The Utah Jazz have a lot to learn

May 7, 2012; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz shooting guard Gordon Hayward (20) walks off the court after game four of the Western Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs against the San Antonio Spurs at EnergySolutions Arena. The Spurs defeated the Jazz 87-81 to sweep Utah and win the series. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE

Although the Jazz were swept by the Spurs, Gordon Hayward is still looking forward to next year.

I mean no disrespect to the Utah Jazz but now, officially, the playoffs will begin. The Jazz are a fine team that certainly has a lot of pieces that potentially can become a cohesive unit. They aren’t quite there yet.

After the Spurs disposed of the Jazz for the final time this season, they shouldn’t hang their heads. They were playing, in my opinion at least, the most complete basketball team in the NBA. The Spurs always make the extra pass, the extra cut, the extra screen. They always make the defense pay for missed defensive rotations. For this reason alone, the Spurs don’t waste any possessions.

Maybe Utah will reach that level, the pinnacle of basketball. A synonymous unit that knows each other like the back of their hands.

As of now, however, Utah is simply a basketball team that has one decisive advantage and a flurry of flaws that will prevent them from reaching the next level unless they address these flaws directly. Whether they improve through the draft — their 2012 top seven protected first-round pick might help — free agency or through a trade will be up the front office.

Devin Harris is a quick point guard that can beat many players in a foot race. The problem is that many point guards fit the same mold and, without one discernible skill, Harris is mostly indistinguishable from his peers. Harris has improved his 3-point stroke this year; his 36.2 percentage from behind the arc is a career high.

May 7, 2012; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors (15) looks to pass while defended by San Antonio Spurs center Tiago Splitter (22) during the first half of game four in the Western Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at EnergySolutions Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE

Derrick Favors will be an important cog to the Jazz rotation next year.

Derrick Favors, a 6’10″ physical specimen, made an impact in his first career playoff start. Favors was active on the defensive glass and his close out ability impeded the path of the Spurs guards. Favors was credited with two blocks although it felt like much more. As a result, for the first time all series, Utah scored more points in the paint than San Antonio.

Al Jefferson is a talented low post scorer. He’s a little slow on pick-and-rolls, thus our incentive to run him into pick-and-rolls all series. His block totals overvalue his defensive aptitude, surely. Even so, he is 27-years-old and he seems to have a future with the Jazz barring any unforeseen trades in the near future.

Selected with the 47th overall pick in the 2006 draft, Paul Millsap has enjoyed a precipitous rise from his rookie year. In the final game of the series, Millsap grabbed 19 rebounds and blocked three shots. Millsap was pressed into playing the 3 last night and he did so admirably.

I have a soft spot for Gordon Hayward. He’s a smart kid that nearly ripped out the hearts of Duke University when his fateful shot clanked off the back iron in the National Championship game. But, as it turns out, he’s also a pretty good professional. Hayward was mostly non existent after attempting, and converting, on 12 free throws in Game 1. He wasn’t able to slash into the paint with any regularity, leaving him largely ineffective for the remainder of the series.

This core is one that is a little rough around the edges. But with some fine tuning, this rotation is one that can withstand the rigorous Western Conference.

A test like the one they experienced this week is one that some teams need in their development. Their failure leaves them with a sting that will resonate until next year, until they will be ready to learn from their four consecutive defeats at the hands of the superior Spurs.

But, until they translate this learning experience into tangible results, the Utah Jazz will be relegated to facing the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the playoffs. And, if this series is any indication, the Jazz surely don’t want that, do they?

Game notes
Utah missed all of their 13 3-point attempts … It is their third time this season where they didn’t convert on a 3-pointer … Paul Millsap grabbed 19 boards, marking a season-high … Millsap’s 19 rebounds is the second highest total recorded by a Jazz player this year … Millsap also finished with 10 points on 4-of-17 shooting … Derrick Favors, inserted into the starting lineup in lieu of Josh Howard, recorded a double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds) and he attempted 12 free throws … Devin Harris led the team with a +15 … The Jazz’ bench accounted for 10 points or about 12.3 percent … The Spurs’ bench accounted for 57 points or 65.5 percent of their total points … Manu Ginobili led the team with 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting … Tiago Splitter (10 points, two rebounds) led the team with a +21 … Boris Diaw was held scoreless for 20:42 … Tim Duncan scored 11 points, increasing his streak to 14 consecutive games with 10-plus points …

Topics: Al Jefferson, Devin Harris, Gordon Hayward, Paul Millsap, San Antonio Spurs, Utah Jazz

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  • rtesoro440

    Favors, Kanter and Burkes are future jazz stars. They are just raw for a bruising western conference but once they paid their dues they will be alright. It is the wish of every spurs fan to see either Favors or Kanter in black and silver uniform. With the upcoming draft, ther jazz will sign players necessary to complete a better lineup ready for next year. The spurs will certainly like to trade higher and get a chance to draft a big man and the jazz could be a trade partner. Other teams that have multiple 1st round drafts like the blazers, hornets, nets and rockets may be trade partners. The spurs may give some of its assets like blair, bonner, anderson or joseph and sign ONE big man like zeller, moultrie, jones 111, or melo. In the second round the spurs may go with mike scott and kris joseph. 

  • rubberbandman84

    thanks for your words of consolation..you sound as if you are already so far removed from the first round beating you suffered at the claws of the from the mighty Grizz.. last year… that despite just keeping healthy – there really aren’t any other teams to fear this year. I don’t know if should be called confidence or plain ignorance.The spurs are great, passing, good, shooting technically are fundemenatlly sound and all,  but from the message boards I read many Spurs fans think they already have this whole NBA championship thing in the bag already. Titles aren’t won because of teams regular seasons…if  by some chance you get past OKC – which I think the spurs are capable of…. I really don’t think they have what it takes to beat the Heat. Lebron shuts down Tony Parker, and the Spurs don’t have anyone to shot down the guy shutting down Tony Parker – that player who the League has already anointed the King – Lebron James. Nothing will stop Lebron this year. it’s his year and he is on a mission.
    When the Spurs miss a few of those threes they live and die by…The so called super-subs are going to get scared because Pop won’t tolerate the mistakes they will freeze up and choke. Most of the bench will all be intimidated because it’s their first finals and eventually run back to their Mommas…Saying how much they hated playing for the Spurs.
    I know it sucks having the second best team in the league….I had to suffer through it when the Bulls and Michael Jordan beat up on the Jazz. Despite being white bread, boring and having about as much charisma as Mitt Romney. The Spurs are good citizens and nice guys. They would be America’s team if only Pop’s face is wasn’t so a frightful object when viewed in full light.    

  • AirAlamo1

    @rubberbandman84 Thanks for reading. And, believe me, I don’t think the Spurs have a title locked down by any means. It’s just that, as a fan and writer, it’s incredibly hard not to convey my expectations for this team. They are, naturally, quite high given our regular season success. But, rest assured, I’m not expecting a championship but watching these guys play the game of basketball more often makes it hard for me to believe that the Spurs aren’t the best team in basketball.

  • AirAlamo1

    @rtesoro440 Agree with you on Favors. His potential is insane.