Utah Jazz Preview 2012-2013:
As a rational empiricist I feel like the "best" way to look at a problem is by comparing it to what you already know, a frame of reference, and then view how the problem reacts in real time to other stimuli. I have an idea of what we are working with here, but beyond being a hyper crazy Utah Jazz fan -- the real question is "how good are the 2012-2013 Utah Jazz?"
I want to put it out there that only in the worst case scenario will the Jazz be an under .500 team. We're going back to the playoffs. Exact win totals are hard to predict, but I'm thinking something in the range of 44 +/- 3.5 wins. (That casual statement is a product of many hours in Microsoft Excel) The baseline record of 44-38 doesn't scare anyone, but that's a winning percentage of 53.7%. Last season the Jazz went 36-30, for a winning percentage of 54.5%. On first blush that means I think the team will be worse. That is false. I have no doubt that our team will be better, stronger, wiser, and play better on the court. We will have a vastly superior team this year around - and when we make the playoffs - we're not going to be as easy an out. We'll go down fighting this time -- and in the big picture that's the year to year improvement you are looking for.
And secondly, I give the Jazz a range of 44 +/- 3.5 wins. That means that we could be a bit worse than last season, but also much better as well. Those small, regular season, details will be figured out when we go deeper into who is and who is not injured on a specific road trip. You know what I'm saying. But I'm getting ahead of myself here.
This season, more than winning or losing, is dedicated to solving the problem of the Jazz. We have some known quantities (Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap), some variables (contract years, new tempo), and a whole lot of unknowns (injuries, cohesion, how good are the younger players for reals?). If we want to have a chance to figure out the Jazz, we need to build a year long experiment.
And that's why this 2012-2013 Season Preview will meld into the monthly reviews as well. To see the big picture it's just dumb to view the progress of our team as discrete sections of time. But that's just how I feel . . .
The 2012-2013 Utah Jazz are going to be a better team than the 2011-2012 Utah Jazz. They will play better. They will be blown out less. And they will make the playoffs again. They will not win the NBA Championship.
This is what we're working with here . . .
. . . we should also note that we're working with Tyrone Corbin as our head coach as well as Dennis Lindsey as our new GM. This preseason we didn't get a chance to see a lot of mixing and matching in terms of 5 man units, so we (fans) don't really know what to expect. We don't know which parts of the equation work with each other, and which parts react negatively. We do know that Earl + Jeremy = Matt Harpring Aneurism. So there's a start there.
Don't worry, I've been working on full previews of each player and the coaches as well. But it's just silly to put them all out at the same time as Salt City Hoops is putting their outs. As Jazz blogs we don't need to compete. So I'm electing to space my out -- which is only natural as for some of our guys 3 yrs worth of data on other teams (Los Angeles Clippers or Atlanta Hawks) have no bearing on how they play with OUR team. This is all data heavy. And as a result, a lot of the data we have is useless. (Yes, Kevin Murphy had a 50 pt game in college, but scored 24 total points in the preseason. Which data set is less useless? We don't know yet.)
You see what I mean . . .
The first test for this team will be the Dallas Mavericks tonight. But that's just looking at the smallest of pictures. Over the course of the season the real first test will be this three games in four nights stretch that has the Jazz playing at home against Dallas tonight, then flying out to face the New Orleans Hornets and San Antonio Spurs back to back. That first test drags onto the next game (game 4 of the season) where they play the Memphis Grizzlies on the road. Four games in 6 nights, three on the road. That's the first test.
Comparing to what we know of our Jazz team from last season -- a home game against Dallas is no given; and we even dropped a late season game against the Hornets in their gym too. These first four games would be trouble for our 2011-2012 Jazz team. If we're a better team, and I think we are, then we need to win two of them.
The next test would be the next three games, hosting the Los Angeles Lakers, facing off at the Denver Nuggets on the road, then flying back the next night to host the Phoenix Suns. Spoiler Alert: the Jazz play a Friday/Saturday back to back every Friday this month (2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd, and 30th). Phoenix is just the second set. The Lakers, Nuggets, and Suns are all teams that could, and did, beat us last year. Improvement means playing the contenders and lotto teams alike, and playing them hard. Too many times last season we took nights off against bad teams. That's got to stop.
The third test we're going to see in this experiment will be the four game Eastern Conference road trip facing off against the Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, and Washington Wizards. If we're truly better than last year we're going to have to find some sort of 'mojo' on the road. The first three teams are going to pose significant challenges. The Raptors are big and everyone can hit threes (except their hyper athletic wing). The Celtics have title vision on this year. Philly shook things up and have a legit big in the paint. And the easiest game will be when we're most tired . . . the second night of a back to back, 3rd game in 4 nights, and 4th game in 6.
After these three tests we can evaluate what we're working with a little better. And I plan on doing long recaps after every few tests this entire season long. (What's better for you fans -- one 8000 word preview in October, or 12-15 4000 word previews throughout the season?) Also, more stats, more numbers and more depth to come! (And if that's not good enough, check out the best posts of the off-season where we broke down things in hyper specifics, like how many fast break points we get per season, or how well Mo and Randy play together on the court, over the last three years, etc)
This is just an outline. But by the end of the experiment we're going to have all the answers we want going into the 2013 Off-Season.