Playoffs 2010 - Stepping up with the Jazz bigmen

SALT LAKE CITY - APRIL 30: Paul Millsap #24 of the Utah Jazz dunks over Malik Allen #30 of the Denver Nuggets during Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2010 NBA Playoffs at EnergySolutions Arena on April 30, 2010 in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

A million years ago (actually, July 3rd) I asked you guys to vote on which of our bigmen stepped up the most in the playoffs this year. We had some serious injuries (like every year), but our guys gave it their best. Of course, some guys did step up, while others wilted under pressure.

The poll results said that 44% of us (100 votes) felt like Paul Millsap was the man who stepped up the most. Kyrylo Fesenko came in second with 34% of the vote. Carlos Boozer, our All-Star and vocal (on the court) leader only impressed 6% of us. The enigma that is Kosta Koufos got 1% of the votes and 13% of us were surprised that we won a playoff series with just three guys (Koof played only 3.44 mpg in the playoffs).

How accurate are these opinions? Click to find out!

Carlos Boozer

You have to start with our multiple time All-Star, multiple time Gold Medal winner and over-all, biggest offensive threat. With how our offense is structured, we’re either going to win or lose depending on his play. This probably explains why we always beat Houston in the playoffs, crush Golden State, and get vivisected by the Lakers. For all of his faults, Boozer *has* been pretty good in a Utah Jersey.

In 354 regular season games he averages (essentially) 19 points / 10 rebounds / 3 assists. In 44 playoff games he averages 21 points / 13 rebounds / 3 assists. That’s pretty good. When you add up all his games, his total 398 Utah Jazz career output is 19 points / 11 rebounds / 3 assists. This last off-season he averaged 20 points, 13 rebounds and 3 assists.

Essentially, he’s been very consistent. And consistently awesome. Right? Therefore, any criticism of him should be automatically thrown out and we all should mourn him leaving us for the Bulls. Right?

Wrong.

Carlos always makes sure he gets his numbers. We all know that he takes rebounds out of the hands of his own team mates (stay classy, Dukie). He’ll also put up enough shots at a good enough rate to continue to contribute without criticism. By watching the games, and not the box scores, we find that Boozer’s play in the playoffs was quite timid, especially in the 2nd round.

Boozer just kept getting his stuff blocked inside, so he retreated to midrange and was able to make his shots fading away. Nice. But instead of pounding it inside he:

a) destroyed our floor spacing,

b) had a shooting worth decline from 1.312 to below average 1.173 (-10.64%),

and c) went to the line -27.52% less of the time (5 a game down to 3.5 a game).

This means that this is another foul (or two) that he should have been getting the Lakers to commit that they he didn’t.

Since the 90’s our offense is set up for offensive advantages that produce a lot of fouls. If our designated foulee is not doing his job (and he was -27.52% on this), then the system sputters while their bigs continue to play longer and longer because they are not in foul trouble. Which is exactly what happened.

Boozer did not get much of the vote for stepping up, and while his consistency may make us not recognize his brilliance, I would think that these stats are a little hollow. They were still good stats, but what we’ve come to expect of him (91.301 GO Rating in 398 games as a Jazz man) was far less than what he produced this last playoffs (78.025 GO Rating in 10 games).

Kyrylo Fesenko

This guy is the opposite spectrum of Boozer – a guy who doesn’t get consistent minutes who we don’t automatically look to for production. He was thrust into the starting role in the playoffs after Mehmet Okur’s injury. The doom sayers came out at this time, yet we were able to prevail without home court against media darling Carmelo Anthony and his team of jail ballers.

Fesenko has played a total of 89 games for the Jazz in his career (regular season + playoffs). This is still a small sample size, but we kind of know what to expect with him. Reasonable shooting (51.977 fg% for his career), and a couple of other things in such small quantities that they almost don’t even count. His regular season numbers are horrible.

How low are they? Fes gets 2.4 ppg and 1.9 rpg. Clearly if there was a guy who didn’t have to do much to step up there was this guy.

Fesenko’s minutes went up from his 8.025 mins average for the regular season to 18.100 minutes per game in the playoffs! This is a significant increase. He responded with a 31.12% increase in his points per game, an 81.46% increase in his free throw attempts per game, a 223.64% increase in his assists per game, a 42.86% increase in assist to turn over ratio, and even a 5.95% increase in blocks. He did step up, is not just as a product of finally getting some playing time.

It wasn’t all good for Fesenko though, he boasts a career shooting worth of 1.299, but in the playoffs this dwindled to 1.100 – a product of having guys contest his "Fes Make Dunk-Shot" attempts in the playoffs that they wouldn’t during the regular season. Kyrylo’s fg% went down to 43.3% in the playoffs as a result. This is Kenny Anderson territory. His FT% also went down from 40% to 33%. Over all, his GO Rating went down, though he did step up in the big picture. Did you think Fes was capable of averaging 3 points and 4 rebounds and 1 assist against the Nuggets and Lakers in the playoffs? He got second place in the poll largely because there was only 4 people in it . . . one of them being . . .

Kosta Koufos

First of all, I want to say that we all love Kosta. Not just because he was drafted by the Jazz, but also because he seems like a genuine young man who you’d totally be okay with your daughter dating because you know he’d never be able to get her bra off. I’m not going to go and say anything else bad about him, or at least try not to.

Kosta is very young, and his playoff off performance broke my excel formula for Go Rating. I had to change the formula so that an actual score would pop up instead of a series of error messages. Kosta shot a bit more frequently in the playoffs (once ever 3.100 minutes which is more frequently than Millsap’s career), and his Pure Hustle improved by 33.8%. So that’s good. Everything else was down, but you really can’t do much with 3.444 minutes per game.

He didn’t get the stats, but I will always remember him fondly for breaking my formula (that has been fine for over 300 players from a number of decades). The GO Rating of 1.634 is much higher than whatever "#DIV/0!" is. (GET TO THE LINE, MAN!)

Paul Millsap

Okay, it’s no secret. A winner is you, if your name is Paul Millsap. The majority of us voted for him, and he really did step up. A career (in 366 games) 10 and 6 guy busted out with an 18 and 9 playoffs against a number of quality bigs (Nene, Kenyon Martin, Chris Andersen, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom).

There is not much else to say, his career regular season Go Rating is only 38.140. This last playoffs he leveled up a few times (gaming term) and his Go Rating was 96.467 (+151.70% increase). Not only was it much higher than Boozer’s, but he also got to the line more (really, Millsap who never gets to the line went there more than Boozer because he went into the paint harder). His shooting worth this last playoffs was above that of Malone’s career average as well. He also hustled his butt off and had at least a steal and a block each game.

This all means that Millsap should be the starter at power forward next season. He stepped up the most out of all of our bigs.

Tune in later this week for the guards.

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