Sunday Syncopation #46

The season is right around the corner; let’s take a look at the Jazz on Christmas day, say goodbye to Andrei and Memo, and get the straight dope on who won the head to head match-up between John Stockton and Kevin Johnson over the course of their careers.

Merry Christmas?

The Utah Jazz aren’t a marquee franchise right now. Perhaps we will be again in the future – but they have played on Christmas Day six times before. Each of the games were at home. And the first two were back when the Jazz were playing in New Orleans. Here they are:

As you can see the Jazz went 3-3, and the first three games were played in the 1970’s. Only two of the games were in the Stockton-to-Malone era. Naturally the Jazz won both of those games. In the ’88 games vs. the LA Lakers Magic Johnson had 18 and 10, James Worthy had 18 points, and Byron Scott had 17. They got 11 points off the bench from Mychal Thompson. What about our Jazz? Well, Karl Malone had 31 and 12, and John Stockton had 21 and 8. Thurl Bailey had 22 points off of the bench. And it was a beatdown. The game in ’99 vs. the Houston Rockets, the bad guys put up a spirited fight without Hakeem Olajuwon. Kevin Willis turned back the clock and had 25 points, while Clyde Drexler and Mario Elie both had 15. For the Jazz, our big three of Karl Malone, Jeff Hornacek and John Stockton each had at least 20. Karl had another 20 and 10 game, John shot 62.5 fg%, and Jeff hit all four of the threes he took.

The Jazz were a contender for years and years and only played on Christmas twice during that stretch. One can only imagine what kind of stars will have to align for the Jazz to get on TV again on that special day. Perhaps we’ll have to be part of a rivalry – or maybe just take advantage of the increasing number of TV stations that did not previously have NBA game rights.

Regardless, if Favors becomes the beast we think he should be – we’ll win games, no matter what date they are scheduled on.

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Christmas Presents

Last year I wrote a Christmas Carol for Mehmet Okur . . . but well, you know . . .

And I’m not going to make a Christmas Carol for a trade exemption . . . so

. . .I will give out some Christmas Gifts for some of our jazz family instead.

  • Ty Corbin – respect from the refs
  • Derrick Favors – ditto
  • Jeremy Evans – playing time
  • Paul Millsap – Santa may not be able to bring him a starting spot, but he does deserve starting minutes
  • Devin Harris – a bounce back season
  • Enes Kanter – a bigman coach who has experienced being a grounded guy with a big, physical body
  • Gordon Hayward – more minutes
  • Raja Bell – a rocking chair
  • Alec Burks – more of those Corner Pimp 3 point attempts
  • Josh Howard – some Cheech and Chong, and Harold and Kumar DVDs
  • Earl Watson – more oop targets, oh wait, he does have them
  • C.J. Miles – consistency all around
  • Big Al Jefferson – defensive instincts
  • Jamaal Tinsley – a time machine
  • Greg Miller – Land Cruiser 365 Calendar
  • Jazz fans – a redo of that amazing Jazz season where we almost made the playoffs with a bunch of non-stars.

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Stats Class: Kevin Johnson vs. John Stockton

Ask anyone who visits this blog who is the better player and you’re pretty much going to get a single (right) answer: John. Stockton is a HOF player who averaged 13 and 10.5 over 18 years in the league. His first All-Star game was in the 80’s and his last was in the 00’s. He has two gold medals and two All-Time NBA records. Clearly, John is the better player – their careers aren’t that alike. KJ has no gold medals. He did dominate, but did play in three All-Star games. That’s pretty good, right? He did have career averages of 18 and 9 though – which does look like it’s in the same league as John’s 13 and 10.5, right? He did play 6 less seasons than John did. And a heck of a lot less minutes over his career.

That said, if you went back in time to their peaks; or alternatively, asked non Jazz fans this question – a great number of them would suggest that KJ was a better player. Obviously I had to track this down and get to the bottom of it. I think that the head to head match-up is a big deal. If you always eat someone’s’ lunch then there’s no way they can be really better than you. This is something we’ve seen firsthand in all those Deron Williams / Chris Paul games. Not only did Deron’s team win the vast majority of those games; but Deron also had better stats than Chris. We see a similar game playing out between the pass-first John Stockton and the shoot-first Kevin Johnson. Behold!

In the 39 regular season match-ups, John’s team won the game 24 times. And overall, John wipes the floor with the media adored KJ. (How many KJ commercials did we see in the 80s and 90s, vs the Stockton ones? Diet Pepsi aside, the national media didn’t really focus on John…) Johnson scored more per game, but also shot it a lot more and shot nearly 10% less in the eFG% category. His Points per shot value was high – but only because he kept getting bailed out and going to the FT line. He did go 8.4 times a game. Which is like D-Rose levels. John, on the other hand, made the shots he took when there was a defender on him – killing it for an 50+ fg% and 50+ eFG% mark, and a 40+ 3pt% mark. No one really talks much about KJ’s defense – we hear about how many 20 point games he had. John almost averaged 50/40/90 against him. This is probably why KJ isn’t considered one of the Top players to play the game.

We all know that it’s not really that important how much your point guard scores (Magic could dominate a game, and only shoot the ball 8 times) – but how well they set everyone else up. Stockton dished it out 12.7 times a game, while having a dominating 4.4 : 1 assist to turn over ratio. Johnson? Only 7.9 apg, with a horrendous (for a PG) 2.4 : 1 assist to turn over ratio. His numbers, which look great at first, seem to break down when you combine the pace those suns played at with his inefficient play. Put Stockton on those run and gun Phoenix Suns and you get MVP awards – just ask Steve Nash.

I don’t think I talked enough about Stockton in my stats class section; hence, the need to go over him again. I know some of this info may seem very similar to something I did before. It should, because I did an entire post on John Stockton and how he fared in head to head match ups against: Magic Johnson; Isiah Thomas; Mark Price; Tim Hardaway; Gary Payton; and Jason Kidd. You can check out that post in the archives here.

As the season goes on the Stats class section is going to deal more and more with what we see in the current Jazz games. As for now, though, I felt it was okay to go back in the way-back machine – and once again bask in just how efficient and awesome John Stockton was. Glad our team never traded him . . .

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Video of the Week:

You all knew this one was coming . . .


Uploaded to YouTube by: m2multimedia

We need Earl Watson to do this . . .

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Andrei Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur

A few years ago we were a rebuilding team full of youth, good chemistry, and low on experience. We were on the outside of the playoffs, looking in. We made a number of smart draft picks to fill in some holes and were making our slow climb back up the NBA totem pole. On one hand, it’s sad that we’re back there again so soon. On the other hand, this is an experience where hopefully we can build a better team. I think it is fair to say that we loved those teams though – we loved all of our Jazz teams. The best outside shooter on that team, and arguably the second most important guy (defense, rebounding, floor spacing, clutch play, playing when hurt) was Mehmet Okur. The best all-around player was the Swiss Army knife who could do everything but more than anything else, play defense. That was Andrei Kirilenko. This season we’re going it without either of them: our best defender, probably ever; and our most dead eye shooter, maybe ever. (Eaton was a living wall, and Stockton was great on the ball – but Andrei had to check everyone from Kobe Bryant to Dirk Nowitzki; similarly Stockton and Jeff Hornacek were both clutch and deadeye, but you could make and honest argument that it was Memo for that insane stretch when healthy where it was like he just could not miss – and out of the three, he has the highest career average for threes made per game, over his career.)

It would be an understatement to say that these two guys were both good players, and good players for the Jazz. Furthermore, moving into a season without them is almost like uncharted waters for the club. Fans will miss them, but will rationalize a way to make it seem like it was the best move to be made. The jury, obviously, is still out on that one – and will be for a while. There are a billion stats I could use to justify my high opinion of those two guys. But I’m going to spare you all from that lecture. Memo and AK-47 were some of the best Jazz players ever. I contest that Memo’s all-around game (and utility on offense) makes him the best Jazz center of all time. Andrei is up there for small forwards as well. Adrian Dantley was a high octane scorer. Bryon Russell was a defender who could flat out drain that open three pointer. Andrei . . . Andrei was a very special player. He played a different type of basketball, which is probably why it seemed like he was a round peg being forced into a square shaped hole. There’s no question that the Jazz should have drafted him. The question exists as to just what they did to him when they got him. The sad news is that he’s probably going to be remembered more for his crazy contract (which the Jazz offered him), Stepford wife, and wild hair than his play.

It was his play that was the most important part of him, to me. John and Karl made me a Jazz fan. Andrei kept me a Jazz fan.

I don’t think I need to say any more than that.

I’ll miss both of them. And so will our coaches in the middle of this season when we need to make a clutch stop, or basket.

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Hope you did not miss . . .

. . . I miss my desktop that has all my cool links saved . . . no "hope you didn’t miss" section this week.

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Did you know . . . ?:

. . . that this is actually going to be Blake Griffin’s third year in the NBA. He was injured during his actual rookie year and came on extra strong in his second year, which is what we count as his rookie year. In Blake’s "rookie year" he averaged 21.3 ppg and 11.4 rpg per 36 minutes. Karl Malone, in his second year, averaged 22.4 ppg and 10.8 rpg per 36 minutes. That looks pretty damn similar. Of course, Karl’s scoring jumped quite a bit the next season – going to 25.5 ppg per 36 minutes. The addition of a good point guard can help you get easy baskets. Will Blake Griffin average 25.5 ppg this upcoming season? That could be something cool to watch.

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