Posted by: KCJones on September 24th, 2012The author's views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of the Utah Jazz.
So I was watching the NBARank on ESPN for our beloved Utah Jazz players. And we finished up with our highest-ranked player at #44. And I got to thinking about winning championships (which I would hope is the Jazz FO ultimate goal). Very rarely do teams win championships without a star player. The last I can really think of one is 2004 with the Detroit Pistons. And Chauncey Billups probably came pretty close to stardom for them.
So I thought I would break down the NBA in terms of groups of players and just see where the ‘experts’ stuck our players, and what that might mean in terms of our future success. Of course there are 30 teams across the NBA and the player quality distribution is not even–some teams have 2 or more stars while others do not even have five starters. So here’s my grouping breakdown:
The Stars (Rank 1-10):
Very few players are truly stars. Stars are players that you can’t pay enough. Their production on the court merits them a salary higher than the max allowed. They are the top players at their position. They are the face of the NBA, the names everyone knows. They make things happen, they carry their teams to victory, they get all the calls, and, if history is any guide, you very very rarely win championships without one. Jazz players in this category:
The All-Stars (Rank 11-45, 30 total):
If you took the stars out, and you made two teams with three-deep at each position, you’d have your next 30 guys. Your All-Stars. These guys can appear to be stars on teams without a top-10 real star. They are your second options, guys that can carry your team for stretches, make big plays and give solid, consistent production. Jazz players in this category:
The Starters (Rank 46-150, 105 total):
Obviously stars and all-stars are going to start and play major minutes, but this group is comprised of the guys that fill out the rest of the starting lineups. They are solid contributors, usually excelling at a particular role or skill, but may not be able to carry your team. Since they cover such a large range, you have a wider range of quality. Guys towards the lower end of this range are about your average NBA player. Jazz players in this category:
The Sixth Man (Rank 151-180, 30 total):
The sixth man usually gets the most time off the bench in the game, is a solid scorer and a contributor to the team’s success. Jazz players in this category:
The Rotation Players (Rank 180-270, 90 total):
These guys fill out your bench players who get in the game on a regular basis, backing up a starter. They are guys 7, 8 and 9 on your bench. Often young rookies or old vets, but sometimes players who have survived in this role in their career. Usually guys who have had to be a little more gritty, give little more hustle, have a little more energy because they lack the size, athleticism or refined skill of the players they are backing up. Jazz players in this category:
The Scrubs (Rank 270+, about 180-230 total):
These guys round out your rosters. They are the emergency backups if a starter or regular backup goes out with injury. They usually have a glaring defiency in their game, but are decent in other areas. Jazz players in this category:
Some teams, like our Jazz, have to play an All-star as our star, since we have no real star.
Now I don’t know how many of you have ever played the game Stratego, but I kind of think of an NBA team like that. A star trumps an all-star. An all-star trumps a starter, etc.
So the question for us as Jazz fans is at what point does a starless team trump a team with two stars, an all-star and some starters? Do two all-stars and three starters trump? Four all-stars and three starters? Can we really do it without a star?
According to the #NBARank of our players, we’re a team with a borderline All-Star in Al Jefferson (though many fans would disagree on account of his defense), four bona-fide starters in Millsap, Favors, Gordon and Mo-Will (which creates another problem with player position overlap–we have to play one guy out of position–Millsap–to play our best five players), a sixth man (Marvin Williams), and three solid bench guys (Foye, Kanter, Burks).
I think the hope is that Derrick Favors and/or Gordon Hayward can make the jump to All-Star or Star, and Kanter and Burks improve from rotation players. Al Jefferson is what he is at this point, as is Paul Millsap, Mo Williams and Marvin Williams.
All this makes me wonder whether the Jazz will ever be in true championship contention if we don’t change something fundamental within the organization. That drive to really REALLY win a championship. I look at Prorokhov of the Nets. They sucked. Yet he went all-in in trying to get a star. None of that ‘we’ll be good in 5-10 years after we suck and get draft picks and develop them’. No, he first went after LeBron (no dice), then Carmelo (Knicks ‘won’ that one), then did the trade for D-Will. Then once he had him, he overspent to keep guys (Lopez, Humphries), still tried to get another star (Dwight Howard), overspent and did bad long-term trades to grab complementary players (Gerald Wallace, Joe Johnson). Yes, he had to pay a premium for it, and they had a lot of failed attempts at big names, but now he has real assets, a chance at winning now (not later), and attracting players because players KNOW that playing for a team that’s willing to spend more than another team gives them an advantage from the start. When was the last time the Jazz went after a big name star? I’m just thinking out loud here, but if it’s true that you need a star to win a championship, I’m thinking the Nets will win one before the Jazz. Sometimes I think the Jazz are content to be a regular season winning team, win a few rounds of the playoffs, and go on vacation.
Let’s hope the recent changes in the Jazz (Greg Miller taking the lead, new GM, new Coach, etc.) can lead to a change in goals and taking some chances to attain them, because I want to be a fan of a team that REALLY wants to win a championship. We’re going to have a ton of cap space this off-season with only our core four (plus Marvin Williams if he opts in). I’m hoping we can target a true star (Chris Paul?) that can lead us to that promised championship land. I personally want to hear the Jazz in the news, trying to get that star player that can push us over the edge.
So with that said, looking forward to the next offseason, I think its time to trade Al Jefferson and Millsap (if he won’t take an extension) and any other player besides Gordon and Favors for picks or players that can be used to trade for that star that we’ll need if we really want to REALLY win a championship.
What are your thoughts? Are you happy watching the Jazz win a bunch of regular season games and then lose to the teams with the stars in the playoffs? Or are you willing to give a little now, take a risk, and go for broke to try to win a championship for once?
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