Bucks vs. Jazz Preview | Worst of the East, meet worst of the West

USA TODAY Sports

After a 1-13 start, the Jazz are showing signs of life thanks to a young core led by Trey Burke, Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward.

2012/2013 NBA Season
Uta
(10-24, 5-10 home)
vs.
Mil_medium
(7-24, 4-12 road)
January 2, 2014
Energy Solutions Arena | Salt Lake City, UT
8:00 CT
FS Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ
Probable Starters
Trey Burke PG Brandon Knight
Gordon Hayward SG Luke Ridnour
Richard Jefferson SF Giannis Antetokounmpo
Marvin Williams PF Ersan Ilyasova
Derrick Favors C Larry Sanders
2012/13 Advanced Stats
91.4 (27th) Pace 91.7 (26th)
100.8 (26th) ORtg 98.9 (29th)
109.7 (29th) DRtg 106.9 (20th)

On the Jazz: SLC DunkSalt City HoopsSalt Lake Tribune | The Taxi Squad

Jazz update. The Bucks and Jazz have been battling it out at the bottom of the league standings all season, though the return of rookie Trey Burke from injury has propelled the Jazz to a damn respectable 9-11 record since losing 13 of their first 14 games. They've alternated wins and losses for the past eight games, with their latest effort an 83-80 home win over the Bobcats on Monday. Burke scored 21 points including a driving layup with 19 seconds left to clinch it for Utah.

Trey Day. Burke averaged nearly 15 points and 5 assists per game in December, topping 20 points five times including a 30-point effort in a win in Orlando. Burke's best weapon is not surprisingly his jump shot (36.8% from deep), though his inability to get to the rim or free throw line regularly explain why his true shooting numbers (49.9%) remain well below average.

The scars of the Brandon Jennings era are still too fresh for me to get overly excited about an undersized shoot-first point guard, but there's no question Burke has made a big difference for Ty Corbin's club since returning from a broken finger, as the Jazz are 9-8 in games where Burke plays 25+ minutes.

Coaching for today...or tomorrow? No one expects coaches or players to give anything less than 100% on a nightly basis, but that doesn't mean coaches and front offices are always in alignment regarding who to play and why. Our buds at SLC Dunk wrote about that issue as it relates to the Jazz today, noting that Ty Corbin may not be on the same page as the Jazz front office:

[GM]Dennis Lindsey has basically disavowed all personnel decisions, saying the distribution of minutes is Ty Corbin's alone. So does that mean he's okay with Corbin giving seemingly unnecessary minutes to players with expiring contracts, rather than players in the Jazz's long-term plans? Is Corbin just trying to prove he can win games, to make himself more palatable to other NBA teams who might consider hiring him?

In a Grantland article last week (which I think already got discussed here, but I'll mention it anyway), Zach Lowe posited that the skewed distribution of minutes and the lack of court time for Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter together signified "an instance in which the priorities of the coach and the front office are not perfectly aligned."

It's not that Corbin isn't playing any of his young guys--the Jazz are so young that it's impossible to field a rotation without including a bunch of young guys, and Burke, Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors are all starting and rank 1-2-3 in minutes per game. Even 2011 lotto pick Alec Burks has finally broken into Corbin's rotation as sixth man, playing 27 mpg and putting up 12.4 ppg but on poor efficiency (51.5% true shooting).

But 2011 third overall pick Enes Kanter has regressed (PER down from 17.6 to 12.7, WS/48 down from 0.101 to 0.011) and seen his minutes cut recently, as alluded to above. Just as Bucks fans were hoping to see lots of John Henson and Larry Sanders, the Jazz faithful were planning on this season being a development year for the Favors/Kanter pairing, both of whom had shown plenty of promise coming into the season.

But while we've yet to see Sanders and Henson share any meaningful court time this year due to injuries and Drew's rotations, Kanter and Favors have played plenty together--they've just been terrible. After the duo managed a net +29 differential in 706 minutes last season, the Jazz have been outscored by a whopping 160 points in 370 minutes of Kanter/Favors sharing the court this season. Part of that is no doubt because the Jazz are fundamentally worse this year than a year ago (-277 overall), but Kanter has clearly been less productive and that's been reflected in his minutes over the past month. After seeing 30 mpg in November, Kanter was down to 21 mpg in December and has cracked 20 minutes just twice in the last 11 games.

The news has been better for Favors, who signed a four-year, $49 million extension this summer and has kept up his previously solid efficiency numbers while increasing his playing time substantially. After seeing just over 20 mpg each of the past two seasons, Favors is up to 32 mpg this year and posting 13.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg and 1.4 bpg with 18.2 PER and 55.4% true shooting. You may also recall him abusing Larry Sanders for 23 points and 15 boards in Milwaukee last season, though the Jazz somewhat inexplicably went away from him in the second half of the Bucks' 109-108 overtime win.

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