Utah's five best young players have rarely shared the court this season. (Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)
• Every NBA team is tasked with balancing its short and long-term interests, but none so overtly as those in the midst of a rebuild. Sometimes teams trying to solve that dilemma are wrongfully identified as tanking; teams are not mandated to go to the greatest lengths possible to win every game, and when some opt not to -- whether by playing younger prospects, trying new strategies, or through any number of methods -- they're often tabbed with the "tanking" label. There are countless shades of gray between maxing out toward wins and bottoming out by design, yet discussions on the topic tend to be dreadfully binary.
Over at Ball Don't Lie, Dan Devine wades into the gray with a look at the Utah Jazz -- a team that has leaned on veteran contributors all season at the possible detriment of its young core. There are understandable reasons for that, from Ty Corbin's interest in securing his job to a team-wide interest in avoiding embarrassment. It's all a bit messy, yet in the final balance the Jazz could be left with a product that no one -- not the party in favor of letting the kids play nor those who would prefer to see the best basketball possible -- is altogether pleased with:
Still, it's difficult to justify giving what will wind up being more than 3,500 minutes to players like [Richard] Jefferson and [Marvin] Williams who were never part of the big picture when you've got younger foundational pieces (in this case, Kanter and Burks, although it's more a matter of him playing the two alongside Hayward at the three) who would likely benefit from a healthier helping of those minutes. Plus — and this is where we get back to the fans — "watch the young guys run up and down!" is one of the very few things that a team can dangle in front of its fan base to keep them engaged during a season that everyone expects to be bad. Jazz fans haven't even really gotten much of that this season.
When the present is a bummer, fans will always look toward the future for a glimmer of hope, a reason to believe that one day soon, it'll all get better. Of course you shouldn't want to be booed for winning, Trey and Gordon, and if I actually believed that many Jazz fans — some of the league's most passionate supporters of the hometown team — were giving you sneering, sarcastic attaboys for making a game-winner, I'd support you telling them where to cram it. But as so often seems to be the case in "the tanking debate," what's really going on is probably a bit different than what's been railed against.
• Personally, I think Aron Baynes World Peace would be just a beautiful name – for a boy or a girl.
• A peek into the minds and warmup practices of NBA players, who seem to be a ritualistic bunch by type.
Since the All-Star Break, [Jordan's] rim protection has been truly spectacular. Jordan is contesting 11.6 shots per game, raising his season average to 10.4 contests per game (tied for first in the league). He is contesting nearly 55 percent of opponents shots at the rim while he is on the floor. Over a full season, this would put Jordan sixth among all big men and second only to presumptive DPOY front runner Roy Hibbert among players averaging more than 20 minutes per game. DeAndre is “saving” just two points per game over the expectation of a league average big man (Points saved is an estimate of the effect a league average big man has on contesting shots at the rim with respect to both FG% allowed and number of contests, adjusted for pace and general team defense). This would rank fourth in the league behind Hibbert (far and away leader at over four points saved per game), Robin Lopez and only fractionally behind Andrew Bogut.
Over the course of the season, Jordan has gone from a clear negative (giving over an extra point per game versus an average defender) to strongly positive, saving almost three quarters of a point per game over an average defender. This puts him at around the 80th percentile of rim defenders, comparable to Dwight Howard and Amir Johnson. In fact, since that well-discussed poor start, he is saving approximately 1.75 points per game, which would also put him fourth for the entire season.
• There are few forces in the NBA more powerful than F.A.R.T.D.O.G., and Tuesday's game between the Knicks and Lakers -- in which L.A. put together a 51-point third quarter -- may well have been F.A.R.T.D.O.G. at its finest.
• This is an enjoyable bit of contextualization and myth-busting on the big bad quants who have come to steal all the NBA front office jobs.
• Memphis' offense under Dave Joerger has been much more fun and diverse overall, filled with little sequences and sets like this one. Teams across the league make use of similar elevator-type setups, but that particular design is just one of the many ways the Grizz have branched out since the departure of Lionel Hollins.
"I thought all the guys who were playing weeks before Marc came back kind of got us rolling," [Mike] Conley said. "We started to find a little rhythm, we won some games, some big-time games, beat some big teams and Marc came back right in the middle of that. So I think, right when he came back, it was like, 'Man, we finally found a groove, now we can add Marc to it we're going to be golden.' That's kind of how we saw it and how it's worked out for us."
The Grizzlies are still the slowest team in the league, but in March they've forced more turnovers and pushed the pace a little bit. The defense is fueling the offense, which is less stagnant now. They've won 10 of their last 13 games and 15 of their last 20 and seem to be peaking at the right time. The veterans in the locker room understood all along that they couldn't feel sorry for themselves when nothing was going their way.
"That's how the NBA is, every season something happens," [Marc] Gasol said. "You can prepare for a season a certain way. It's how you react to certain things in-season that really matter. That's what I believe."
• There's good reason why fewer and fewer professional athletes are being advised to undergo microfracture surgery.
• Monta Ellis and the power of context.
• Pablo Torre, filling in for Keith Olbermann, on the discussion of draft declarations as a personal canvas:
• A round of applause is in order for these three NBA bigs, each a dramatically improved free throw shooter relative to last season. Go get 'em, Kevin Seraphin.