This season for the Utah Jazz appeared to be the first year we all honestly embraced rebuilding. I called it a year of Development & Discovery, and anticipated trying out new freaky things in a stable, risk-free environment like seeing if Enes Kanter can take a three pointer in games and make the defense pay, or if Jeremy Evans could defend small forwards. Some of the things I expected we saw. Some of the things I expected we haven't seen so far.
Jazz General Manager, Dennis Lindsey, suggested three D's for this season: Defense, Development, and Discipline. It's hard to figure out what he meant by each of those things. Is he looking out for team defense, individual players defense, or overall success on defense by the normal franchise metrics? What about development -- is that getting better, getting smarter, or an ability to play different roles/responsibilities? And what of discipline? I don't think we get a lot of technical fouls, but I do see guys in the wrong spot on offense and defense at times. Sometimes the fundamentals are eschewed, like guys setting screens too late and moving, or people forgetting to stay 'home' on spot up shooters.
Anyway, I can't read Lindsey's mind. What I can do is watch every Utah Jazz game (most of them more than once) and try to understand where this team is, who this team is, and what we've seen so far in the 52 games we've played so far.
I'm not going to list 52 things here -- I'm expecting YOU the SLC Dunk user to add your own in the comments section!
But let me get the ball rolling:
- Tyrone Corbin cannot be fired. Nothing he does will move the front office towards firing him during this season. The question that exists is if there is anything he can do to make the front office move towards bringing him back. Again, I can't read minds. But from evidence we see Corbin doing better. He's still super conservative, and I fully well understand why. Selfishly I would have wanted to see more Development / Discovery this year; but that was MY idea for this season. Not his.
- Veteran forwards Richard Jefferson and Marvin Williams are super pros, they show up to work every day, practice hard, and take care of their bodies. These are things that all young players who want to stay in the league for 10+ years need to follow. You can't rely on your athleticism and health forever.
- In an unrelated point, Marvin Williams and Richard Jefferson are doing quite enough to suggest that they will have at least another NBA contract to sign this July. The worry is if this is just normal "contract year" boosts, or indicative of the less likely trend that they are getting better as they get older.
- Alec Burks is a scorer -- something we all felt he could be -- but he's really not capable of being called a 'combo guard' anymore. At least not as a two way player. When given the opportunity this season due to injuries, including starting, he has shown to be less than amazing at point guard. The games show that he can DEFEND point guard in spurts, but he's not quite ready to break defenses down and get his team going. I'm happy he got a chance to start at PG for a few games, and the data that we got from that shows me that he's not a true combo guard right now. Maybe later, but right now he should ALWAYS be playing shooting guard.
- This team has shown how important free throws are. In the games where the Jazz are making a respectable % the game becomes so much easier. When the Jazz are shooting poorly from the free throw line, the game is almost un-winable. For this season the team goes to the line 21.8 times a game, and make 74.9 ft% when they are there. The team is 20th or worse in all the NBA Ranks for FTM, FTA, and FT%.
- Trey Burke is amazing at the FT line, making 90.8 FT%, but rarely gets there -- 1.6 times a game. Tony Parker got to the line 2.1 times a game in his rookie year, but now has career averages of over 4 times a game.
- Derrick Favors is a double-double machine . . . if he plays 36 mpg. For the season Favors averages 12.9 ppg and 9.0 rpg. Those numbers don't excite me. And part of their 'low' perceived value is due to pace of play and how little he's actually playing: 30.4 mpg. If he was playing 36 mpg his numbers go up to 15.2 ppg and 10.7 rpg. He's the only player on the Jazz at risk of averaging a double double, none of the other bigs or guards come close, per game or per 36 mins.
- We also learn than in a season of no risks, Favors can only play 30.4 mpg -- dude averages only 3.1 mpg, and it's not like he's got Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap ahead of him anymore. Perhaps the risk of plantar fasciitis is just too big, bigger than we were led to believe?
- Jeremy Evans is leading the team in two-point fg%: 54.9%. And it's not just dunks, layups, or tip ins. He's taking more and more spot up, midrange jumpers. With no Earl Watson throwing him oops anymore his dunks are down and he has had to evolve into a more complete NBA player as a result. I'm happy with his 19.1 mpg, he's doing a lot of good things when he's on the floor.
- Evans is 8th on the team in ppg at 7.3, the other seven players all average 10 PPG or more. That's some great balance. This offensive approach makes the team harder to guard in principle, but it shows that we're powered by a group effort, and don't have a real star or offensive workhorse right now.
- The Diante Garrett / John Lucas III back-up crew isn't amazing. Some games one of them will go off, but most nights they really do show that they are both 3rd stringers at best. Lucas III is 31, and Garrett is 25. So it only makes sense that the younger one with better defensive instincts and may have room to grow plays fewer minutes per game.
- For whatever reason the team has decided to play one of the slowest paces in the NBA, despite having so many young guys on the team. What do we learn from this? Either we suck in transition (that's not what synergy shows), or we're great in the half court (not what the games show), or we probably suck at getting stops / turn overs / or defensive rebounds (bingo). I complain about the pace, but it's really a product of the defense. The failure is the defensive ability or strategy, it's not a specific decision by Ty to slow down the pace, right? RIGHT? (He can't actually be in on the tank) Of course, the opposite would be what we see with the Philadelphia 76ers who lose a lot of games and play at a high pace. At least there are a lot of possessions per game and their players get a lot of stats. Stats help you be a star faster.
- Even if Enes Kanter was taking three pointers, it wouldn't be doing his fg% any help, he's sub .500 right now without taking any threes. Over all his offensive numbers are all appearing to be down. Either Kanter is going to be one of the best bench bigs in the league, or one of the worst starters. That's what this one season tells us. Thankfully for us, he's only 21, and on the wrong side of that 2,000 minutes / season barrier.
- Marvin Williams is having the best season of his career by a number of metrics. Part of this could be the contract year boost. But I think the real thing is that it's his first time playing on a team where everyone is sharing the ball. There's no Joe Johnson, Al Jefferson, or Mo Williams on this team. He's free to take his left corner three with impunity. He's shooting better than he ever has from downtown, 40.1 3pt%. His per 36 values have never been bigger for rebounds, steals, blocks, and three point attempts. His value as a stretch four is very high right now because he seems to never miss.
Rudy Gobert is great at defensive rebounds, way too good for the NBA DL, but can't get on the floor for a team that has a problem with defensive rebounds. Same thing with Andris Biedrins, but I don't know how good he'd be in the D League. Gobert has the best DRtg on the team too.
Gordon Hayward is about 5 fg% away from being an All-Star. Why do I say that? Well, because right now he's averaging 16 / 5.5 / 5 / 1.5 / 1, and about 5 fg% would help him get up to that 20 / 5 / 5 "ya gotta take notice" level. For the season he's shooting 40.2% / 30.3% / 83.6%. His FT% is at a career high, which indicates he's getting better as a pure shooter; but his FG% and 3PT% are career lows. If he bounces back he'll almost be too good.
- Alec Burks has too much swagg.
- Craig Bolerjack and Matt Harpring are a little too unfamiliar with analytics than they should be, as this is their field of work.
- Someone in the Jazz coaching staff may have seen a lot of good things from dribble handoff plays, before this season it wasn't a big part of our offense. This season many of our plays either initiate with it, or feature it as one of the main options that develop. I guess these plays work better if you are dribble hand-off-ing to someone like Stephen Curry or LeBron James. Both guys can take a step back jumper or get to the hoop. We appear to have players who can only do one of those two.
- If one of our players ever gets injured and can't take his free throws, the other coach gets the right to select who shoots them. And this is my main fear whenever we put Andris Biedrins in uniform as this season he's at 16.7 ft%. Frigid.
- Either the summer league greatly misappropriated who Ian Clark was, or he's not doing whatever the heck it is in practice to get on the floor in games. I do know that veteran guy in a contract year Brandon Rush has played 363 minutes this season, and Clark only 95. One of those two guys actually looks like he has a future in this league. It's the 22 year old Clark.
- For the Malcolm Thomas signing to make any sense he needs to take those open perimeter shots he has gotten and passed up this season. He's making guys like Anthony Tolliver look useful.
- According to the expected W/L from BBALL Ref we should only have 16 wins, that's 3 less than we actually do have. I think this team, when healthy, has shown the ability to beat any team on any given night at home. The road games continue to be a problem; but they were a problem for the majority of the Stockton and Malone years too. So that looks like it will never change.
- Our of out time-out play execution leaves a lot to be desired. Either our Xs and Os don't work, the other team knows how to defense what we do, or our players aren't doing what they are supposed to do. Or, sadly, maybe all of them? I still think we should put Jeremy Evans out there as a decoy at times. You know the other team would totally go for it and over-attend to him. After all, why else would he be out there on the floor if it's not an oop?
- Swat-lake-city appears to be dead. Last year the Jazz had 515 blocks, or 6.3 blocks a game. Favors, Jefferson, Millsap, Hayward, Kanter, and Williams all averaged 0.5 to 1.7 bpg last year. So far in 52 games the Jazz only have 242 blocks this season, at 4.7 blocks a game. And Favors, in more minutes per game, is blocking 0.3 shots less a game. Things would correct itself if Gobert played more, but hey, things on offense would get worse then, oh wait, we're 28th in ppg.
I've got us started. In the comments section tell me what you learned about the Jazz so far in 52 games!