December was only four games long for the Utah Jazz during this lockout shortened season. January was more than three times as long, a solid 15 games. The Jazz played much better ball as a team, winning 11 games. How did the players perform individually? Click on to see a whole lot of numbers presented in a very easy to understand way. (Really, I mean it…)
Players Stats – Offense
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The first thing we notice from the numbers is that, well, Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are doing work. In the month of January they combined for over 30 shots a night, and were our overwhelmingly important offensive players (#1 and # in points per game, #1 and #2 in shots per game, #1 and #2 in PER, #1 and #2 in GO Rating, and #1 and #4 in Usage Rate %). Millsap was more efficient, and aside from shooting only 14.3 3pt%, I think it is fair to say that he has not had as a dominating month in his career. And while Sap was efficient, Big Al continues to be the straw that stirs the drink in the halfcourt. He shoots the ball once every 2.1 minutes on the floor, and keeps the defense on its’ toes. I’m not too happy with his 1.14 points per shot value – if he improves it in the first two weeks of this month (and the Jazz continue to win games) he should get some consideration as an All-Star reserve. Our other two bigs, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, continue to give the Jazz both talent and depth in the front court. Favors isn’t as assertive on offense as I would like, he only took 5.6 shots per game in January; but when he does shoot good things usually happen. Enes Kanter is even more efficient on offense (higher fg% than Favors, greater O RTG), but I just don’t see him being able to make the next step beyond being an opportunistic scorer (shut up!) until he gets more confidence in his shot from 3’ to 10’ feet from the basket. He does display a good ‘touch’ though.
It really is mostly slim pickings after our bigs though. Devin Harris and C.J. Miles are the only guys with a Go Rating of 40.0 or above. Harris did not really shoot the ball that much this month – and I would like to see him attack the basket a bit more. His PER is by the slimmest of margins above average. C.J., is Mr. Hot-and-Cold; however, his new found doctrine of slashing to the basket and driving into the paint have served him well. Despite shooting only 40.9 fg% and an abysmal 23.8 3pt% in January he still managed a greater points per shot (pps) value than our first option. Raja Bell had a bounce back month, and he is shooting off the charts right now. Respect where respect is due.
Gordon Hayward is shooting poorly this year, like his (I believe) second season at Butler University where his percentages also dropped. Josh Howard had some injures this month and did not get a fair chance to build off of his surprisingly good December. Earl Watson was as a little more aggressive with taking shots, and it paid off. Alec Burks came back down to earth and he really misses a lot of hard layups. Jeremy Evans hasn’t come back down to earth – he merely orbits it at this point. Jamaal Tinsley is currently battling dermatitis. Which sucks.
Players Stats – Defense
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Our four bigs are pounding the glass. In January they averaged 28.9 rebounds a game, that’s each guy getting over 7 rebounds a night. That’s platoon rebounding. They also account for 4.5 of the 6.4 blocks per game our team dominated other teams with last month. The bigs seem to do everything for us (Millsap is tops on the team in SPG!), but we got some surprising board help from Gordon Hayward, Josh Howard, and Earl Watson.
Other teams seem to have some success attacking our wings, but that’s just how the league is now – most scoring comes from those spots regardless of team. Lastly, I wanted to point out that Enes Kanter is pure hustle incarnate. Wow.
I could go on and on and on and on and on about stats, but I’ll just shut up now about players, and move onto the team.
The Jazz points per game increased from 90.5 ppg in December to 98.5 ppg in January – despite slowing the pace down and grinding out some wins. After all, the sample size is larger for January, and we did get 11 wins this past month. A good indicator is how the Jazz shot -3.8 times less per game, but still ended up with +2.4 more assists per game. It’s more than just getting better looks, though, I think the biggest difference has been our rebounding differential. In December the Jazz were getting out-boarded; last month not so much. Last month the Jazz as a team out-rebounded their opponent by (on average) +3.3 rebounds per game. A lion’s share of the work has happened on the offensive glass. Our good pal Tazz will go into this in a post soon, so I’m not going to steal his thunder.
Over all for the season the Jazz are still Top 5 in blocking the other team, and having turned the ball over 3rd least in the league. The Jazz have exception ranks for holding the opponents to some of the fewest rebounding totals (4th best at keeping the other team from getting offensive rebounds, 3rd best at keeping the other team from getting defensive rebounds, and 2nd best overall at keeping the other team off the glass. Period). We’re not shooting that well (45.0 fg%, 29.4 3pt%, 73.8 ft%), and our offense and defense both need work. But we were supposed to be one of the worst teams in the league this year. Instead we’re only 3.5 games from 1st place in the Western Conference. So year . . . January was a crazy month for the Jazz. Hope the fun continues in February!