Quarter Season Update
December 3, 2010 -
In my preseason preview post, I made what I felt was a pretty optimistic prediction of 55 wins for the Jazz this season. Somehow, the Jazz have actually managed to exceed that pace with a 15-5 record through the first 20 games of the season. With so many new players on the roster, I actually expected them to struggle somewhat early on. Sometimes it's nice to be wrong.
I won't take the time now to go through a full analysis of the team, but instead I'll identify a few players who are exceeding, meeting, and falling short of my expectations thus far. I won't cover everyone on the roster -- just those who have stood out in one way or another in my mind.
Deron Williams – After a bit of a slow start, he’s now playing like a legitimate MVP candidate. Dude is amazing.
Paul Millsap – I expected him to take a back seat to Jefferson. Was I ever wrong. His offensive game has really evolved (just ask the Miami Heat), and he just keeps getting better.
CJ Miles – I almost put him in the top category, but he just hasn’t developed that consistency yet. He continues to show flashes of brilliance but still mixes in too many no-show performances. He’s definitely improving, though.
Al Jefferson – Big Al has exceeded my expectations in some areas (defense) and fallen short in others (rebounding). All in all, he’s about where I expected him to be 20 games into his Jazz tenure. He should continue improving, and he’ll need to for the Jazz to be serious contenders.
Andrei Kirilenko – While there’s always a part of me that’s disappointed when AK consistently fails to be the player he was 5 years ago, he is meeting my expectations if not my hopes.
Gordon Hayward – I was livid when the Jazz drafted him. He began to change my mind a little with his solid performance during summer league. Then he teased me with his 26-point outburst against the Lakers during preseason. Unfortunately he’s done nothing since. It’s still early, but I expect more from the #9 pick.
Raja Bell – I’m basing this solely on his on-court performance and not his locker room impact, which I think is invaluable. Bell is simply not shooting well enough. With the loss of Korver and Matthews, the Jazz desperately need Raja's outside shot.
In summary, this team seems to be coming together a little ahead of schedule. That said, I’m sticking with my prediction of 55 wins. The West is just too good. The Jazz managed to win a few games they probably shouldn’t have, and they’ll need better play out of their wings in particular if they want to keep up the current pace.