The Downbeat #968 - The "Evaluate Meee" Edition

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Okay, so . . . we've played 54 games, and we've won 30 of them. That's a winning percentage of 55.6%. That's really not bad. It's good enough for 7th best in the Western Conference, and over all for the entire NBA, the Utah Jazz rank 13th best. Here's a list of teams that we're ahead of in the standings right now:

For the most part, each of those teams were predicted to by better than us in 2012-2013. So, first of all, suck it. (Suck what, exactly, Amar? Uh . . . suck on the straw of this healthy fruit smoothie I just made you . . . I guess. Hmmmn, suck it good.) Secondly, well, yeah. We're a hop-skip-and-a-jump away from being a Top 10 team by record at the All-Star break. A few of the teams ahead of us are teams that are right at our level, and also possibly teams we could leapfrog soon: Atlanta Hawks are .5 games ahead of us, Chicago Bulls and Golden State Warriors are 1.0 games ahead of us, and the Brooklyn Nets are 1.5 games ahead of us. It's not out of the realm of possibility that our Utah Jazz, our starless poor defending Jazz, could be a Top 10 team in short over -- all that it would take would be for one of the 12 teams ahead of us to make a dumb trade, deal with an injury, or get into the bad part of their schedule. (Remember folks, we got into the bad part of our schedule to START the season . . . it's smooth sailing now except for one week in March that looks gross.)

Being a team in the "Good" half of the league is nice, but we're not officially a Top 10 team yet. And there are a lot of reasons why this is. The two big reasons are our play on the road, and our play on defense. Andy did a bang-up job looking at what happens in our wins and what happens in our losses. You SHOULD have seen it before, but for the stragglers -- here it is again. The point remains though, that until we fix our defense or play more consistently on the road we're not going to be a real contender. We're a nice team right now. And I love that and appreciate that. We're not real contenders (we'd need to fix one of those two problems), and we're not a great just yet (we will be if/when we fix both of those problems).

But I like what we're doing this year -- we're ahead of where I thought the team would be at this point. That is impressive. I would have done things a lot differently and blown it all up last year. But the Jazz held strong and made the playoffs. That appears to be just what we're planning on doing this year too. Hitting your target consistently is a sign of good preparation, good effort, and good execution. We're in line to do just that for a second year in a row despite being singled out by some nation guys to fail this year.

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The Jazz remain a very solid offensive team. That's pretty much why we are where we are right now. The team is 11th best in Points per game (98.3 ppg) in the NBA. Utah is even better at Offensive Efficiency, where we rank 10th best in the NBA at 106.7 Points per 100 possessions. Of course, our scoring margin is in the bottom half of the league, and a negative number. If we look deeper into our offense we see a number of good things. We're #13 in FG% (45.2 fg%), #10 in 3PT% (36.3 3pt%), #11 in FT% (76.6 ft%), and get to the line 8th most per game (24.0 FTA/Gm). That really helps us out, and the Jazz have a better ratio of FTA : FGA than a number of teams with big stars on it -- we're 9th best in the league (*according to TeamRankings.com, we're #7 according to BasketballReference.com), ahead of the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics, and so forth.

The reason why our offense works is because, well, honestly, because we are sharing the ball better this year and we're still crashing the boards. Utah is #9 in APG at 22.8, despite not playing a fast pace. The team is also in the top half of the league in Assist : Turn Over ratio. And the biggest factor is our 12.2 offensive rebounds per game (#10 in the league). Our ORB% is 8th best in the league. And with the guys our front office has assembled, it's easy to see why we do that.

The first is that only one guy on our entire team is making more than half of his shots (Enes Kanter), and thus, there are more of our misses to go around now than in previous seasons. The second is that we have a lot of guys with the nose for the ball. Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll are both like hungry hungry hippos for loose balls. And we have a trip of really big guys who hold their ground down low and get second and third shots in Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors, and the aforementioned Kanter. Yet it doesn't stop there -- guys like DeMarre, Gordon Hayward, Marvin Williams, and Alec Burks all crash the offensive boards too. It's team work that helps our offense -- particularly in sharing the ball and getting offensive rebounds.

And that's why we're one of the best offensive teams in the league, and as a result, almost one of the best teams in the league overall.

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A number of "power rankings" exist across the Internet; and thankfully, I've gone away with trying to chart them. That doesn't mean I don't care what people think about us, our team, our players, or our fans. I do. It's just that I've been following this team for 20+ years and I'm running out of cares to give for middle of the season evaluations that are subjective. All of that said -- they can still be amusing, hilarious, humorous, and entertaining to read. Paul Flannery (SB Nation Mothership) did a short but sweet power ranking of the NBA at the Trade Deadline (which is, gulp, in 6 days). It's not a ranking of team by team, but ranking certain teams, players, front offices, media personalities, and even relevant NBA Rules against each other -- in in relevance towards the impending trade deadline.

And of course, Kevin O'Connor picks up the #2 spot on the list, check it all out here. You can imagine who else could be on the list though; and it's completely easy to know WHAT they'll be talking about here. It's the SSDD story of Big Al and Sap. Still, a funny list, and interesting to think about.

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One thing I am really crazy about, that really doesn't mean much in the big picture, is player nicknames. I'm not the only one, it seems. TBJ's Trey Kerby found out and decoded Al Jefferson's nickname codex and unleashed this amazing piece on the world -- extrapolating the Jeffersonian method to the rest of the Utah Jazz team. Not to be outdone, the very next day, TBJ's Andrew Unterberger did a power ranking of EVERY NICKNAME IN THE NBA. It isn't going to surprise you which Jazz family member is super high on the list.

It's a very detailed list, but I don't think it is absolutely inclusive . . . and well . . . it's still a subjective list.

How would you rank the nicknames of our current Jazz players this year? Is G-Time a Top 5 name? How many names does Kanter have now? Shouldn't "The human pogo stick" be banned from history books? I guess if we're going all subjective here . . . I'd say the last place would go to our local Jazz media guys for how POOR they are at giving nicknames. Seriously, just because he makes one shot doesn't mean you call a 3rd string PG "Cap'n Crunch-time" -- I love you Milt Palacio . . . but you're not that good. If we're doing that Sundiata Gaines should also be called "Cap'n Crunch". Human pogo-stick, Officer Favors, Big Turkey . . . these are all horrible nicknames.

But then again, I'm the crazy person here because on my old blog I used to have a separate tag for nicknames, and multiple posts on the subject.

As an aside, I can understand why Alec Burks doesn't *have* a nickname with this team yet -- people employed by the team still don't even know what his real name is yet.

Burks-oop

Used without asking Moni, but please visit THE BEST Jazz site

on the entire internet: http://jazzfanatical.wordpress.com/

But people will soon . . .

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So . . . evaluations are fun. But what matters more in the NBA is the actual reflection of allowed behavior as a result of these evaluations. If you are an All-Star, sometimes you get more calls that could go either way. If you win an award for something -- you are recognized to just be really good at that, some of Tyson Chandler 's blocks are goaltends. If you are an All-NBA player you can talk to refs a lot more and get more leeway. If you win an MVP, you can flat out break the rules on the court and get away with it. This is why I think personal awards matter -- and basketball purists argue that they do not matter. They do. Because while it's good to be a purist, the game is not pure anymore. Everyone tries to cheat and having an All-Star allows you to get away with stuff. So we need a star.

Because right now good guys finish in the middle of the pack.

Looking at the people who ARE elevated to All-Star status it sickens me when I see how many of them are from bad teams. Teams WORSE than our team. We don't have one. We deserve at least one. I would have gone with Al Jefferson this year, and Paul Millsap last year. I'm sure their agents would have been fine with that too.

Well, who do you think on our team will be an All-Star?

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