19 May 2008

Fesenko: man or myth?

If there's one thing NBA fans and analysts can agree on about the Jazz, it's that they need a major upgrade to their interior defense. Boozer and Okur are almost unbelievably bad on that end of the floor, and the Jazz will not win a championship while letting everyone from Francisco Oberto to Linas Kleiza get to the hoop whenever they feel like it.

The discussion about how to fix this problem ranges from trading Boozer for Marcus Camby or Samuel Dalembert to keeping Carlos and bringing in a Kurt Thomas or other lower-paid player.

Then there's Kyrylo Fesenko.

The Jazz signed the Ukrainian center to a rookie contract in August of last year, after being impressed with his play in the Rocky Mountain Revue. I attended a couple of these summer league games and came away similarly interested in the 7-foot-1-inch white kid.

For starters, he doesn't move like he's that big. I saw him corral a few rebounds and thought he was a small forward. He can jump, run, and outquick a lot of guys.

He also fights hard at the rim. Playing for the Jazz's D-League team, the Utah Flash, he averaged 10 points per game, seven rebounds and two blocks on the season. In his first NBA game ever, he scored six points and pulled down seven rebounds, four of them offensive, in 17 minutes of play in a win against the Lakers. Boozer and Okur did not play in that game.

The next time Fes got significant minutes in a Jazz game was 11 games later, against Orlando. In 13 minutes he got five rebounds and blocked two shots. Two of those boards were offensive.

Since then, he's only played five or more minutes twice, and has only gotten time on the court in three games since December 22.

Now, it's hard to tell why Fes has gotten little to no chance to prove himself over the second half of the season or the playoffs. One of Sloan's favorite things is to never play rookies. Deron played behind Keith McLeod and Milt Palacio much of his rookie season. Ronnie Brewer never got minutes his first year, despite the fact that Derek Fisher and his 39% FG percentage was playing the 2 far too often.

So we can't assume that Sloan thinks Fesenko just wasn't ready for more time. Honestly, from what I've seen, the kid could have given the Jazz 10-15 good minutes a game against the Lakers. I would have given my firstborn son to see someone, anyone, act like they cared about defending the rim.

I just wish we had more evidence to judge Fesenko with. He could be the next Millsap, and he could be the next Kirk Snyder.

But if he can give the Jazz that toughness inside and just wants the ball more than the guys he goes up against, I think Utah's interior defense problem is fixed.

Here's hoping.


Matty Gibb said...

True to form, you'll recall that AK hardly got any PT as a rookie. He turned out to be pretty good for a while there. I'm encouraged by what I see out of Fes, but then again, Araujo looked decent when he got a few minutes last year. As you say, a few minutes isn't enough to tell. But again, you won't get a player of similar quality to Boozer if you trade him. This team would have a tough time scoring if you just swap out Boozer for Camby or Dalembert. And Boston has shown us this postseason that no matter how good your D is, if you can't put up 80 points, then you're liable to get beaten by some crappy teams.

Brandon said...

Boozer averaged 16 points a game in the playoffs and the Jazz still scored 90 points a game, including six games against Houston.

I think we can replace 16 points a game. Especially if the 16 points come on 40% shooting.

Matty Gibb said...

True enough, but Camby or Dalembert will not even provide any distraction for defenses. Nor will they get 16 ppg. There's got to be somebody out there who can play both ends, and I readily admit that it's not Boozer, Okur, or Kirilenko. I'm still hoping for a LeBron-like growth spurt out of Millsap.

Brandon said...

Dalembert averaged over two blocks per game last season.

Camby averaged over three.

I'll take that kind of defensive presence if it means giving up a few points per game. It would mean the Jazz don't need to outscore everyone anymore (see: Phoenix).

Matty Gibb said...

As Michael Scott would say, "You make a very compelling argument." (Spoken in mumblings meant for negotiation.)

Matty Gibb said...

This Yahoo mock draft has Roy Hibbert going to the Jazz: http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news?slug=ys-mockdraft052108&prov=yhoo&type=lgns
I'd be quite stoked about that.

Brandon said...

The Jazz have gotten over their obsession with drafting walking stiffs, which is what Hibbert is.

Curtis Borchardt. Ugh.

I doubt he comes to Utah. To be honest, I don't know enough about the draft to tell who who the Jazz should go after. I'll get on that.

Matty Gibb said...

Tim Duncan is a walking stiff, and he wouldn't have been a bad draft. Hibbert is no Borchardt.

Brandon said...

Duncan's stats as a senior in college:

21 ppg
15 boards per game
61% FG
64% FT
3 apg
3 blocks per game

Those are stiff stats for sure.

Hibbert as a senior:

13 ppg
6 boards
61% FG
65% FT
2 blocks per game
2 assists per game

Forgive me for not equating them. :)

Matty Gibb said...

I believe you asked for 2 blocks a game? Hibbert will easily give you that. He'll also come cheap. Compare: you want to swap Boozer for Dalembert. This season he blocked 2.3 shots a game and scored 10.5 points a game. 2.3 blocks saves you 3 points, being generous, seeing as how teams hit about half their shots. That puts his contribution at 13.5 points per game. How about Camby? 9.1 ppg, 3.6 bpg gives you a contribution of about 13 points a game, plus the likelihood of about 30 games lost to injury. Boozer scored 21.1 points per game and blocked 0.5 shots. That puts his contribution at 21.35 points per game. I don't see how you justify the Trade Boozer talk. You want to subtract 8 ppg from each game's final margin. The Jazz need height and rim defense, and that's what Hibbert would give for a bargain. Side note, let's hope that some of the mock drafts putting Trent Plaisted to the Jazz in the second round don't come true.