Saturday, February 21, 2009

"To be honest with you Diane, I'm surprised..."

You may not know where that quote is from, so just to get it over with . . . watch this.

This season has been surprising for a variety of reasons, and there are some things that have surprised me immensely; though, I was probably not as surprised as Erica up above was, the point needs to be said: this run on sentence features the word "surprise" a surprisingly large number of times. In celebration of me murdering the English language, here are the Top 5 surprises of the Utah Jazz season so far:

5. Record against Eastern Conference teams:


Right now the Jazz are sitting at 32-23. Over that span the Jazz have gone 22-11 against the Western Conference, that's not too shabby when you look at how injured they have been. Over a closer inspection, though, this reveals that the Jazz have gone 10-12 against the East so far this season. That's pathetic. Sure, 7 of those 12 losses have been on the road (on brutal road trips); but that means that the Jazz have lost to the East 5 times ON THEIR OWN HOMECOURT! Chicago, New Jersey, Miami, Orlando and Cleveland have all beat the Jazz in Salt Lake City. It's bad enough to lose to contenders on your homer court, but to lose to teams like the Bulls, Heat and Nets is just inexcusable. I remember that Orlando game vividly, the Jazz were pounding Orlando, I felt good about the game and went out to get some "drive thu" at halftime. When I came back the Jazz were getting killed. What happened? For whatever reason, the Jazz have sucked against the east this season . . . it's one thing to have the Cavs sweep you, but the Bulls also? Yeeesh!

4. Kyle Korver's shooting:

Oct 9 2008 [Melissa Majchrzak NBAE/Getty Images] Kyle shoots it

Remember the good old days, last season, when Korver shot 47.4 fg%, 38.8 3pt% and 91.7 ft%? Those were good days, weren't they? They were not career highs for Kyle (save for fg%) but he came to the Jazz with shooting percentages that boasted career averages of over 40% from deep and 88% from the stripe. I even felt that he would improve after a Utah Jazz training camp (based on the premise that Hornacek's percentages all went up from his half a season with the Jazz to his first full season). Well, this season he's been fighting through a wrist injury on his shooting hand that has seriously impacted his shot making ability. It hasn't hurt any other parts of his game as he's boarding better, playing remarkably solid defense for stretches . . . and he's still getting the same TYPES of shots that he was making last season (i.e. waaaay open shots within the Jazz offense). That said, here are his numbers this season through the 51 games he has played so far:

40.9 FG% 34.7 3PT% 85.5 FT%

Sure, they are not that bad, especially not his FT and 3PT percentages compared to the average guard off the bench in the NBA, but let's not forget that shooting is Kyle's speciality. He's shooting 7% worse from the floor than he did last season. His three point percentage is a CAREER LOW right now (wasn't he supposed to be our three point ace?) and his FT% used to be sky high (90+ %) but has leveled off quite a bit.

3. Kosta Koufos is a lot better than I thought he would be:

Nov 21 2008 [D Clarke Evans NBAE/Getty Images] Kosta throws it down with two hands

I like Kosta, he seems like an amazing person and an amazing team mate. He's very coachable and works very hard. I did not know that he was as good as he has shown, though. I did probably over analyze his games over the Rocky Mountain Review, but I'm happy to say that he's not the same player that we all first saw. Back then he was a guy who almost shot the ball as frequently as once every 2 minutes on the floor, was a dead-eye FT shooter (90.9 ft%) and had a 38.1 fg%. Really, check out the stats. Instead he's a guy who is giving the Jazz almost 5 ppg (51 fg%, 70 ft%), 3 rpg, and nearly 1 bpg -- as a rookie. It's surprising that we aren't seeing more of him. I appraised him and his first season as one of learning, working hard, and being much more offensively gifted than Fesenko was as a rookie. I was correct on all of those counts; though, I thought that he would have at least spent some time down with the NBA-DL . . . but Jerry has hardly used that at all this season.

2. The Boozer/Millsap conundrum:

Nov 3 2008 [Stephen Dunn NBAE/Getty Images] Carlos spins inside
Dec 2 2008 [Rocky Widner NBAE/Getty Images] Millsap goes inside

I think that Boozer is pretty much what anyone would want from a power forward statistically. He scores very efficiently and rebounds like a man possessed. Millsap doesn't have the offensive polish of Boozer, but in times where 'Sap got playing time, he was able to produce some really eye-opening numbers. This is how I felt at the beginning of the season, and still, it's hard to get away from my thoughts which suggest that Boozer is a quality NBA starter (just not on man to man defense), and Paul Millsap is a Top 10 Bench player in the NBA. There's a fine line that should distinguish these two (and no, I don't mean salary), and at times this season Millsap has shown himself to be the equal, better, or in some cases, lesser of Carlos Boozer -- at times blurring this line, and other times justifying it.

Arguments can (and have been) made to suggest one is better than the other, but really, shouldn't we be happy to have both -- together!?! (Even if it's just for the short term?) Boozer can do things Millsap can't, and vice versa. Millsap's play this season (mostly as a starter as Boozer has been injured for 43 games) may have pushed his going rate to higher than the Jazz may be willing to pay -- if they intend on keeping both players. This is a surprise to me, because I felt as though Millsap was a great younger player, but not a guy knocking on the door of a $8+ million dollar a year contract. How many of you out there on the Internet thought he would be worth as much?

1. All the Injuries / The Jazz record despite all the Injuries:

I don't really need to spell this one out, but I'm really surprised at all the injuries -- and even more surprised by being so many games over .500 -- I guess this is why you have to play the games though, right? Just read this for more information.


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