I missed the 20-game mark. Mostly because it was early December, and December is simply a crazy month for me. But here's the 30-game mark.
But I did begin to write up a 20-game analysis, so I'll discuss both the Jazz performance at the 20-game mark and to date, after 30 games.
Again, a few things about Wins Produced:
- The numbers are derived from point differentials, which is one of the most accurate predictors of future success.
- The numbers are position-specific: thus Favors' numbers represent him compared to an average PF.
- A perfectly average player will earn 0.100 WP per 48 minutes.
- The metric spreads team defensive performance equally among all players. This, of course, hurts everyone on the Jazz because our overall defense sucks.
- It's not hard to see why the Jazz struggle to keep themselves above average. They have only three players giving the team both above average production and significant playing time: Paul, Derrick, and DeMarre. It's hard for a team to be a great team when that is happening. Or even a good team.
- This season is, of course, unique. We all know why Derrick Favors is playing so few minutes, and we all know it ain't changing right now. But I hope Dennis Lindsey and the rest of the Jazz front office can learn something: it is a problem to have the most productive player on the team playing only 20 minutes per game. There are, of course, so many issues going on with this. He plays PF ... which happens to be the same position as the only other reliably above average player on the team. He's playing behind the guy who will carry the team on his shoulders, results-be-damned. There's the vets issue. The guys in their contract year issue. All sorts of issues. And really nothing's going to change about them right now. But at some point the team has to learn: you have to play your best players the most minutes; if you have to trade guys so that your best players are playing the most minutes then trade them; if you have to get creative and nudge guys into less-than "ideal" positions, it's okay (Chris Bosh can play C but Favors can't ... really?)
- Some players who began hot have fallen back to reality. Including Jamaal Tinsley, Earl Watson, Randy Foye, and DeMarre Carroll. Note that DeMarre has still been good--one of the team's few above average players--but he has come back to planet earth. Other players who had rough stretches are slowly coming back alive. Like Gordon Hayward and Enes Kanter.
- Kanter's line deserves special mention, because it looks like very, very below average. That WP/48 is in Randy Foye territory, and we all know what I think of Randy Foye as our starting SG. But Kanter's line is actually thrilling to me. That's because it used to be so much worse. It was, for a long time, far into the negative range. So to see it positive at all shows huge progress. And that progress is also found in the more traditional stats: in the last 15 games Kanter has put up 8 points, 5 rebounds, and 0.5 blocked shots while shooting 59% from the field and 75% from the line (going to the line 4.5 times per 36 minutes). There's still a lot that needs to happen (like passing ... 0 assists period over those 15 games) -- but this is progress. This is fun to see.
- Hayward also deserves additional mention. He really struggled from game 10 to 20. Like sub-40% shooting, low assists, lots of turnovers ... everything. And for a while his WP/48 dropped below Randy's. But Hayward has rebounded well. In the past 10 games, he's shot 44% overall, 44% from three, 6 FTA per 36 minutes, assisting, rebounding, stealing, blocking, cutting turnovers and fouls. He's done a lot better. Hopefully this trend will continue.
- Now, on the other hand ... I remain mystified at why the team seems to expect established players to magically get better. I'm keeping this to a single point because ... well, you know ... but it still warrants pointing out: the production of Al, Mo, Marv, Sap, Foye, Jamaal, and Earl are perfectly within their career norms. And unlike Kanter or Hayward, there's no recent progress. Just a slow, but constant, drifting downward. Of the five, only Sap is above average. I'm sorry, because they're all great guys, but nothing can change that most of them are below average players for their position.
- I would not call myself a #FireCorbin firebrand, but there are things that concern me. Primarily this: nobody is thriving. The only player clearly outperforming what he gave us last year is DeMarre Carroll. This should be baffling. We have four extremely talented young players, and these guys should make huge jumps in productivity over their first few years. Not a single one of our lotto picks is doing this as of right now. That's bad. But the problem isn't limited to them. Our moves in the off-season were designed to maximize Al Jefferson's offensive play: yet he's producing worse. Marvin Williams was supposed to thrive from the change of scenery and a game plan that actually fits what he can do ... and he's doing worse. Millsap, the guy who's improved himself every single year to date, is doing worse. When one or two guys are struggling, you look at them and wonder what's wrong. But when it's the entire team, I don't know what to look at aside from the system, the overall game plan, and the coaching.
- Right now the Wins Produced adds up to 13.4 wins. That the Jazz have won 15 suggests they've been a little lucky. Thinking back to the close games this seems about right ... a few more lucky moments at the end (Al's 3, Mo's 3, etc.) than unlucky moments (Billups flop). Right now the team projects to win 36 games. That's significantly down from both the 10 and 20 game marks of the season (both of which projected to about 44-46 wins). I don't think anyone would disagree that the team has struggled a bit lately. Nor ought it controversial to claim that they will have to perform better over the last 50 games or they will miss the playoffs.
- The good news is that things can still change a lot. Kanter and Hayward show that in even ten games, much progress can be made. Our team is still pretty much where it was at this point last year. And despite it all, a couple guys made big surges, we caught a few lucky breaks regarding injuries and tanking teams, and ended up in the playoffs last year. It's a long season, and you never really know where it will end ... not after just 30 games, anyway.