While most media outlets have their cameras focused on Cleveland, the rest of the league continues to make small moves that could quietly improve their teams. Let’s look at the most recent move by the Utah Jazz and discuss how it might improve their odds next season.
What This Means For The Jazz
In the Turkish Basketball League this past season, former Notre Dame forward Jack Cooley averaged 12.6 points and 6.9 rebounds in about 23 minutes per game, over the course of 19 starts and nine bench-game outings. That’s a fairly small sample size, and the numbers aren’t imposing, so one shouldn’t get too excited based on that stat line. The one thing that the Jazz can probably feel good about, and it’s likely a reason the organization made the move in the first place, is that Cooley put up those scoring and rebounding numbers when averaging under 25 minutes. That’s not a starter-level number of minutes for an NBA player. That’s more in the area of sixth-man minutes in the NBA. If Cooley can somehow translate his rate of production per minute from Turkey to the NBA, Utah might have something on its hands.
However, that’s where the limitations come into play. Cooley, at Notre Dame, was never a particularly quick player. He was a bruiser with some skills, but he was rarely if ever someone who made his mark by using quick low-post moves to burn past defenders. Cooley was a guy who, like Tyler Hansbrough or similar kinds of players, achieved what he achieved because of his energy, work ethic, and nose for the ball. He’s made in that kind of mold, and that’s what the Jazz are hoping for with Cooley.
For more perspective on Cooley at Notre Dame, he was starting his career just as a player named Luke Harangody was ending it. Harangody was also a power forward, but Harangody had the shooting range and the quicker feet Cooley doesn’t quite have. Harangody was the Big East Player of the Year in 2008 and averaged over 20 points and 10 rebounds in his best season at Notre Dame. Cooley, in his best season at Notre Dame, averaged 10 rebounds, a testament to his drive and determination, but he averaged only 13 points.
Harangody is currently playing in Europe. If he’s not an NBA-level player, it’s hard to see how or why Cooley would be or could be. Utah might want to see if Cooley can develop with the team’s new D-League affiliate, the Idaho Stampede. The Jazz announced a so-called “hybrid affiliation” with the Idaho club in the past offseason. Utah has depth at power forward, with Trevor Booker being the main presence and Derrick Favors perhaps sliding over to that position from center in a big lineup. Utah has committed so much money to shooting guard Gordon Hayward, anyway, that it probably felt it needs to look for bargain finds and see if it can get lucky on the market.
How To Bet The News
This looks like a shot in the dark on the part of the Jazz, aimed more at development than anything else. The Jazz actually have a lot of depth at power forward with Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Trevor Booker eating up minutes, do Cooley could end up in the D-League.
The Jazz have quietly had a good offseason and have continued to stockpile lots of young talent. Although overpaying to keep Gordon Hayward with a max contract was a bit crazy but looking up and down the roster, this team has potential. First-round picks Trey Burke and Dante Exum can handle the guard positions with the underrated Alec Burks, who averaged 14.0 points per game last season, in the mix. This year’s second first-round pick, Rod Hood, could also be in the mix for minutes there and he’ll also backup Hayward. Up front, Favors and Kanter are a quality starting four and five.
When making your NBA picks, it goes without saying not to bet the Jazz to win the Western Conference as they are tied with the Sacramento Kings as the longest shot at +12500 to win. But this looks like a talented young team. They’re very raw right now and unproven, but we know Burke, Hayward, Favors and Kanter can play. If Exum and Hood can too, and the rest of the young players take a step forward from last season, this could be a good bet to go over their regular season win total. Expect the total to be very low after last season’s 25-57 result.