Jazz 2011-12 Positional Review: Centers A and B, and how we can now go big and should

Last season the Utah Jazz played all 66 regular season and 4 playoff games without a 7' footer on the team. Perhaps having a 7'er on the team and winning are completely unrelated. However, most of our past defensive schemes seemed to have been anchored around a really *really* big guy in the middle. Truck Robinson wasn't big, but he played big (really, he averaged 15.7 rpg in a Jazz uniform once). Mark Eaton was surely big. Greg Ostertag too. Even little used Kyrylo Fesenko was big enough to play 'traditional Jazz defense', which meant contesting all layups, fouling hard, and changing shots. I guess we need to move beyond that - but it's hard to argue with the results of a big defense center.

Last season we did not have one. But we did have a few really talented guys try their hand at it. Two in particular really stood out to me: Player A, and Player B. I honestly think that all of our Bigs on the roster -- Al Jefferson, Enes Kanter, Paul Millsap, and Derrick Favors -- could benefit greatly playing alongside a true, 7' plus defensive throwback. But it's unlikely to happen (unless Salah Mejri starts dating Tyrone Corbin or something). That said, we may not need t anchor ourselves to that type of center. We have two very interesting players on the roster already. One is better on offense, the other better on defense. It's one thing to compare them against each other -- but let's try to also move beyond that at see what they do individually. And know this: they may be even better on the court together this season.

The Numbers:

Center_a_and_b

Click on this to open to a new window, use it to switch back and forth w/ the "analysis"

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Column One: 48 mpg production at Center Spot

This flatly shows both guys, and what they did at the 5 spot. Player A had an All-Star like PER. Player B was a little off of that, but still significantly above average. Both were better than their opponents in PER. They both were also better than their opponents in almost all the categories (as seen as a positive value in the "net" row). The only times when this was not the case was:

  • Player A went to the FT line less frequently than his man (may not be an issue of getting to the line, but actually fouling too much?), and he shot much worse close to the basket (iFG = inside FG%)
  • Player B only blocked 1.3 shots per 48, while his opponent blocked 3.3, so he was -2.0 in blocks per 48 mins

If you wanted to compare and contrast the two Jazz players you could make the generalization that Player A was a way better offensive player, even though he didn't go to the line more than his opponent, or was a killer near the rim. Player B was more consistent across the board; however, he did not really dominate in any area (save for around the rim). If you wanted to high light the differences, Player A took 10 more shots during 48 mins than BOTH Player B and Player A's opponent. He shot a lot and scored a whopping 27.1 points per 48, which is also 10 points better than his opponent. This is a lot of points. The actual difference between the two players when it comes to taking shots and scoring, though, is that Player A takes +9.8 more shots a game, at the return of scoring only +6.5 more points.Still, 27.1 points is 27.1 points. Player A is better offensively. Player B takes the wind out of the sails of his opponent.

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Column Two: 36 mpg production overall

This set of values is more familiar looking, and incorporates both players at the PF and C spots. It also evens out their minutes, so it attempts to take the minutes factor out of the equation. Right off the bat it continues to become clear that Player A is the superior offensive player. He scores 20.2 points per 36, while player B only manages 14.9 points. He also shoots +6.6 more times per 36 minutes, to score +5.4 more points. I guess Player A is a better offensive player -- but also just shoots way more? Player B gets to the line +2.0 times per 36 minutes, despite taking 6.6 less shots a game. Wow. So in a way they compliment one another (glass half full), one takes shots only when they can score or get fouled, while the other one is the more overt offensive force. They both shoot okay from the field, but both need to work on their free throw shooting.

Player B is the better rebounder, Player A is the better passer. Despite the obvious error, they are about equals when it comes to steals and blocks (Player B's SPG should read 0.7, not 7). The only other major difference besides overt offensive role would be turn overs and blocks. Player B fouls more and turns the ball over more.

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Column Three: Possession Play Type Data

Here we see the two players, and how they play: overall, on post ups, and on the pick and roll. For each of those three categories we take a look at their play on the offensive side of the ball, on the defensive side of the ball, and the net difference.

  • Overall Player A continues to score at a better value in PPP, while actually shooting worse by fg%. Player B really makes his man miss shots overall, but the fouling adds up and gives his opponent a great PPP because of free throw attempts.Player A isn't so strangling on the defensive end, but still manages to outpace his opponent.
  • on Post Ups there is a much more logical difference. Player A absolutely kills it. He's better than his man in both PPP and FG%, and waa-aay better than Player B. Player B, on the other hand, can't really score effectively from this play type, but makes sure his opponent can't either. The Net FG% results suggest that as AMAZING as Player A is at scoring on Post Ups, Player B is equally amazing on defending Post Ups.
  • Off the Pick and Roll we see a reversal - Player B is the better scorer here than Player A. He achieves the higher PPP out of either player, out of any of the three play situations here, 1.19 PPP. He also scores at the higher FG rate out of both players, out of any of the three play types at 59.6 fg%. He also continues to shut down his man, by both metrics. Player A is still better than his opponent, but the clear winner here is Player B. But they aren't really competing against one another . . .

Player B is the better defender, by far. Player A is the better scorer, overall, and also by post ups. Player B in the pick and roll is more effective and efficient than Player A though. I guess in your mind you post up Player A, and run the pick and roll with Player B.

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Bonus Section: Crazy Amar's Crazy Stats

  • GO Rating is how much pressure you put on the opponents. It's a multi-step calculation that involves how good you are at making shots, how frequently you shoot, how many times you get the ball, and how many different ways you can make the other team pay. Player A beats the snot out of Player B here. Player B has a 'role player' value, while Player A is much better. That said, according to the historical values, a GO Rating of 86.2 does not a first option make. (Point of reference: Kevin McHale was 87.9, Pau Gasol is 85.9, while Chris Webber was 93.3 and Tim Duncan is 100.8)
  • Defensive Gambling is an equation that displays a relationship between making a play for a block or a steal, leveraged against being called for a foul. Player A plays smarter, while Player B - who is the better defender - still doesn't play as well as he perhaps could be playing. Player B is at a one to one ratio now, so that he would foul out once getting his 6th combined block or steal in a game. That's still pretty awesome, but it's not 'smart' play.
  • Pure Hustle attempts to look at how many possessions you grind out for your team, be it through blocks, steals, or offensive rebounds. You get dinged for fouls and turn overs. Both players help their teams in this regard.

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Player A and Player B:

You can't go wrong, really, with either of them. Player A is very proficient on offense. Player B is an all-around talent, who is defensive focused right now. Both can play PF or C, and if you have a smart coach, you find a way to make it work. Clearly Player A is Al Jefferson, and Player B is Derrick Favors. Al kills it on post ups, he has all the moves, and is a billion year vet compared to the under-used / under-experienced Favors. Favors makes mistakes, but he has all the potential in the world and is only going to get better as he gets more seasoned.

Big Al can't defend, or play in the pick and roll. Those two things are pretty much D-Fav's calling cards right now. Favors can't score at an elite level, well, Big Al isn't Mr. Automatic inside, but he still does enough on offense to make the other team take notice.

The disparity in offensive and defensive abilities between the two aren't as great as it used to be in the Karl Malone / Mark Eaton days. And unlike the Carlos Boozer / Mehmet Okur days, people still know what defense is. Big Al isn't a perfect player, or arguably a complete player. But next to Favors he is good enough to a) offensive take the heat off of the young man, and b) defer the major defensive anchor position to someone who actually knows what he's doing.

At the end of the day you have to play the guys who best help your team win. In a traditional sense where you're going up against legit size - then you figure Big Al and Favors are those guys on the inside. (Even though my heart bleeds Millsap - I think it's fair to say this is the inside tandem we need to see increasingly more of as the season progresses)

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