is our X-Factor this season. We need less 12 point, 4 assist games from him and more 16 point, 6 rebound, 5 assists games from him if the Jazz are going to be one of the top 5 teams at the end of the season -- instead of just at the beginning.