40 at 40 Part 18: Are the Jazz more athletic now than ever?

Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE

When the Jazz franchise was at their best they were a deep team of veterans on the downsides of their careers. This Jazz team is on the opposite side of the mountain in terms of success, but also athleticism. Is this the most athletic Jazz team ever?

I'm a lucky guy because I get to look at hot people all day. Well, okay, maybe that's not the case. But a large part of my day to day life involves critically examining athletes. Its' no secret that I love me some anthropometrics. The relationships between anatomy and physiology really give me more data to use in order to evaluate high school, college, and professional athletes. I've spent months pouring over the available data for basketball players; getting the print outs from the NBA at the Draft Combine in Chicago was a special joy for me. (Here you are, good sir, here is all the data you didn't know existed back when you weren't a draft 'insider'...)

Speaking of the draft, the draft is my jam. It's my happiest day of the year. And while we wait for this year's games to all be played we can take some time out to reflect on the data from previous years. The trend for teams in the NBA who want to get better on defense seem to be one that focuses on accumulating bigger, longer players, who are quicker; rather than just the tallest guys who are strong. It helps to have both -- and the model for this appears to be the Indiana Pacers with their group of Roy Hibbert, David West, Paul George, Lance Stephenson and crew. Of course, the alternative model exists with the Miami Heat, which is "have LeBron James -- the nexus point of physical excellence."

The Jazz suffered from length disparity in the playoffs against the Los Angeles Lakers for years, and it was no more pronounced when they fielded a team of Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom. Our strong but not long guys were nullified on offense, and defense.

This time around the team is building a core of these longer, quicker guys. Or so it would seem. The question remains, though, are these Jazz players more athletic than any collective we've had before?

It's an interesting question, and sadly, we don't have all of the data. (I know that Fesenko had a standing reach of 9'5, but that's really all we knew about him.) And the data I have isn't the most up to date, we all know that RJ can't jump like he used to. The data available on his vertical does not accurately represent his current ability. Lastly, a lot of guys sustain injuries in addition to aging. Still. this can be a fun exercise to see -- all things considered is this Jazz roster more athletic than before?

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The Data Set:

It's what I can find on the internet. Sadly we don't have all the data that you'd want. Information of players like Andrei Kirilenko, Jeremy Evans, Kyle Weaver, Kyrylo Fesenko, Othyus Jeffers, and Mike Harris remain shrouded by mystery. Furthermore, there once was a time even BEFORE things like NBA Draft Combines existed. A lot of players that would be nice to compare our crew against didn't have these anthropometrics recorded and distributed freely. I'd love to have seen Mark Eaton's lane agility test. Or to know how high David Benoit could jump. Or, you know, find out once and for all how tall Karl Malone really was in socks . . .

So we don't have everything. And the most of what I have comes from DraftExpress.com. It should be noted that this post couldn't have happened without the website Jonathan Givony runs. But because of where I got the data from it's obviously from these players BEFORE they were even drafted. With things like P3 it's kind of out of date. If you guys care enough I'll all them and get more accurate data if possible.

One more thing, these images are made by me for ALL of us to use. It serves as a handy guide to compare our guys against the other guys who played the same position groups for our Utah Jazz. I will be updating this again after the draft and free agency in the upcoming off-season. You may notice that some players are included in data sets that you wouldn't want them to be in. But blame Tyrone Corbin for that. I have to include Lucas III or MOLO as a wing player because of some of the lineups he has used. When we have a new roster and I update these maybe I'll fiddle around a little more and use more common sense in these samples.

Anyway, let's start with the little guys!

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Point Guards:

This is a group that's normally just point guards, but in it we have a bunch of combo guards as well. If you are a 1, a 1/2, or a 2/1 you are in this group. These dudes are: Alec Burks, Blake Ahearn, Brevin Knight, Dee Brown, Deron Williams, Devin Harris, Diante Garrett, Earl Watson, Eric Maynor, Ian Clark, Jacque Vaughn, Jamaal Tinsley, Jason Hart, Jerel McNeal, John Lucas III, Kirk Snyder, Mo Williams, Randy Foye, Raul Neto, Ronnie Price, Sundiata Gaines, and of course, Trey Burke. Not every player had every measurement done. And I omitted some measurements completely because only like 2 guys had their hand length recorded.

Utah_jazz_draft_measurements_point_guards_-_part_1

Clearly the guys who are combo guards are the tallest (in and out of shoes) and weigh the most. Being able to field bigger dudes can help on defense if your small guys get posted up. We have two really small guys in Trey and John. Alec and Diante help out with size. But out of those four, the smaller guys see most of the action at point. Ian doesn't play and Raul is miles away -- but you can see where they stack up. Over all these guys a re all lighter than average (save for Alec), but very trim.

As far as these four categories are concerned, these are the four least important ones for point guards. Being tall (or short) doesn't matter. What matters is how quick you are, or how long your arms are. After all, your neck length (or insole size) doesn't determine if your shot gets blocked on a close out. It's how fast you are, and how crazy your arms / legs are.

Utah_jazz_draft_measurements_point_guards_-_part_2

Three of our current guys are above average for wingspan and reach, and the other three are below average. Alec and Diante continue to be really big and this helps on defense. Everyone but Diante is a fast runner (glad we play at a slow pace), but Diante kills it in quickness. Our point guards continue to be people who are either short and quick, or long and fast. Defensively you have to like the length we COULD bring, but the players who play the most are the guys who seem to be the most disadvantaged (below average). All of them are not killers when it comes to bench press. Man, Deron Williams was such a truck (and above average for all of these five categories)

Being long and quick helps for defense. You could argue that Garrett fits the bill here. Burks does too because of his length and speed. Trey isn't physically amazing by these five categories.

Utah_jazz_draft_measurements_point_guards_-_part_3

The last part of this analysis for the point guards is to look at how high they can get. No step verticals and no step reaches don't really matter. Point guards aren't going for jump balls much, nor are they expected to jump up straight and protect the rim. The max vertical and max reach, on the other hand, really matters. These guys are supposed to be on the run, and when trying to get a jumper off, off of the bounce, or a floater in the paint, these are the things that matter.

Alec and Trey are the only guys who look good here. Alec is above average in 3 of the 4 categories, and Trey in 2 of the 4. Everyone else is below average. So yeah, they are below average compared to guys like Jerel McNeal, and less athletic than Earl Watson.

If you put it all together I'd say that the length and athleticism of Garrett and Burks is a nice wrinkle, but our main point guard Trey is underwhelming by these metrics.  This group is built for speed, not power. But don't all have the quickness to make it count on defense. Complicating things is the fact that Burks just isn't a point guard. I do like the idea of him DEFENDING a point guard if we're making offensive / defensive subs; but I don't think we ever make those. Over all we *could* be longer and more athletic than normal at the PG spot, but according to the pre-draft results, we aren't.

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Wingmen:

This is a group that is all over the place. You have your shooting guards (2), and small forwards (3), but you also have 2/1 combo guards, 2/3 swingmen, and 3/4 tweeners. Oh yeah, and there are plenty of 1/2 "shooting" point guards as well that kind of qualify. It's a big group: Alec Burks, Brandon Rush, Calbert Cheaney, DeMarre Carroll, Deron Williams, Diante Garrett, Gordon Hayward, Ian Clark, John Lucas III, Josh Howard, Kevin Murphy, Kirk Snyder, Kyle Korver, Marvin Williams, Matt Harpring, Mo Williams, Morris Almond, Randy Foye, Richard Jefferson, Roger Powell, Ronnie Brewer, Ronnie Price, Shan Foster, Shandon Anderson, Sundiata Gaines, Travis Leslie, and Wesley Matthews. Not every player had every measurement done. And I omitted some measurements completely because only like 2 guys had their hand length recorded.

Utah_jazz_draft_measurements_wingmen_-_part_1

Height and weight mean more as a wing player than a point guard, but they still don't mean as much to them as it does for the bigmen. It's still nice to have height and weight. After all, height and weight usually have a relationship between length and strength (which influences speed and jumping ability).  I think it's clear that we've never had these many measured tall guys before. (Andrei was 6'9, but not measured. Gordan Giricek, I guess was tall too . . . but still.) If you care about eye-level, this Jazz team is above average with height and weight. Alec Burks is shredded out of the wings.

Utah_jazz_draft_measurements_wingmen_-_part_2

This is much more important, actual length and quickness. Teams like the Heat and Pacers have this in spades and they are good defensive clubs. I think it's fair to say that THIS year's Jazz team has this as well when compared to the previous players to play on the wing for us. Josh Howard and Ronnie Brewer were something when they were young. The same could be said for Marvin and Richard -- but those guys can't possibly be as athletic as they used to be. One thing that doesn't change is their wingspan and reach. These are big guys compared to some of the guards and small forwards we've tried before.

We have some north / south speed here. But most of our major minute playing wings (RJ, Marvin, and Gordon) are on the slower side of things east / west. Gordon is a little short armed as well.  Marvin's 7'3.5" wingspan is just nuts though. I really wish we had Kirilenko's measurements to grade against. But for the most part I think you can say that we're much longer than average. These guys aren't that strong though.

Utah_jazz_draft_measurements_wingmen_-_part_3

Our best jumpers are guys coming off of injuries, old, and Alec Burks. (Again, no data for Jeremy Evans to ruin the class average here. Thankfully.) This group is below average except when you get the force multiply of being really long armed with being somewhat athletic. Marvin (pre-draft) was knocking on the door to 12'. Alec Burks, thanks to P3, is passed it now. But was a few inches away back in college.

I'm going to address things like P3 later, but for this group I think we could agree that they're more long than athletic. Not as quick, but as a group have speed. (Why do we go slow again, even when we start a small ball lineup?)

On to the bigmen . . .

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The Bigmen:

This is the most straight forward group: power forwards, centers, and the occasional 3/4 interloper.It's also the one with the craziest names: Al Jefferson, Aleksander Radojevic, Carlos Boozer, Curtis Borchardt, DeMarre Carroll, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Greg Ostertag, Jarron Collins, John Amaechi, Keon Clark, Kris Humphries, Luther Wright, Marcus Cousin, Marvin Williams, Paul Millsap, Peter Fehse, Robert Whaley, and Rudy Gobert. Not every player had every measurement done. And I omitted some measurements completely because only like 2 guys had their hand length recorded.

Utah_jazz_draft_measurements_bigmen_-_part_1

Height and weight mean the most to these guys. And we have some big guys. I'd say that we're above average here, and a lot of that is due to Enes and Rudy, so thanks guys!

Utah_jazz_draft_measurements_bigmen_-_part_2

More important than being tall is being long, and for bigs, having that good, stationary standing reach. In order to protect the rim from guys penetrating (and not getting called for a foul) you have to be able to go straight up and down. Our guys just kill it here. They are above average in speed too -- but clearly there are more people who didn't get these tests done than those who did. So the data set may be self-selecting in a way, only the guys who weren't horrible did these tests. We don't have 15 rep "tough guy" according to the data; but these guys all work out over their years in the league. And the most useless thing is probably bench press. There aren't even any free weights on a basketball court, but we're above average there too.

But like what we saw with the guards, the longest and biggest guys have their limitations too. Gobert, who has very drool-worthy length measurements, is just so darn slow. If we do elect to go small ball with Marvin, we are truly above average in speed. (Man, it would have been great to have known how fast The Mailman was though...)

Utah_jazz_draft_measurements_bigmen_-_part_3

On defense the big deal is to be able to get up, really high, without breaking that plane of verticality. Favors is an athletic beast with long arms, and he's clearing 12' with no trouble. Rudy gets there too, but mainly it's arms and torso, not strength or athletic ability. I think length really wins the day with the bigs; but it's important to also note that these guys (save for Gobert) all look like natural athletes. These guys are inherently more athletic than the Mark Eaton and Greg Ostertags that we used to have. There's a reason why we called Jarron "tree" and it wasn't just because of which college he went to.

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Overall:

Our point guards aren't really more athletic than some of their peers. Having combo-guard length available helps, but it's not likely to do much good. I'd like to see Garrett get more time (in general if available over Lucas III), and situationally I would applaud putting Burks there on defense. Burke isn't a killer athlete, and he doesn't have the length that some other teams do on defense at the point guard spot.

The wings have height and length, and as a group were really fast. I'm sure the athleticism bloom has faded on RJ, Marvin, and Brandon. Alec and Gordon can get up, but aren't remarkable compared to some of the freaks we've had before like Ronnie Brewer.

However, I don't think we've ever had this combination of length, size, and athleticism from the bigs before. Discounting Karl Malone and Andrei Kirilenko, I think you could make a case for these dudes being more athletic than any other Jazz front court. And this is without adding in guys like Jeremy Evans who aren't measured.

If you are going on the pre-draft (or foreign) data alone it's not as clear cut. But if you do factor in that our core players are older and have been going to P3 for a few seasons now, I would be assured of their athletic advancements. Which when coupled with the fact that some of our guys just ARE longer than usual, makes me feel like this is an overall more athletic team. Jeremy Evans (again, not listed) can touch 12'8. That's ridiculous. Our back up shooting guard (Burks) clears 12' as well. (I think he's at a max of 12'3 now). Kanter knows how to jump better now and be quicker off of his feet. I can't list all of the things that make me feel confidence in our newfound athleticism.

I think we're more athletic. Sure, I'd love it if Trey Burke had arms like Rajon Rondo and speed like Ty Lawson. But he's not that kind of point guard. He may not be more athletic compared to tough guys like Deron or freaks like Ronnie P; but he's a part of an overall more athletic seeming group -- even if RJ is missing dunks like crazy because he's 33 years old and can't get up too high anymore.

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