So the Utah Jazz have gone though another NBA Trade Deadline without making a move, apparently moves could have been made though. The local clap-track is already explaining why doing it would have been dumb -- despite the obvious point that we did the same thing last year, just in a n off-season, three team trade. (RJ+AB+BR weren't expiring deals last year at the deadline either) and not at the deadline. But anyway, NBA Free Agency is a long ways away, and while it's constantly on our mind, the NBA Draft only one month less distant.
What we have here are the death throes of the 2013-2014 Utah Jazz season. Vets in contract years will vet. Young guys who have to earn their minutes will still try -- despite all the evidence in the world that points out that nothing they do will influence playing time. And assistant coaches will continue to be baffled by the concept of having to pay both state and income tax.
So what's left? Well, we need to evaluate where this team is. Who are the people who make up this team. And try to figure out where these guys are headed. It's an important off-season for the Jazz. And front office sloth and coaching bumbling do not mean WE get to take the day off. Effectively, we're looking at the big part of this season that wasn't related to getting a high draft pick: development.
The people who do not believe that minutes augment development are probably the same people who do not receive peer reviewed journals at their home written by learning theorists or developmental psychologists. That's cool. You don't have to be educated to have an opinion; but you should at least be decent enough to admit that your opinion is coming from a point of scholastic ignorance though. My opinion is based on different theories of learning. Heck, back in undergrad I dedicated an entire summer to work in a learning lab and do experimental research with children specifically on how to best master new skills and gain confidence in these abilities.
My ideas about minutes being useful don't lie in just that though. I've pooled over the data for the last three plus decades of NBA basketball. My opponents have not. While some will never be convinced that minutes do lead to development -- at the very least the quality of successful players are those who have received playing time. After all, learning and mastering a new skill depends on repetition. Trying to learn skills through observation have their limits, you have to do it to really get good. And out working an old guy in practice every day doesn't make you ready to beat up on actually good players when the game counts. If you want to be good in the game, you have to play in the game.
And the more you play, the easier it gets as you see good things happen. That leads to comfort, which leads to confidence, which leads to success.
Earning your minutes made sense back in the day when players stayed with a team for their entire careers and rookies weren't counting down till their rookie contract ended. The game has changed, and you have to change with it -- or be obsolete.
And in order to change, you have to be able to see who you are.
So who are the 2013-2014 Utah Jazz?
These are the players, and their individual breakdowns of getting in the game or not.
|9||John Lucas III||1||2||34||542||15.94||6||28||21||0||0||0||0|
This is cool for a number of reasons. The first for me is that if you extrapolate these values and apply them to the remaining 27 games this season it means that our team will have six players who have played at least 2,000 minutes this season. That 2,000 minutes barrier is something I've talked about many times before on this site over the years. The other interesting thing here is that Andris Biedrins just isn't playing at all. There seems to be no hard rule about vets needing to play, no matter what, even if they are in contract years. That means there must be some Merritt based hierarchy here. Trying to identify just what that is, well, that's the frighting part. After all, hasn't Burks outplayed RJ ALL SEASON LONG?
But anyway, let's look at the bright side. This season is one where our value guys (good players on rookie deals) are finally getting minutes. Gordo's previous career high was 2,104 minutes -- and he's projected to go for 2,774. Derrick's previous career high was 1,787 minutes, and should top off at 2,220. Alec's previous career high was 1,137, and he could finish with 2,245 this season. Enes? Oh boy Enes. Enes' previous career high was 1,078 and this season he is on track to go to 2,069 in one year. That's nearly a 2x jump. And let's not forget Jeremy who had previously played 463 as his season maximum. This year he's going to reach approximately 1,290. These are surely good things right?
Well, yes. They are better than they were before. But we shouldn't be too quick to view a reduction of abuse as being treated fairly. These value assets mean more to our team than to anyone else. And these lotto picks (including Trey) are tiny stocks that need the team to invest in them.
If you are a coach you're not going to play a player that you can't trust out there on the floor. That's the mind set if you are in a win now situation. I think that the Jazz felt like they were still in that mind set, and kept Tyrone Corbin because that way their number one goal. However, pushing back rebuilding when your best players were not getting it done, and the majority of your roster value was in undeveloped youth -- it kind of seems backwards to me.
And if you look at the win now idea your whole deal is about trying to put the best guys out there. You can argue which players are better in some cases, but you can't argue that people like Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap, as individuals, probably beat the snot out of Favors and Kanter in practice. (Hence, can't earn minutes.) And if you want to win that's who you go with. History tells me that trying to win now was pointless.
The investment (which is the very limited time you have to spread out between your players) should have been on the youth. The opposite of trying to win now is development. And the Jazz tried to play it off like they could do both at an acceptable rate. Instead they made the playoffs once in four seasons, and their high value players (the guys on rookie contracts) didn't look like they were ready to take over. They admitted as much in last off-season (visit Moni's blog for more info).
If it was up to me (and no, I do not have an affiliation with the NBA that spans close to two decades beyond watching it for two decades, and writing about it for 15 years) I would have focused on development back then. With 27 games to play this season I would do it right now too.
|Utah Jazz||'14-15 Season||Minutes Distribution||Current||Resulting||Season Minutes|
|Player||Contract||PG||SG||SF||PF||C||TOT||'13-14 MPG||MPG +/-||Current||+New||Total|
|1||Trey Burke||Rookie Deal||32.0||32.0||31.0||1.0||1,331||864||2,195|
|2||Alec Burks||Rookie Deal||7.0||24.0||31.0||27.4||3.6||1,506||837||2,343|
|3||Gordon Hayward||Restricted FA||19.0||17.0||36.0||36.0||0.0||1,801||972||2,773|
|4||Enes Kanter||Rookie Deal||22.0||8.0||30.0||25.5||4.5||1,379||810||2,189|
|5||Derrick Favors||Post-Rookie EXT||8.0||24.0||32.0||30.4||1.6||1,399||864||2,263|
|6||Marvin Williams||Unrestricted FA||21.0||8.0||29.0||26.5||2.5||1,166||783||1,949|
|8||Rudy Gobert||Rookie Deal||16.0||16.0||12.2||3.8||353||432||785|
|11||John Lucas III||N-Guaranteed||0.0||15.9||-15.9||542||0||542|
|13||Richard Jefferson||Unrestricted FA||0.0||26.9||-26.9||1,480||0||1,480|
|14||Andris Biedrins||Unrestricted FA||0.0||7.5||-7.5||45||0||45|
|15||Brandon Rush||Unrestricted FA||0.0||11.9||-11.9||382||0||382|
I don't give a damn about the people we got from the Golden State Warriors. None of them are returning to Utah next year either, so it's mutual. All of the players that matter get more minutes, Garrett loses out, but he and Thomas are still every day players. RJ, Beans, and Rush don't even get to suit up. It's harsh, but if I'm devising a system to HELP the Utah Jazz this is it. No one is helping the Jazz by trying to win 30 games this year while starting two mercenaries who are both likely to leave. I'd love to have Marvin back, he is one of my favorites on this team, but his role may price himself out of our range.
With this rotation we still have Burke, Burks, Hayward, Kanter, and Favors all playing 2,000 minutes this season. Marvin is right there too. But we get to see a lot more of our rookies and other players who are on non-guaranteed contracts for next year. These are the guys we need to get more data on. We have months and months (and year) of data on guys like Richard Jefferson and John Lucas III. If your goal is to help the Utah Jazz and want them to be better, it means evaluating who you have right now as assets, not trying to make sure you win the season series against the Los Angeles Lakers.
But then again, this works in the fantasy land called: "Job one is development". Sadly, that fantasy land has higher attendance values than the real world Jazz do. That type of rotation is available if our coach sucked it up and stopped playing mercs, but whatever.
So why am I so crazy about 2,000 minutes per season for young players? Well, for one, I've previously looked at this for lotto picks, first rounders, All-Stars, 1st options on playoff teams, and All-NBA players. One of the qualities they all seem to have is that they play about 2,000 minutes per season in their first five seasons. There are some examples where you don't have to and you can still be great -- but the larger group that is successful are partly so because of early opportunity. There are other hick-ups in the system, like lock out years, injuries, or bad coaches. But if you've been reading this site for a while you've seen some of the previous data on it. (By the way, here's a recap: data agrees with me; 'drill, baby, drill' folklore like soggy cookies do not come from a point of empirical rigor, or internally consistent logic.)
While you can't give 2,000 minutes per year to a horrible player and expect an All-Star you have to recognize that the number one sure shot way to make sure a player never becomes an All-Star is to make sure you never invest in them. (And again, the more you put into a player, for the most part, the more you get out. These players need to be invested in to improve, and these investments you may are going beyond distrust of a young player, and giving them minutes.)
But that's just when you look at players who are All-Stars and first options and stuff, Amar. This is Utah. The Jazz do it different. The Jazz do it right. Okay. Well, let's look at what the Jazz do.
Over the last thirty years (+ this incomplete season, so close to 31) of Utah Jazz rookies there have been 77 guys to come in and play. This period spans from Thurl to Rudy and everyone in between. (Again, this is me showing data to support my argument -- something people who disagree with me on this point have so far failed to do at all over the last five years of me writing on this subject.)
Here is every player who has played part of their rookie season with the Utah Jazz, from the 1983-1984 to 2013-2014 NBA Seasons, sorted by cumulative MPG over their first five seasons in the NBA.
That's a big list. Too big to understand. Okay, well, for the record this group is, on average, drafted in the second round, at pick 42 and plays 14.1 mpg as a rookie, 18.5 mpg as a soph, 20.9 mpg in their third season, 23.8 mpg in their fourth, and 25.0 mpg in their fifth season. Cumulatively the average Jazz rookie plays 19.9 mpg over their first five seasons in the NBA, and less than 900 minutes per season. This includes guys who are out after one year. This includes guys who only play their first year with the Jazz. And this group includes guys who never played for another team in their Hall of Fame careers. But it is still too big of a list. Chop it up.
My selections are is:
- this full group (n=77),
- only lotto picks (n=10),
- only 1st rounders (n=31),
- only 2nd rounders (n=16),
- only 3rd of later rounders, or undrafted players (n=28),
- players with a minimum of 5 NBA seasons (n=35),
- and of course, "Good" players (n=15)
And when you compare these groups against our current high value players this is what you get:
Yeah, more numbers. Basically, Gordo is the only one who has gotten consistent minutes, and even he is behind the curve. Even amongst undrafted players or guys taken in the third of later rounds we see Ian is behind. Across the spectrum for the projected minutes for a productive player, regardless of draft position, our current high value players are behind. Which sucks inherently; but also specifically because Favors was *right there* ahead of the experience curve as a rookie.
The "Amar Theory" has the cumulative minutes for the first five years going as: 2000, 4000, 6000, 8000, and 10,000. Not hard to follow. But the idea here is that Amar is inherently wrong, and the Jazz do it better. The Jazz do it right. Well, looking at the n=77 sample size data for the playing time values for all the players who were rookies with the Jazz over the last three decades tell me that only 15 of them who made it to their 5th season in the NBA were any "good". These players are Deron Williams, Thurl Bailey, Wesley Matthews, John Stockton, Andrei Kirilenko, Blue Edwards, Paul Millsap, Mo Williams, Eric Murdock, Ronnie Brewer, Shandon Anderson, David Benoit, Bryon Russell, Greg Ostartag, and Dell Curry. You may notice that I did not include any of the F5 here; and that while I did include John Stockton (who did not play a lot in his first three years), I am NOT including Karl Malone here -- and he averaged 2955.6 minutes per season over his first five in the league, starting off with 30.6 mpg as a rookie. I am sure enough of my research that I feel the need to CHEAT in favor of my opponents here.
Oh, and this "good" group ends up going as: 1,328; 3,322; 5,220; 7,413; and 9.663 over the first five seasons. It's below the "Amar Theory" (which is based on looking at the last 30+ years of the NBA and not just the Jazz org), but by how much? At the end of five seasons the difference between the Amar Theory and the applied "good" Jazz value is only 337 minutes. In fact if you run a correlation between the two data sets it comes out to 0.9994. Oh, and if I add Karl back in there why don't you just GUESS which side of 2,000 minutes per season it ends up being.
We all know that correlation does not equal causation; being good and playing more is not the same thing as playing more and being good. (They do seem to be cooperative, and not so unipolar as some people believe.) But if you think I am wrong with my 2,000 minutes per season road map for NBA success, then you would also think that the actual minutes given to the players who succeeded from our franchise were the wrong minutes too. Or you could just be a hypocrite. Some people are paid to be as much. And yet others do it willingly for free.
The nagging problem is that our high value assets right now are behind that barrier. Hayward is -862 from the AT threshold, and -275 from the Jazz' Good" one. He is the closest out of the guys who have been here for a while. Favors is at -1963 / -1376. Burks at -2418 / -1638. Kanter at -2669 / -1889. The good thing is that there are 27 games left the play still. Some of our guys will make up part of the difference. The GREAT THING is that Trey Burke is already above the minutes per season mark for a "Good" Jazz rookie, and would only need to play 24.8 MPG for the rest of the season to reach the Amar Theory threshold.
"I seriously doubt this means anything. You have to earn your minutes. If you give minutes to a young player today they become bad people and have nothing to work for."
Here are the last five rookie classes. The players above the "Amar theory" are all great at a few things. The players between the "Amar Theory" and the "Jazz "good" value" are right on track, and depending on how many games they play down the stretch, could surpass the "Amar theory" value. So too could some of the guys below the "Jazz "good" value". Guys like Ibaka, Hayward, Drummond, Valanciunas, and Rubio all will for sure. And of course, the people under both minute per season thresholds exist along a continuum of capability. This does not show the progression of minutes (Stephenson of the Pacers has taken a big jump, for example). And of course, there are exceptions to the rule. Here's the data:
|2009 Rookie Class|
|2010 Rookie Class|
|2011 Rookie Class|
|2012 Rookie Class|
|2013 Rookie Class|
|7||Tim Hardaway Jr.||1,204||21.9||9.6||1.5||0.9||0.5||0.1||13.5|
Out of these 108 players I'd say that only Evan Turner, Lance Stephenson, Brandon Knight present as exceptions to the rule. But regardless of theory -- Amar Theory or what the Jazz did -- being right 105 out of 108 isn't bad.
If you are keeping score at home, every single Utah Jazz player is behind in both career minutes, and on court production, except Trey Burke. Why is that? Because the Utah Jazz organization did not commit to development. With Big Al the idea was to compete, then Sloan retired and Deron was traded. That off-season the team should have nutted up and decided that the best course for the franchise, specifically, was rebuilding. So many teams tanked the next year that the 12th place Jazz made the playoffs -- but the on court results clearly demonstrated that it wasn't even close. Either greed, or stupidity, or some general misunderstanding of a core concept of being competitive, compelled the team to sustain that "win now " mode while pushing development of these high value players as a perpetual "Plan B".
Which is HILARIOUS in hindsight. If you are in win now mode, and you aren't even making the playoffs, and all you do is get more and more lotto picks -- which you decide not to develop -- what the heck are you doing? Some of us knew that was happening during these seasons as well, and back then it wasn't so funny. And let's be honest, it's still happening now and no one is laughing.
It is in fact ludicrous to think that by getting old players with ever diminishing returns to play ahead of your future, hoping to make the playoffs while ignoring that you are nothing more than a stepping stone for their mercenary ways, that you would be a) developing a winning culture, and b) banking on the loyalty of players who consistently told reporters that they were "playing for 81 other teams." Over the last four seasons the Jazz' winning culture is as robust and deep as the cultural achievements of the Detroit Lions. Further making me worry about our direction, the Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin seems to be infatuated with his own longevity as a coach and is in super-unreasonable-win-now-mode. And his white whale are these over-the-hill veterans because he just cannot or will not trust these younger players.
Continuing to shun the youth, and failing to invest in the future by developing them, appears akin to the absolute cognitive dissonance required to put your entire basket into fossil fuels instead of doing the hard work to develop the infrastructure needed to gain benefit from a more sustainable energy policy. You can't keep starting overpaid vets on the down side of their career and expect to a) win, or b) actually ever get anything from your high value lotto picks.
Let's take a look at the last four seasons in Jazzland. The previous seasons have been all about win-now with development being, at best, a Plan B. This season was supposed to be different, but Jamaal has played more minutes than Ian has. And Jamaal hasn't been with the team since November.
|5||Raja Bell *||68||2,097||30.8||34||796||23.4||102||2,893||28.4||1446.5||68||2,097||30.8||3264||64.2%|
Can't really argue with Big Al and Sap playing. When they were here we were 100% "win now", and most coaches would have done the same. Same deal with Mo and Devin, furthermore, we didn't have a PG prospect on the team. The problem is the wings. These six guys played a lot -- and they haven't been that good. if you look at their last seasons with the team (second last for Raja), you see that the Coach invested a LOT of minutes into them. And then those players left. And whatever you invested in them is now a loss. It is no longer with the franchise. It was, effectively, improperly invested.
Hayward's rookie year had Bell playing over 2,000 minutes. In his second, Burks' first, Bell, Howard, and Carroll added up to another 2,114. Howard alone cost the Jazz 991 minutes, almost a thousand! The next season Carroll played 1,111 minutes all the while telling the world he was gone at the end of it. The magnum opus here is Foye's 2,249 season minutes as one of the worst starters in Utah Jazz history.
- These guys did not help us win, zero playoff wins = pointless spinning of wheels
- Al + Sap were demonstratively better than our young prospects in a "win now" mode
- Devin + Mo did not have any young prospects behind them
- 7,571 minutes left the team through the mercenaries Bell, Howard, Carroll, and Foye
- That's 7.5k minutes that could have been given to Hayward or Burks (not all of it, but sum, at least enough to keep them on that 2,000 minutes per season diet)
- Don't even get me started on Richard Jefferson . . .
But it couldn't happen because or coach is in win now mode, and our front office was too wishy-washy to commit to development. And that is why instead of experiencing the capital gains so many other teams have from drafting lotto wings, and playing them early, we are beyond capital preservation and now looking at capital loss.
Here is how these wings stack up:
|Per Game Averages||FG||3PT||FT|
|Capital Loss Six||485||11,944||24.6||51.3%||8.3||2.9||1.4||1.53||0.7||0.3||3.0||7.1||42.2%||1.1||2.8||37.8%||1.2||1.5||80.6%|
And the Capital Loss Six accounted for 2,986 minutes per season; while not being better than the guys who were held back. Here are their comparative Per 36 production numbers:
|Per Game Averages||FG||3PT||FT|
|1||Capital Loss Six||485||11,944||36.0||51.3%||12.1||4.2||2.0||1.53||1.0||0.4||4.4||10.4||42.2%||1.6||4.1||37.8%||1.8||2.2||80.6%|
I guess it is impossible to "earn your minutes" when outplaying the guys ahead of you do nothing to change how much time you see on the floor. Which is probably why Dennis Lindsey cleared the deck for Trey Burke. His actions mean more than the words he says in interviews with me. And his actions are helping Trey get close to the 2,000 minute mark as a Utah Jazz rookie.
It has happened only five times in the past three decades. Those players were Karl Malone, Deron Williams, Andrei Kirilenko, Wesley Matthews, and Thurl Bailey. This has never happened under Tyrone Corbin before, so it's something I'm really interested to see happen. Or even if it can. The greater play here is for a player to average 2,000 minutes per season over their first five seasons. This takes the pressure off of a make or break rookie or soph season. As it stands right now it's only happened eight times over the same time frame. The usual suspects are there: Karl Malone, Deron Williams, Thurl bailey, Wesley Matthews (though the Trail Blazers get the benefit for his minutes), John Stockton, Andrei Kirilenko, Blue Edwards (some big minutes with the Bucks), and Paul Millsap. As for our guys, to be on track Gordon Hayward needs 862 more, Favors needs 1,963 more (not happening), Burks needs 2,418 more, Kanter needs 2,669 more, and Burke needs only 669 more.
Basically Gordon can make it if he plays every game. Burke can make it and do so as a rookie. And he could be that guy to finally be on the right development track after so many false starts and after so much capital has been lost due to investing in vets who are in contract years who invariably leave the team.
I still trust in Dennis Lindsey. And I trust in my research methods. And at the end of the day, I trust the last three decades of Jazz history. And a 0.9994 correlation says that we're all on the same page. We'd be on the same book if Corbin stopped playing Jefferson, but we all know that'll never happen.
At least both of those guys won't be our problem anymore after 27 more games. And Trey Burke will be on track to be a problem for the rest of the NBA.