Boozer and Millsap: Two Halves of a Whole





The following is actually from an email conversation with an electronic acquaintance, but I thought it was so interesting that I ought to share it with you. I hesitate to drop a second stat-geek-filled post so soon after Clark's interesting (to me, at least) number-crunch-o-rama, but you, the dedicated, passionate fan, deserves to know.

Now, I don't know if it's the Utah versus BYU mentality that's so ingrained locally, or if it's just the human nature of needing competition, even if it's at the expense the team mentality, but with many the "Boozer or Millsap" thing just won't die.

So I'd like to put it to rest for you.

The Jazz need both.

Think Karl Malone and "Big Dog" Antoine Carr.

They played great together, each filling a role for the Utah Jazz in their Finals years that made them very formidable indeed, even though each were similar in size, forcing Carr to the center-spot at 6'9" when they were on the floor together.

Sure, Carlos Boozer isn't Malone, and it's he that moves to the 5 rather than Millsap when they play the floor at the same time, but the thing is Millsap is better than Carr, giving the current tandem more bite than the unlikely combination of a Big Dog and a Mailman teamed up together ever did.

I noticed that Boozer seemed to play better when either he or Millsap were subbed in to share the paint together, and wondered if there were numbers to support this premise.

This isn't a new idea to me, or many others --we've long wondered if this was actually truth, or just wishful thinking-- however, with a little peek into the numerical evidence provided by the playoff series against the Nuggets, who sport a pair of normally defensively sound players in Nene and Chris "Birdman" Andersen, I believe I have found something you can revel in, or dispute, as the case may be.

From the aforementioned email...

The premise:

Teams like Denver can't guard both Boozer and Millsap, or they will pay dearly, by one or the other.

The catalyst (aside from "The Flog," an inside joke that some of you will get):

In Game 3 of the Jazz/Nuggets series Denver was doubling Carlos Boozer every chance they got, especially on the high pick-and-roll. This is fact. They kept Boozer shooting jump shots early.

"Denver shut down Utah inside through the first quarter, forcing the Jazz into outside shots that usually missed and bounced right to one of the Nuggets, who led by as many as 11 points."

That left Paul Millsap roaming free and he made them pay with an explosion of points.

"I thought we had control of Boozer and Williams in the first half," Anthony said. "Once we made adjustments to gain control of Millsap and Matthews in the second half, Williams and Boozer woke up."

Adjusting to try and contain Millsap leads to Boozer then exploding, as in Game 4 when Boozer scored 10 of his 14 first-half points while playing with Millsap.

Boozer's points when on the floor with Millsap

Game 1:

10 of 14 points for 68%

Game 2:

*6 of 20 points for 30%

Game 3:

14 of 18 points for 78%

Boozer got his first points of the game right after a substitution bringing Millsap in at 7:07 of the 2nd Q, on a layup.

**This is relevant, as data to come shows.

Game 4:

***15 of 31 points for 48%

***The 2nd half of this game is a minor anomaly in itself, since Denver had by then basically given up defending altogether, and Boozer was rolling.

But as we noted on the live blog through the first half, the one that really mattered, 10 of his 14 points came with Millsap on the floor with him, for 71%.

The trend continued in the 3rd quarter, with Boozer getting 5 of his 7 points for 71% up until Millsap picked up his 5th foul at the 4:41 mark of the 3rd and had to sit.

Quarter-by-quarter breakdown

This phenomenon is even more apparent when taken a quarter at a time.

Boozer has scored in 14 of the 16 quarters the Jazz have played this postseason.

In 10 of those 14 quarters Boozer has gotten at least half of his points per quarter when Millsap is on the floor with him.

So 71% of the time Boozer is more successful when Millsap shares the floor with him, at least in this playoff series.


*The Game 2 anomaly

If not for one stretch of this game, this entire theory would be more easily proven.

In quarters 1 and 3 Boozer scored half of his points when Millsap was on the floor, however, he had his best scoring quarter of the series in the 2nd, for 12 points.

Only 2 of those were when Millsap was in, with 4 more coming on jumpers, and the remaining 6 on close-assist situations in the paint.

**More relevant data

Noticing that Boozer often tended to start scoring right after either Millsap or he was subbed in, resulting in them being on the floor together, I wondered if the pair on the floor together allowed Boozer to be more aggressive.

More aggressive play means going to the paint, rather than taking jump shots, so naturally I went straight to the free throw data.

Boozer has taken a total of 23 free throws in the series.

17 of those have come when Millsap was on the floor with him at the same time.

4 have come with Fesenko and 2 with Koufos.


A response to the above email included:

"A lot of things work right now because Denver defense is horrible."

This is true, but as I said, this is not a new supposition, so I hopped over to 82 Games to see if an entire season's worth of data might help support it. It does.

Top Five-Man Floor Units

# Unit Min Off Def +/- W L Win%
1  Williams-Brewer-Kirilenko-Boozer-Okur 327.8  1.11  1.07  +28   13   12   52.0
2  Williams-Matthews-Brewer-Boozer-Okur 241.5  1.14  1.16  -6   10   10   50.0
3  Williams-Matthews-Miles-Boozer-Okur 204.6  1.16  1.07  +39   11   8   57.8
4  Williams-Matthews-Miles-Millsap-Boozer 147.8  1.19  1.18  +7   19   13   59.3
5  Williams-Matthews-Kirilenko-Boozer-Okur 141.1  1.03  1.21  -57   2   11   15.3
6  Williams-Brewer-Miles-Boozer-Okur 136.1  0.99  1.00  -2   4   9   30.7
7  Williams-Brewer-Kirilenko-Millsap-Boozer 117.5  1.19  1.07  +25   12   7   63.1
8  Williams-Matthews-Kirilenko-Millsap-Boozer 110.3  1.14  0.95  +33   15   11   57.6
9  Williams-Matthews-Korver-Millsap-Boozer 109.7  1.21  1.11  +27   12   10   54.5
10  Williams-Brewer-Kirilenko-Millsap-Okur 84.1  1.08  1.07  +7   8   7   53.3


Looking at the top 10 five-man units, or those that have played enough minutes together to make the data truly relevant, Millsap and Boozer on the floor together compose 4 of the top 5 winning-est units in the 2009-2010 regular season.

I hate to do this, but throw Kyrylo Fesenko in there and the Jazz as currently constituted are awfully reminiscent of the Utah teams from years past that were so, so good, especially when you consider the production coming from the wing spots, in CJ Miles and Kyle Korver.

And Deron Williams is actually ahead of what John Stockton had done at the same point in their careers.

This is a formula that works for the Utah Jazz.

Only better this time around. The overall talent level of the pieces in place are superior to those of years yore.

In my humble opinion, of course.

All comments are the opinion of the commenter and not necessarily that of SLC Dunk or SB Nation.

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