Utah Jazz: Fifteen games in, some under the radar things to watch going forward . . .

Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE

Yep, the Jazz -- YOUR Utah Jazz -- have played 15 games. They are 8 and 7, with 6 of our 2 wins coming at home; and none of our losses. What have we seen so far this season, that haven't really been mentioned yet?

  • The Utah Jazz are fantastic on offense when they a) run the pick and roll, and b) ALSO get the ball into the hands of the guy who set the pick in the first place. How good? 1.13 points per possession (PPP) good. Not only is that a good mark in comparison to how effective we are (or poor we are) trying to score in other ways. The only thing we really score better on is in transition -- where inherently there is one or fewer less defenders to factor in. The Jazz are also good at scoring on the pick and roll when getting the ball back to the screener when compared to the rest of the NBA. The Jazz are #4 in the entire NBA at this. The Jazz are shooting 55.8 fg% on these plays as well, and elicit a shooting foul 13.4% of the time. So what's the problem? The problem is that the Jazz RARELY are capable of getting the ball back into the hands of the guy setting the pick. More often the guy getting the pick (the ball handler) then completes the play, or they abandon it altogether. On PNRs, of the ones that get completed, only 35% of them have the ball going to the big. And let's not forget that this is, essentially, the best play we have that isn't a fast break. So it's our best play when going 5 on 5. Easily. And only 4.1% of the time (overall), and 35% of the time in P&R do we get a chance to run it. That's not good enough. The guards have to do a better job -- what's the point of having pass first guards if they can't get this done?
  • The Jazz are #3 in the NBA in FTA this year. Last season we were #4. So it's not like this is new. We are shooting better from the FT line this year -- particularly in two areas on first blush. The Jazz are making their technical free throws this year. That wasn't always the case. And the Jazz seem to be making their fourth quarter FTs this year too. I don't have the time today to look into all of it, but this is what it appears to be. The startling part though? This isn't just all because of Mo Williams and Randy Foye. Don't get me wrong, those two guys are fantastic free throw shooters, but Mo is only going to the line 1.8 times a game, and has missed three of our 15 games this year. Randy even missed three free throws in a row two games ago. The startling part is that guys really worked their butts off to get better at this, and we're scoring more "free" points as a result. Right now the Jazz have six guys shooting 77% or higher (Mo, Gordon Hayward, Randy, Al Jefferson, Marvin Williams, and DeMarre Carroll). Also we're getting some key points from the line this year from Derrick Favors -- who has upped his FT% from 59.5% to 64.9% to 72.3% in his third year in the league.
  • When Paul Millsap is on the floor, per 36.0 minutes of action, Al Jefferson scores 17.6 points, shoots 48 fg%, pulls down 12.4 rebounds, and dishes out 2.3 assists. Without Paul on the floor, Jefferson's numbers dip, horribly so in the case of fg% (down to 42 fg%), and assists (down to 0.8). When Al Jefferson is on the floor, per 36.0 minutes of action, Paul Millsap scores 17.4 points, shoots 48 fg%, pulls down 9.9 rebounds, and dishes out 2.7 assists. A very similar thing happens to Paul's production when Al is off the floor, his scoring goes down, his fg% goes down (way down to 30 fg%), and he assists less. They even both affect each others' 3pt% -- both making all of their threes with the other on the floor, and making NONE without the other one out there. These are just offensive statistics though for this year. And from this year -- we have come to the conclusion that they are a less than amazing defensive tandem. They are also flat out awful without the other one on offense. So, we're at an impasse I guess. Together they are horrible on defense, but apart they are horrible on offense.
  • So far this season there have been 414 different players to play a second in the NBA this year. Only 68 have played less minutes this year than Alec Burks (NBA rank in total minutes: 346 / 414). Here are some of those players: Damien Wilkins, Joel Anthony, Earl Watson (who was injured since before last playoffs and just returned to action), Luke Walton, Eddy Curry, Robert Sacre, Austin Daye, Vladimir Radmanovic, Johan Petro, Darko Milicic, and Hamed Haddadi. He hasn't played well in the time he's been on the floor, but I think it would be obtuse to suggest that he would continue to play poorly if he was given a chance at real minutes. He's having a bad time, but good players are capable of using this to get better. If he IS a good player, we hope, this shouldn't ruin him. Right?
  • Tyrone Corbin seems very open to trying to mix and match lineups. He does have his sacred cows though (all teams do), but there are encouraging signs out there. This is his third year, and while it's hard to replace a Hall of Fame coach, he needs to continue to get better at his job if he's going to have a future in this league. I think he is getting better. I believe strongly in the benefit to learning from hands on experience. That's why I'm so crazy about getting young guys minutes NOW before they're too behind the curve. This also goes for coaches. Ty's coaching in a lot of close games and learning in an environment where his mistakes have consequences. He's seeing some good results to his decisions, and some bad results. And he's getting experience. Right now he's won as many games as he did in his first season as a Jazz coach (28 games), in only 15 games. I kinda wish he played the guys I love more, but I understand what he's doing. And so far, it hasn't hurt him too much this season.
  • The Jazz should seriously applaud and support Raja Bell getting a solid offer from another team. And the Jazz should work quickly to cut him if he does. Sure, we'll have to pay a portion of our salary but it frees up a roster spot -- which is more valuable than saving $1.3 million or whatever from the budget. Why? Because it gives the Jazz flexibility. Not just flexibility for a potential FUTURE trade that may never be. No, it's more important than that. It's that we've front loaded one entire position with our oldest players who have all had injuries this year. (Really, our four oldest players are the first four guys on the PG depth chart) And each of the last 2-3 seasons the Jazz have had to go sign some D-league guy to put his finger in the dyke during one of our periods of asymmetrical injuries. Having Raja sit at home isn't going to give us the security if two of our PGs go down for a period this season. Having Raja sit on the Lakers bench, on the other hand, does give us the flexibility we need, especially if we don't trade anyone this season. Make it happen KOC + DL! Because we know that our PG situation is a ticking time bomb. We've played 15 games this year and our starting PG (Mo Williams) has missed 3; and our second string PG (Earl Watson) has missed 12. So for EVERY game this season we've been without one of our top two guys on the PG depth chart.
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