-For starters, Grantland's Zach Lowe is my new favorite NBA writer. This guy rocks, and it seems like he watches every game, every night. His use of stats combined with strategy makes him a must read, whether he's analyzing the league's recent trend towards complex defense and how offenses are coping, or perfectly understanding what it is about the Jazz that makes them so unlikable to their fans these days. If you like basketball, you'll like Lowe.
-About the aforementioned Jazz, I really only care about this team to the extent that Hayward, Favors and Kanter are improving. Jefferson does not play defense and cannot be the focal point of a championship-contending team. Mo Williams is a shoot-first point guard who, likewise, will never be a starter on a championship team. In fact, let's break the team down, player by player.
1. Jefferson: Defense is terrible. Offense not nearly enough to offset it.
2. Mo Williams: Shooting guard in a point guard's body.
3. Marvin Williams: Useless to the extreme. Can't shoot, can't drive, doesn't pass, doesn't really defend well.
4. Kanter: Legitimate stud who can barely break 15 minutes per game. Given starter's minutes, he's dominated.
5. Favors: Offense is raw, defense is light years ahead of Jefferson. Favors enforces his will on others in the paint, and the league is taking notice. Only 21, I expect him to get much better.
6. Hayward: Somehow he makes tall and lurpy work. Nice shooting stroke from 3, defends like a maniac, passes and rebounds reasonably well, and is fun to watch on the fast break. I don't know if he'll ever be a 20-5-5 kinda guy, but it wouldn't shock me.
7. Evans: Amazing athletically, utterly lost on defense and offense. I believe better coaching could turn him into an often solid, sometimes dominant guy.
8. Tinsley: Often terrible, sometimes good. Never getting any better than he is now.
9. Millsap: An amazing 6th Man of the Year candidate if he came off the bench. He is best used dominating other teams' second units. Starting, his effectiveness is lessened.
10. Foye: Broke the Jazz record for 3-pointers in a season this year, and he's actually shooting better from the 3-point line than on field goals overall for 2012-2013. Gotta keep him around if just for that, but I wish he gave the Jazz anything else in his 27 minutes per game.
11. Burks: Has shown some flashes, but I'm not sold he'll be a solid NBA player just yet. Lately can't even seem to get time on the floor at all.
12. Carroll: Fantastic Adam Keefe. Hustle, energy, garbage points, he gives the Jazz all of it. Gotta keep him around just because every team needs a Keefe.
13: Earl Watson: A fine backup point guard. Keep the ship steady, don't turn the ball over, don't do anything crazy. I can take him or leave him.
So, to sum up, I'd like the Jazz to keep Kanter, Favors, Hayward, Millsap (as a sixth man), Foye, Carroll and maybe Burks and Evans. That gives the Jazz a few of roster spots to fill, though this summer's free agent class is pretty sparse.
What I'd like to see is the Jazz jettison Jefferson, keep Millsap around as long as he agrees to come off the bench, and start the youth movement for real. Start Kanter, Favors and Hayward. Give Evans a lot of minutes, while focusing on teaching him where to be and why. I guess start Foye at the 2, then find a journeyman point guard who is pass-first and can shoot reasonably well. I'd like to see Jose Calderon or Shawn Livingston. If NBA history has taught us anything, an elite, high-paid point guard is no guarantee of a championship.
Ideally, Kanter and Favors turn into a dominant 1-2 punch in the paint, much like Memphis have in Gasol and Randolph (pre injury), with Foye and Hayward raining threes and an established point guard directing traffic. I'd watch that team. Sure, they'd probably be in the lottery next year, but if they can turn that pick into a solid player, I'll take it along with the player development we'd see.
-It's the Heat's championship to lose this summer. LeBron is playing as well as anyone in the last 15 years, and the team as a whole is on the same page and really clicking, both on offense and defense. I can't see anyone beating them four times in seven games.
-That the Lakers are fighting desperately for their playoff lives is pretty great. Just a few months after assembling their vaunted Super Team of Kobe, Dwight, Pau and Nash, they are facing a likely first-round drubbing at the hands of the Thunder. Reasons:
1. Dwight has been hurt most of the season, and is clearly not the guy he was in Orlando when he was winning Defensive Player of the Year awards.
2. Nash is also hurt, and struggling in an offense where he doesn't dominate the ball. Without the Phoenix witch doctors to cure his ailments, and playing with someone who also needs to dominate the ball, I don't see Nash improving with the Lakers any time soon. If ever.
3. Pau is a head case. Mere weeks after killing it in the Olympics for his native country of Spain, abusing Team USA down low and being a man among boys, he's only played 46 games this season and is being told to put his big boy pants on by Kobe, I don't think the Lakers can expect much out of him anytime soon.
4. Kobe has stopped playing defense. Lowe has outlined this impressively well.
Either way, the Lakers kinda stink and I am enjoying it immensely.
That's it. I plan on doing an NBA Playoff Preview once the matchups are set. Until then, go young, Jazz, and die in a fire, Lakers.