There's an interesting piece in the Salt Lake City Tribune this morning from Jazz beat writer Phil Miller on Mehmet Okur's evolving role with the squad - a role that's increasingly nebulous now that Boozer is back and playing the 4, which Memo has always staked as his natural position:
His job description calls for Okur to patrol the paint and work for layups, particularly when there are three guards or small forwards on the floor with him. That dynamic always created a mild conflict for the 6-foot-11 Okur, who isn't the most powerful presence under the basket, but whose remarkable shooting ability gives him a natural advantage on most players his size.
"Sometimes inside, sometimes outside," Okur said of his role in the Jazz's offense much of the season. "You know, it's hard to know always where is better."
Playing alongside Boozer, however, has allowed Okur to drift along the edges of the lane, looking for space. His defender invariably lags a step or two closer to the basket, which is all the room Okur needs.
You can make a reasonable argument that Harpring, Kirilenko, Boozer and Okur all play power forward, which tends to work well in Sloan's pick-and-roll offense. The nice thing about Utah's bigs is that, Boozer the exception, they can all bounce off screens and hit from outside. The press notes may list Memo as a power forward, but he's really a 3 - a more polished, albeit less athletic, Vlad.
So far as the Clips go, one of the ancillary benefits of being a team with an answer key (spread the floor, go inside, draw the double-team, kick it out, swing it around, find the open man) is that you know exactly what the opposing team is going to throw at you. The more interesting question is how the Clips will handle the Utah zone. Looking at the box score, I realize that the second quarter of Denver-Utah I caught on ESPN was somewhat aberrational when you contrast it to the rest of the game. Denver busted the zone in the second half, scoring 59 points. If you take a look at the Nuggets' third quarter, you can see where the pokey Jazz are really vulnerable: 9 of Denver's 13 field goals in the quarter were driving layups or dunks.
In other words, if the Clips can use their speed and mobility on the offensive end and get out in transition, they can exploit the lunky, slow-ass Jazz because there's no way Boozer and Okur can get up and down the floor with Maggette, Brand and Kaman. One of the more infuriating things about this season - though I suppose Maggette's absence has a lot to do with it - is that the Clippers are among the league's worst fast break teams. I don't say this because I'm a fan who prefers a run-and-gun style of ball (I'm actually a closet Larry Brown east-coast, get-it-into-the-post guy), but because our bigs run the floor better than any front line in the league - Phoenix and Toronto notwithstanding (side note: caught a glimpse of Charlie Villanueva lately? If the Raptors can find someone who can shoot the ball from the outside other than their point guard, they may not suck for much longer). But slashers perform well against the Jazz, demonstrated most recently by 'Melo and Caron Butler, who got off for 27 against the Jazz a couple weeks back. Utah simply doesn't have an answer for quick, open-court speedsters.
Tonight, I go for my second straight lay-off-the-caramel-corn victory. I just hope my renewed discipline isn't a product of losing my appetite from watching our defensive lapses on the perimeter.