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April 17, 2015

Some Notes on the First Jazz Season to End with Hope in Many Moons

-- The title pretty much explains it

Rudy Gobert
It feels like it’s been ages since we had someone this fiery and competitive.
The guy moves incredibly well for his size - will putting on muscle hurt that?
A suggestion: save the salutes for the truly spectacular moments and the crowd will reward you accordingly.

Derrick Favors
The future looked bright for Favors when he was draining jumpers and swatting Tim Duncan back in the playoff sweep of 2012. Next thing we knew he’d been fully Corbinized11.  Which is a lot like what happened to Han Solo in Empire Strikes Back, only much, much worse.and couldn't score against the likes of Steve Novak. Then President Fitz came along and lo and behold Favors could do all sorts of things. All hail the president.

Trevor Booker
There are two sure-fire ways to endear yourself to Jazz fans.

#1 – Play scrappy; hustle
#2 – Lambast Enes Kanter any way you can

Booker managed to do both of these things very well. Whether or not he returns next season clothed in Jazz regalia, he will be forever loved.

Gordon Hayward
My adoration has been rewarded. Eat it contract haters.

Joe Ingles
Passing is an underrated skill. Ingles does it well.
Herky-jerky players are simultaneously confusing and fun to watch.

Millsap Junior
Bring back your brother

Rodney Hood
Maybe he was the steal of the draft afterall

Dante Exum
Ah, I have many feelings on this rookie. 
First off let's remember that he’s young. How young exactly?

Younger than your cousin on a mission.
Younger than every college point guard in the state of Utah. 
Ten years younger than Chris Paul, seven years younger than Westbrook and five years younger than Damian Lillard. Do you know how much time five years is? I mean really do you know? Here's a helpful reminder: Instagram wasn't around five years ago. We have no idea how good or bad Exum will be when he's Damian Lillard's age, but we do know what year it will be when we get the chance to do the comparison. 2020. I trust you get the picture so I'll move on to my next Exum soapbox. 

The Exum critics, of which somehow there are many, analyze his lack of burst towards the hoop as a missing element of aggression or basketball ability or brains or desire. Another wiffed pick by the Jazz, they surmise. Ok, that is one possibility, or could it be that what we have on our hands is a player so focused on winning that he opted against offensive freelancing in favor of playing within his current limits? Limits which weren't as abysmal as rumored, by the way. The guy held his own at arguably the most talent-stocked position in the league, managed to avoid the rookie wall (check out how consistent the post all-star splits are), threw a number of passes that reveal he has great vision not to mention basketball is a TWO WAY SPORT22.  Can anyone explain to me why no one cares that Gobert is great on D and bad on O while Exum being great on D and bad on O is considered a potential bust?and on the defensive side Exum didn't just survive, he dominated. These are not normal defensive plays people! I'm not alone on this island either; his play on D has gotten press from more than one national outlet. Still, I haven’t seen it written anywhere yet so it's time I called my shot: Dante Exum will be the best defensive point guard in the NBA. 

As much as I love watching Rudy wall off the paint I enjoyed even more watching Exum suck the life out of opponents who would try for a few possessions to attack the rim, only to find that there was no way around a speed demon with a 6' 9.5" wingspan. Even those who manage to get around Exum aren't out of the woods. Oh you thought you beat Exum with a crossover D-will? Think again. Pay attention next year to how opposing point guards act when Exum goes to the bench. The relief on their face is noticeable (I swear it really is) and immediately they'll start attacking Trey Burke knowing that freedom won't be available for long. It's a marvelous thing. Maybe I'm crazy and just have a thing for Auzzie's, but then again Tony Parker only scored twice on Exum this whole year (to go along with three turnovers, nice work Tony!), and usually aren't the vets picking on the rookies, not the other way around?

So ... if the Jazz grow to at some point have the best defensive point guard in the league, and the best defensive center in the league, and one of the best defensive power forwards in the league, and never-say-die Hayward protecting the wing ... well suddenly things are looking very interesting.

Will victories follow? I'm not sure, but the legend will grow. Utah – where the pick and roll goes to die. Hope is on the horizon. At long last. 

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