Steve: I never thought of Enes Kanter as fat by any means, but dude lost 51 pounds?!?! And have you seen his abs? Did he work on, you know, basketball-y things during the off-season as well, or is he strictly going for the best body thing now?
Amar: Kanter's transformations (plural) have been crazy this off-season. Enes completely bulked up and was pushing 290 after he went home after the season ended. His moves in Summer league were seriously hampered. He then put in work the rest of the off-season after the Jazz had a sit down with him and told him that they were not happy. Now, at the 240 range, he's much skinnier than we've ever seen as he was in the 260 range as a rookie. That said, it's not just about his body, it's about his game. He is quicker now, and spent large parts of the off-season working with a ton of guards - from some of his current team mates, to former NBA players. He moves a lot better on offense, catches the ball better, and finishes better. He's even started to take and make mid range jumpers. Usually you want your bigs to play against bigs, but playing against guards all summer long helped him understand the game better. He has also gotten a lot more confident; getting ripped, spending the off-season with Playboy bunnies, and throwing down between the legs dunks in practice with other NBA players can do that for a teen's personality. Now a 20 year old we're seeing a lot of transformations from this dude. But there is one constant: no matter his size, he's always dominated on the glass. So far this preseason he's averaging 12.7 PPG, 12.3 RPG, and 1.0 BPG in 20.7 MPG, and has gotten double doubles in all three games so far. He is better. He worked on his body. He worked on his game. But the biggest change is in his confidence level. Also, his twitter account is out of control.
Steve: It's quite an interesting situation in Utah right now... Kanter, Favors, Burks and Hayward are all on their rookie deals, Jefferson and Millsap are in the final year of big contracts. What do you think the team will do heading into next season? Do they just let the veteran bigs walk and try to use their cap space to sign people, do they trade them during the season, do they start the transition to the younger bigs now by starting Favors and Kanter? The bad news is that the Jazz may have a ton of cap space this summer and no one to spend it on.
Amar: There are a ton of guys in contract years on the Jazz, and so many options. I do not anticipate the Jazz brass to do anything proactive like move a veteran during the season for the best offer. I hope that they'll take this entire season to evaluate players before making decisions. The worst thing they could do is be too hasty right now, bad teams find ways to fill up their cap space with bad contracts. If the Jazz are going to be a good team they need to be smart with their money, and not trade away expiring deals for the sake of getting something in return. Getting rid of Deron Williams was somewhat necessary. Losing a Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, or Randy Foye isn't going to sink the franchise. The Jazz are committed to Paul Millsap and have offered him the most they can under the rules of the cap. I am certain a big year from Big Al will make him a very rich player next off-season. Utah isn't quite ready to make the transition away from those vets towards Favors and Kanter just yet. So us Jazz fans have learned to be patient. Ultimately though, with all the cap space, and with careful planning, the Jazz are still able to be a participant in free agency in 2013. If Utah can make a healthy progress going forward this season, and becomes a team with a good young core that is a proven winner, the Jazz may be an attractive place for the right player - for the right price. I do know that the Jazz wouldn't mind adding a strong, ball dominating free agent PG to the team if he could be persuaded to go to a team that has all the other positions filled out. Some Jazz fan armchair GMs are trying to play B-I-N-G-O with the 2005 Draft class now that we've had both #2 Marvin Williams and #3 Deron Williams. (This is not a threat -- but the Jazz are going to throw all of the money at Chris Paul this season, and I think it is a fool's errand to do so.)
Steve: I see that former Clipper Randy Foye is 1-17 in preseason so far (Note that was before Tuesday's game where he went 4-9). Sorry about that. We've actually been missing him this preseason because Willie Green has been so bad -- but he hasn't been that bad. Have you completely given up on Foye already? Is there any explanation for his horrid shooting?
Amar: There's no way that Randy Foye finishes the season shooting 5.9 fg% -- so I'm certainly not worrying about him just yet. I'm not happy with how he has performed so far, but that does not mean it's the end of the world. When the Jazz signed him I watched him religiously in Synergy. I poured over his stats, and he was absolutely on fire after the All-Star break last season. Foye is, however, a shooting guard in a point guard's body. He's a fantastic spot up shooter, and when open (because the defense is much more preoccupied with the Chris Paul and Blake Griffin types) he can be absolutely deadly. The sad thing is that so far the Jazz seem to have not paid as much attention to what Randy does well as I have. They are trying to switch him back into ball handling / driving mode. And it has not worked out well. Foye is not great driving to the basket, he has not found his team mates with ease, and he's much better as a play finisher than a play initiator. Foye's not making his shots. But a lot of the blame also goes to the Jazz for not using him at his best. Another problem is that when he's on the floor he's a) asked to be the distributor, and b) one of the best players on the floor. Both situations makes him a target for the defense. If he was getting more playing time on the floor with Gordon Hayward, Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson -- three guys the defense is looking at who are also willing to pass the ball to the open guy -- he would find life so much easier.
It's easy for me to see WHY Foye is shooting poorly, it's because he's being used wrong, in the wrong rotations, and at the wrong system spot. Give him the Kyle Korver role that Korver had in the Jazz offense and you'll see better results. But trying to get him to be the next Howard Eisley is not helping the Jazz, and not helping Randy.
That said, thank you so much for Mo Williams. He has been a dream come true here, playing only 22.3 MPG so far, but his Per 36 Mins averages are of 18 / 8 / 4 / 2 right now. Of course, just as I don't expect Randy to shoot 5.9 fg% this season, I don't expect Mo to be as good as his preseason stats currently are. Over all things will even out, and I feel like both guys will have good seasons in Utah -- even if it means less minutes for Alec Burks.
Thanks for the great answers Amar! And I'll talk to you right after this game is over with all the new questions I will have after watching this edition of the Jazz. By the way, I'm going to have to agree with you -- I don't really see CP3 leaving LA for Salt Lake City. It's not fair by any means, but Paul has experienced the small market thing, and I don't think he has any intention of doing it again.