For the most part, this is a rhetorical question. The Utah Jazz didn’t make the playoffs because the Jazz were not supposed to make the playoffs. They were not supposed to be fighting for a final playoff spot, they were not supposed to have winning streaks, and they were not supposed to hurt their draft positioning this summer. They were, however, supposed to display their emerging young talent and make positive strides towards the end of the season. That too, did not come to fruition.
Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey made it clear to coach Ty Corbin that he was looking for “three D’s” this season: discipline, defense and development. It’s these three D’s that may ultimately decide the fate of Corbin when his contract expires five days from now.
The first of the D’s, discipline, was solidly met this season. One has to give Corbin credit for the demeanor his team has shown throughout the disastrous 2013-14 season. It’s difficult to keep a young team like the Jazz from showing complacency or anger towards their teammates or coaching staff during a tumultuous season, but veterans Richard Jefferson and Marvin Williams kept their team’s emotions in check. It also helps when you have additional toughness coming from youngsters like Trey Burke and Derrick Favors.
Defense, on the other hand, was a disaster this season. The Jazz currently rank 16th in the league in points allowed per game, 28th in opponents 3-point percentage and dead last in opponents field goal percentage. Diagnosis? The Jazz are allowing way too many easy shots, especially in the paint. Derrick Favors has proven he can be an elite at-the-rim defender, but his fellow paint defender Enes Kanter has been far too porous when Favors is absent from the lineup. Trey Burke has also shows some defensive growing pains this year, often getting caught in screens and getting out muscled by bigger guards on the perimeter. The most frightening aspect of the Jazz’s defensive woes is that it seems Ty Corbin hasn’t made a strong effort to remedy the situation. If Ty Corbin does get re-signed by the Jazz, he’s going to need a strong defensive mind to help get this team back on track.
Finally there’s the development of this young Jazz roster, which, unfortunately, has been up and down all throughout this season. Jazz fans had hoped to see giant leaps in the production of Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors. Hayward, who will be a restricted free agent this summer, remains the team’s leading scorer but has had to focus on other responsibilities, namely defensive rebounding and assists, that have prevented him from becoming the upper echelon scorer the Jazz hoped he would be. Although that might be a positive for the Jazz who will probably sign Hayward to a long-term deal for less than they had anticipated. Favors continued to show his defensive prowess, but did not make the steps necessary to become a dangerous mid-range scorer. His power and athleticism have made him an inside threat, but the lack of a consistent jump shot and post moves have left Jazz fans hungry for more from the 44 million dollar man.
There has been strong development from some players this season. Alec Burks has shown the league that he can score with the best of them and could very well become a 6th man of the year one day. Enes Kanter has made big strides on the offensive end, establishing his mid-range shooting and improving on his impressive footwork. Trey Burke still has a long ways to go to prove he can be a decent guard in this league, but he’s shown Jazz nation that he can hit clutch shots when it counts and his tenacity for improvement is something that other young players can learn from.
Next week the Jazz begin one of the most important off-seasons in recent history, perhaps even in the history of the franchise. In my humble opinion, it should start with a new head coach. Corbin has done some good things in his time in Salt Lake City, but his utter lack of defense and unwillingness to change the team’s identity from the Jerry Sloan days proves he isn’t sending the team in the direction that Dennis Lindsey and Kevin O’Conner want to go. Getting a new coach soon is crucial in deciding what to do in the upcoming NBA draft, and developing a new team identity, hopefully one that properly utilizes the young legs at the Jazz’s disposal. An exciting hire will also help in re-signing Gordon Hayward and attracting free-agents to sign in the offseason.
It all has to happen soon, because Dennis Lindsey will soon be focusing on only one “D”, decisions.
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