Posted by: Jeff Winget on May 1st, 2011The author's views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of the Utah Jazz.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I was very surprised that the Memphis Grizzlies were able to upset the Spurs in their first round playoff series. My surprise is in no way an insult to Memphis. I think they are a fantastic team with a lot of young talent. However, they were playing the Spurs, one of the most successful franchises in the league over the last 10 years, who were coming off of a strong season. I thought the series would be competitive, but I thought the Spurs would win in 5 or 6 games.
The Spurs’ early exit from the playoffs brings up an interesting fact in the NBA that can’t be ignored if a team wants to contend for a championship: match ups matter. We learned this fact in 2007 when the number 1 seed Dallas Mavericks lost to Golden State in similar fashion as the Spurs lost to the Grizzlies. Back then, people said the same thing they are saying now, “It was a bad match up.”
The statement “It’s a bad match up” begs a question: How do championship teams avoid bad match ups? The answer seems to be that championship teams are flexible enough to exploit the weaknesses of the teams they play, no matter what those weaknesses are. Phil Jackson, love him or hate him, is very good at game planning for teams and exposing their weaknesses. Along with that game planning, he has been fortunate to have the pieces to be flexible in his planning. This flexibility and strategic use of it has to favor the Lakers going forward.
So, where do the Jazz stand in terms of flexibility? When healthy, the Jazz seem to be a very adaptable team. If they can pick up a shooter in the draft, they should be able to play several different styles and lineups in order to attack the teams they play. Playing Jefferson, Favors, and Millsap together makes the front line a nightmare to guard while at the same time playing Hayward, Miles, and our shooter-yet-to-be-drafted together allows the Jazz to go small and run a team out of the building. Of course, this scenario is all predicated on the team remaining healthy, which requires a little luck–another trait of championship teams.
Overall, I’m excited about the offseason and the draft, and I’m hopeful about the Jazz. I honestly feel they are a piece or two away from being a dangerous young team next year and a contender in a couple of years. The pieces are coming together, and Coach Corbin seems willing to be creative and adaptive to situations in order to best utilize those pieces. This young team could be a master of the match up game for years to come.
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