Utah Jazz 2011-12 Review: Sharing the Sugar

Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

How did the 2011-2012 Utah Jazz do in terms of sharing the ball?

I really, really know that our problem is defense. I think we all are likely to point fingers from time to time, so I'm not going to do that. I know defense is the problem. I also know that one of our young guards is ranked #8 vs. defending guys coming off of screens, #40 vs. defending the ball handler off a pick and roll, and is #108th best overall on defense. Furthermore, I know that one of our young bigmen is #47 vs. defending post ups, and #63 vs. defending the ball handler on the pick and roll. He's also the #170th best player in the league in defending guys isolating against him. I also know that those two guys played 514.15 of a total 16165 minutes of the season together on the floor. But hey, who needs details about defense like our two better defenders being on the floor together for 3.18% of the season.

Defense is a problem, but offense is also a problem. Avoiding the issues of offense isn't going to make us better. I took it upon myself (you know, because no one hands me a script) to research the last decade of Utah Jazz basketball. I took a look at how the team played together (PPG, Pace, and Offensive Rating); and I also looked at the top four scorers on each of those teams (PPG, shots per game, and PPS). The information I got was interesting. I'm not going to point fingers here, I'm just going to give you the data. What you choose to do with this information is up to you.

The Jazz overall and points per game:

The same size was for all the regular season games from the last decade. That means we get 2002-2003 (the Stockton and Malone swan song), all the way up to last season. We have the rise and fall of Deron Williams and the beginning of this new era of questions.

Over that period the Jazz averaged 98.3 points per game, and the pace has been at 90.6 possessions per game. The Jazz are not breaking any land speed records, but they are still a competent scoring team. This is clearly in evidence by the 107.6 offensive rating. (That's basically how much we WOULD score if we had 100 possessions in a game)

The average breakdown between the Top 4 scorers on the team is:

  • The first option scored 19.2 ppg
  • The second option scored 17.4 ppg
  • The third option scored 13.9 ppg
  • and the fourth option scored 12.2 ppg

Clearly we know that this was not the case last season. The team was an okay offensive team as far as our last decade is concerned (Pace was +0.8 faster, Offensive rating was -0.8 lower; and the team scored +1.4 more points per game). The offensive load was very stratified. Our top two guys were pretty close to where they should have been; however, it looks like they did not get much support.

Was this because the third and fourth options were BAD compared to the Jazz average, or was it something else? I don't really remember who the 3rd and 4th options were without having to think about it. I don't remember them shooting that much. Last season the Top 2 options scored -0.8 less points a game, but the 3rd and 4th options scored -2.9 less points a game. Maybe this last Jazz team was more polarized in terms of shots than normal -- and as a result, that's why the top two guys did not appear to have much help? Let's take a look at the shots per game.

Shots per game:

The ten year average shot distribution isn't that weighted for one player as I would have thought. The top scorer doesn't even average 15 shots a game.

  • The first option averages 14.9 shots a game,
  • The second option averages 13.0 shots a game,
  • The third option averages 10.8 shots a game,
  • and the fourth option averages 9.3 shots a game

Again, this is from the last season of Stockton-to-Malone through the Boozer, Williams, Kirilenko, Okur years, and now. I think it's fair to say that this distribution is not similar to what happened last season either. In fact, the top two scorers took +2.8 more shots a game than normal; and the 3rd and 4th options took -2.6 shots less. I guess it's easy to see some relationship there. The top two guys didn't get the support they needed because they took away shots from their help.

But wait a second . . . if they took more shots . . . but still averaged less points . . . what does this mean?

Points per Shot:

I love points per shot (PPS). Why do I love it? Because it's probably the simplest way to see if a scorer is efficient or not. If you're good, you're going to score baskets and make your free throws and also get to the free throw line. PPS is Total points divided by Total field goal attempts. Simple. The baseline for the NBA is 1.21, as we found out recently. If you are good you'll have a PPS value above 1.21. How did the Jazz do over the last decade?

  • The first option had a PPS value of 1.29
  • The second option 1.34
  • The third 1.29
  • and the fourth option had a PPS value of 1.31

Over all, the top Jazz scorers each season had better than average PPS values. (Btw, these are not averages of averages, I actually inputted all the shots and games and points for the top 4 Jazz scorers per season for the last decade -- and did all the math). How did the Jazz scorers from last season fair?

Well, the 4th best scorer last season had a higher PPS value. And the 3rd best scorer last season did as well. They were both in the 1.32-1.33 range. What about our top two scorers? They did not fare so well. The 2nd option's average is 1.34, and the 2nd option only managed a 1.23 last season. That's above average, but not at the killer rate our own Jazz team has had over the last 10 years. And the first option? Welp.

The first option average for PPS is 1.29, above average and pushing 1.30. Last season it was 1.12. That's a mark that is not only below average, but way below the efficiency our team needs from their first option. We're not the Sixers, and we're not running some Allen Iverson offense.

Data for the Last Decade, by PPG, Shots per game, and Points per shot:

Sharing_sugar_1

The Jazz offense was right about average, even if the top two guys were not so hot.

A quick review before moving on . . .

From what we know so far . . . the first two options did not score at the rate they needed to, but still managed to score about the same amount as average. They did this by taking more shots, and as a result, there were less shots to be had for the other scoring options. Ultimately, the top two guys "did not get the scoring help" they needed; but all of these points seem absolutely connected to one another.

If the other guys got more shots, it would take some of the pressure off of the top scorers. Right? I don't know. Let's looking into this EVEN deeper.

Break down by Scoring Option Rank:

Hold onto your hats ladies and gentlemen, we're going to two decimal places here!

Sharing_sugar_2

I think that chart kinda says everything I wanted to say. But let's get into the specifics here.

  • The first option used up 2.3 more shots a game, and managed to score 0.02 less points a game. This REALLY shouldn't be something we defend. Back when Andrei Kirilenko was the first option, and bereft of any great signature shot, he still manged to score 16.45 points off of 11.94 shots. Efficiency isn't something to overlook. It is something our offense relies upon. We do not run up and down the court with a pace of 107 possessions a game. We do not run an isolation, volume scorer offense either. Not pointing fingers, but whomever was the first option last season did not do so hot. He was also the first option the season before, and things were only slightly below average. If you remove all the shots and points he contributed . . . then the first option averages go to 19.37 PPG off of 14.46 shots a game. And, dun dun dunnnnn, the PPS value goes up to 1.33. The efforts of one dude brought down a decades worth of efficiency to 1.29.
  • It's not just one person's fault though, the second option didn't set the world on fire either. While he was above absolute NBA average, he was below average for what we've come to expect from a second option. Whatever was said for the first option also applies to the second option as well, just to a lesser degree
  • The 3rd and 4th options, unless you are the Lakers, aren't usually All-Stars. But because of who they play with they are supposed to benefit and get you easy baskets. They don't take a lot of shots (and especially did not last season), but they were both right where they needed to be in efficiency. Maybe later I'll do the math and see what the cumulative four player average would be, had the shot distribution been more akin to what's normal.
  • A 39 year old Karl Malone scored more off of less shots than the first option of our team last year, in his peak.

Parting thoughts:

No one is saying that the first and second options on our team for scoring are bad options for scoring. No one is say that they are bad people either. They are good scorers and good people, and I'm sure we would all love them if we got to know them a little better. What the DATA is saying is that last year they did not score at the efficiency that the previous decade of Jazz ball would require. If I increased the sample size to include the last two decades of Jazz ball then it will even more skew towards efficiency with Karl Malone's peak years (when he was a 1.45 PPS guy), coupled with adding the hyper efficient John Stockton, Jeff Hornacek, and Jeff Malones to the equation. This last decade is the most favorable data set to make the results look less bad.

The results ARE bad though. The team needs to share the sugar a little better if they want to get back to playing, statistically validated, Jazz basketball. Or, their first two options better step it up this season. No names, no finger pointing. Put the ball in the basket better than you did last year.

Justify taking away shots from more efficient players.

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