A New Hope: Winning Potential of the 2014-15 Utah Jazz

Cuz any positive thinking has to include this dude making ridiculous shots - Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

I am familiar with sports success.

My church ball team went undefeated for 5 years (Kaysville South Stake 1991-95). My soccer team won the league championship in 1986, and took 2nd place in 1987.

So yeah ... I know what it means to be a Winner. And spell that word with a freaking Capital Letter, baby. Winner.

But, to reveal a deep and dark secret, I also know what it means to be a Loser. 1999-2002. Three straight winless seasons in rec league softball. It began with humiliation (40-3 loss in our first game) and ended in devastation (two straight collapses in the final inning for both of our last two games).

If I remember, the endings were a lot like this (though our unis were better).

via assets.sbnation.com

And yet, despite the losses, despite everything, we always came back and tried again, convinced we could get better and that the elusive wins would come.

Better we got, but victories ... came they not.

Our run of attempting to win a softball game finally ended as friends moved away for college and we could no longer field a complete team. But we still talk about it, and we are absolutely certain that one day we'll try again ... and one day we will win a game.

Hope is a powerful thing.

* * *

It's only natural this time of year to start thinking about how we expect our Jazz team to do next year. I've seen musings on Twitter, in comments here at the Dunk, and anywhere else we can think of.

And no matter how much we all say "I think a win total in the low 30's seems reasonable" — let's be honest. Every single one of us looks at Phoenix last year and hopes against hope that we get to see something like that.

Don't even deny it. Deep inside, even if you pretend the thoughts aren't there, a part of you starts thinking: "Well, if Gordo's shooting returns to normal, and Burks or Favors breaks out, and Gobert is a monster, and Trey improves, and Quin Snyder is as good as Hornacek ..."

You can talk yourself into some serious hope, if you're not careful.

* * *

So I was curious ... how reasonable is it to let yourself hope for a Phoenix-like jump in wins? Well, my first realization was that they weren't the only team to have one last year. There were four teams:

  1. Suns: 25 wins in 2013, 48 in 2014. 23-win improvement.
  2. Bobcats: 21 wins to 43, 22-win improvement.
  3. Blazers: 33 wins to 54, 21-win improvement.
  4. Wizards: 29 wins to 44, 15-win improvement.

I hear so much talk about teams in terms of incremental improvement (Jazz win 30-something this year, then maybe 40 next year, and then we hope playoff buzz in about 2017. And that may be what happens. But still ... to see four teams make huge leaps in wins (15 or more) to go from nobodies to playoff contenders in one huge jump ... it made me think.

And do some research.

So I looked at the NBA from 1980 to today (35 seasons) and found how many teams made similar leaps: non-playoff teams jumping by at least 15 wins. Here's the list:

Year

Team

Wins

Wins before

Jump

1980

Celtics

61

29

32

1981

Bulls

45

30

15

1982

Nets

44

24

20

1982

Sonics

52

34

18

1983

Kings

45

30

15

1984

Jazz

45

30

15

1985

Rockets

48

29

19

1986

Hawks

50

34

16

1987

Pacers

41

26

15

1989

Suns

55

28

27

1989

Warriors

43

20

23

1989

Spurs

56

21

35

1992

Cavs

57

33

24

1993

Magic

41

21

20

1994

Warriors

50

34

16

1995

Lakers

48

33

15

1995

Bullets

39

21

18

1996

Pistons

46

28

18

1996

Wolves

40

25

15

1997

Pacers

58

39

19

1998

Nets

43

26

17

1998

Spurs

56

20

36

1999

Sixers

46

31

15

1999

Kings

44

27

17

2000

Hornets

49

26

23

2000

Mavs

40

19

21

2000

Raptors

45

23

22

2001

Nets

52

26

26

2002

Pistons

50

32

18

2002

Wizards

38

19

19

2003

Rockets

43

28

15

2004

Suns

62

29

33

2004

Nuggets

43

17

26

2004

Grizzlies

50

28

22

2004

Heat

42

25

17

2005

Bulls

47

23

24

2005

Sonics

52

37

15

2005

Wizards

45

25

20

2006

Jazz

41

26

15

2007

Rockets

52

34

18

2007

Hornets

56

39

17

2007

Raptors

47

27

20

2008

Celtics

66

24

42

2009

Heat

43

15

28

2010

Grizzlies

40

24

16

2010

Thunder

50

23

27

2012

Nets

49

27

22

2012

Clippers

49

32

17

2013

Warriors

47

23

24

2014

Blazers

54

33

21

2014

Suns

48

25

23

2014

Bobcats

43

21

22

2014

Wizards

44

29

15

53

Average

48

27

21

Median

47

27

20

This list is really striking to me. In 35 years, 53 teams have made this kind of jump, and the median jump is from 27 wins to 47.

When you look at why and how the teams improved, there are several trends:

  • A great player joins the team via draft
  • Free Agency and/or Trade jackpot
  • New coach
  • Young players make big leaps
  • Stronger, deeper roster
  • Major player returns from injury

And so we come to the Jazz. In case you didn't notice they fit several of these trends: hot rookie, new coach, young players ready for a leap (we hope), deeper roster (again, we hope).

Suddenly, I realized it's not outlandish at all to hope the Jazz make a big jump.

* * *

It is important to be clear about a couple things, though.

  1. Although it is common to have a team or two make a major jump in wins, not every team does. In fact, the vast majority don't. Odds are the Jazz will see only modest improvement this year in its win totals.
  2. One big leap doesn't mean the team's on its way to elite status. That list of teams includes a lot more that fall short of becoming great than it does champions.

That said, I've decided to be positive and bullish. I'm vocally and actively hoping the team makes a jump this year. I'll just make sure I do so knowing that incremental improvement is most likely and honestly still okay.

45459138_medium

via cdn.memegenerator.net

Team Shop

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot username?

We'll email it to you.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Try another email?

Forgot username?

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SLC Dunk

You must be a member of SLC Dunk to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SLC Dunk. You should read them.

Join SLC Dunk

You must be a member of SLC Dunk to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SLC Dunk. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9347_tracker