Utah Jazz Team Performance: Three Year Trends

PHOENIX - OCTOBER 12: Head coach Jerry Sloan of the Utah Jazz talks with his team during the preseason NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on October 12, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. 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 Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Wow, that sounds like a boring title. Well, this may or may not be a boring subject. I'm not a market analyst dude. But I am someone who likes to look at the team in a bigger picture, and not go nuts on a season-to-season basis. This kind of explains why I'm not mad for the playoffs, but mad for actually doing well in them instead. (I'm sure the four San Antonio Spurs titles make up for that year or two they don't make the playoffs every decade) Well, back on topic . . . what direction is the team going on right now? To find this out I looked at the last three seasons: our last playoff year (2009-2010), last year (2010-2011), and of course, this recently finished season (2011-2012).

Over that period we went from a Jerry Sloan veteran filled team in the playoffs, getting to the second round on the backs of Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur, Andrei Kirilenko, Kyle Korver, and all those guys -- to what we have today. Performance-wise we expect to see a U-Curve. Things were much better in 09-10, and are getting better now in 11-12. Right?

Well, I took a look at how things have gone, and evolved. You just may be surprised to see how our team has changed -- and what trends we're going on now.

The 2009-2010 Utah Jazz:

This was still a very good team. They had a ton of injuries, yet still managed to win 53 games, and get to the second round of the playoffs. The main minutes guys were Deron Williams (18.7 ppg, 10.5 apg), Carlos Boozer (19.5 ppg, 11.2 rpg), Paul Millsap (11.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg), Mehmet Okur (13.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg), Wesley Matthews (9.4 ppg, 38.2 3pt%), Andrei Kirilenko (11.9 ppg, a ton of everything), and Ronnie Brewer (9.5 ppg, and a one way ticket to Memphis). The Jazz were swept out of the playoffs by the Los Angeles Lakers, despite beating the Carmelo Anthony Denver Nuggets without two starters in the previous round.

It was a heart-breaking season because of how it ended. And it seemed to usher the end of this era. Mehmet Okur got hurt in Game 1 of the First round, Carlos Boozer was sitting out important games, and the franchise was trading away Deron's "homies". Kyle Korver set the all-time record for 3pt% in a season (53.6 3pt%) -- but became excessively gunshy down the stretch. That didn't help either. I think we all have strong, still unresolved, feelings about this season.

Team_stats_2009-2010_large

According to the numbers this Jazz team was a good offensive team, but an average defensive team. Btw, these numbers all come from Basketball-reference.com ; because eff you NBA.com. The Jazz were #4 in the league in PPG (104.2), #2 in FG% (.491), #2 in FTA, #1 in Assists, and #7 in 3pt%! The Jazz kept the other team off the glass by being #9 in Defensive rebounds, while also not shooting much (#23 in fga), and making most of our shots (#2 in fg%). This is also seen in being #3 in opponents rebounds. The Jazz were not a good three point taking team (#25), they were bottom third in FT% (#23), and fouled a lot (#2).

The three best things were:

  • Scoring (PPG, FG%, FTM and FTA, assists, and 3pt%);
  • Rebounding (#9 in Def, #12 in total, #3 in opponent);
  • and Steals (#4).

The three worst things were:

  • Fouling (only two teams sent their opponents to the line more, we were at #28, and we were #2 in most fouls);
  • Turning the ball over (Turn overs -- we were #26th worst in the league, getting blocked #26, getting stolen #23);
  • and the whole three point defense thing (We did a bad job of just letting them shoot -- while they shot at an average rate against us, it all still added up).

Keep these three best and worst things in mind as we move forward.

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The 2010-2011 Utah Jazz:

This was a bad year. Tons of guys were injured. We lost a lot of games. We traded away our franchise player. And our head coach retired. Effectively it was the forest fire that was necessary to re-nutrit the soil to make it fertile for generations to come. The main minutes guys were: Al Jefferson (18.6 ppg, 9.7 rpg); Paul Millsap (17.3 ppg, 7.6 rpg); Raja Bell (8.0 ppg, 35.2 3pt%); Deron Williams (21.3 ppg, 9.7 apg) / Devin Harris (15.8 ppg, 5.4 apg); Andrei Kirilenko (11.7 ppg, holy moly he was good); and C.J. Miles (12.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg). The Jazz went 39-43. And were back in the lottery sooner than they would have wanted.

In the off-season the Jazz lost Kyle Korver, Wesley Matthews, Carlos Boozer, and Mehmet Okur was still injured when the season started. We also lost Kosta Koufos. It was tough. THEN during the season the Jazz got rid of Deron Williams. Even when he was on our team, he wasn't always playing like a team (remember the bullet pass to Gordon Hayward). While it was a nightmare year for the Jazz we still had some good moments -- like Paul Millsap's Miracle in Miami. (Seriously, the game winner points were on a Ronnie Price drive and dish to Francisco Elson who made his FTs)

Team_stats_2010-2011_large

Wow, there were a lot of changes on offense. While most of the defensive problems remained. The Jazz were still #9 in fg%, and I think we have to recognize that much of that was the system we ran. The Jazz did not take a lot of shots, and our precision offense takes time. We were outgunned though. Things got much worse when looking at the three point shooting disparity. No Wes, Memo, or Korver = problems. The Jazz shot very few threes, and shot at a poor percentage. The opponents could not miss (#29th worst defense / 30). The Jazz still made it to the line, and were making their free throws (#9), but so were the other team. The previous year the Jazz were #28th worst in opponents FTA, this season they were #30. So they got to the line more -- despite not having Sloan on our team. A lot of times our guys were just fouling instead of playing defense.

By far the worst thing was rebounds. We were one of the worst rebounding Jazz teams ever. Over all we were average in offense and defense in terms of points per game. We were no longer an elite scoring club.

The three best things were:

  • Free Throws (#7 in FTM, #9 in FTA, #9 in FT%);
  • Getting good shots (#4 in assists, #9 in FG%);
  • and Steals (#7) and Blocks (#3).

The three worst things were:

  • Fouling (no teams sent their opponents to the line more, we were at #30 in opponents FTA, and we were #1 in most fouls);
  • Rebounding (#28 in Defensive rebounds, #26 in total);
  • and the whole three point defense thing (It was all bad, worst was that other teams shot nearly 40% against us).

So our rebounding went from a strength to a weakness. We still didn't fix the three point defense or fouling problems. We did block more shots, but we lost our elite offense status. We got a lot worse.

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The 2011-2012 Utah Jazz:

And now we come to this year. This was the fragile year after the forest fire. Tyrone Corbin was trying to do things, and try to find light out of the shadow of the mighty oak that was Jerry Sloan. We won 36 games, and made the playoffs -- which was amazing. We over-achieved. The main minutes guys were: Paul Millsap (16.6 ppg, 8.8 rpg); Al Jefferson (19.2 ppg, 9.6 rpg); Gordon Hayward (11.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.1 apg); Devin Harris (11.3, 5.0 apg); Derrick Favors (8.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg); and C.J. Miles (9.1 ppg, 2.1 rpg). We made the playoffs without a single dude getting a double double, or a single dude averaging 20 ppg.

The Jazz let Andrei Kirilenko (the last dude to play with Stockton and Malone) go, Mehmet Okur was traded in training camp, and the Jazz signed a bunch of castaways in Josh Howard and Jamaal Tinsley. The main issue is that this Jazz team had four young 'studs in training' in Derrick Favors (2010 Draft pick #3), Gordon Hayward (2010 Draft pick #9), Enes Kanter (2011 Draft pick #3), and Alec Burks (2011 Draft pick #12).

Team_stats_2011-2012_large

Looks like the growth is mostly green with this new group. The Jazz were once again an elite offense (#4), they got to the line again (from #2 to #9 to #4) at an elite level. They also still shot well, but man, the Jazz shot a lot -- mainly a product of being #3 in offensive rebounding. Overall rebounding made a, well, huge rebound this year. The three year trend went from #12, to #26, to #3. We're a better rebounding them now than back when we had Boozer -- and all he did was rebound (and yell). The Jazz still had problems with the three, and with fouling. But hey, you can't improve EVERYTHING.

One thing that does need to improve is defense. Over the last three seasons the Jazz were never a horrible defensive team. They were an elite offensive team twice, and average on offense once. But defensively? They used to be average -- even in the DWill trade year. But this most recent season we sucked.

The three best things were:

  • Scoring (PPG, FGM, FGA, FG%, FTM and FTA, assists, and OREB);
  • Rebounding (everything was awesome);
  • and Steals (#8) and Blocks (#4).

The three worst things were:

  • Fouling (no teams sent their opponents to the line more, we were at #30 in opponents FTA, and we were #1 in most fouls);
  • Defense (and we all saw this outside of the boxscores and as products of poor play, we got a lot of steals and blocks; but our defense was bad. Only 7 teams were scored on more than the Jazz this last year)
  • and the whole three point defense thing (teams still shoot against us a lot, but at least this year they weren't making them -- OUR three point shooting seems to be a more chronic issue that persists every year).

The Jazz returned to a strong offense -- but built upon all the rebounds. Rebounds returned. We are still bad at taking threes, other teams take a lot against us still. We get to the line, but send the other team to the line endlessly. We get blocks and steals, but that doesn't = good defense. In fact, that all could be related to all the overtime periods we played this year. We played the most minutes, so we had the most chances to get stats -- while still not playing well. We have a lot of work to do still. And a few of our problems continue year to year.

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All the numbers:

You may find it easier to see all the numbers and compare them if they were side by side. So enjoy.

Team_stats_2009-2010_large
Team_stats_2010-2011_large
Team_stats_2011-2012_large

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Trends:

The Jazz usually find a way to score. This is by getting to the line and shooting a high percentage. This is the reliable basis of our team. (No wonder things fall apart when we have to try to score on a good defensive club, or a club that is regarded to not foul a lot) We do foul a lot too -- and get killed by teams who have stars and do not have stars alike. (* maybe -- I will look into it)

Defensively we have become a high steals, high blocks team -- but our defensive rank in opponents PPG have gone down from #12, to #19, to #23. This is not good. And this needs to change.

Out of all the trends of our offense, or rebounds, or fouls, or three point offense and defense -- this is the only really alarming one. And this is something that we can't allow to get worse.

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The Big Picture:

I said I was more of a big picture fan. I'm patient as long as progress is being made. (Artificially 'making our younger guys into rotation guys' a longer process than necessary is not progress.) I want the Jazz to fix one problem every year. This last year we fixed the rebounding thing -- which was critical.

This year we need to fix either the lack of three point makers on offense, or defensive issues (which is critical now). If they focus on one of those, and get it done, then I'm happy. Also play Derrick Favors and Alec Burks more.

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