The Downbeat #1274: The Pyrrhic Victory Edition

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The benefits of winning vs. losing, Trey Burke and Ray Allen, DataBall, three-point shooting, and your FanPosts.

Normally, a Jazz win over the Lakers in Los Angeles is a precious gift, one to be savored and cherished.

But judging by some of the immediate reactions on my Twitter timeline last night, Jazz fans weren't so much with the cherishing:

I hasten to emphasize here that three tweets is in no way representative of the entire Jazz fan base. But I think this reaction is valid and relevant after last night's win. With neither the Jazz nor the Lakers in any position to make a playoff run, winning this game was actually detrimental to the only meaning left in this season: 2014 draft position.

For my part, I will never criticize anyone for enjoying a Jazz win, especially a road win over the Lakers. But it does seem a bit like a Pyrrhic victory.

(If you're weak on your ancient Greco-Roman history: a Pyrrhic victory is one that comes at such great cost as to negate the benefits of winning. Wikipedia dat ish.)

In this case, the Jazz win comes at the cost of (temporarily) ceding better draft odds to the team they just beat.

Then again, there are other benefits to winning. Gordon Hayward had a slightly better shooting night and a strong overall game. Jeremy Evans and Diante Garrett got extensive playing time that can help them develop.

Plus: Jazz beat Lakers. I mean, come on, you guys.

Now, I understand the feelings of those who count the cost of this win as too high. We've all seen the mid-table mediocrity the Jazz have been mired in over the last few years. And it's the worst place to be for a fan -- too good to despair, not good enough to truly hope. This year's Jazz team isn't in that situation yet, but each win slides them a bit closer.

Yet each win also helps the team's young players improve. Subjective and unquantifiable though the concept may be, I do think a "winning culture" is an asset for players still learning how to exist and grow in the NBA grind. Every win contributes to that. It raises spirits, increases confidence, bonds teammates together. There's a lot to be said for that.

So I'm not too upset at last night's result. It was fun to watch, it was powered by key pieces like Hayward and Alec Burks, and it didn't ruin the Jazz's lottery chances quite yet.

That's how I feel, anyway. How about y'all?

Here's a little tidbit to piggyback off that "winning culture" point: As you probably heard about -- I can't remember if it was already mentioned in a Downbeat, so I'm sorry if I'm repeating anyone -- Trey Burke took the opportunity of Miami's visit to SLC to observe Heat guard Ray Allen's pregame routine, after which the two-time champ gave the rookie a few pointers.

Here's the D-News' Randy Hollis, quoting Ty Corbin on the occasion:

"Example the other night: Coach Sidney (Lowe) was sitting down talking to him about watching (Miami's) Ray Allen work, and then fortunately Ray was nice enough once he got done going through his pregame routine, he came over and shared some words with Trey and talked to him about the work that it took and finding out what routine works best for you, and how you get that routine and work it and to continue to be good and get better every year."

Burke, whose clutch jump shot with 24 seconds left was critical in Utah's 94-89 victory over the Heat last Saturday, appreciated the opportunity to chat with Allen, the NBA's all-time career leader in 3-point baskets.

"It was a good conversation," Burke said. "He just talked about routine, getting on a consistent routine early in your career, how it helps you efficiency-wise out there on the court. It's always good talking to a guy like Ray."

I love this. I love that Trey has his sights set on emulating proven winners like Ray-Ray. It says a lot about his humility, his teachability, and his initiative to improve himself.

This is one of the biggest reasons I'm not terribly worried about Trey's shooting slump (which continued apace on Tuesday night, unfortunately). He's got too good a head on his shoulders, and he's too hard a worker, to let this keep him down. He'll find other ways to improve, other ways to help his team win and make the players around him better. I hope his efforts work out, anyway.

FanPost time! The theme this week is comparing our young players. First, JuMu sets Gordon Hayward against his 2010 Draft peers:

I believe Hayward has been developed the best (minutes-wise) of our youth and as such has outperformed many of his draft rivals. I believe Hayward was an excellent draft choice and that I would only have picked George over him at his spot and no one else. I hope the Jazz either match whatever offer this offseason to keep Hayward for the next 4+ seasons. We have the cap space and we must remember we must slightly overpay many players to stay here. If we don't match the offer I hope we trade him for something very lucrative.

Next, Beeblebrox42 searches for best- and worst-case comparisons for Jazz players:

We were told at the beginning of the season that we would be discovering a lot about our younger players, and whether or not you agree with how that has been managed, the fact is that we are learning quite a bit about them. I was playing around on basketball-reference recently and started looking up players in the last 10 years who put up similar numbers to our guys. It gave me a pretty good idea of where our guys could be headed and what they need to work on. I figured I'd share my thoughts.

Finally, here's (deep breath) Dayman_fighterofthenightman as he counts down the top five current Jazzmen:

More than halfway through this "development" season, I think we finally have a somewhat credible sample size as to determine who is our best player thus far. Of course, it isn't nearly as accurate as it could be if... Well you know the story. But even then, our top players have played in enough roles, and have been put in enough situations, that they are pretty well comparable for the most part. So quickly, here is my top 5 Jazz players at this point in this god forsaken season...

Thanks for the great work, folks!

If you didn't read the amazing "DataBall" piece from Kirk Goldsberry on Grantland last week, you definitely need to. It describes an attempt to quantify the expected value of each offensive possession, using SportVU tracking data.

I won't go into too much detail as to how the calculations occur, for a few reasons: 1) The data isn't public; 2) I'm not smart enough (people like Clarkpojo or Salt City Hoops' Andy Larsen are the real advanced-stats poobahs); 3) the article itself admits that they're still working on ways to translate the data into meaningful analysis.

The reason I bring it up at all is because this EVP metric tries to get at the heart of something that might help explain some of the Jazz's personnel decisions.

We're told over and over that veterans like Richard Jefferson bring "experience" and "savvy" (and other such subjective words) to a team, and that they do things that "don't show up in the box score." Some of this is observable, and some of it seems to defy the statistical data as we currently understand it.

But if we had better data that could explain and quantify the effect that, say, floor spacing, or off-ball screens, or low-post positioning, have on an offensive possession, it would take some of the subjective guesswork out of player performance evaluations.

On some level, there will never be a way to objectively quantify a player's confidence, or intelligence, or mental toughness. I definitely believe that those subjective, immeasurable aspects play a large role in sports. But the more observable data we have, the better.

The Jazz broadcast on Tuesday night made a point of highlighting the team's three-point shooting in the month of February. Seemingly out of nowhere, the Jazz are shooting more threes in the month of February than any team in the NBA, at 26.8 attempts per game. But they're only making 8.8 per game, for a percentage of .327. That's only 20th-best in the league.

By way of comparison, on the whole season the Jazz average 19.1 three-point attempts and 6.7 makes, for a 17th-place percentage of .353.

So why the sudden uptick in attempts? Part of it is Trey Burke and Gordon Hayward attempting to shoot their way out of their respective slumps. Trey is shooting 7.3 threes per game in February, Hayward 4.3. That's up from season-long average attempts of 4.8 and 3.8, respectively. However, Trey's 3PT percentage in February is only .276, down from .339 for the season. Hayward's is even worse: a dismal .118, down from .306. Yikes.

So, more three-point attempts at lower percentages sounds like a very bad idea, right? Well, on the other hand, Marvin Williams is shooting a scintillating .458 from downtown on 6.0 attempts per game in February, both higher than season averages of .401 on 4.0 attempts per game. Richard Jefferson's averages of .467 on 3.8 attempts per game in February are also both improvements on his season-long numbers.

What does all this mean? Not much in the long run, probably. All four players will probably regress to their respective means eventually. And at least some of those increases in three-point attempts can be attributed to blowout losses to start the month, in which the Jazz took more threes to try to stay in the game. On the other hand, the Jazz had an excellent shooting night in their win against the Heat on Saturday, making 10 of 25.

I don't really have a conclusion here, but I do think it's interesting. The three-point shot is more of a weapon in today's NBA than it has ever been, and historically, the Jazz have never been one of the league's leaders in shooting it.

I'm not sure we currently have the personnel to feature threes as a consistent strategy -- especially if Hayward's slump continues -- but here's one last tidbit for you: Among all NBA players who average at least four threes per game, Richard Jefferson is fourth overall in percentage. Marvin Williams is 22nd.

Should the Jazz keep shooting more threes? Fewer? Should certain players quit shooting them? Let me know in the poll and comments below.

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