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Old 10-12-2013, 09:35 AM   #88
Xiao Yao You
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Default Re: 2013 Fall camp/Pre-Season!

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How to Replicate a Miracle

If the Jazz want to prove the experts wrong and have a Cinderella campaign, they have a model to follow right in their own history. Having covered the surprise squad of Kirilenko and Harpring myself, here are some things the Jazz need to do in order to repeat some auspicious history.

First thing is defense. That Jazz team had the 19th ranked offense in the NBA that year, but stayed in games because of its above-average defensive numbers. That’s quite amazing when you look at the list of mediocre big men who were shuttled in and out of the starting lineup all year.

The Jazz also led the league in rebound rate that year, and they hit the offensive glass at a rate that nobody since then has equaled. Seriously, their 34.1% offensive rebound rate is the best in the last 10 years. There are many paths to NBA success and some teams are good specifically because they get back on defense at the expense of offensive rebounds. But when you’re a below-average offensive team, squeezing some extra life out of a possession is very valuable.

They should be able to hit the offensive glass this season too.

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Depending on inexperienced point guards like today’s Jazz, the 03-04 Jazz team actually didn’t get great play from its PGs – but they did get them to play within their limits and effectively. The team finished in the bottom third of the league for assist percentage and tied for second-worst in turnover percentage, but both Carlos Arroyo and Raul Lopez managed True Shooting percentages above 50%. That tells you that if Burke focuses on playing efficiently, this year’s Jazz can survive his rookie learning curve.

He's certainly not looked efficient thus far!

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Perhaps the most important lesson the 2003-04 Jazz have for their current-day counterparts is offensive balance. Lacking a go-to scorer, that team depended on an offense-by-committee approach. An impressive 12 players scored at least 10 points per 36 minutes, and nobody took more than Harpring’s 13.2 FG attempts per game. While today’s Jazz would love for a natural scorer to emerge, they’re probably better suited for the equal opportunity approach. They appeared to get that on Tuesday, with seven players all finishing between eight and 14 points and with no one player accounting for any more than 13% of the team’s used possessions (Burke and Burks).

Probably true unless Kanter, Burks or Burke emerges as a go to guy at some point.

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It was hardly a starless team, though. Kirilenko’s Win Shares were elite at 11.6. To put it in perspective, if you dropped his WS into last season, he’d be behind only LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and James Harden. So the Jazz probably need someone to step up and lead them if they intend on another surprising year.

And the other star of that team, of course, was Jerry Sloan, who probably did the finest coaching work of his career that season. Despite his flaws, Sloan was able to get the most out of his entire roster: not just Kirilenko and Harpring, but also guys like Michael Ruffin and Aleksandar Radojevic. In a way it’s unfair that Ty Corbin will be judged against the bar of a Hall-of-Famer’s best season, but the reality is that he has more to work with than Sloan did 10 years ago and can answer a lot of questions by putting the puzzle together and surpassing some expectations.

Does he have more. Like it says AK was a star that year. With stars you can win.

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There’s a good chance that Tuesday’s game has very little to do with the one I attended ten years ago, and that it winds up as merely a footnote to a bumpy season for the transitioning Jazz. But if we’re to remember the blowout of the Warriors as a harbinger of a team unexpectedly ahead of schedule, they can take some notes from the group I first covered. Defense, extra possessions through rebounding, balance, coaching and Burke playing within himself are probably the salient lessons coming out of the time machine from a decade ago.
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