Jazz-Suns Preseason Impressions
October 15, 2010 -
I came home from work yesterday to a pleasant surprise: The Jazz/Suns preseason game was televised (in HD) on League Pass. This was my first opportunity to actually watch the new-look team (referring both to the uniforms and the new players), so needless to say I was excited.
After watching the game, I’m still excited.
Recognizing that a single preseason game is hardly a valid sample size, here’s my analysis, player by player, of what I saw last night.
Let's start with the new guys:
Al Jefferson: I have officially added Minnesota GM David Kahn to my Christmas card list for the absolute gift he gave us this summer. Jefferson is a beast. Watching him go to work in the post was a thing of beauty. It’s so nice to have a player you can throw the ball into and expect him to score. His footwork, ball fakes, and touch around the basket are superb. Without a double team, he scored at almost every opportunity.
I was surprised at the fluidity of his mid-range shot. His passing, believed to be one of his weaknesses, looked solid to me. He had 3 assists, including a beauty to a cutting Millsap for a layup.
I was literally giddy after witnessing Jefferson’s performance. I know it’s just the preseason, but he was unstoppable in the post. Once he gets a little more comfortable in the system, I could see him averaging 25 points per game. Yes, he looked that good. Carlos Boozer will not be missed. Period.
Gordon Hayward: On the one hand, he definitely looked like a rookie. On the other hand, he showed me enough positives to make me feel he will turn into a legit player. I’m just not sure how long it will take.
He wasn’t abused on defense the way I feared he might be. On offense, his shot wasn’t falling and he clearly struggled to finish through contact. He seemed to be thinking too much and probably still has some nerves. He did, however, show some great court vision and passing skills. The ball doesn’t stop when it comes to him. He seems to understand the offense already, which is a great sign. I’m still not convinced the Jazz made the right pick, but I’m also not convinced they didn’t.
Jeremy Evans: Holy freakin’ pogo stick! This kid can jump. High. Evans was probably the player I was most excited to watch after reading about his freakish athleticism. He didn’t disappoint. The guy is just instant energy. While I originally expected Evans to spend the year with the Flash (if he even made the final roster), I now think he may crack the rotation at some point. Last night he had 12 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, and 1 assist… in only 13 minutes. He needs polish and he needs muscle, but this kid has a bright future. KOC found another 2nd-round steal.
Earl Watson: I was thrilled when the Jazz signed him. He didn’t show me much last night, although he did have 4 assists with no turnovers. It will take a while for him to get comfortable, but I think he’ll be a solid backup for Deron. I love his intensity on defense.
Raja Bell: Good to have him back in a Jazz uniform. Didn’t do much statistically, but you can tell he just fits on this team.
Now for the incumbents:
Deron Williams: He was solid but not spectacular. You can tell he has another gear that he simply hasn’t engaged yet because there is no reason to. His play was a little sloppy, but his brilliance still shone through at times. I expect an MVP-caliber year from him.
Andrei Kirilenko: What is up with the hair? A few more inches and he’ll have the full Fabio. Aside from that, he looked good. Nothing we haven’t seen before. He does so many things that don’t show up in the box score, and last night was no exception.
Paul Millsap: He had a solid game. Didn’t have a particularly eye-popping stat line, but he looked good. While Jefferson’s presence will probably hurt his stats a little, I think their games will actually complement each other pretty well.
Kyrylo Fesenko: Fess actually looks quite a bit better to me. I heard he dropped 20 pounds, and it really shows with his improved mobility. He is amazingly quick and agile for a player his size. He still makes boneheaded mistakes, but this performance gave me hope that he may actually have a breakout season.
CJ Miles: He looked OK. Not a great game, but definitely not a poor one. He was 2 for 2 from behind the arc, so that’s a bonus. I may have my expectations a little too high for CJ, mostly because I think the Jazz will really need him this year. I hope he finds his groove quickly.
Ronnie Price: Barely played and didn’t take a shot. I think we know what to expect from him by now.
Everybody Else (Gaines, Jeffers, Thompson, Nichols): These four are competing for what will likely be a single, final roster spot. None of them particularly stood out last night. Gaines is a long shot simply because Utah already has 3 PGs with guaranteed contracts (Williams, Price, Watson). Jeffers plays hard but is undersized (I think he got his shot blocked 3 or 4 times). I didn’t really get much of a feel either way for Thompson or Nichols, so I have no opinion yet as to whom I prefer.
In summary, I was pretty impressed with the team as a whole. They still have rough edges as would be expected with so many new faces. Still, something just feels good about this group. Can’t wait to watch more of them and see how accurate my first impressions prove to be.