The 2012-13 NBA season is right around the corner as the end of September is less than a week away and October embraces us with a smile — literally I’ll see tons of smiling pumpkins in a week or so in northern Illinois.
Hopefully the Los Angeles Clippers go into every game hoping to smash dreams, not only pumpkins.
The Utah Jazz shouldn’t be a team that causes too many problems for the Clips. With that said, smashing dreams in Salt Lake should be just as easy, maybe as squishy, as the Fall porch decorations.
For your information: this could be the quickest breakdown I’ve done so far because I have little faith in the Jazz.
The Jazz start and almost end with their front line of Paul Millsapp and Al Jefferson. These two guys paired together make one of the league’s best low-post duo since both of them are more than capable of putting a double-double on the box score any given night.
During the 2011-12 season, Jefferson put up 31 double-doubles for 7th best in the NBA, while Millsapp was 20th with 21. Only four other teams had two players in the top 20 on the double-double list — the Los Angeles Lakers, the New Jersey Nets (now the Brooklyn Nets), the Los Angeles Clippers and the Phoenix Suns.
When Hardcourt Houdini’s Brett Roberts and I broke down our top five centers in the league, Jefferson was third on both behind Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum. Last season, Jefferson averaged 19.2 points and 9.6 rebounds per game and led the Jazz to a eighth seed playoff spot after a 36-30 regular season record. I am a strong believer that the Jazz would have been far below .500 if he wasn’t on the roster.
His 49% shooting from the field was top 30 in the league, his 9.6 rebounds per game were .2 behind Noah’s 10th best 9.8, he was 12th with 1.66 block per game and his 19.2 points were good enough for 15th best in the NBA.
I usually don’t like to list stats, but Jefferson had a great season and was on my snub list for the NBA All-Star game, so they’re definitely relevant.
At 6-foot, 8-inches, Millsap is undersized for a power forward. However, his bulky 253 pounds give him the girth and the strength to overcome his disadvantage. He is a highly efficient shooter similar to Jefferson at 49% and a great rebounder, pulling down 8.8 a game last season. His 21 double-doubles came because of his 16.6 points per game.
These two together are a handful for any team.
Millsap overpowers Blake Griffin and Griffin isn’t a good enough defender to stop Millsap’s low-post offense. Griffin is more athletic and is working on his mid-range jumper, which would take Millsap out of the paint. This would be essential for players such as Chris Paul to penetrate with the worry of only Jefferson.
Jefferson would still be a huge problem and DeAndre Jordan would have to use his large frame and put a body on him. If he doesn’t, Utah’s big-two could score a lot of points down low. I mean, a lot of points.
After Jefferson and Millsap, the Jazz are relatively average at best.
Gordon Hayward is okay and will put up solid numbers, but Billups’ physical defense and in-your face type play will affect how Hayward plays.
Mo Williams is a great bench player. He can come into a game and make some big buckets. However, he is not a starting point guard and will only hurt the Jazz because he loves to loft shots unless Jefferson and Millsap hoover every offensive rebound opportunity.
Marvin Williams is a yawn, a below average player, a bust as a 2nd overall pick and definitely not worth a starting spot.
Derrick Favors could be a star eventually, but not third on a depth chart behind players of Jefferson and Millsaps’ caliber.
Randy Foye did good things for the Clips last season and is probably the only reliable one on the Jazz’s thin bench.
Enes Kanter could be great, could be a bust.
If Favors builds on what he did last season and Kanter becomes the player most think he can be, the Jazz will have a low-post Fantastic Four. The problem is, two of them play the five and two of them play the four. There isn’t enough minutes to give them their just do, but someone could be used as great trade bait to bring in quality players at other positions.
In the end, the Jazz just don’t have what it takes to beat a talented team with two superstars in Griffin and Paul. The Clippers have too many good shooters, too many scorers, the deepest team in the league and should have a vastly improved defense.
Jefferson and Millsap is just not enough.