Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sloan's Preferences

Anyone who follows the Jazz knows that Jerry Sloan hates rookies, young people, teens, and Russians. It is a commonly held belief that Sloan will not play young players the minutes they deserve. Look at CJ Miles, the Sloan critics say. Or Kris Humphries, or Deron Williams (as a rookie), or DeShawn Stevensen.

But I'm here to tell you that the Sloan-as-rookie-hater theory is wrong. Sloan, like most 80 year-old farmers, isn't hip. He doesn't text, he doesn't listen to the rap music, and he certainly doesn't play unproductive young players over unproductive veterans. But this country boy may be cooler than you think.
Over the past 8 years, Sloan has put his trust in 3 rookies. He has let these three young bucks run for nearly 20 minutes a game, while more veteran, established players languished on the bench.

Deron Williams, 2005-06: There is often a perception among Jazz fans that Sloan was so stubborn that he wouldn't even play Williams, our franchise player, as a rookie. But Deron averaged 29 minutes per game over the course of the year and earned the starting role before the all-star break. Sloan started the rookie even though Deron's numbers were nowhere near what they are now: he shot poorly (42%) and his assist/turnover ratio was high (2.5:1). Consider this: Stockton didn't start as many games in his first three years in the league as Deron did in his rookie campaign.

Paul Millsap, 2006-07: Here's the classic Sloan rookie. Underappreciated (2nd round pick), fighting for a roster spot, undersized (listed at 6"8'), and a perfect gentleman. Millsap came out of nowhere to play 18 minutes a game as a rookie out of Lousiana Tech. The Gentle Bulldog only started one game that year (he has three total starts in his career), but has consistently been one of the first players off the bench since he entered the league.
Jarron Collins, 2001-02: If anyone complains about Sloan not playing rookies, simply point them to the greatest Stanford big man to ever tape up for the Jazz. Collins, an unheralded second round pick, stormed into the league with a rookie campaign that saw him post career highs of 6.4 points and 4.2 rebounds per game (incidentally, those remain career highs to this day). Most amazing of all, however, is that Jarron started 68 of the 70 games he played in that year! And he wasn't playing because of lack of bigmen: the Jazz bench that year included Andrei Kirlenko, Greg Ostertag, and even John Amaechi.

So, what does this tell us about this year? Well, it means that Sloan may turn to Kofous to fill the huge void at backup center. All of the rookies listed above had good attitudes, worked hard, and didn't get in bar brawls (oh wait, scratch that last one). Kofous is destined to be Sloan's favorite player ever and appears to be a hard worker. Whether he is skilled enough to play against NBA bigmen is another question, but if Collins' story is any indicator, talent doesn't factor into the playing time equation.


Pasty Gangsta said...

You're working with thin material here, Crotty. The Jazz were pretty crappy when Collins was a rookie and Sloan always hated Amaechi and Osterag. And as we all know and Williams himself isn't hesitant to point out, Sloan benched him for long stretches of his rookie season. Millsap is the only rookie he ever played consistently because he thought he could contribute.

The silver lining is that if you back the man up against the wall and put a gun to his head, he will occasionally see the light and play a rook. Given the Fes/Collins debacle, we may have just such a situation on our hands with Kosta. . .

Orlando said...

Collins' rookie year featured Karl Malone and John Stockton, so the Jazz weren't exactly crappy.

I'm not arguing that he will play rookies over established vets, but he will play them when he has to. And he has to.

Tucker McCann said...

you guys are both idiots

Pasty Gangsta said...

When Collins was a rookie we won 44 games and lost in the 1st round of the playoffs. Pretty bad year by Jazz standards.

Look, I hope you're right. Collins and Fes are terrible right now (well Collins is always terrible -- nothing new there) so we could use someone else, even if he is a rookie.

Orlando said...

I'm not even sure I want to be right on this one. Kofous will not be good this year, mark me words. He may eventually pan out, but this year he will be overwhelmed. But Sloan likes good character guys.

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